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Unplugged: Emmanuel Courchia

When I first heard about Emmanuel Courchia, I was determined to find out more about this undiscovered talent at Yeshiva University. Among the honor students, sports stars, Dean’s List students, editors-in-chiefs, club leaders, and TA’s and RA’s, the musicians often fall in between the cracks. More recently, the Y-Studs and the Maccabeats (formally associated with YU) have made headlines with their performances around the world and on our own campus.  But as I found out, there is one student who is looking to shine.

Emmanuel Courchia was born in Marseille, France, where he lived until leaving to attend Yeshiva University at 18. “There is a large Jewish community with about 60,000 Jews and lots of restaurants and Synagogues,” he says.  He attended the local Jewish day school which was “a very nice experience and [the community] was like a family, and I loved it.”

For Emmanuel, “everything started by listening to music.” He loved to listen to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Radiohead.  Recalling a story from when he was 11 years old, Emmanuel and his older brother went with his parents into Marseille and “passed through a music store, and [his brother] decided to buy a guitar, and taught himself.” He loved listening to his brother play and became interested in playing himself. “My brother taught me all the cords and then everything came after that.”

Between the ages of 14 and 15, Emmanuel decided to write music of his own.  He drew his inspiration from many of his childhood favorites, especially Radiohead. He and his brother both play together and “draw inspiration from Oasis, and it’s really cool.”

Continuing to play in high school, Emmanuel decided that he would enter a music festival at 16. His decision to enter the festival was a big deal in Marseille because “it wasn’t like New York where you could find a place to play music.” When he told his friends about his decision, “everyone told me, you have a band? Everyone was amazed of me having a band, especially in a Jewish school. Everyone wanted my MySpace link.”

His band, 72 WST (72 West Street), a tribute to the street where John Lennon lived in New York City, consists of him and his brother at guitar and a friend playing the drums. The festival was a big success. “All of my friends came, they like it and encouraged me to continue playing.” Reflecting back on his first big performance, “At the beginning, we didn’t know how it worked, including the bass guitar. After we learned about playing in the studio, my brother began to play the bass and [the music] became more formal and better to listen to.”

When he was 18, Emmanuel set out to attend college at Yeshiva University. Learning about YU from his brother and visiting New York a few times, he felt he would fit into the “New York lifestyle.” He was excited about the opportunity to come and play throughout New York City and attend college here. A pre-med student, majoring in Biology and minoring in Music, and learning in the Mechinah morning program, Emmanuel often has trouble finding ample time to practice his music. He spent last summer performing at open mics, but when he goes home he performs with his brother.

Music classes have been eye opening for Emmanuel. Before his intro music composition course at YU, “I never took a piece of paper and started to write music. I listened to the music and played the cords.” However, once at YU, “I took introduction to music composition and learned how to compose on the guitar and piano which was very good. I wrote some music and then showed it to my professor. He showed me some mistakes and it was really helpful.”

Finding his outlet to unplug from his stressful studies, “usually it’s around 12 [midnight], I go home, play for about an hour- hour and a half, maybe four times a week, just to forget about the studies because it’s a pleasure.” He tries to find open-mics in New York City during the week for some time in the spotlight.

Discussing his future plans, Emmanuel is uncertain as to how he will manage his music and his studies. “My plan is to take a semester off, maybe a year, and just play music. My brother will come and we’ll just play music, until we find a record label.”

Emmanuel and 72WST produced their first EP album in 2008 in Marseille. A year later, they released their first album, “A Place To Be” and performed at a music festival mostly composed of Italian and French artists, making it to the semi-finals and getting their name known. In 2011, they released their second album, “Pachyderme World.”

Emmanuel will be graduating in 2014. “One goal in my life is write more and then to find a record label.” When asked about what it’s like playing by himself in New York City, “it is a totally different experience. When you are playing by yourself, it’s good but you are missing something. I composed a song [by myself], but once I played it with my band, [the band] gives it a push.”