It's easy to follow a path that's clearly marked and guides you safely around obstacles. It's usually the case that many of our metaphorical paths are chosen for us early in life, complete with big bold signs that say "Go this way" or "Don't go that way." But sometimes it's impossible to progress without stepping off the path and striking out in an unfamiliar direction.
For Provo violinist and singer-songwriter Alyssa Pyper—now a member of local bands Bat Manors and Quiet House, and the creator of Night Wings, her solo project—the path she'd been following since she was about 9 led to the demanding world of classical violin. Educated through traditional violin-technique systems, Pyper was involved with her high school orchestra and continued studying violin in college. But about a year ago, Pyper took her music to an entirely new, non-classical place, a decision that resulted in a truer expression of her musical talents.
Pyper realized in college that she didn't want to pursue the careers that would typically follow majoring in music, which she did for a short time. "I think I'll always have a soft spot for classical music, [but] I didn't want to play in a symphony—that wasn't interesting to me," she says. "I didn't want to teach at a college, and so I didn't really feel the need to keep majoring in [music]."
To discover her creativity and find inspiration for her own songwriting, Pyper "started branching out, listening to more types of music," she says, including national singer-songwriters Brooke Waggoner and Bryan John Appleby, as well as Florida indie-folk band The Careful Ones. She got her feet wet performing solo at open-mic nights, and eventually began collaborating with local musicians. But quitting a major "that had been my life plan years before even entering college," she says, wasn't an easy choice.
"I was so used to classical music and how that went, it felt really unorthodox to go the direction I was going," Pyper says. "I think I felt guilty about that for a while, because for a long time, I'd been really planning on doing the classical thing."
But when she began her solo project, later named Night Wings, she discovered newfound freedom as a musician. Equipped with only her violin, loop pedal and voice, Pyper branched into indie-pop, made up of ethereal vocals and richly layered recorded loops of strings. And on her self-titled debut EP, released in September and recorded at Studio Studio Dada in Provo, she also found her lyrical voice, as she was able to discuss the personal shifts that were happening in her life at the time.
"Night Wings has mapped my development as an individual and a musician," Pyper says. "I began writing and performing during a time when I was lacking a real sense of community. Nothing much was making sense to me. ... And coming to terms with myself as a queer individual meant facing some difficult questions and decisions.
"But it was really quite lovely," she continues, "because a whole new reality grew from my decision to pursue something different—to do the unorthodox thing and put my classical schooling on the shelf."
For Pyper, that new reality included facing the spotlight on her own for the first time, bringing her years of violin experience to a setting that suits her musical voice—where flawless technique isn't everything.
"As a classical musician, I felt like I was just spending a lot of time in the practice room and never really performing—I was so worried about perfection and certain things like that," Pyper says. "And where I'm at now, and playing in Bat Manors, Quiet House and Night Wings, I'm just performing a lot and sharing good music that I really love. And I think there's something to that."