Collaboration, Teamwork, Discovery.
Those were just some of the words to describe the process that led seven students in the Institute of Arts and Innovation songwriting pathway on a journey that resulted in an EP release party showcasing their work over the year. The party, held in the Bedrosian Pavilion on May 18, was a celebration of the result, but also of the growth and learning that took place during the creative process.
“This EP is just such a gift from the Lord, to have this opportunity. I don’t know of another school that is doing this with students so they can have these experiences,” said Performing Arts Teacher Cammy Brickell Aguilar, who taught the songwriting class.
The seven students: - Luke Rockney, Ellie Segal-Blackburn, Caleb Polaha, Maxwell Ross, Waverly Wildman, Hannah Lowe, and Sullivan Smith - had an opportunity to professionally record their music at New West Studios in early May, under the guidance of Brickell Aguilar and her husband Daniel Aguilar, who handled the recording and engineering. The six selections were the ones that made the final cut from over 50 songs that were written over the year.
At the release party students shared what they learned through the experience.
“I have learned that song writing is fun as a collaboration. I have noticed what my strengths and my weaknesses are in songwriting and to be able to work with other people who have opposite skills. Whereas I may not feel as confident in lyrics, but Caleb and Ellie are amazing at lyrics. So, to be able to work with people like that is a great experience,” said Luke Rockney.
For others, the class was an opportunity to step outside of their comfort zone and consider other areas they had never explored
“I am very R&B. I came from a background of hip hop and soul. Through this class I was able to put myself in different categories of music genres and it was so amazing to be able to experience that,” shared Lowe.
While the spotlight at the release party was on the final result, the hard work was done far from the limelight, in early morning classes under “crazy conditions” fighting lack of sleep, bleary eyes, low creative juices, and working in an "ice box" piano lab room.
Students were given prompts weekly, such as the words “bus“ “school” and “frosted” and had to collaborate with others to write a song from the prompt, sometimes in just 10 minutes or sometimes for a whole class period.
“Songwriting is like a muscle,” shared Polaha. “Before taking this class I thought of songwriting as this thing where I had to be struck by inspiration and stay up late at night and wait for it to come, like this big sacred act. That can happen, and lot of times it is awesome for it to be that way. But in order to make a living, you also have to learn to turn it off and on.”
After hearing from each student and playing their music for all to enjoy, Performing Arts Chair and IAI Director Mary Kay Altizer closed the evening, reflecting on the quality of the work
“This evening has been so inspiring. The level you have written to is just beyond anything we would have ever imaged as your instructors. I am just blown away. It’s a beautiful thing to see the synergy, and see the body of Christ, who we are and talents we have to come together an create such beauty,” she said.
"Can't Get Much Better Than This" by Luke Rockney and Ellie Segal-Blackburn
"Save Me" by Caleb Polaha
"Hypnotized" by Maxwell Ross and Ellie Segal-Blackburn
"Country Song" by Caleb Polaha and Waverly Wildman
"Frosted" by Hannah Lowe and Sullivan Smith
"I Want You Bad" by Caleb Polaha and Ellie Segal-Blackburn