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The Talon

Senior Focuses on Making Music Over Summer, Participates in GRAMMY Camp

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While other students spent the summer vacationing, attending college programs and working jobs, senior and aspiring artist Zach Gospe focused on music. Zach’s summer was spent practicing his skills and focusing on networking within the music industry with help from his manager, senior Riley Soward.

Zach has been songwriting since he was 12 and released his first Extended Play (EP), “Live at Midnight”, last spring. This summer, following its release, he wrote new songs, began work on his first music video and collaborated with other young artists.

In July, Zach attended GRAMMY Camp, a highly selective 10 day long music camp funded by the GRAMMY Foundation and hosted at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Thornton School of Music. The goals of GRAMMY Camp are to find the most musically talented high schoolers in the United States, including vocalists, sound engineers, musicians and songwriters, and bring them together to simulate a realistic industry environment.

The GRAMMY Foundation, responsible for the GRAMMY awards, draws a panel of high-profile faculty members with the incentive of teaching the next generation of artists and forming connections of their own. Zach came to the camp as a songwriter, and was mentored by various artists involved in the music industry, including the assistant dean of the USC music school, who taught the songwriting class.

Zach collaborated with other young songwriters and vocalists to produce songs that musicians and vocalists at the camp would perform. Working for 18 hours a day, 10 days in a row, writing nearly a song each day, Zach said GRAMMY Camp simulated the reality of the music industry: an intense world.

“It’s a very stressful experience, you have to be very creative, very on-the-spot, but at the same time it’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Zach said. “Going from in the morning having nothing to at night having a band play a song you wrote, having a singer sing that song and connect with an audience, that’s a very beautiful feeling.”

Although Zach writes, sings and plays the guitar, he considers himself more of a songwriter than anything else. While at USC his most valuable experience came when he was asked to write a song in 45 minutes.

“Songwriting, by design, is a very open expression,” Zach said. “You’re spilling out your heart to someone. Songs that make other people cry, for instance, have to make you cry first. You have to go through something that hits you hard.”

Usually, when writing songs by himself, Zach admitted he puts up “a brick wall” to hide his most sensitive emotions. With time to filter song lyrics, songwriters can often get away with not sharing their own personal emotions and rather making up a story or sharing someone else’s emotions. But, with only 45 minutes, there was no time for hesitation.

“For everything else I have this little editor guy in me that’s going through and saying, ‘nope, you can’t say that,’[or]‘oh, that’s a little too emotional, let’s pull back on that,’” Zach said. “But this was just all throwing it out there. I learned [during those 45 minutes] to not hold back on my emotions, because though spilling them out in a song may seem like an awful idea at the time, when you look back, it’s always worth it.”

Although it was uncomfortable to spill out all of his emotions, Zach said it’s one of his favorite songs he’s written. The song that resulted is titled “I Need This Mistake,” a metaphorical meaning for Zach’s philosophy of putting yourself and your passion on the line and taking risks.

“Forty-five minutes spilling your guts out on the page without time to edit it: that’s a mistake,” Zach said. “But sometimes you need that. And sometimes it turns out a little better than you’d expect.”

While at GRAMMY Camp, Zach collaborated with a variety of different musicians, vocalists and sound engineers. He was surrounded by a population of students of which 90 percent knew they were going directly into the music industry after high school, whether it be studying music in college or not going to college at all. Zach said that this environment was somewhat foreign to him, as there are few people who are as passionate about music as he is at LAHS.

“These are people who are very committed,” Zach said. “Some of them take AP classes and have a 4.0, but in this stage [of] their life they aren’t really academic; they are more focused on music. I wouldn’t say they’re more passionate [than I am], they are just more sure of where they want to be.”

Zach, on the other hand, is hesitant to dive deep into the music industry too quickly, and said while considering his future and college, he’s keeping his academics as equal of a factor as his music. The music industry, he said, is an increasingly risky and unstable lifestyle. Once in the industry, it is often hard to switch over to a more academic profession outside the industry. For this reason, Zach is applying to schools that offer a variety of language and science programs, but that also have a strong tie to the arts, such as Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

“It’s very important to still have the opportunity to be an artist after college,” Zach said. “I don’t want to completely abandon anything. Going to school in Los Angeles, New York City or Nashville would allow me to focus academically on something other than music, while allowing me to play open mics every weekend in the music capitals of the country. That’s priceless.”

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The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California
Senior Focuses on Making Music Over Summer, Participates in GRAMMY Camp