This month, we talked to Sarah, a 19-year-old vocalist and guitarist in the Flat community. Check out some of her buoyant, bouncy scores as you read about her starting to sing as soon as she could talk, her background with Flat, and the way that music has kept her going through tough times!
Tell us a little about yourself: Who are you? Where are you from?
I’m Sarah, I’m 19 years old and I live in southeast Michigan. I’m a pre-nursing student, but music has been one of my main interests since childhood and I hope to continue music into my adult life. I have a twin sister and an older sister, and despite not liking my older sister when we were little, we now bond through our love of musicals, and will often sing them loudly whenever we’re in the car.
In my free time, I practice guitar along with playing video games, learning new things about health fields like infectious disease, singing, tabletop gaming, drawing, talking with my family and friends, endlessly explaining about how much I love my cat (who you see in my profile picture) and going on long walks for no real reason other than to indulge in my wild imagination and get some fresh air.
What is your history with music?
Music has been a part of me as long as I’ve been around. Little Einsteins was my favorite show when I was a toddler, I’ve been told that I would hum to various tunes whenever I was doing something, and I began singing basically as soon as I started talking – at the age of three. Yes, I was a bit late with the whole talking thing, but surprisingly, compared to everything else, it was something I caught onto quickly.
Then I enrolled in choir class when I was 11 and it was an eye opener, both for how much I needed to learn and how much I loved it. Despite not caring about academics until college, going to choir class gave me the ambition I needed to pass my other classes. This was especially true when I needed to keep up a decent GPA to take part in the musicals that happened yearly in high school.
When the pandemic hit, I learned that music would remain an important part of me as a creative outlet, despite my personal struggles with mental health and dealing with the hardships of that time. I remember sobbing the night that school got cancelled, thinking that everything was over (including four choir events I had planned for the next week) but I soon discovered that music is something that perseveres through hardships. I’ve understood that while I may not be able to perform, I’m able to express myself through music; and even though I may not be able to perform now, I will perform again. I did get to perform again in my senior year of high school, and having made it through that hardship, I realized that music was something I would always have with me, no matter what.
When did you start composing?
I began composing at around 13, mostly because I started using Garageband on an old iPod touch that I’d had for years. It wasn’t anything too fancy, mostly composing a melody and seeing what I could add onto it. It was on and off due to school and other responsibilities, so it wasn’t until I was 16 that I decided to start actually making something that conveyed a story, emotion, or described something visually, rather than just making noise.
4. What are your influences or references?
My influences are extremely varied. Study playlists I’ve made feature music from games, titles like most Mario games, Skyrim, Legend of Zelda, Minecraft, Pokémon, and various spinoffs, indie titles, and the like. I have also been influenced by classical and cinematic music, alongside a mix of both old and new Broadway musicals. It’s varied, but that leaves me more options to try new ideas out!
What do you consider your style to be? What is your staple that makes a piece unique to you?
I think my pieces always have a flair for the dramatic, especially when I’m attempting to convey a certain scene or visual alongside the music. A lot of my titles are based on scenery, like my recent piece “Windstorm” that was inspired by those days where you can hear the wind howling outside, or an earlier piece I wrote called “Deep Freeze”, which was inspired by those winter days where everything felt quieter, almost subdued by the blanket snow.
How long ago did you join Flat and how has your experience been?
I joined Flat about a year ago! I was extremely intimidated at first, but I immediately felt welcomed. Flat has a sense of community that really shines through, it’s a place where I feel both encouraged to improve yet still appreciated for the experience I do have.
How did you discover our platform?
I was telling my high school choir teacher about my interest in writing music. He told me about Flat because another student had been using it to work on arrangements for band. I began experimenting with it, decided I would pay for Premium, and the rest is history.
Who is your favorite composer on Flat?
I have countless composers I could list, but Thomas Bozarth’s music has stood out to me time and time again. Every piece he writes conveys such powerful emotions, like his “Composition in B Minor”, it has such a dramatic, mysterious, mystical feeling that still hits hard with every listen! Every time I listen to one of his works, I’m amazed.
What work that you’ve written are you most proud of?
Usually it’s my most recent piece, and that remains true even now! My piece titled “Windstorm” was based on the idea of having a rhythmic backbone of 8th notes that bring along an energy that stays throughout. I also really wanted to go out with accent markings and challenging myself to use the pedal sparsely after relying on it for a few other works was refreshing, it was a prime example of trying out something new and benefiting from it.
Tell us a little bit about your creative process.
I usually start out with a few measures and build off that; I’ll then write something I want to transition into, and then most of the transitions in between sections afterward. I usually begin with an overall feel or scene I want for a piece, and then I find myself writing for hours, figuring out what fits and what doesn’t, how one verse can transition into another, what sort of feeling I want for each section, and finally edit it all to make it look as clean as I possibly can.
What does music mean to you?
Music is one of the most important ways to connect. Whether it’s joining a group to sing and finding that it’s a bit easier to make friends because there is that love of music that connects everyone immediately or connecting with an audience through song. While connecting with others, you can learn to understand yourself better with music as a creative and emotional outlet.
Do you see music as part of your future?
Absolutely, music has always been a part of me, and I can’t imagine living without it. Music is always on my mind, whether I’m singing show tunes in the car, thinking of interesting melodies or riffs while on a walk, or sitting in my room practicing guitar.
What is your biggest dream as a musician?
I hope to find that one day my music will help people. I’d love for some of my music to end up on someone’s studying playlist, because listening to instrumental music has been a key role in my college success so far! It’d be so cool to know that I helped someone in the same way that I’ve been helped!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start composing?
It’s a bit cliché, but practice really does make perfect, or as perfect as it can be at that time. The best part about music is that there is always a way to improve, and there is always something new to learn. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try out new things!
What would you have liked to know when you started composing?
There’s not much I would change in retrospect, as I like to believe that any failures have just been opportunities to learn. Still, I would have liked to know that every step is important when it comes to writing music, and that there are certain styles of composing. Finding how you compose and what process works best for you is something you make all your own.
What is your favorite memory of Flat (a favorite competition, event, etc.)?
The spirit animal contest was a big step for me. I had placed in the December contest earlier, but I felt like I had improved enough that I could do better. I loved writing that piece, it was writing for several hours at a time in a sort of musically charged frenzy that made me realize how writing music could bring such joy. It was amazing seeing that I placed in the top 10, it was a moment where I felt my hard work was worth it.
Thank you for sharing your story!
See you next time,