Creating the Perfect Song: The frustrating yet satisfying process behind the York Album Project
October 4, 2019
For months, York student musicians of all grade levels compose original music for the renowned York Album Project. Sponsored and founded by Chris Gemkow in 2014, the York Album Project is a collection of student-created music. Last year, over 40 students contributed to “Open Up,” a two volume album consisting of 31 songs.
During those months of hard work, students take an idea for a song and turn it into a reality. A majority of the recording and editing is done at York. Every musician is passionate and creative, and those attributes are evident in their songs. However, patience is necessary when choosing the right idea and editing the song to make it the best it can be.
“You start with an idea, and most of the songs you start to write are bad,” junior Katie Reidinger said. “You write a hundred songs and 99 of them you’ll hate. I think a lot of musicians are perfectionists, so it’s really difficult to determine when a song is actually done. There comes a day when you just force yourself to stop tweaking it.”
As a teacher, Gemko has experience working with teenagers and is able to give them the confidence and guidance to produce their music and share it with the public.
“Sometimes, someone just needs to be told ‘You wanna write a song? Well if you wanna write a song, let’s give it a try, let’s see what happens,” Gemko said. “Recognizing their first efforts aren’t going to be the best, and you gotta get writing more and figure out what it is you want to say in the song as engagingly as possible.”
Having a knowledgeable leader to look up to is exactly what these student musicians need to stay motivated and improve as musicians.
“Mr. Gemko does a really great job of making everyone feel like they’re capable of making music.” Reidinger said.“Other students help bring different ears, and sometimes you will listen to part of a song that you tried something new on and you think it sounds great, and all it takes is someone to say ‘That doesn’t work.’”
The power of communication is essential for these students to improve, even if it means being critical and brutally honest.
“Collaborating with other students is also really helpful because the new skills and talents they bring to the table help a lot in songwriting.” junior Jackson Nehls said. “If I’m stuck or feeling uninspired it’s always refreshing to hear a new idea from someone else.”
Despite the struggles and low points in the process, the life lessons that are learned along the way is a reward you cannot attain any other way.
“The Album Project encourages people to make music and express themselves in a way that just writing songs can’t,” Nehls said. “Releasing your music to the world is a much different experience than just writing songs to keep for yourself, and the confidence someone gains from releasing their music is so important in all aspects of life.”