‘I can’t see my life without music’: Q&A with freshman Emerson Cohen on music composition, arrangement


Photo credit: Oona Seppala

Freshman Emerson Cohen works on her Music Styles and Composition course final project, composing an original song on GarageBand. Cohen has continued to grow her passion by exploring new avenues of music. “I’m still getting used to the songwriting process because my initial beginning was mostly performance and playing,” Cohen said.

By Oona Seppala, Senior Reporter

Freshman Emerson Cohen has had a passion for music for as long as she can remember. Cohen began taking piano lessons at age 7 and continued her practice of music through electric bass and guitar. Cohen is in the Music Styles and Composition course and sings in The Unaccompanied Minors and Archer’s choir.

Her passion for music has carried into her leadership at Archer, as she is a part of the Music Leadership Team, a team of musicians who help choose music for the concerts, take attendance, send out emails and lead rehearsals when teachers are absent. Cohen began writing original music last year and arranged the song “Mykonos” by Fleet Foxes to be performed in the spring concert. The Oracle sat down with Cohen to hear about her creative process and passion for music.

What began your passion for songwriting and music in general? 

Emerson Cohen [EC]: When I was younger, I really only focused on playing and singing. I had never been exposed to anything else, but last year I joined the composition class, and it expanded my knowledge and gave me a foundation for my future experience. Seeing Piper Rutman arrange so much music for the program is inspiring because I am able to see what’s possible at Archer. So then this year, I really just went for it and arranged something, and I was so lucky that it was featured in the concert.

What has Archer’s composition class taught you?

[EC]: In the class, we always start with theory, which has been really great. I personally love learning theory. This year especially, there has been a lot of work on getting more comfortable with your own songwriting and trying new things. I’ve been really pushed in a lot of different projects. For example, with the songwriting project, I’ve put a song from major to minor and then put a song in the style of a different artist. It’s been really a great class for getting out of my comfort zone and trying new things, and then I’m also able to work on my own performance and arrangement on my own time.

What does your creative process look like when arranging and composing?

Emerson Cohen performs at Archer's Spirit Week celebration and music festival, Archella.
Freshman Emerson Cohen performs at Archer’s Spirit Week celebration and music festival, Archella. Cohen closed the show with the song “Bloom” by The Paper Kites. (Photo credit: Lily Savage)

[EC]: For arrangements, specifically, I start by finding a song that I love. And I think the reason why arranging “Mykonos” for the spring concert was such a great experience for me was because I listened to the song, and I knew I loved it, and I knew I wanted to arrange it. So I think once the passion is there, it’s all so much easier. In arranging, I start with the melody and work from there. Then for songwriting, it’s more of a melodic idea.

Where does your inspiration come from? 

[EC]: It usually comes from however I’m feeling in that moment and how my experiences have motivated me to where I am, so the best projects and songs always come from what I’m passionate about and what I’m interested in. But, being more vulnerable in my songwriting is new for me.

How do you hope to see your music grow and evolve in the future?

[EC]: I’m hoping to continue arranging music for Archer because this year, I really loved it. Being able to sing [“Mykonos”] in the Unaccompanied Minors and perform it was an insane experience. I really hope to continue that and build the music program because we have so many incredibly talented musicians here, and I’m hoping to create more of a foundation and a platform for everyone to work in the music program and build on their passions. I can’t see my life without music, so I’ll definitely be pursuing it in some way shape or form. I love it.