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A flash interview with the president of the Millstream Sailors, Willamette’s newest musical performance group

by Anna Burns BA‘25 (she/her),

This interview is being published in partnership with Prof. Michael Chasar’s English 213 class, Finding the Story: Research Methods in Literature & Creative Writing.

The newest performing arts club on Willamette’s Salem campus puts a unique twist on the typical singing group: pirates. A low-pressure, low-commitment, audition-free group, the Millstream Sailors is dedicated specifically to singing sea shanties. Founded in the Fall of 2022 by Chase Pyne BA‘24 and Nico Méndez Leal BA‘25, the group has since joined the ranks of established a capella groups Headband and Up Top and formed a warm, tight-knit community brought together by their love of music and pirates alike. As final concerts for performing arts groups on campus draw near, I invited Quartermaster/President and co-founder Chase Pyne to reflect on the first year of the existence of the Millstream Sailors.

Anna Burns: Can you tell me about your position or role in the Millstream Sailors?

The Millstream Sailors a capella group
From left: AJ Ammons BA'24, Chase Pyne BA'24, Anna Burns BA'25

Chase Pyne: As the quartermaster/president, I have taken on most of the traditional roles of any club president, such as planning events, booking rehearsal spaces, and coordinating concerts. Like all exec members, I helped put the constitution together and have been learning more about being aware of and managing group dynamics. Being a smaller, newer group has made all this management easier because there is less to attend to, although fostering a new community also provides many challenges.

Burns: How did the club come to be? What is the Millstream Sailors' origin story?

Pyne: Nico (Méndez Leal) and I went all over the place looking for people who would be interested [in starting a sea shanty club] and eventually managed to recruit enough of our friends to start a club (10 people minimum, including the required exec roles). We were both excited to start a shanty club together, so it was easy to gather the motivation. Having such a small team to start sure left us with much work, though.

Burns: What are your thoughts on how the first year of the club's existence has gone?

Pyne: It's been a very teaching time. Many of the original members have left, and we've gone from the biggest of the three acapella-adjacent groups to the smallest. I expect that, with each new semester, we will gather more people and become more organized. Like any club, it will continue to grow even as its former members move on/graduate. Watching everyone grow vocally and personally so far has been an honor, and I cannot express how happy it makes me to have so many cool and talented people in the group.

Burns: Have there been any unexpected challenges or other surprises this year?

Pyne: Absolutely! Many people left, including exec members, as we were getting ourselves established. It was stressful filling so many roles last minute and managing our numbers while still allowing everyone to fill their preferred roles.

Burns: What are your goals and hopes for the Millstream Sailors going forward?

Pyne: More than anything, I really want to see the club maintain a functional order and dynamic beyond my graduation. I also want to get us more public concerts, more instruments to differentiate us from the a capella groups, and more bonding events. I also want to hammer out some small details in the constitution so that future exec clubs have an easier time managing the group.

Author bio

Anna Burns BA‘25 is a second-year English major at Willamette University. Originally from San Jose, CA, Anna serves as Boatswain (Assistant Music Director) for the Millstream Sailors. Anna’s interests include writing, reading, music, and video games.

Editor’s Note: The Millstream Sailors’ final performance of the year will take place on Friday, April 28, at 7 p.m. on Jackson Plaza in Salem.

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