Student musicians: supported by family, friends, and fans

From rap to reggae to alternative, students at PHS have taken their love for music beyond school-affiliated activities through producing, performing, and recording their own music. These individuals and groups not only differentiate by genre, but they also perform in a spectrum of locations ranging from the Arts Council of Princeton to Beckley, West Virginia. Exposure to different audiences, as well as different platforms of outreach and producing methods, have helped artists achieve both depth and variety of sound.

Photo: Amy Wang

Alina Flatscher ’16 released her first single, “Victorious,” on November 5, 2013. Photo: Amy Wang

Alina Flatscher ’16, an aspiring singer, has performed her original songs “Victorious” and “Good Times” both domestically and internationally in Austria and other locations around Europe. Alina uses different instruments to achieve a unique sound for each song. “It depends on my mood and what kind of tone I want to complement my lyrics,” said Flatscher. “I’m trying to incorporate interesting instruments that you don’t usually hear.” For example, in “Victorious,” Flatscher used entirely acoustic instruments like guitar, but in her other songs she has used everything from ukelele to electric instruments.

Flatscher, along with other student artists such as Ben James ’17, an aspiring hip hop and rap artist, find online media extremely effective in promoting and making music accessible. “I’m on Facebook, Youtube, ReverbNation, Twitter—basically everywhere,” said James, whose song “I’m Ready” on his album Building Blocks has reached over 9,000 views on Youtube. “[Social media has] helped a huge amount. The word of mouth and constant releases have just made everyone want to check out what the hype is all about.”

Despite the time involved in traveling and promoting their music, the musicians find working hard on their music enjoyable and worth the commitment. Joe Coonan ’17, a guitarist who experiments with a range of styles including rap and reggae, views music as a way to release his emotions. “It’s my way of releasing stress. [While] some people like to go for a run or a walk, I just try to take whatever I’m feeling that day and put it into music and notes,” Coonan said. “It can definitely get intense, trying to do everything at once. You have school, [and] you have music and other obligations, but it’s worth it.” Keeping a positive attitude, Coonan doesn’t view setbacks negatively.

Ben James ’17 uses social media to keep his fans updated on his announcements. Photo: Amy Wang

Ben James ’17 uses social media to keep his fans updated on his announcements.
Photo: Amy Wang

Through both familial and professional assistance, student artists have had the support needed to continue to enjoy making their music on a professional level. “I record the music myself, but when I do major projects, I go to L.A. and I record with a team. It’s all about consistency and making sure it all works well,” said James, who works with producer Ty “Swaggalee” Scott as well as Irv Whitlow, the manager of Machine Gun Kelly and co-producer of James’s upcoming album. “[Scott and Whitlow are] industry professionals who believe in me and can take me to the next level … I’m extremely blessed.”

The musicians also find support in those who listen to their music, including friends, classmates, and even strangers. “I do get feedback from strangers who email me and say how my song inspired them in their lives,” Flatscher said. “It makes me feel [like I have] purpose. I want to [give] meaning to whatever I write.”

This support provided by friends, family, and fans also helps to inspire the musicians along with influences from their surroundings and the current culture. “I get inspired by nature, by listening to different artists, by generally going through emotions, [by] being a teenager, [by] my friends … and [by] going through stories and movies and books,” Flatscher said.

Although support fuels artists, the musicians are also open and accepting of other constructive criticism and opinions as a means of improving their music. “Even people who don’t [enjoy my music] motivate me to make even better music. This way everyone will be able to enjoy it,” said Coonan. “It’s all about the music.”

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