During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have started new hobbies and unique projects at home. For NC State senior Gabriel Montague, that project has been installing a home recording studio and honing his musical skills. This week, all of his extra practice paid off when he was announced as the winner of the 2020 Wolfpack’s Got Talent competition.
Sponsored by Arts NC State’s NC State LIVE, NC State Wellness and Recreation, the University Activities Board (UAB), and Pack TV, the “at home edition” of the Wolfpack’s Got Talent competition featured numerous student performances ranging from vocals to dancing to showing school spirit while bouncing on a pogo stick. In the student contest, Montague wowed the Wolfpack community with his impressive vocal and piano skills. As the winner, he received a $150 grand prize and was featured by NC State LIVE, where he gave yet another spectacular performance and answered questions about the contest and his musical background.
Montague also participated in the 2019 rendition of Wolfpack’s Got Talent, and was encouraged by a member of UAB to audition once again this year.
“I wanted to do the competition because it was a way for me to stay involved with music on campus although things were virtual,” Montague said. “It was a way for me to challenge myself while having fun, since music is something I love.”
Music has been one of Montague’s greatest inspirations, especially during the past year. He has spent much of his time at home looking up new music and uploading covers to Soundcloud, and he performed a mini set in a virtual open mic night. Recent world events also inspired the song selection for his Wolfpack’s Got Talent submissions.
“In the first round, I chose Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ because with everything going on in the world right now from COVID-19 to the ongoing fights for social justice, it’s easy to get discouraged,” Montague said. “I wanted to be a source of motivation and inspiration so that people keep pushing and working towards making the world a better place for everyone. In the final round, I chose “Plastic” by Moses Sumney because it’s the first song that I heard of his and I fell in love with it instantly. It’s one of those songs that I’m always listening to, and it allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself vocally.”
Montague’s musical roots go back even before he was born. His mother directed their church choir while she was pregnant with him, and he gave his first solo vocal performance at his preschool graduation when he was 4 years old. He became active in the church choir himself and was classically trained in chorus from 6th grade through high school, where he was involved in the All-Wake County Chorus, State Honors Chorus, and Chamber Choir at Enloe High School. At NC State, he is the director of the Uninhibited Praise Gospel Choir, and his involvement in that group has been one of his favorite parts of the college experience.
Montague started playing piano in 6th grade as an elective course and has continued playing and taking classes since. While he’s never had any formal lessons, he also plays drums.
“My family has videos of me expressing interest in percussion as a toddler, where I’d make beats on pots and bowls with chopsticks and cooking utensils,” Montague laughed. “My parents got me my first drum set when I was 4 years old, and by the time I was in 7th grade I was our church drummer.”
Ironically, Montague’s studies at NC State involve the other side of his brain. He is majoring in statistics and hopes to pursue a career as an education policy analyst.
“I chose the route of being a statistics major because math has always been one of my favorite subjects and I have a technical and analytical mindset,” Montague said. “Coming into college I was unsure about the career I wanted to pursue, so statistics was a good fit because I knew I was good with numbers and it can be used in any field. No matter what field, numbers and data are an important part of gaining insight and making improvements, so I figured by majoring in it, I’d be doing something I enjoy while also not boxing myself into one or even a few possible career pathways.”
Outside of his major and his musical hobbies, Montague is an undergraduate admissions intern, student data and technology intern, and an ambassador for the College of Sciences. During the summer and spring semester, he worked as a team lead for the annual Symposium for Multicultural Scholars. He has also served as a mentor for Summer Start and the Emerging Scholars Academy.
Even though his career plans are not in music, it will still be an important part of his life going forward.
“Next, I will be writing and producing some music of my own,” Montague said. “I’m in the process of trying to find my sound and my style, but it is my ultimate goal to solidify myself as an artist. Being an artist is multidimensional, and for me that looks like singing, playing, arranging music, producing, and writing. Although I will be pursuing a career in education policy, I’ll be constantly working on improving myself as an artist and taking advantage of opportunities that allow me to do that since music is my first and biggest passion.”
This post was originally published in DASA.