For nearly everyone, music seems to have an emotional power in our lives that can take us to deeper places than other art forms. This is the passion that lives within Calvin Arsenia Scott. Music is the art that lives inside Calvin, and it moves him, it inspires him; it challenges him, and he works tirelessly in hopes that his music will do the same to you.
Better known within the music world as Calvin Arsenia, he grew up locally, and that is where his love for music began. Calvin recalls the very first time he performed in front of an audience. He was twelve years old, and he was given the opportunity to sing at his church.
“I was so comfortable singing, and it just felt right,” said Arsenia.
From that moment on, he knew he was made for music. He was surprised that he got such a positive response and that encouragement lit a fire in him to pursue this newfound love.
Though Calvin is an accomplished musician, singing is his true love.
In fact, he says, “I play because I sing, and sometimes it’s necessary to play an instrument with the band.”
He began playing the piano in middle school and quickly picked up the guitar and stuck with these two instruments for a decade. He has since learned to play the banjo, ukulele and now the harp.
His first real gig was at a Starbucks in 2009. He laughed as he recalled how he made such a big production of it all. He poured himself into every aspect of the environment. The show, for Calvin, was about the whole experience, not just the music. He went to great lengths creating a holistic atmosphere, building a topiary, constructing it inside the coffee shop, and hanging some of his art on it. For him, it was all about connecting with his audience through the music and creating an atmosphere to make that as meaningful as possible.
Calvin graduated in 2008, and his musical pursuits since then have taken him around the world. He performed with a band called Trelese at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2010 and 2011. While there the second time he was approached by a pastor of the church they were partnering with and was offered the opportunity to return full-time to work with the church and reach out to the city through his music.
While there, Calvin’s music opened doors for him to perform before politicians, and alongside a group of African singers. He connected with the people of the city, and he saw how music could take down walls and build bridges between those of different class, race, and culture.
Of the music that inspires Calvin the most, he says, “anything I have to listen to multiple times.” He loves to be surprised by other artists, particularly those who are non-conventional. Sufjan Stevens and Sigur Ros are two of his favorites.
Some of Calvin’s more notable local shows were playing before more than 1,000 people at Helzberg Hall, at the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, as well as the Record Bar in the Crossroads District for his album release party. The night of our interview he was set to play at the Kansas City Museum. He is currently working on a tour to begin traveling and performing throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe in 2017.
He describes his current musical style, with the harp as his primary instrument, as “urban folk.” He likes to consider himself an artist who plays a “haughty” instrument in an approachable way.
Calvin Arsenia’s most recent album, Catastrophe, is an exploration of the fleeting nature of romance and is an honest assessment of where he was when he was writing the songs. He describes it as very cathartic, and Calvin believes it will be for the listener as well. He hopes his music inspires people to think beyond the moment, the here and now, and to explore and be comfortable with their own emotions. Through his albums and immersive performances, he strives to curate transcendent moments in others when they least expect it. You can learn more about Calvin and his music at calvinarsenia.com