Perfect Pitch

Left, senior Noah Rouw sings with senior Willa Eacret and junior DaQuevion Burke at a 2018 choir concert.

In a room filled with the concert choir students, choir director Eliott Kranz makes a request of senior Noah Rouw. “Noah give me a C,” Kranz says. Rouw promptly sings the musical note for the choir to have them in the right key. 

Rouw’s pitch is always as perfect as a tuned piano. “Noah started naming pitches during a rehearsal one day during his sophomore year,” Kranz said. 

 Rouw’s first discovery of his perfect pitch skill was in sixth grade. His music teacher realized his rare ability during class. 

“I said the first note to a song we were singing that we had only sung one time three weeks before. I didn’t know how to read music yet and pulled it out of thin air. She said, ‘You have perfect pitch!’” Rouw said. 

Rouw’s singing career started when he discovered his new ability. 

 “I was told I sounded good, and I enjoyed singing a lot, which brought me to where I am now and am thinking about music being my future profession,” Rouw said.  

Having absolute pitch, or perfect pitch means that someone can identify a note without reference. 

In his years of teaching choir at Cedar Falls High School, Kranz has had four students with this ability. 

“I don’t believe it to be very common. Research I have read on the subject suggests about one in 10,000 people have perfect pitch, and many more never realize that they have it,” Kranz said. 

Rouw possesses the most common version of absolute pitch, but he is familiar with the kind of absolute pitch where instead of seeing notes, one sees color. 

“When I hear things, it is complicated in my head. There is one girl that I know from East High School that when she hears a pitch in her head she sees a color depending on the pitch,” he said. “I am not like that. When I think of a certain pitch there is a feeling for each of them. I can’t describe it or else I start to lose that feeling.”

Going from elementary choir, Rouw has had several large solos with the concert choir singing along with him. 

“The fact that I am backed up with 70-75 voices behind me like last year is a really cool thing. It helps me grow as a musician, and I think that it helps other people be inspired who are on stage with me as well,” he said. 

“My goal for performing is to be as happy as possible, and if I affect one person in the audience, it was successful. When I get up there on the stage, it is to aim to the top seat in the corner of the auditorium, and if I can make that seat shake, I am doing it well,” he said.  

Rouw has the benefit of learning music faster and always being perfectly in tune. 

“Pulling a note out of thin air and knowing when things are in or out of tune is amazing, but it also made me more of a perfectionist. If a note is not in tune, then the chord is not in tune as well and sounds bad.”

Although having perfect pitch has benefits, he also said it is also a curse.

“There are a lot of times in choir and band when it hurts to hear the out-of-tune chords, but in the end we figure it out,” he said.  

Unplanned moments of finding pitches are part of Rouw’s daily life. 

“Sometimes I hear pitches in random objects, like I know that the bell for classes in school is an F sharp,” he said. 

With Rouw’s future in music and ability to always be in tune, he knows there is more for him to achieve ahead, as he currently auditions for college music programs.

“I don’t know what my greatest accomplishment with singing is other than getting into All State, but I think it is coming in the near future,” Rouw said.

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