Section: Arts

Kenyon students build music scene from their dorm rooms

Kenyon students build music scene from their dorm rooms

Many of the Kenyon musicians you know probably participate in orchestra or choir, open mics and a capella shows or play in a band, opening for main acts at the Horn Gallery. Who you might not know are the musicians that keep their songs within the four walls of their dorm rooms, who trade amps and large audiences for Garageband and Spotify. For students like Dani Martinez ’21, Maeve Griffin ’23, Jenny Jantzen ’23 and Abby Navin ’23, music isn’t about getting on stage, but rather creating music for music’s sake. Indeed, these four students are “bedroom” artists: writing, producing and even marketing their own music from their dorm rooms.

Martinez is a junior from East Brunswick, N.J., majoring in English with a minor in music. Ultimately, her career goal after Kenyon is to score films.

“It’s what I love to do most,” she said. Last year, Martinez wrote and produced an entire EP in her dorm room, titled after the beep. The project came out of a mere whim when she thought to herself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I had my own music on Spotify?” It features four tracks, all of which are instrumental—barring a few voices in the title track, which features bits of voicemails taken from Martinez’s phone. Martinez describes her music/the song as “fairly eclectic … an electronic, jazzy and synthesized twist on the traditional contemporary piano piece.” She created the EP using Garageband, which came preinstalled on her laptop.

“I’m lucky enough to own a beautiful MiniKorg synthesizer, so most of my music is made by connecting my synthesizer to my laptop, either with my interface or by using MIDI features of the program I’m using,” she said. After the EP was finished, Martinez marketed it on music streaming platforms like Spotify with the help of an independent music distributor.

Martinez grew up on jazz, show tunes, rock and pop music, and was classically trained on both piano and clarinet. She idolized the likes of Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald and Dave Brubeck, the influences of whom can be heard on her EP. Her top five artists today are Rex Orange County, Jacob Collier, H.E.R, Yebba and Mitski. Martinez is currently studying abroad and works as an intern for a film composer.

Hailing from outside Chicago is first-year Maeve Griffin, a soon-to-be neuroscience and music double major who wants to either go into psychiatry, specializing in children with Autism and Down Syndrome, or make a career out of her songwriting. The latter is for Griffin, like for many young musicians, a terrifying prospect.

“I absolutely love writing music and am super passionate about it,” said Griffin. “But honestly, there aren’t a lot of stable jobs available in that field, so I’m going to take some time at school to consider both paths.”

Griffin began recording music at the age of 12 with the help of the workers at the place she took voice lessons. “There were producers there that were also teachers of voice and guitar. I basically just watched them for a year or so as they produced my music and taught myself from that,” she said. “I started off on Garageband, and over time I introduced myself to LogicProX, purchased my own recording equipment and started producing my own music in my basement at home. When I needed to troubleshoot or if I ever ran into a problem during producing, I would usually just go onto YouTube and look up tutorials on how to do certain things.”

Griffin has two singles and one EP on Spotify, falling under the alternative pop genre. Her musical influences include early rock music and oldies, as well as traditional Irish music. Some of her favorite artists at the moment include Inannet James, H.E.R. and Tyler the Creator. Since starting at Kenyon, she has been writing music avidly, but hasn’t been able to fully produce anything yet because “resources are so limited [here].” However, she hopes to get some production done in the next few weeks. Aside from being a self-proclaimed “bedroom artist,” Griffin also performs in the a capella group The Owl Creeks and in the Chamber Singers ensemble, though she hopes to “link up with other people to do some performances” in a live-band setting.

Like Martinez, Griffin eventually approached a distribution company, Distrokid, to make her songs more easily accessible on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. “I’d totally recommend it to anyone looking to put their self-produced music up on different streaming services,” she said.

Two other first years engaging in the underground “bedroom pop” scene are Abby Navin and Jenny Jantzen. Navin is a Vermont native who labels herself as a “loose musician.” She sings and plays guitar in her bedroom with no audience beyond the people down the hall. She has one song on Bandcamp under the pseudonym Bad Messenger, titled “fearful feelings,” the description of which reads “100% made up on the spot, so if it 100% sucks then that’s why.” Navin usually writes music only for herself, though she hopes to one day get the courage to put some of it out.

“Strictly my music is in my room; it doesn’t leave unless I send it to a person … I don’t want to put out something I produced that I don’t like,” Navin said. She writes multiple songs a day, recording them on her phone but never publishing them. “I just bought a few new microphones and began recording myself with Garageband,” she said, explaining future plans to put out her music for the public. Navin adheres to no specific genre of music, describing her style as slower-paced. Her main influences are Jorja Smith and Julia Jacklin. Having grown up on The Grateful Dead, she takes a lot of lyrical inspiration from them as well as The Cure. Currently, she runs a radio show on WKCO with fellow first year Seth Lockwood ’23, titled “Happy 2 Be Here,” which Navin describes as “half music, half trivia, half fun.”

Jantzen is perhaps the only of these musicians who doubles as a bedroom artist and an actual performer. In Boston, Jantzen worked at the nonprofit Girls Rock Campaign, acting as a musical mentor to young girls aged six to 16. The organization helped Jantzen come into her own as a musician. “A lot of it was stepping up and being an example—being a loud and crazy musician,” she said. “Knowing it made them [the mentees] feel more confident was like, ‘Oh, I can do this, I could always do this!’”

Soon after the program, Jantzen went on to record her own album at her high school’s recording studio. The indie-pop album, Glitter Glue, can be found on Spotify and features seven original compositions by Jantzen.While she didn’t have any hands-on experience in recording and producing—this was done with the help of a school employee—she learned a lot simply by watching the process. Aside from having her own music career as a solo artist, Jantzen is a drummer for the Kenyon band Mount Vermin.

For these four students, music is a self-made, self-produced venture. From having their own songs on Spotify, to simply having their music recorded on the Voice Memos app on their phone, these students have built an underground music scene at Kenyon, one that hopefully will grow over time.

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