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Student Spotlight, Volume 3: Listen to New Works by Student Artists

Student Spotlight, Vol 3

Each month, we start a new Mainstage session, welcoming in a fresh batch of uniquely talented student-artists, ready to step up their game and create some music. Our team of Soundfly Mentors works with these creative artists, striving to help them reach their learning goals and build confidence in several areas of music. It’s an intense experience for both students and Mentors, and we inevitably end up wanting to shout about the amazing things they accomplish in a four-to-six week session.

This Student Spotlight features work created for two of our Mainstage courses, Faders Up 1: Modern Mix Techniques and Orchestration for Strings. It also includes three projects created in the Headliners Club, a new program that pairs students with Mentors who are uniquely suited to help them build personalized Learning Plans, and reach practical and specific goals.

Here’s the full playlist. Scroll down to hear a little more about each track, how the student approached it, and which course it came from.

“Revenant”

Student Artist: Kylie Couper
Course: Faders Up 1: Modern Mix Techniques
Mentor: Martin Fowler

I had the pleasure of working with Kylie through four rigorous weeks of Headliners, during which she delivered a new piece of score to a short film every single week. I would give her a few rounds of feedback throughout the week, and she always over-delivered, doing wonderful work, taking each new set of feedback into account. At the end of that Headliners run, we decided the next skill that would most benefit from focused study was her mixing. It was already in pretty good shape, but I thought giving her the particular knowledge, techniques, and methodology of approaching a mix with a reference would take her mixes to the next level.

She approached Faders Up 1: Modern Mix Techniques, with the same voracity and attention to detail as she did her Headliners session, opting to mix her own orchestral piece, “Revenant,” with the reference track “Petricor,” by Ludovico Einaudi. Her goal was to have a track fully mixed that sounded professional enough to submit to a music library. Each week revealed a new key piece of information for Kylie that made her mix that much clearer, bolder, and more professional sounding. By the end of the course, I was truly blown away by her work. It still gets stuck in my head, from time to time! Kylie will be writing some truly beautiful (and well-mixed) music in the near future, I am certain!

“Downtempo” (Mix using provided stems)

Student Artist: Richard Ayres
Course: Faders Up 1: Modern Mix Techniques
Mentor: Martin Fowler

This session of Faders Up: Modern Mix Techniques was my first opportunity to work with Richard as a student. I was immediately impressed by Richard’s eagerness to learn, as well as his dedication to his chosen style and genre of choice, for which he already had formidable knowledge. Richard chose a library track called “Downtempo,” and astutely chose the ambient classic “Ghost Hardware,” by Burial, as his reference.

Richard set himself up for quite a challenge with this piece, since mixing in an ambient style doesn’t necessarily have a “right way” of doing things, or any obvious set of “rules,” as many of the sounds in the piece are, in fact, noise. That said, many agree on the brilliant sonic landscapes of Burial, so picking his work as a reference seemed a good place to start. Throughout the weeks Richard transformed the drab stems of “Downtempo” into a complex, intricate soundscape, beautifully musical and also haunting. Each week he bravely experimented and made extensive changes to his mix to incorporate all the new knowledge and techniques he’d learned. By the end, I had no doubt that his version of “Downtempo” was better than any other mix version I’d heard online. I’m incredibly excited to hear what else he produces and mixes in this style, moving forward!

Note: This piece was composed by Bravestar and downloaded via the Cambridge Music Technology free multi-track library.

“Moss”

Student-Artist: Jason Tanner
Course: Faders Up 1: Modern Mix Techniques
Mentor: John Hull

Jason came to the Mix course with some basics, but more importantly a concrete goal: He had a bunch of songs and wanted to develop the skills to mix them on his own confidently.

He nailed his goal with his mix for his tune “Moss.” I think one thing Jason discovered along the way was the ability to listen to music through the lens of a mixer. His questions were always thinking about how to go another step further, and it helped keep an open dialog flowing that made the coursework and feedback fluid. 

It’s also so cool to see him continuing to post and contribute to our student Slack discussions! I’m looking forward to hearing more of his work in 2018.

“Restless Toward the Goal”

Student-Artist: Cristian Albani
Course: Orchestration for Strings
Mentor: Ian Temple


Cristian has a wonderful sense of melody and narrative, so we spent a lot of time developing and elaborating on the many different melodies he came up with. The piece he wound up with is fast and super dynamic, with an interesting use of staccato and pizzicato to add some extra bounciness. The end is a lush beautiful meditation that plays with the different instruments in a way that allows for multiple voices to shine through and brings the whole thing to rest.

“It Happened in the Fall”

Student-Artist: Cor Jansen
Course: Orchestration for Strings
Mentor: Ian Temple

Cor came into the course with a high degree of engagement and an advanced knowledge of many of the concepts, so we had to adjust a bit on the fly! I gave him a bunch of additional challenges and pushed him to really be very intentional with his voicings.

As you can hear in this piece, he loves the non-diatonic stuff, so part of my role was to push him into making sure the piece was delivering the harmonic vibe he really intended. I think by the end he totally nailed it — this is one of those super interesting pieces of music that makes your ears perk up. 

“Isaiah 43:2”

Student-Artist: Lisa Reshkus
Course: Headliners Club
Mentor: Mahea Lee

Lisa has an extensive background in music, so her artistic instincts are strong, and her work ethic is admirable. In fact, she was finishing Faders Up 1 when we started our songwriting-focused session. 

Since Lisa already had so many tools to work with, we primarily focused on new approaches to familiar concepts, pushing her slightly out of her comfort zone. She started with a lovely, diatonic chord progression. I challenged her to reharmonize what she had using some specific prompts. You can hear the result of that particularly well in a later section of this track. She was also preparing to bring this song to her band, so we worked on some notation concepts and a bit of arranging.

It was an honor to be a part of her writing process, and I look forward to hearing what she creates next!

“Romance of the Telescope” (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark cover, arranged for vocal ensemble)

Student-Artist: Jeff Green
Course: Headliners Club
Mentor: Mahea Lee

Jeff is a super creative artist, who knew right out of the gate that he wanted to focus in on SATB vocal arranging. We decided to create two pieces: something entirely from scratch, and a cover approached from a more unique perspective.

One of my favorite pieces to share when talking about arranging covers is the Singers Unlimited version of The Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill.” Jeff and I discussed some of the things that work really well in that arrangement, and applied similar concepts to his projects during the session. 

What he did with OMD’s “Romance of the Telescope” is so lovely. In order to get a better idea of the overall sound, I asked Jeff to send me a recording of the bass part, and recorded a read-through of the remaining parts with a couple of friends whose voices fall into those approximate ranges. As a Mentor, I’m quite proud of the work Jeff did. As an alto, I appreciate that he took the time to make each part both a pleasure and a challenge to perform.

“Still Small Voice”

Student-Artist: Kirk Kienzle
Course: Headliners Club
Mentor: Mahea Lee

I was particularly excited about Kirk’s session, as I had heard great things from a couple of other Mentors he worked with in the past. He’s well-versed in several areas of music, including both writing and production.

Our four week goal was to create three new pieces of music, each approaching things from a very different angle. The first piece was primarily focused on harmonization, drawing inspiration from artists like Robert Glasper. The track included here is the second piece, which we prepared for by taking a look at Little Dragon’s song, “Twice.” The idea was to build something around a simple ostinato, aiming to trust ears and instincts, rather than resorting to more conventional strategies for creating chord progressions.

Often times, when we try to write in ways that defy normal harmonic expectations, we get sort of trapped in our heads, ending up with something that sounds a bit forced. By using that ostinato method and his own remarkable sense of artistry, Kirk created something beautiful, that defies expectation without alienating the listener. 

Ready to Reach Your Musical Goals?

Our Soundfly Mentorship program is built on our belief that accountability and guidance can have a huge impact on helping students reach their goals and develop their musical identities. We currently offer mentorship with nine courses, including those mentioned earlier, as well as the Headliners Club. Our mentors are passionate, experienced musicians with a shared love of personalized learning and artistic curiosity.

You can find more information on our courses here or by reaching out to [email protected].

If you think you have what it takes to be a Soundfly Mentor, learn more about the program here.

Feed your musical curiosity with Soundfly Weekly.

Mahea Lee

Mahea Lee is a classically trained pianist and composer who has a degree from a jazz school and leads an electro-pop band. Her greatest musical passion is lyrical songwriting, but she's been known to write the occasional fugue. She graduated from Berklee College of Music, where she majored in Contemporary Writing and Production and minored in Music Theory. For more Mahea, check out Soundlfly's course, The Improviser's Toolkit.