At my house, we had an Apple Computer, where I found myself practicing and building a foundation for myself with my favorite app, Garageband. I plugged in a pair of headphones, sang and recorded myself singing over pre-recorded music tracks. I could also create my own music a cappella style (aca-scuse me?). I layered harmonies and paired them with the melody that I sang. But this wasn’t good enough for me.
From the age of 16, I wrote songs in my head on the go and I watched shows like The Sing Off, American Idol and The X Factor where I dreamt of one day being brave enough or talented enough to get up on stage and perform. I wanted to sing for crowds and to hear them sing along with me. A summer ago, I walked into a coffee shop to meet up with a friend.
I didn’t know then that my life would change from that moment on.
While updating her on my life, I mentioned how I wanted to learn how to play an instrument. She offered to let me borrow her ukulele for a while. I took it and held it captive for a few months as I practiced and practiced and practiced. I spent all summer watching YouTube videos of people playing the ukulele. I learned how to do the chords, strum patterns and covers. Before I knew it, because of my dedication, I got pretty good.
Once I felt like I had a good handle on the ukulele, I decided to join a club that I’d had my eye on: the Songwriting at Berkeley Club. Despite being new, the club identified as one of the school’s best-kept secrets. The club attracted closet musicians, shy songwriters, experienced performers and everyone in between. Songwriting at Berkeley acts as a family of students who love to sing, strum and write songs. From different years and various majors, each member of the club bonded over the love of making music.
I knew that the club existed, but I never had time to be a part of it. I never really felt truly like a songwriter so why would I make time? I had never written a real song, I never sang in front of a crowd and I barely knew how to play an instruments.
This past Christmas changed everything. My parents gave me the best present ever: my very own ukulele. It was beautiful brown wood with a pattern carved into the body of the instrument. Over Christmas, I wrote my first original song on a ukulele. Inspired by a boy and the Colorado snow, I wrote down the words, the chords, the melody, everything. I remember in that moment, I filled with pride about what I just created. Since then, I’ve written six songs total (some of them which are real jams, not gonna lie) and performed in three concerts (which is a big deal for me).
In such a short period of time, this club meant everything to me. Singing, playing, getting to share my music, my thoughts and my heart with this group of people really made me feel at home while going to Berkeley. The Songwriting at Berkeley Club truly provides an inclusive space where students can get creative, expressive, social and free.
Even though I am a new member that also happens to be graduating, I’ve felt so welcomed. During my first performance one of the members adjusted the microphones for me and wished me good luck before I performed. And, at our retreat, the number of members in attendance showed me how many people were influenced by music just like me. I finally felt at home at Berkley, where I lived out a small piece of me that I never got to before. So much talent, passion and, more importantly, support surrounded me. Now, I know I have great friends in that group that will always support me and encourage me and my music.
In college, you learn more about yourself in four years than you do in your whole life. You face challenges, you get your heart broken, you laugh, you cry, you lose people you love and care about, you find other people that love you and care about you even more than the last and, if you’re like me, you find yourself getting lost in the music. In tough situations in college, you learn to humble yourself and realize that some things you can’t do on your own.
And then, you conquer that challenge with the help of your family, friends, professors, and roommates and you realize that with them, you are strong enough. For me, the Songwriting at Berkeley Club helped me do all of this. When you close your eyes for two seconds, you realize that life flew by in a blink of an eye and, if you’re anything like me, you write songs about it and jam out on your ukulele. Welcome to the soundtrack of my life!
Every year, I have changed, and I have learned something new about myself. I am a writer. I love. I am compassionate. I am strong. I am brave. I am smart. And most importantly, I am a singer. I know all of these things about myself now thanks to these experiences (and this club) who helped my songwriting in so many ways. To end on a sappy senior note, I pasted a stanza from my songwriting notebook for you College Magazine fans:
We’re watching the sun go down on us.
That doesn’t mean there was never love.
We’re walking into the future.
This moment is ours forever.
We’ve run the race and now we’re done.
Look at all the things we’ve won.
We’re walking into the future.
This moment is mine forever.
But you will be one of my favorite memories.