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Former city resident thrives in New York City classical music season, releases rock album

Ex-Fellowship Students bassist Nathan Siler is now a seasoned performer in the New York City classical scene and leader of experimental rock band Portraiture.
BY GENE TRIPLETT Modified: January 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm •  Published: January 9, 2013

“When I was a teenager I was just obsessed with the Smiths and Morrissey, but more so, Morrissey was the one that sort of seduced me into the music with his lyrics and his style,” Siler said. “But the person that really changed my life musically was Johnny Marr. The way he plays guitar, the harmony, the textures of harmony and just the sound of his guitar that's so sparkly. I think he's one of my heroes. He's definitely one of my heroes of all time.”

The more modern acts that may have helped shape Siler's sound include Boston-bred Hooray for Earth.

“They combine just these gargantuan melodies with really heavy, growling guitars and almost dance-electronica beats. I don't know, it's just a really fantastical approach that's just really gigantic.

“And there's another band called Jeff the Brotherhood. I love their fuzzy sound and their just no-nonsense approach and just sort of an easygoing rock vibe that I definitely identified with. And some of my older influences crept in, like the Tom Tom Club is a big one, and a lot of people have said they hear similarities between us and XTC.

“So up to the day that it was recorded I was still culling sounds and textures from new bands that I really admire.”

Once the album was completed, Siler had a recording he could play for other musicians in his quest to recruit permanent members for Portraiture. He ended up tapping Oklahoma expatriate and old college roommate Warren Loy for guitar, brother Morgan Loy on drums and guitarist Shawn Bartels, who has also had an international career as an opera singer.

“The vision for the band is just to start out as a solid four-piece that's pretty traditional rock music,” Siler said. “But once we establish ourselves with those fundamentals, I plan on taking us into some more abstract directions, into doing some more crossover stuff with sort of an experimental approach mixed with rock music, dance music, that kind of thing.”

Siler's wife, Jamie Buxton, has done well for herself in the Big Apple, too.

“Yeah, she's had a very successful career in regional theater and when she first moved up here she was cast in the musical ‘Hair' over in Europe,” Siler said. “She was basically based out of Berlin. So, yeah, she stays busy with a lot of music theater projects, and she's a very talented singer and dancer and actor as well.”

Meanwhile, Siler hasn't given up his day jobs.

“And, you know, I'm not wealthy but it's great. I'm making it mostly as a classical singer with some supplemental income coming from playing instrumental stuff. Playing for cabaret shows as a guitarist and doing other projects. Writing and arranging, composing. I still do lots of arrangements for Matt Brown and his Rockademy class back in Oklahoma, and actually this spring I'm going to be doing all the arrangements for Sugar Free Allstars when they play with the Philharmonic.”

But his priority project is now Portraiture.

“Everything is secondary to that and I will continue working in the classical world and I enjoy it very much too,” Siler said. “And Portraiture wouldn't have the kind of sound it did if I weren't influenced by so much of the entire history of music and classical music, strangely enough, is where I've been able to make my living and so I'll continue to do that. It's the best day job there is — besides writing.”