Student Songwriters Share their Stuff

Students enrolled in the Upper School Creative Songwriting class recently orchestrated a Morning Ex experience for their peers where they shared what they have been studying during the past semester with teacher Alec Synakowski and offered a number of original compositions.

Nicky Lerner ’19 opened this Morning Ex by speaking to the objectives of the class, which aims to help students enhance their skills in performance, practical music theory and songwriting through the survey and practice of contemporary music. After demonstrating some of the software the class used, Lerner welcomed music teacher Rob Denien to the stage to perform of his original piece “Repetitive Rhapsody” on piano to give the audience a taste of the work he has been involved in this past semester.

David Rothman ’18 took to the stage and described the nuances of the musical genre that he has been working on, which uses vocalizations called “beat boxing” in conjunction with audio loops and multi-track layering to create a musical sound very different from Learner’s earlier piano piece. Rothman then led the audience in an example of layering and looping one beat upon another while varying the tempo—or beats per minute— and adding bass drops to create a truly unique musical experience.

Caitlin Landau ’18 addressed the topic of lyrics and songwriting. She discussed the nuances of lyrical phrasing and rhymes and even shared her personal process for creating lyrics: 1. Outline Theme 2. Think 3. Sleep 4. Write anything 5. Think some more 6. Sleep some more 7. Last ditch effort, consult a rhyming dictionary.

Cam Friedman ’18 then spoke to his personal approach for composing original music. He demonstrated the tonal difference between changing keys and switching between octaves in a song, the ways different chords and note intervals evoke different feelings/ideas and the use of chord inversions to allow a performer to stay within the same key and quality, but still sound different. Friedman noted the importance of establishing a general framework for a song, how musical phrases combine to make distinct sections of each piece and describing cadences give an end to one phrase and help transition to another or end the song. Friedman then invited Denien back to the piano on stage to perform his original composition “Diving from Grace”.

To bring the assembly to a rousing close, all students joined Synakowski for a final, original song, “Spitfire.” This performance featured Friedman on piano, Landau on vocals and violin, Lerner on vocals, Synakowski on guitar and Rothman on vocals and loop station.

Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.