Major in Music, minor in Computer Science.
Music major Sarah Smith '20 recently released her senior capstone project, an eight-track album of original indie-folk-pop music called WorkInProg. The album is a culmination of the musical and audio-editing training that have been part of her Knox education.
Sarah collaborated with many people in the musical community at Knox on her album, which was released on March 20. It features cover art by Meghan Mohn '18, electric guitar playing by Ellie Baird '20 for the track “Mid-Battle,” Sam Beem '20 on piano and Assistant Professor of Music Pierce Gradone on bass for the track “Enough,” and a chorus of Mohn, Olive Colangelo '21, Maggie Decker '20, Katerina Sasieta '20, and Fay Swift '21 on the track “Just What People Do [Unraveling].”
How did your capstone project come together?
I've been writing songs for around 11 years now, and since coming to Knox I've been DIY recording and releasing my work on Bandcamp. Making music is my main interest, so I've known for a while that my capstone project would be an album.
My goal for the project, WorkInProg, was to produce a collection that shows how I've grown as a person and songwriter while at Knox. To do this, I picked eight songs in total: two new ones and six older ones, most of which had been previously recorded and released. I rearranged and/or re-recorded all of the old ones and spent a lot of time on the arrangements for the new ones. As for the process, I focused on the ones that needed the least amount of work first (a few songs I just re-recorded, while some needed very little rearranging) and then worked on the more complex songs. All of them were written already, I just needed to figure out arrangements, record everything, and produce it.
What aspects of your capstone studies were new to you?
I hadn't done any arrangements quite like the ones on this album before; the two new songs, "Mid-battle" and "Unraveling," in particular, are complicated, and it was a new challenge figuring out what exactly I wanted to do. The other big new aspect was music production. I had done a little of it before, but using the Knox Music Studio allowed me to go further and produce professional-sounding work.
What are your major takeaways from your capstone project? What are you most proud of and why?
My biggest takeaway is that I really have grown a lot in my years at Knox! The songwriting and arranging is a lot more sophisticated, and my style is starting to take shape. I loved figuring out how I wanted my music to sound and what I was capable of creating. The songs I'm most proud of are "Enough," "The Rain," and "Unraveling"—the first two are completely transformed from their earlier versions, and I love what I was able to do with them. As for the latter, it's one of my favorite songs I've written; it's so fun, and I think the arrangement really came together.
How did the Knox community help you with your capstone project?
Several students are featured on my album—I'm fortunate to know a lot of talented musicians! I worked with both of the other students who wrote and produced music for capstone—Sam Beem '20 and Ellie Baird '20—and I also got a group of my friends together to sing on one of the songs. Pierce Gradone, my advisor for the project, helped me a lot with recording and production, and Laura Lane provided a lot of support as well.
Are there one or two memorable moments from your time at Knox you’d like to share?
During the last school year, I arranged my favorite song— “Portugal” by Walk the Moon—for Soulfege A Cappella, which I've been a part of since my freshman year (and directed last year and this past term). Performing that at our final concert was very special; it took on a lot of meaning for all of us, I think. And while last year was a big year for me in choir—I was choir president, which was an incredible experience—the best choir moment was definitely the tour to France my freshman year. I don't think I'll ever have another experience like that.