As the school year winds to a close, it becomes more and more apparent how St. Anne’s-Belfield students cultivate their own knowledge, talent, creativity, diligence, and confidence. Many of those opportunities for growth happen inside the classroom with clear instructional parameters and a relatively uniform set of goals students work to achieve. However, St. Anne’s recognizes that authentic and meaningful learning also occurs outside of a finely chiseled syllabus, born of a student’s passion and drive. Independent study is one such realm where students can choose an educational path that resonates with them personally, direct their own learning, and produce work that reflects their passion and dedication.
One student, junior Eloise G. ’23, recently recorded an EP for her independent study. The 4-song extended play will drop this summer, fulfilling a lifelong dream and inspiring courage for future music projects.
Eloise, who learned piano and guitar in elementary school, says “I have been in love with songwriting for as long as I can remember.” In Grade 6, she started recording originals at the Music Resource Center, and recording became one of her favorite things to do. This 4-song EP was the first time she recorded songs that were meant to be a cohesive body of work, songs that collectively would express her feelings about growing up.
In her independent study project, Eloise explores how 18th-century “part-writing rules” can be used to create and influence 21st-century music. In other words, how do the centuries-old concepts of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass show up in the music you hear today? The answer is in allowing both voices and instruments to carry those parts and using modern technology to layer the parts, creating complex melodies and rich harmonies.
To write songs using the part-writing rules, Eloise always started with lyrics, which would come to her seemingly “anywhere and everywhere.” Once some words had landed on a page, Eloise could figure out the rhythm and melody the words demanded and make choices about which instruments should carry which parts. After some intricate arranging, akin to fitting puzzle pieces together, she would play and record each “voice” using a Digital Audio Workstation, layering each part until it satisfied her ear, and then finalize the mix.
The songs on the finished product provide a well-rounded account of childhood and growing up, articulating experiences like breakups, one-sided friendships, hopes and dreams, and even “little kid things like wanting to fly to Mars and riding a seesaw, or games you played as a kid like make-believe or throwing stones.”
This project was not just about writing and recording music, Eloise explains. “It also allowed me to get visually creative with planning photoshoots for the EP, single covers, and other promotional materials for when the EP comes out on streaming services. I've not only learned about the recording process but the promotional aspect of releasing music as well. I am so lucky to have gotten to do this independent study because it truly gives me the opportunity to share what I love to do with the school.”
Congratulations, Eloise! We all look forward to streaming your music later this summer.