A passion for electronic music

When Khari Brandes (’16) was 7 or 8, he used to go to the studio with his dad, a bass guitarist for a reggae band, and fiddle around. Growing up around music, Brandes felt it was only natural for him to eventually pursue it.

Brandes finally took his first step in pursuing electronic music in Grade 8 at ASL. “I think Carousel [Middle School music elective] was where I realized that it would be something interesting to pursue further because I really enjoyed the class,” Brandes said.

Manu Gualandri (’16) was not inspired by his own dad but by his friend’s. Gualandri’s friend’s dad was a DJ in high school. Inspired by the dad and the DJ image he protrayed, the two friends began to experiment. “I got a program on the internet for free, and [we] started DJ-ing in my basement,” he said.

While exploring electronic music with his friend, Gualandri discovered his passion. Looking back, Gualandri sees why he fell in love with electronic music as opposed to music’s traditional form. “I love it because you can manipulate the music, make it your own, put it into mixes that reflect your personal taste. You have a lot more freedom,” Gualandri said.

Danyal Mahmood (’15), another electronic music enthusiast, took his first step exploring electronic music in High School. He took a chance and enrolled in former Digital Music Teacher Chris Clark’s class, Digital Music Creation I. Mahmood not only thrived in the class, but was also profoundly affected by Clark. “I saw [Clark] as a genius. In terms of musical ability, he was incredible. In class, he’d make tracks out of nothing on the spot and show them to the whole class and I could see them being hits. He could honestly be a superstar if he wanted to,” Mahmood said.

Not only did Mahmood find a mentor in Clark, but he also found them in his peers. Classmates Nicolo Baravalle (’14) and Nico Albanese (’14) motivated Mahmood to keep pursuing his passion despite the periods of frustration he might experience in the process. In particular, Mahmood admired Baravalle who he credits for shaping his “bold and loud” music style.

The communal bond Mahmood describes also impacted Sean Norris (’15) and strengthened his ardor for electronic music. “Seeing other students in my [Digital Music Creation I] class who had done pretty incredible stuff while I was there was definitely something that I aspired to. I was inspired just knowing that there was a large community of people who did [electronic music],” Norris said.

This year, students can no longer be pulled into the electronic music community through the ASL courses the way that Mahmood and Norris were. Clark’s last-minute departure at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year prompted the administration to discontinue the course for the 2014-2015 school year. K-12 Performing Arts Department Head Bronwyn Harrison was at the forefront of this decision. “[Since] he left very late in the year, we didn’t feel that we were in a position where we could hire someone who could do the course justice. The school made the decision that we would keep the course in our books but we wouldn’t offer it this school year,” Harrison explained.

Without the course, Brandes believes there will be a decline in interest in the art form. Brandes also believes that many students took the course for a technology credit, and ended up in Digital Music Creation. Now, he believes, without the course, there is no platform for students to experiment and explore it.

This year, Brandes, Norris and Gualandri decided to take matters into their own hands. Having recently created the Electronic Music Club, they hope to promote interest and create a place to learn the medium. Above all, the trio hope to supplement the electronic music program and to create a prominent electronic music community.

Performing Arts Teacher Mete Ege believes that the club will accomplish great things and is a fantastic way to fill the void of the course. “I am giving them 100 percent of my support because there is a huge need at ASL for that digital music outlet,” Ege said. “Lets face it: It is the music of today and we should be definitely supporting it.”