Student Musicians Discuss Why and How They Produce Songs

Graphic by Max Kaminski. Album covers courtesy of Jonah Shesol, Julian Galkin and Eli Faber.

GDS students can explore music through the jazz program and courses like Music Production and Audio Engineering, Vocal Technique and more, as well as school-sponsored extracurriculars including choir and a capella groups. But three GDS seniors who spoke with the Bit—Eli Faber, Jonah Shesol and Julian Galkin—have taken their passion a step further by recording and releasing music independently.

Their styles vary, but all three seniors share a passion for music that began at a young age. “I’ve been writing songs my entire life,” Galkin, who writes the Bit’s Augur Beat column on music, said. “It’s just always been what I love to do.”

Faber said that he’s been interested in making music since sixth or seventh grade, which prompted him to research music production and distribution. Shesol said he’s been playing guitar since he was roughly six years old, and he’s “always been making music.” Recording and producing that music, Shesol said, was a natural next step.

Both Shesol and Faber said the pandemic provided them with more time and more motivation to make music.

In 2021, Galkin has released three songs under the name Julian Harper: “Cherry Blossom,” “In Betweeners” and “After the Sunset.” He’s released a total of five singles since 2019. Shesol has released one single, “Not Here,” under the name Jonah J. Eli Faber, under the pseudonym Efabes, has released three singles and two albums named “Bittersweet” and “Home Sick”—23 songs in total. All of their songs can be found on Spotify. 

All four of the other students who spoke with the Bit said they were aware of the student musicians and, in particular, had seen Galkin’s music promoted on social media; two had listened to some of their songs. Senior Elana Spector said, “It’s really cool that students are able to release music and that other people are able to listen to it so easily.”

Even if they haven’t listened to the music, students are aware of the releases. “I haven’t actually listened to the music myself,” junior Tenaya Lin said, “but I have seen posts on Instagram about Julian Galkin’s.”

Faber and Shesol both credit a lot of their music recording knowledge to GDS’ recording studio, located on the third floor adjoining the band room. Shesol said he learned the basics in the GDS recording studio before the pandemic, with Faber and Dylan Posey ’21, and took those skills home with him when school shut down. During the pandemic, he created a recording studio in his basement with his own equipment, and found makeshift substitutes for aspects of GDS’ studio. 

“I went inside my parents’ closet to record the audio because that’s where there was enough dampening for the sound,” Shesol recalled. 

In Faber’s view, members of the performing arts department don’t proactively encourage students to use the studio. “The downside is that I feel like GDS doesn’t really do enough to market just how great that space is, and that goes for the performing arts in general,” he said, describing a lack of active outreach. 

Sophomore Sala Higgins, who only recently learned that GDS has a recording studio, said that few students know or talk about it. 

Director of Innovation Tim Lyons, who organizes the recording studio and teaches the Music Production and Audio Engineering course, explained that he rarely interacts with students outside the course he teaches. “I would only know about kids who have interest if they found me through Brad or something,” he explained in an interview, referring to jazz teacher Brad Linde.

People who want to use the recording studio must go out of their way or take advanced performing arts classes while juggling the visual art requirement, Faber said. Faber also said he had to push to get new equipment for the recording studio.

Lyons said he is open to having anyone work in the studio, as long as they contact him to receive training in using the equipment. He has always been excited to see what students over the years create, from EDM to blues to jazz. 

Faber, Shesol and Galkin have all found ways to pursue their music on top of schoolwork and other interests. Galkin said balancing his schedule has not been difficult for him, because several of his hobbies and extracurricular activities reflect his interest in creating music. “I do theater, and I do choir and things like that that are all related to music and performing art,” he told the Bit. “And then other times, it just takes a back seat. It really depends on the time.” 

Shesol said he is able to balance academics and music without feeling stressed.

Faber has as many as three hours to work on his music during some school days because he has his two free periods after his Music Production and Audio Engineering class, but he said that is relatively short for recording sessions. “Real sessions will go like four or five, six hours,” he said. “So you can really only get so much done in the time given.”

Faber finds it therapeutic to make music but also noted the “scariness of releasing that to the world.” He added, “Part of it is I just bank on people not really listening or thinking about the lyrics too much.”

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