The Pioneers’ perfect pitch: Music surrounds the school, community and world

design: Jaylen Lewis
photo credit: Danny Council, Kyle Long and Kate Moorhead

To outsiders, a strum of guitar strings can be as simple as another melodic tune to the ear. But to bands, the sounds can stimulate exceptional creativity and transform the simple sounds into a complete song.       

Being in a band and producing music is a form of artistic expression, and it is no easy task to complete. For bands like “Lockjaw” and “Jacketless”, the musical process is a very strenuous undertaking.

“Lockjaw” is a hardcore band featuring students from the high school: senior Colin Phelps, senior Victor Daley, senior Nathan Pierce and senior Jace Thorton. They have been creating music together since 2018 and stream their music through Spotify.

“Jacketless” is an Indie pop band with 2018 Olentangy alumni Ethan Carlson along with his bandmates and friends, Cameron Dickson and Mitch Nasdeo. The band released its first song in 2020 and continues to make music for its listeners. Their music can be streamed through Spotify.

“The hardest part of being in a band is creating a polished song. A lot of what we do is jamming, which is loose and structureless, and it helps us get ideas. Making decisions on how the song starts, ends, flows from part to part, tells a story and conveys an emotion; these are things we have to think about. But before all of that work, we just want the song to sound good,” drummer of the band, “Lockjaw” Victor Daley said.

In addition to creating the instrumental portion of songs, the songwriting process is also essential in order to make great music. However, its difficulty is severe due to the emotion and thought that songwriting requires.

“In my experience, there’s never a set songwriting process. Sometimes our best ideas come through jamming until we lock in on something we really like. Other times, we try to start from scratch, usually with a looping pattern, and we’ll just add other instruments and build off of it until we have enough of a structure that we can start refining it.

The inspiration for songwriting is also hard to pinpoint. Sometimes a lyric will pop into my head, and I’ll get all these ideas right away. Other times, I’ll spend hours trying to write and nothing happens. It’s easy to overthink: the more you think and try to write a song detail by detail, the less emotion and true artistry there is. It’s important to be aware of your emotions because life experiences that make you feel something are the best things to write songs about. I wish songwriting was simple and consistent, but it never is,” Daley said.

Spending numerous hours writing and producing music is rewarding, but it can still be a daunting experience. Peer approval is a huge part of music making.

“The most difficult part in my opinion is the feeling in the back of my head where I think ‘Are people going to like this?’ But that usually doesn’t stick around, because the reality is not everyone will enjoy what you do, and that’s OK. No matter what, there will always be people who support you,” guitarist for the band, “Jacketless” Ethan Carlson said.

Although musicians don’t just write music for people to enjoy, they write it as their own form of creative expression. Making art by oneself is a major accomplishment and extremely gratifying.

“Making music is an amazing feeling. Being in a band is special because it’s a group of friends I can easily connect with, and once that connection is established the ability to communicate through music is heightened. When we jam, we’re listening to what the other people are playing, and we respond by changing how we play our instrument. The nonverbal communication is a beautiful thing,” Daley said.

For most up-and-coming musicians, being in a band is not their primary job. Members live a busy life attempting to balance all different aspects of music and work.

Carlson said that in addition to being a guitarist, he also is a realtor. Juggling both is tedious, but fortunately for him, “They both work the same way as careers as in putting out your product or service and networking to stand out.”

Balancing another job and being a musician isn’t always ideal for many band members; having a large amount of passion and dedication to music, it is no surprise it’s the dream of many.

“There’s something magical about playing with another musician and getting to a groove that’s easier to keep playing in than it is to stop. If I could spend my whole life doing it, I would without a question,” Daley said.

A band’s existence isn’t solely just to gain an audience and revenue, it is its own form of leisure and amusement. Being in a band is where members make lifelong connections.

“We’re fun guys who love enjoying life to the fullest and making music that people can enjoy and have fun with too. We always have fun while recording,” Carlson said.

Forming a band is sometimes a long process, but when the correct members are chosen, the band becomes more than just bandmates.

“My favorite memory with them is when we jammed for the time to see how I sat in with the band, and we instantly clicked as musicians. We could all feel something new and exciting, that we could do something great together. That’s the magic I keep talking about,” Daley said.

Musicians who form bands have an unmatched amount of dedication and diligence, all to make something that they are proud of so they can share it with the world.

“Music has impacted my life in every aspect. I don’t know what my life would be without it and I can’t imagine a future without it. It’s been there for me and I’ll always be here for it,” Carlson said.

While not all students are able to participate in a band, many students at Orange take the opportunity to participate in the various music programs. Each option provides strong friendships that will last while incorporating a hobby that is loved.

Tune the instruments and prepare for the applause: the music programs at the high school provide students with an opportunity to give admirable performances and hone their musical creativity. Orchestra, band, choir and theater support students’ passion for melodies and rhythms as both a hobby and a professional position. 

Because of the COVD-19 pandemic, many shows were cancelled or modified to accommodate for the matter, such as going online or wearing masks during performances. While it worked for the time, students and staff are now excited to be back to the lively shows that allow larger crowds and a more intricate showcase of the students’ talents.

“We no longer require masks when performing, and we’re all comfortable doing things that require physical touch such as hugs and carrying each other—just basic physical things that normally wouldn’t be such a big deal if COVID-19 wasn’t in the picture. We’ve just gone back to normal; although the majority of us wear our masks offstage, when we are onstage, everything is like it was pre-pandemic,” theater actress and junior Emelia Martin said.

The marching band was most impacted by COVID-19, having many of its shows scrapped, but with conditions getting better, students are back at practices for their performances. Moreover, many students in marching band extend their skills into the jazz band where they can practice with more acute genres that contain swing rhythms and soulful styles.

“I enjoy the music from the marching band and how most of them are pop songs that I know. I also like my section and the people around me who make band fun and enjoyable,” flute player and junior Divya Patria said. “It is very fun performing with the people around me and hearing the crowd’s reaction to our shows.” 

While blind to the students cheering at the half-time shows, each marching band performance takes hours of both the students’ and the directors’ time each day. For its weekly halftime show performance during football games, the marching band needs to memorize choreography and melodies to multiple new songs. This past season, the performances included songs such as “Life Is a Highway” from Disney’s “Cars” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” which the band learned in less than a week. 

“It is a lot of time preparing for a show: you must practice your music at home so you can have it memorized, and squad leaders have to write drills that are handed out to the squad so everyone knows where they are going. I have made somewhat of a big commitment to the band by contributing my time and practice in order to help, on my part, put a show on the field,” Patria said.

The different orchestras at the high school, on the other hand, feature performances that showcase string instruments like violins and cellos. The Concert, Sinfonia and Chamber orchestras each allow students to participate in the strings program at a difficulty and undertaking that works best for them.

“I really enjoy having orchestra as a class where I can relax and do what I like. I also find it really fun to work on various types of music,” violin player and senior Asha Keerthapati said.

The orchestra’s recent fall concert took weeks of rehearsals as they learned to play classical and folk pieces such as “A Rococo Theme” by Tchaikovsky and “For the Star of County Down” by The Gallagher Gal. For orchestra students, the program goes even further than preparing them for concerts.

“Most of my kids will not major in music, but I hope that some will join a

community orchestra, perform for their church or temple or just play from time to time as something fun that they do for relaxation and enjoyment. I know that the experiences that they have had in orchestra will make them better at overcoming adversity in life and sticking with things when they get hard. It will make them better at working with others,” orchestra director Lori Cornett said.

Without instruments, students in the school’s choir programs work on vocal technique to sing. In addition to the standard choir classes, the program at the school also carries the Choraliers; Start Struck, the jazz choir; and Above the Noise, the acapella group.

“I’ve been singing since I was little, and it’s always been something I’ve loved. I’ve done choir in school since fourth grade and just stuck with it,” Choralier singer and junior Rachel Lehman said.

At their fall concert, the different choirs sang contemporary music to fit with the season, including songs like “What About Us” by P!nk and “when the party’s over” by Billie Eilish. More than just a concert, students work to display a show that extends from singing.

“It’s a little nerve wracking because you can see all the people in the audience, but it’s so rewarding when you finish the last note and are surrounded by a wave of applause. We like to have fun on stage too; I understand that coming and listening to people just sing is boring, so we’ll add some choreography to make it look fun,” Lehman said.

The music programs continued throughout the year with the choir’s Holiday Pops concert, band had its Friday Night Live Road Trip USA show, and orchestra had its annual winter performance. With more to come, such as competitions and other performances, the music surrounding the high school doesn’t plan on slowing down.

Whether the music is being played or listened to, everyone finds a way to enjoy it. Getting back to normal has been helping those who have played music including the professionals. The excess time led many artists to continue to work on their current projects and within the past year many new songs and albums have been released.

With the new music being made and excess time the pandemic has increased music consumption has widely increased according to Forbes. 

Music serves to be a resource of entertainment and emotion management in daily lives. Many sources, such as Sciencedaily and Nature, revealed correlations between music listening behaviors and their levels of anxiety and sadness. Some of the biggest artists trending in music currently are Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

Harry Styles is a mainstream chart-topping musician who’s currently on the road with “Love on Tour” for his album, Fine Line. However, that’s not all; he is as he fits into so many boxes: musician, performer, actor, activist, philanthropist and barrier breaker.

After six years in the world’s most famous boy band, One Direction, the singer embarked on a solo career that began with his 2017 self-titled debut album. Two years later, the pop star released his second album, “Fine Line” which brought him mass appeal, and he earned his first three Grammy nominations for the 2021 awards, according to the Grammy’s.

“I love Harry Styles because he isn’t afraid to be himself and test different fashion norms. He shows everyone there are no barriers with clothing and inspires me to do the same,” sophomore Emma Barnhart said.

While still writing hits, Styles continues to break toxic masculinity barriers with his fashion. One big example is portrayed on the Dec. 2020 Vogue Magazine cover, in which Styles was not only the first male to be featured solo, but he also wore a ballgown. He was shown wearing many “feminine” pieces of clothing which raised controversy on gender stereotypes in fashion.

Styles announced plans to take the album, Fine Line, for a world tour beginning April 2020. However, COVID-19 had other plans. He was forced to postpone the tour and began it in September 2021, only touring the USA due to safety precautions, according to his Instagram post on July 14.

“Love on Tour was surreal. Everyone was dressed up, and it was almost like a fashion show. It was an amazing night. I for sure will remember it for the rest of my life,” Barnhart who attended the Cleveland show on Oct. 18 said.

While the pandemic was a challenge for all of us, Taylor Swift, an extremely popular pop and country singer and songwriter did not let that stop her from creating music. Swift set up a home studio, working remotely with collaborators and released two albums that year, Folklore and Evermore.

Swift is currently on the path to re-record her first six albums. This recording is due to the fact that she doesn’t own her masters from those albums, so any profit made through them doesn’t go to her.

The first re-recorded album Swift released was Fearless (Taylor’s Version) on April 9 and, afterwards, the singer-songwriter released Red (Taylor’s Version) on Nov. 12. Swift’s new album was highly anticipated as it contains many nostalgic songs such as “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”.

“Artists should own their own work for so many reasons, but the most screamingly obvious one is that the artist is the only one who really knows that body of work,” Swift wrote on an Instagram post on Feb. 11.

In Swift’s new work, her re-recordings are almost identical to the original versions with more maturity in her voice and slight production changes. Swift is also adding several new tracks to each album which she calls her “vault” tracks. These are previously unreleased songs that were written back when creating the album which didn’t make the cut.

“I really liked that she added more songs to the album because I definitely think that makes it more exciting to listen to. The new tracks make it feel almost like a new album, and I really loved all the vault tracks from Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” senior Gracyn Messenger, a huge Swift fan said.

For now, it’s unknown which album Swift is planning to release next. Some fans are betting Swift’s fifth studio album 1989 is next while others are confident on another popular album, Speak Now.

For Kanye West, one of the most popular  American rappers, music isn’t only passion. During the 2020 United States presidential election, West took his shot and conceded after he received only 60,000 votes, according to BBC news.

West is also well known for his delayed album releases. His long-awaited 10th studio album, Donda, was finally released on Aug. 29, 37 days after the initial expected release date, according to the Washington Post.

The long-anticipated post pandemic release album was named Donda after his late mother, Donda West who died in 2007 from post-surgery complications. Many fans speculated the album opener “Donda Chant” to have featured his mother’s heartbeat in the background.

“My mother was my everything. My mother always kept me around music. She was also my first manager. I remember her driving me out to the suburbs that would be like an hour away to studios, and her just sitting there with me in support,” West told MTV News in 2005.

Donda features several other impressive rappers and artists: Lil Baby, Playboi Carti, Jay Z, Baby Keem, Roddy Ricch and more. The album contains many references to his children and his ex-wife Kim Kardashian.

“I really like Kanye’s dedication to music and fashion. He has diverse music in each of his albums and I enjoy that. Another of my favorite things about him is his fashion line and I like how he connects it to his music sometimes,” sophomore Sia Parikh said.