The perfect pitch: Hoover’s balanced love for math and music

Cynthia Hoover, math department, is a jack of all trades and a master of every one of them. Her toolbox is full of math, science, writing, foreign language and remarkably, opera. Multitalented encompasses Hoover’s nature, and each skill connects to one another in ways that one might not expect.

Prior to 2001, Hoover put her opera theater degree to work at the Alhambra Dinner Theater in Jacksonville, Florida. She later became a business analyst, and as a testament to her broad range of skills, she doubled as a choir director. Her previous experience tutoring her peers in high school paved the way for her time as a substitute teacher, and she now works full time at Cedar Shoals teaching on-level and honors geometry.

“I think that if you’re a teacher, you will find that you were teaching all along,” Hoover said. 

“I ended up tutoring kids in math even when I was getting my music degree. That’s where I found the connection between math and music; usually people who are good with music and music are also very good at math.”

In her youth, Hoover’s talent for quickly comprehending languages allowed her to grasp French, Italian and German, three of the most popular languages in opera. Hoover favors French and Italian, but with composers such as Wagner and Motzart, German is unavoidable. Though she is not fluent today, she says she can typically understand basic communication in these languages. 

Hoover’s knowledge of foreign language is not limited to speaking or singing it. She enjoys taking poetry from an aria (a solo vocal piece) and translating it to make it as expressive as the original.

“You do have to have a little bit of an ear for them,” Hoover said. “Languages are easy for me.”

Hoover added “above-average hearing” to her resume when she participated in a study for her Psychology 1101 class to receive extra credit. For the test, she had to identify the differences in two sounds; she quickly discerned the slightly higher pitch at the end of the second recording. Her achievements shocked the scientists, and she was published in the abstract of the study. 

“Nobody believed I existed,” Hoover said.

Though Hoover’s hearing is incomparable to her college days, she still catches the occasional dog whistle when students attempt to test her expert ears.

In addition to proving that humans are capable of hearing on the same level as animals, Hoover also proved that having relative pitch has little to do with one’s hearing range. Both Hoover and her brother were born with the gift of relative pitch, but her level of hearing is unparalleled compared to his. Though she admits that being able to efficiently perceive sounds is helpful, she claims that “it doesn’t really have anything to do with my music.”

SKILLED SCHOLAR: Hoover poses outside of the Cedar Shoals building. She believes that a performer has to truly transform into their role to take the audience to another place. “If you’re not transported yourself, you’ve got no chance of transporting anybody else,” Hoover said.

Hoover’s impossible skill-set becomes more imaginable when taking her family tree into account. As the daughter of a chemist and musical theater performer and the sister of a math, chemistry and music triple major, it makes sense that she would be equally versed. 

“Trivial pursuit days were insane,” Hoover said. 

When she married a math geek and performer, no one was surprised. Hoover’s daughter, Rachel, continues the tradition of a broad skill-range, as she double-majored and received a certificate in musical theater.

Hoover herself delved into the ambitious musical career at just five years old. A choral audition proved her talent, and she continued to validate it as she consistently placed in ensemble contests with ease. 

Despite her natural talent, Hoover’s journey in the performing arts was strenuous. As a freshman, Hoover delivered a substandard performance during a solo ensemble competition. A judge later wrote her a hurtful criticism: “singing is not your area.” The feedback was devastating.

“The guy just raked me over,” Hoover said. “Everything he could downgrade, he downgraded, and he actually wrote it in the card.”

“Dear Cynthia, everyone should be allowed to fall on their face at least once in their life,” an uplifting note from Hoover’s mother stated. She was adamant about Hoover’s skill and continuation in the arts. She encouraged her to push past the negativity, and Hoover’s thick skin allowed her to persist.

“You do you have to be able to take those negatives and you have to be able to take somebody saying you’re not good enough,” Hoover said.

Hoover went on to sing in the high acapella choir at her high school, and was even offered to study under a professional from the Metropolitan Opera. During her senior year, she was set to sing the “piece of her dreams.” As Hoover was preparing to go on stage for a Class A state audition, she crumbled.

“The judge list comes out, and it’s the same guy I had in ninth grade,” Hoover said. “I walked out of the choir room.”

After being chased down, Hoover’s mentor, Tony, convinced her to prove the judge wrong, and continue with the performance. Once she finished a stellar audition, she planned to confront the judge about his past criticism with the same card she had kept with her for so long. 

“I gave him the card. He looks at me, his eyes are watering and he’s trying not to cry. ‘I’m so glad you didn’t listen to me, he says,’” Hoover said.

Hoover continued to shock judges in roles like Laurey from the musical Oklahoma!, and Christine from Phantom of the Opera. Another favorite role of hers was Hodel from Fiddler on the Roof; the first show she and her husband were in together.

Hoover understands that these performances are bigger than herself. She performs for the audience, and most importantly, for the composer. One piece of advice that has stuck with Hoover is from a professor who said that one should imagine that the composer of the piece is listening to you. She learned to never let the songwriter down and that she needed to transport herself in order to transport the listeners.

“I’m never just me standing up and singing for you. I can’t,” Hoover said. “I have to become that person (the character) in order for you to go where you need to go.”

Hoover only sings in her church choir these days, but occasionally performs solo pieces if they are requested of her. Hoover’s retreat from singing was not unfounded though. She had a choice. 

“Is it New York and me, or is it family and stability? I chose a family and stability,” Hoover said.

Kira Law

Senior Kira Law is the Co-Editor-in-Chief for her fourth year with Cedar BluePrints. She has yet to decide what career path interests her, but she enjoys film and literature. In her free time, she plays softball for the Lady Jags softball team, helps with the Cedar reader book club, and watches movies. This year in journalism, Law hopes to establish herself as someone her peers can go to for help. She appreciates the great minds of the staff and how journalism gives her more insight into the school community.

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