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Student Spotlight: Ana L.

Ana L. was an exceptionally inspiring Student Spotlight interview for us. Not only is she a wonderful musician, but she also gives back by volunteering for the nonprofit Music In Common, a wonderful organization that seeks to unite diverse faiths through the shared experience of music. Ana may want to teach music one day, and we know that whatever she chooses to do, she’ll be a gift to her community.

MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing and playing guitar? What made you interested in each?

AL: I have a musical family, so my mom started the kids on Suzuki recorder when I was about six- years old for two years, as a beginner instrument. After those years, we were allowed to pick a more advanced instrument, and I went for guitar for a few years, though it didn’t turn out to be my favorite thing.  I’d always asked about voice lessons, but it was only a couple of years ago that my parents agreed to let me start, when I was 13. I had torn a knee ligament in sports, so I had all this free time open up when I couldn’t play sports anymore! My friend Naomi H. had been performing at our school’s garage bands and it had really kind of inspired me to see.  So when she recommended my teacher Ben we tried out a lesson with him. My very first lesson I sang Corinne Bailey Rae’s song “Put Your Records On”!

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why?

AL: I have a really vivid memory as a kid listening to Hannah Montana and dancing in the basement, taking videos of myself and generally just wanting to be like her someday! More recently I’ve really gotten into Alessia Cara thanks to Spotify. She sings the song “Here,” which is about getting sick of being out at a party, and it’s fantastic, though I like her other songs too.

MM: How are you performing in the community?

AL: When I go to synagogue we all sing prayers together, and sometimes I lead them now. When I had my Bat Mitzvah my dad had to teach me a lot of the tunes, so that I could choose songs and sing the main lines for everyone, leading the service. We also sing a lot at the synagogue I go too, so I was used to singing prayers and even leading them sometimes.

I’m a sophomore at Tarbut V’Torah High School, and in the Advanced Garage Band class there with Mr. Bachelder. Last semester we did two covers and two originals, and performed in December. This semester we get to do two more of each, and then record all the songs! So far, the originals we’ve written are called “Reborn” and “Anthem of the Lonely.” Mr. B also told my class about this opportunity to make a song with kids from different faith, through a group called Music in Common.

MM: I saw you in the OC Register article about Music in Common. Can you tell readers about what that program is, your role in it, the recording process, and what you gained from it?

AL: Music in Common is a nonprofit that Todd Mack founded when Daniel Pearl was killed in Syria. Daniel was the Wall Street Journalist that was captured in Syria, but to Todd he was simply a bandmate and a friend. He made the group as a way to bring religious communities together through music, since that’s what had brought him and Daniel together. They brought me and another Jewish boy from my school together with another Jewish girl, two Christians and two Muslims who were our age that were entirely new people to us, and helped us write a song together that we called “Pray for a Cure.”

They had instructors there to help us, asking us questions of what it feels like to be members of our religion. This was not long after the Paris attacks, and we ended up talking about our feelings, the need for people to know these terror attacks are not us. It was a good way to to practice putting predetermined views of each other aside, since we had them, and just find where we connect. A lot of us are pretty observant about our religion, so we had that in common, and some common morals and values that all kids our age share. And, of course music too.
When we were writing, and talking, we brainstormed all our ideas and thoughts on a white board, then tried to condense them down into what we really wanted to sing about, before figuring out a melody. They had us go into Laguna Sound Studio to record, which was my very first time in a studio, and it was a nice space. We had to plan beforehand a lot, because we only had limited time. We had one girl record ukulele first, and then all of us together singing, before some instruments, too. And there was a photographer recording the whole process, because they’re going to make a video out of it.

Once the video is finished, we get to go on the air at the Laguna radio station to sing the song. Our whole group’s invited to sing at the International Women’s Day conference in Aliso Viejo

March 6th, too, so we’ll have to get ready for that together.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?

AL: It would definitely be the high notes in the song “Tattooed Heart” by Ariana Grande. She goes really up there, because, well, she’s Ariana Grande. I’ve had to be practicing my head and mix voice every single day in my room, which can be a lot of annoyance for my two younger brothers!

I’ve also really struggled with lyric-writing, but I’m starting to feel much more confident with that. My teacher gave me an assignment over winter break to spend ten minutes writing song lyrics every single day. It was a big thing to overcome, but now I have all of these ideas I can use for songs in the semester. Like, one idea, it was kind of sad, but it was these lyrics about a girl who was drowning. There was only one person watching, but it was a little boy who didn’t know how to swim. So I have all these ideas now that I can pull from.

MM: What are your hopes/dreams/plans for the future, musically, professionally, etc? And what are some present hobbies?

AL: I really like communicating and cooperating with people. If I end up doing something with music, it’d still be in the way of working with others, maybe like creating bonds in a band in college – that sounds really nice. I’ve dreamed of being a teacher, and using music in teaching. Right now I’m a counselor in training at my summer camp, and we use music all the time, I really like connecting with the kids.

As far as hobbies go, I’ve just finished cross country and started basketball again. I also really love art – drawing, oil and water color painting, you name it, though sculpture isn’t my thing. Besides from that, my family does a lot of camping and riding bicycles together. So I keep busy, without even touching on school – I’m a sophomore so we’re having fun with Algebra 2/Trig.

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