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A South Florida Triple Threat
By Denny Patterson
When it comes to putting on a show, South Florida resident Samuel Fray packs a powerful punch. If he’s not performing in front of a camera or walking down a fashion show runway, Samuel can be heard in concert performing some of the most formidable works of classical piano. As a concert pianist, actor, and model, Samuel is the true definition of a triple threat. He is changing the game and raising the bar of what is to be expected from performing artists. That makes him a genuine renaissance man, right? And if you think his schedule is already chaotic enough, guess again. In addition, Samuel is on the board of the South Florida autism organization, Helping Adults with Autism to Perform and Excel (HAAPE). There he puts his music abilities to use by raising awareness on how the effects of certain kinds of music improve the lives of people on the autism spectrum.
Why don't you start off by telling me what initially brought you to South Florida?
I moved here in 2012 for a master’s program at the University of Miami for piano performance. I visited with my family when I was 17 and fell in love with the weather, landscape, and beaches. Since that trip, I waited for the right moment to move here. It came when I was finishing my bachelor’s degree at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. I applied to and was accepted at the University of Miami.
Is the South Florida life everything you imagined?
Totally! I feel so spoiled living here now. Growing up with the four seasons in New Jersey, I would always be sad when fall and winter came. As an artist and model, the climate allows me to be more creative and I operate at my best when the weather is not freezing. When I have to be up super early to work out or for a gig, it’s much easier to get out of bed. Spending a lot of time outdoors is refreshing after long hours inside practicing piano.
You work as an actor, model, and concert pianist. How do you balance all three careers?
Lots of patience! I have learned to stay calm when it gets busy. My daily schedule can change at a moment’s notice, so I have to be willing to be flexible with my plans. So far, I’ve been able to resolve scheduling conflicts because I keep everything in my calendar. I look at my professions like a marathon race. I don’t have to get everything done all at once. I continually work on all aspects of my career daily which is considered the Kaizen approach. It’s a Japanese word that translates to “improvement” in English. Its philosophy is that big achievements are the result of small consistent daily actions. I still catch myself overdoing it at times. But this helps maintain balance.
Tell me more about piano. When did you start playing?
I got a late start at playing professional piano. After graduating high school, I was in community college and taking voice lessons at a local music school. After hearing someone playing the piano in the next studio, I made the decision to switch to piano. I was 19 when this happened. By 20, I applied and was accepted into a piano performance bachelors program. I credit that huge amount of progress in only one year to my piano teacher who had me waking up at 4:00AM every day to practice. I drove my family nuts at the time, but they bought me a keyboard that allowed me to easily keep up that routine.
Did you completely drop voice and vocal performance? If so, do you have any desire to pick it back up?
Yes. I stopped vocal training to pursue piano full time. I think it’s great that I have a strong background in voice and if I ever land an acting role that requires singing, it’ll be an easy transition back into it.
What is different about your approach to being a classical musician?
I stand out from other performers because of my modeling and acting career. I’m loyal to the music first, but I’m not afraid to show some sex appeal when necessary, which makes me sort of a risk taker. I’m hoping to do collaborations with other artists and push boundaries like the Shirtless Violinist on YouTube. We’ve unofficially discussed collaborating. I think he’s such an awesome performer. Doing things outside the box allows me to reach audiences that would otherwise not be interested in classical music.
Who are some of your favorite composers?
My favorite composer is Sergei Rachmaninoff. His music contains some of the richest harmonies and melodies ever written on piano. Many of his pieces require wide stretches of the hand and I’m lucky I have a decent sized hand to tackle his music. Beethoven is also a favorite. His style developed so much from his early works. Having performed his Op. 1 No. 3 trio and 109 Sonata, I sometimes can’t believe it’s the same composer.
Do you have dream a performance?
My dream would be to perform and record all four of Rachmaninoff’s concerti. I performed the infamous third concerto (Rach 3) during my master’s program at the Frost School of Music and would love to perform it again!
What about acting, do you have a dream role?
I would love to portray a great Pharaoh of Egypt like Ramesses II. I’m watching “The Pyramid Code” on Netflix. I’m so fascinated with ancient Egyptian history and art.
When did you start acting?
I had roles in two musical theatre productions in high school and one during my undergraduate programs. I got my start by being an extra in the 2016 Baywatch film. The footage I was in didn’t make the final cut, but hey, that’s show business! I got to work with Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, and Priyanka Chopra. I made so many lasting friendships and it lead to many film opportunities that allowed me to complete my demo reel.
How did you get started with modeling?
I was a normal high school kid and never really considered myself exceptionally good looking or popular. I never thought about modeling until I unexpectedly won Prom King my senior year. I wore very basic clothes to school every day, so when I arrived on the runway to the prom in my tuxedo, I think that was the first time my teachers and peers noticed me. That probably is when I thought that maybe I should try being a model. Acting and music happened first for me, so I did my first fashion show in 2017 and got to work with Susanne Bartsch modeling this amazing outfit by Claire Fleury. I had on a see-through top and bottom with fur. I have it posted to my Instagram if you want to see this amazing creation! After this show, I was hooked.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in the entertainment field?
Be patient and don’t compare yourself to anybody else. When you’re starting off, you may have to accept small gigs or jobs that aren’t glamorous at all. If you’re interested in acting, try creating your own opportunities to move your career forward. Instead of waiting to be booked on a film project, build your resume yourself by trying your hand at screenwriting for short films. If you get your friends involved, it will be beneficial for everyone
With such a busy schedule, how do you relax?
I love going to the beach! I like going either early in the morning or at sunset. I like meditating and found that it’s really important for mental health. I also like taking baths, especially when I’m hitting the gym hard and I’m feeling sore. I light some candles and put on relaxing music and always feel revived.
Are your family and friends supportive of you?
Absolutely! My family back home and friends have watched and seen me do some amazing things in the entertainment industry so far. I sometimes get messages from people that follow me and ask how they can get started in the industry. Knowing that I am inspiring others to follow their dreams encourages me to keep going.
Do you go out on weekends with friends or for dates?
Most weekends, I’m pretty busy and use my free time to recharge at home, but when I can I like to go clubbing! I enjoy letting out the fun, flirtatious side of me when I go out since I love meeting new people. I was recently in Nashville for work and it happened to be Pride that weekend and I made some great new friendships.
What is your ideal date in South Florida?
I would start off with a romantic dinner at a nice restaurant or on a yacht. I love seafood and full bodied red wines. After dinner I love being outdoors and having great conversation, so a walk on the beach or in the city is relaxing and good for burning off the meal. I like to go with the flow and see if the mood calls for a quiet evening at a movie or concert. Or maybe we could go dancing. Wherever the night goes there has to be a lot of laughs and fun.
Lastly, you also work for the autism organization, HAAPE. Tell me more about that.
I am on the Advisory Board of Helping Adults with Autism to Perform and Excel (HAAPE), a South Florida charitable organization dedicated to helping find employment for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One of my roles with HAAPE is to help the organization connect with the LBGTQ community to raise awareness, help find employment, and raise funds so that HAAPE can continue its work. My goal is to have a benefit concert partnering with local musicians and symphony so that we may support these most needed services. These funds would help support HAAPE’s two main initiatives: their Technology and Training Center for Software Testing in Fort Lauderdale (called SPECTRUMTECH) and an initiative with several major employers in the area called “Autism Friendly Workplace." ASD is a developmental disorder that causes issues with communication, social, verbal, and motor skills. The result is that unemployment and underemployment rates are between 80-90%. ASD has no prejudice between gender, sexuality, or color. One in every 59 births is on the spectrum. This could estimate about 35,000 people in Broward County with ASD. This also could mean that there are between 3,000-5,000 LBGTQ people in the county who are on the spectrum. They are desperately in need of awareness and help in finding suitable employment and that’s why I am involved with HAAPE.
How can people find you on social media?
Look for me on Instagram (@sam.fray), www.Facebook.com/Sam.Fray.5, Twitter (@SamuelFray), and SnapChat (@samfraay).