It’s no secret that Oberlin is a very musical place. Between the Conservatory, the Orchestra of Arts and Sciences, and various a cappella groups, there is always an abundance of musical performances on campus. But there’s another side of the Oberlin music scene that isn’t getting nearly as much attention: the extensive arrangement of music producers and engineers.
There are many talented students on campus who, in addition to performing on stage, record and edit their own songs and then publish them on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music. University sophomore Megan Beehler, whose artist name is lavendink, started producing when she was a sophomore in high school. She started taking it seriously during the pandemic, and she soon became responsible for mixing up the recording of the high school choir’s entire virtual performance.
“I was a choir boy, we wanted to do some virtual choirs, and I had a lot of film experience, but not a lot of sound experience,” Beehler said. “So I was really confident that I could do the video part and sort of decode the audio. This was my first experience of trying to put together a group of audio or actually putting together a bunch of audio-based tracks.”
Beehler has since released two albums, Letters I Couldn’t Write in July 2021 and The College Exp this month. He described the genre of his music as “bedroom indie pop,” but said it’s also categorized as alternative folk by the algorithm of streaming platforms.
Ella Harrington, a college sophomore currently on a semester break, has released five singles under the artist name Ella Faye. He started playing the Suzuki violin at the age of three and has been passionate about music throughout his life. She first started writing songs at the age of 12, she.
“When I was four years old, my family started singing with a cross-generational folk choir in the Boston area,” Harrington said. “So this really opened up my music world to a very wide range of artists.”
He wrote his first two songs when he was 12 years old. One named “Memories” honored his late grandfather. He wrote the other, titled “I Remember,” with his best friend, Charlotte.
“It was about us entering our friendship together and a platonic love song.”
Both Beehler and Harrington tell personal stories in their songs, noting that it can be scary as Harrington’s recording of “I Can See the Rain” is about a boy he fell in love with when he was 16.
“Songs about people…it doesn’t have to portray them in the best way possible,” Beehler said. “It’s ‘I suddenly felt like this’ and it doesn’t have to reflect how I’m feeling right now. That’s why I sometimes worry that people might think I’m exposing them or making them feel like a bad person… not a bad thing. [has happened] still, but a little scary.”
Harrington does not like to divide his music into a specific genre as he draws inspiration from various genres such as folk, pop and soul. Double-degree third-year student Brock Bierly shares Harrington’s reluctance to dedicate their music to a particular genre.
“If I had to pitch my musical genres in front of someone, I’d want to get into oncoming traffic,” Bierly said.
As a TIMARA student, Bierly first became interested in music production at a young age due to his interest in robotics. Bierly has also been playing drums since he was three—the babysitters got tired of them banging on pots and pans and suggested they actually get a drum kit.
“I loved the way the Megazords broke up and got back together, and I thought it was cool that they were electronic or something,” Bierly said. “And so I really got into the idea of loving techno. I didn’t listen to much techno, but I said, ‘Yes, my favorite kind of techno music’.”
Creating music under the understandable artist name, college sophomore Lawrence Wright began composing music using MuseScore in high school. In his senior year, he had the opportunity to participate in “Game Jam,” which gave him the chance to connect with video game composers working in the industry.
‘Hey, have you heard of this thing called not using MuseScore and moving to a bigger digital workstation?’ and he showed me the ropes,” Wright said.
Wright has since produced several songs, including “Nonna’s Song” and “Breestep”, which have been posted on his YouTube channel. He described his music as “vaguely video game-inspired, somewhat classic, but actually classic, not because people eat it live, as I call it classic.” While Wright sings and plays the clarinet and piano, much of his music is produced digitally.
While Oberlin’s musicians seem to be focused on more serious projects, they also know the importance of letting go and having some fun. Beehler has produced songs like “Rats on Crack” and “Premarital Handholding” available on his YouTube channel.
“My roommate and I basically improvised songs where I started playing some chords and formed a song together,” Beehler said. “We basically have an impromptu EP if you want it.”
All four artists include the Wrights’ theory and composition classes at the Conservatory, Bierly’s on-campus collaborations, Beehler’s self-produced single “I Cried in Tappan Square,” or Harrington’s participation in Oberlin’s campus music performances. All of this served as inspiration, showcasing the diverse talents at Oberlin College and Conservatory.