Chasing your music dream

Off the Beat

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One day, I let my curiosity get the better of me. I posted on my Instagram story for the first time in who knows how long. I created a poll: “Did you ever want to become a musician?” The results that stared back at me 24 hours later were both surprising and not at all surprising at the same time. Seventy-seven percent of my followers, at some point in their lives, aspired to be a singer, instrumentalist or songwriter. Note the past tense.

But when did we all stop dreaming of a career in music? At our young adult age, we’re no longer bright-eyed youngins with endless time and boundless energy. Some of us are knee-deep in science courses, while others pursue something in the field relating to obscure literature. Some are simply working around the clock to make rent. Where can music fit in? Is it carved into our fate that we’ll never be musicians? And are we OK with that?

Most of us can agree: Music is liberating and soul-soothing. But how many of us grab ahold of every opportunity to achieve this dream? 

I’ve always been in awe of the individuals who choose action over inaction when it comes to manifesting their dreams. But I especially admire those who don’t stop at visualizing success — instead, they go one step at a time and build from the ground up. I’ve always thought that these people were few and far between, that only a chosen few of us were meant to make something of ourselves.

Recently, I ran into three lovely individuals who changed my mind, changed my thinking that unless we major in music (or audition for American Idol), we lay our 3-year-old mic-holding, rock star-pretending selves aside. These three — Kelsey Ferrell, Joanne Magano and Spenser Judd — led me to believe that those who chase after it can catch it. Their journeys, and more importantly, their drive, is extremely motivating to me. After talking with them, I think the key takeaway is persistence. They dream a dream that never dies. Yes, they’re still dreaming now.

I met TikTok sensation Ferrell, 22, before her lauded internet fame. Back then, she was a political science student in a journalism class, sitting across from me in a very stuffy classroom in Barrows Hall. 

Ferrell might have been a loud voice in group projects, but in music she was Feral (her stage name). She told me that she really liked the concept of being wild and untamed — the idea of Feral, to her, implied being unaffected by society or acting as a counter to society. And maybe that’s why she’s where she is today. Sometimes you just have to fight that inclination to be someone who once dreamt, in order to become someone who is still dreaming. And I think this has to do with fearlessness, certainly. 

I met Magano, 22, in Hearst Field Annex, on the first day of our Harry Potter DeCal. You really wouldn’t know when you meet her that she’s a Doja Cat fan.

Layla (Magano’s stage name) taught me, in our short conversation, to always be working on what you love in your spare time, and to not be afraid to seek out professional training. She told me that she started writing songs early on, probably around high school, as an outlet to express herself. Then later, she started taking songwriting and singing more seriously and tried to put herself out there.

Magano also offered me some sage advice: Don’t be afraid of the numbers. There are so many talented artists out there, and it’s so hard, especially today, to get your name out there and to be seen. At the end of the day, as long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing, and you really love writing songs and creating, don’t worry about how you’re perceived.

And finally, Judd, 23, who has an “addiction to diction,” does Instacart by day — making quick forays into nearby grocery stores — before diving into hours on end of video editing and mixing by night, all for his music collective: Clear Vision Collective. I met him by chance in Berkeley one fateful weekend. Judd is fueled by his passion for music and storytelling, and he doesn’t stop to worry about how his ideas will be perceived before creating them.

It’s worth remembering that Ferrell, Magano and Judd are all ordinary people. They are ordinary students with ordinary jobs living in the same world as us. Yet they’ve all decided to pursue their musical dreams, despite the odds stacked against them. They’ve all decided to be extraordinary.

For most of us, our musical dreams tend to somehow slip through the cracks, our fingers too thin, too weak or too slippery to catch them. But it’s much easier to make excuses than to start executing plans, and that knowledge, I know, will bug me until I too start chasing my dreams.

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members separate from the semester’s regular opinion columnists. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.