By Regina Stracqualursi
Music has always been a part of Elihu Conant-Haque’s life for as long as he can remember. Growing up, his mother was a jazz singer and pianist in Chicago, his father was a professor in classical and jazz guitar at Northern Illinois University, and his grandfather, a Baroque harpsichordist.
Conant-Haque ’25 began his journey as a musician playing the soprano recorder, and he quickly mastered that and moved on to the alto, tenor, and bass recorders. By that point, he had decided “bass sounds were the best sounds,” and volunteered to give the double bass a try for his elementary school string group.
Fate finally took its course when an old tuba went up for sale right in Conant-Haque’s neighborhood at just “the price of a fancy meal.” “There it was, and it was quickly mine, and I liked the instrument very much,” he said. “I dropped the bass and devoted my time to tuba.”
For much of his life since then, Conant-Haque’s days have been filled with rehearsals, competitions, concerts, and recitals on top of the time spent practicing as much as possible, cleaning his tuba, and organizing his sheet music. “Being a serious musician is a huge commitment,” he said. “But I love it, gosh I love it.”
Now a first-year student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, after being named WMHT’s Classical Student Musician of the Month in May, Conant-Haque is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering while still continuing to play the tuba. He finds that the skills he has learned as a musician shape him as an engineer each day. “Engineering a piece for an ensemble is much the same as engineering a wing for a model aircraft,” he said. “In both processes, the values, the goals, the criteria, the challenges, the methods, and the solutions are closely related. I find my composing and playing to be a highly valuable method in which I work on building creative analytical skills.”
On Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, Conant-Haque will perform a solo of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major — II Allemande,” at the annual President’s Holiday Concert at Rensselaer. “I am thoroughly excited,” he said. “I enjoy playing music for people. I get to make beautiful sound in an exquisite hall for people who care for and appreciate meaningful music.”
Conant-Haque hopes his love for playing the tuba will inspire others to find their passion, whatever it is. “Through my music, I want to experientially show people how deeply satisfying and awe-inspiring it is to find something that you really, really, really care about.”