Growing up, Nolan Lortz developed a love for music because it gave him the opportunity to express himself without being hindered by his speech impediment.
“It always felt like music was a good avenue for me to show my skills, show my work ethic, or just being able to just tune out to the rest of the world and just play without having to worry about having to speak at all,” said Lortz, a sophomore psychology major.
Although Lortz did not pursue music as a career, he can be found playing his hand pan on the corner of Liacouras and Polett Walks because of its central location. Last week, he was able to perform outside for the first time since November after bad weather, a head injury and a damaged instrument made it difficult for him to play.
Lortz’s return to his outdoor performances made him realize how much he missed being able to play during the winter.
“I think I went on like a Monday or something, and just being able to be like ‘Oh my god I forgot, oh my god this is so much fun,’ and just being like ‘Oh I missed this so much,’ oh my god it was great,” Lortz said.
Lortz began playing the hand pan in April 2021 and immediately fell in love with it because it was a unique instrument for him to learn without much pressure associated with playing.
Although he was nervous to begin performing in public, his fears quickly faded once he started playing.
“I just told myself like ‘Do it for like 15 minutes and it doesn’t go well just walk away and people will forget that it ever happened like two minutes after they see you it’s not that big of a deal,’ so I got up there and I did it,” Lortz said.
He played for three hours straight the first time he performed on campus, and has tried to perform two to three times a week since then.
Students like Anglin Hebert have noticed Lortz’s presence on campus and look forward to hearing him play.
“We see him a lot walking to class and it always brightens our day when we see him and hear him playing,” said Hebert, a freshman speech, language and hearing science major.
Although Lortz began his performances as a way to practice for himself, knowing his playing resonates with students has helped him become more comfortable with performing.
“The best compliment that I ever get is seeing someone walk by and they have their headphones in and they take out take out their one earbud or whatever just like listen to me play on like, wow, you stopped the song that you’re probably like liking just to listen to me like that alone is like the biggest honor like ever,” Lortz said.
Lortz has recently explored working with organizations on campus, like the Student Organization for Caribbean Awareness at Temple University and Alpha Xi Delta, to lead meditations, which he became interested in because of the spiritual aspect of hand pan music. Lortz also plans to do a percussion duet next academic year with his friend and roommate, Elijah Nice.
Nice and Lortz performed together in Mt. Lebanon High School’s percussion section, and the pair looks forward to working together again for this project.
“Nolan’s, a big, like jokester, like he makes jokes all the time, he has a lot of fun, pretty much anything that he’s involved in is probably going to be a lot of fun,” said Nice, a sophomore performance major.
Throughout high school, Lortz was active in his school’s band and often acted as a teaching assistant for the younger students.
“When he walked into the second rehearsal, like 16 freshmen just started shouting his name like he was like a hero to them,” said Jason Miller, the percussion director of Lortz’s high school.
Lortz had an exceptional work ethic during his time working in high school, Miller said.
“I’ve had plenty of great players, I’ve had plenty of kids that are nice, but he was like a total package, he was just really, really helpful with other students, a really outgoing friendly guy, and really welcoming, no ego to speak of,” Miller said.
The attention Lortz has received from his performances has helped him feel more comfortable about his speech impediment because he realized what he can achieve with his stutter, he said.
Lortz plans to continue his on campus performances and is interested in combining his love of music with his studies in psychology.
“Because I’m pursuing a psychology degree, too, and just being able to like, bring about my personal experiences with having a stutter and how I pretty much overcame that to, with my love for music, with also my career path, I think it’s just like a perfect trifold kind of marriage there,” Lortz said.
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