Music at BVHS

bv students describe musical experiences


Bringing Poetry to Life

In the case of Blue Valley High School junior Sofia Ortiz, music has not only formed who she is today, but also where she is headed.

“Music plays a gigantic role in my life,” Ortiz said. “Every day, I wake up, I listen to music. When I’m at school, I listen to music. I listen to music all the time. Music is so important to me because it makes me feel heard. It just brings me joy and comfort in so many ways.”

Allowing music to enter her life has transformed both Ortiz’s high school and future years.

“I am a big nerd about music,” Ortiz said. “It really brings me joy. My day would be incomplete without music, so I definitely think it’s going to be part of my future.”

Not only is Ortiz listening to music each and every day, but she also writes and composes her own.

“I play around with chords on the guitar,” she said. “I’ve taught myself from the internet or guitar apps, Right now I am mostly self taught, but I’m hoping to get back in lessons this summer.”

Her songs generally begin from just a moment of inspiration, and are later transformed into elaborate musical compositions. 

“What I usually do is I have a bunch of different journals that I write poetry in or just random prose that I come up with when different ideas strike where I get inspired by something,” Ortiz said. “I pick up a moment or a memory or a feeling out of those journals, and then I use the poetry to make lyrics.” 

These poems are some of Ortiz’s favorite forms of expression and creativity.

“When I write poetry, it is heart to mouth to pen,” she said. “It’s random prose that feels the most expressive to how I’m feeling, but it’s never really intended to be for a song.”

Lyrical music gives Ortiz the outlet she craves to express her emotions and passions.

“I have this thing on my heart. I have this feeling. I have this moment and I need to get it out,” Ortiz said. “If it turns into a song that’s great, but usually it’s just lyrical words that I need to get out.”

Although Ortiz is now working on her own music, she couldn’t have achieved the independence she has today without the help of some fellow music-loving classmates.

“It was all kind of a whirlwind,” she said. “It happened really fast.”

In February, Ortiz was forwarded an Instagram post by Kaya Lawrence, the bassist for a band named Overbrook.

“Her post [said], ‘If you or anyone you know can sing and likes to jam, hit us up because my band Overbrook is in need of a vocalist,’” Ortiz said. “I reached out to Kaya, saying ‘I’d love to jam with you guys sometime.’”

Kaya loved Ortiz’s vocals and welcomed her to the Overbrook team, immediately entrusting her with the task of writing lyrics for their songs. 

“Their last singer had a big falling out,” Ortiz said. “I had to rewrite six of their songs with my own lyrics and melody, but the musicality was the same.”

Just a few weeks later, Overbrook performed at the Roxy, a local nightclub and music venue, with Ortiz’s new music.

“It was very fun, and it felt really natural,” Ortiz said. “I felt like I was expressing myself in a way I haven’t before.”

Her experience at Roxy was truly one-of-a-kind, and helped shape her future aspirations and dreams.

“It was exciting. It felt free. It was scary, but honestly, I was just super nervous leading up to it,” she said. “Once I got on stage, all that anxiety just went away. I’d love to do it again.”

With this performance under her belt, Ortiz looked towards her next steps as a musician.

“I’m hoping to get back in lessons this summer,” she said. “When you’re really good at [an instrument] you have a better way of creating quality music.”

Ortiz also plans to enroll in Honors Music Theory at her high school in order to further her music education and abilities.

“I’m excited to learn more about music theory because, listening to a lot of music, there are certain things in music that I’d love to know the mechanics behind,” she said. “Why do certain chords work to make you feel sad or happy? How is music so colorful?  What is harmony? Why do certain notes go together and some don’t?”

Hopefully, through the combination of guitar lessons and music theory courses, Ortiz will be ready to release her own songs this summer.

“Releasing is a whole other thing because when you’re an independent, you don’t have a label, and you’re just a bedroom pop-up,” Ortiz said. “It’s harder to release because you have to figure out licensing on your own.”

Not only is releasing music a major legal challenge, but on an intellectual level composing music is no easy task.

“It’s hard because I’m still figuring out who I want to be as an artist,” Ortiz said. 

Despite all the challenges, she remains determined to follow her passion for music.

“I definitely want to pursue [music], and hopefully do it as a job,” Ortiz said. “[Music] brings me a ton of joy, and if I could, for the rest of my life, support myself, inspire other people, and express myself to my fullest, then that’s the dream because it’s pure expression, it’s therapeutic, it feels most authentic, and I feel most connected with my higher self when I write.”

Leading Through Creativity

For senior Ann Vasa, the impact of music has been significant throughout her entire life, having shaped her past, present, and future self to some degree. 

“I’ve been singing ever since I can remember,” she said. “I started choir when I was in fourth grade, and I’ve been doing it since then. I’ve also been in choir at BVHS for all four years.”

Through both in-school experiences and additional voice lessons, Vasa has been able to hone her craft and even step into leadership positions in the musical field, such as head director of Blue Valley High’s Annual Student Cabaret — a job further complicated by coronavirus.

“It was definitely difficult to figure everything out with Cabaret during the pandemic,” Vasa said. “There’s a lot to think about — we couldn’t sing in the same place if someone had sung there five minutes before because we needed to clear out the airspace, for example.”

Along with her role in BV’s theatrical productions, Vasa is the treasurer of the National Honors Society for Music, also known as Tri-M. 

“What I really like about Tri-M is that it’s very collaborative and it’s very student-based,” she said. “Our sponsor, Mrs. Fear, kind of just steps back and lets us do it all.”

Leadership positions and societies for those who excel in their respective fields don’t come without extensive involvement, however, as is shown by Vasa’s participation in not one, but two musical groups at BVHS: Chorale and Chamber Singers. 

“Chorale is our highest formal choir,” she said. “[We sing] classical songs, it’s usually 60 to 80 people, and the main focus of it is singing, whereas Chambers is a show choir, so we do musical theater and sometimes pop songs, and we have about 30 people.”

The benefits of joining these groups, Vasa explains, go far beyond the music.

“I think that being in choir helps not only with technique and the logistics of everything, but it also helps with your teamwork skills just like any other club would,” Vasa said. “I’m really grateful to have had that community for the last four years.”

Describing herself as someone primarily focused on academics, Vasa appreciates the imaginative and artistic aspects that music brings to her life. 

 “Music’s not like science or even English — it’s just not formulaic,” she said. “It’s definitely somewhere where I can express my creativity and also collaborate with other people and learn from their creativity.”

Taking that sentiment a step further, Vasa expands upon the unique, artistic liberty with which music provides her and her classmates. 

“In music, you can be your creative self even if you’re looking at music with set notes,” she said. “You can crescendo somewhere, you can decrescendo — there’s so much freedom. You don’t have to be perfect, which is what I love about it.”

In the future, Vasa plans to minor in music during her studies at the Barnard College of Columbia University — a decision she feels will help her keep a balanced lifestyle. 

“Having a way to do music is just so important for my mental health and for keeping myself calm,” she said. 

Like most musicians, Vasa has been influenced by a wide variety of celebrities and genres, but she also noted a more personal source. 

“My brother is actually one of my inspirations in music,” she said. “He’s younger than me, but he can play piano, tuba, saxophone, and bass. He’s a pretty quiet kid, but he also is someone that just totally loses himself in music, and I can tell that that’s an arena in which he just is so comfortable and feels like he can be himself.” 

As can be seen by the plethora of ways in which Vasa has involved herself with music, she’s constantly looking to see, or listen to, whatever’s in store in the realm of musical creation.

“I am always open to listening to new things and listening to new genres that people are creating themselves — it’s one thing that really inspires me.”