Student Singer Profiles

Elisa Martinez , Features Reporter

Caleb Wade (12th grade)

How long have you been in honor choir?
“I did it all four years, and it’s been a really good experience. You get to meet people from around your state and there’s this National Honor Choir where you get to go to a place around the state and get to meet people around the country like New York and Idaho.”

Do you see yourself pursuing a singing career or is it just your passion?
“Singing is a very good passion of mine. I’m going to be majoring in vocal performance next year. I wouldn’t see my life without having music or any type of singing. I mean, I like to act as well, but I do see lots of singing in my life.”

Where will you be going to school?
“My sister is going to Dominguez, and I got accepted there so I am most likely going there. It will be kind of cool to sing with my sister because she is also a good singer; she is better than me. She hasn’t been on honor choir, but she was in theater last year so she is also involved in the music program.”

Who would you say are your influences when it comes to singing?
“John Legend and Lauryn Hill. They are my top two African American singers who really are role models for me.”

Do you do your own songwriting?
“I do. Of course, people are going to say ‘your songs aren’t that great,’ but it’s all about testing and seeing what works. It’s all about progress and starting over and getting inspiration. As long as you like what you’re doing, it’s definitely something that I recommend everyone to do.”

Was there a certain age when you discovered that you liked singing or have you always liked singing?
“I guess I have always liked singing, but I liked it more when I found out how to sing and that’s when you go into the music program and start testing where your range is and what type of voice and vocals you can do. I guess you begin to like it more when you develop your voice.”

Besides performing in choir, do you perform outside of school?
“I do. I perform at DownBeat 720. It’s a really cool place. Emily goes there as well; she’s a really good singer. I also sing with my church.”

What do your parents think about your singing?
“I got my singing from my dad; he was also in a church choir. They are both very supportive and said that as long as I get good grades, I can continue with my singing career.”

Is there anything you would like to add?
Yes. I suggest that you find a passion when you’re really young because most parents don’t figure out their passion and never go after one; that’s why they move on. As long as you find your passion when you’re young, you’ll be happy for the rest of your life and do what you need to do and take risks.”


Axel Hernandez (12th grade)

It is known that you are a musician. Can you explain what exactly do you do?
“I sing a little bit, but I am not experienced enough to sing in front of people or just sing for my own songs. So I am a guitarist and a bassist. I play a lot of indie rock and alternative music. Mostly just for myself, so I can be proud of learning how to play something, but I am also kind of in a band where I play bass. “

Are you in the choir as well? Do you do choir for fun or you do it because you like singing?
“Yeah. I do it because I want to get more experience in singing, but I am a little shy still when I sing, so mostly I just sing in groups and not any solo stuff.”

Do you sing covers or your own music?
“I sing in terms of covers because I am trying to get into songwriting, but sometimes my thoughts don’t really line up so it’s kind of tough. I have done poetry before so that might be what has helped.”

Do you think poetry has had an influence on your singing and your music?
“Not so much. I feel like poetry was kind of a side thing where I can express myself a little bit. Music is also another way I can express myself, but I feel like music is more of me being proud of what I make, just being proud of singing something in tune or something.”

You mentioned that you’re in a band. What is the name of the band? Is it your band or did you join the band?
Right now it’s kind of like really loose. We don’t even have a name; it is just starting out. Basically, it’s just jamming out with one of my old high school friends and his two other friends. We just try to make music, but I have brought up the idea of making covers at first so we don’t have to feel pressured to make our own music. I think we are starting to kind of go into the realm of making our own style.¨

Do you think that your band would look into performing once you guys develop your style?
¨Hopefully. That’s the idea that my friend had which is performing at small venues or just putting music out there, but currently, it’s still a loose thing so we don’t know if everyone is going in the same direction.”

After high school, do you see yourself following a music career or just keeping it on the side for fun?
¨I would be interested in going into a career in music, but currently I just keep it as a side thing. It’s kind of cool having people ask me ‘what do you like to do?’ and I’m like ‘well I’m a bassist and guitarist,’ and they’re just surprised. I feel like since I was young I always had that vision of like a cool guy that knows how to play guitar and has game, and I was like damn I want to be like that. That’s why I picked up the guitar a bit to show off, but then it went more into a passion where I was proud of what I was doing.

Do you have any specific people who influenced your choice of music or what you’re doing right now?
“My parents have definitely influenced my choice of music. When I was younger they would always play Mexican rock in the car, and I would listen to a bunch of their CDs. That’s what really influenced me to have a passion for music. I feel like media has affected my choice of going into music. Just seeing all these people be really cool and being able to play instruments really fascinated me. Another two figures I look up to are my uncle and grandpa. My uncle also picked up the guitar randomly and is pretty good at it. My grandpa has his own little band, and he performs, he’s the main vocalist, and he also plays the guitar. I feel like seeing those two figures in my family has really inspired me to keep on going where I am going even if it’s just a side thing.”

What do you have planned after high school?
“I think I am going to community college, but I am in between studying statistics, social sciences, architecture or music. I just have to figure out what I want to do between those things or if I want to keep stuff on the side or just follow one thing and do that as my career. Or maybe put all of them together in some weird way, I don’t know.¨


Emily Johnson (12th grade)

Eliza Martinez

What exactly do you do?
“I kind of dabble in a lot of different things. I do music, I write music, perform it, sing it, all of that stuff. I perform slam poetry. I write poems and also I’ve been writing short stories. Mostly creative things.”

At what age did you begin your journey?
“Music has kind of always been in my life. Ever since I was little, my mom and my uncle were all in a band. I was kind of brought up in the world of music. I only really started writing music when I got my first ukulele like a couple of years ago. I taught myself how to play it, and I just went from there. Now I play the guitar and piano.”

You mentioned that you do poetry. Are you in the poetry club here at school?
“Yeah, I am. I am one of the captains of the team. I’ve been involved with poetry team all four years of high school, but I have been on the team for the last three years which has been such a cool experience to be a part of.”

Do you write songs often?
“I don’t really like to force myself to write if I don’t really feel anything. Once inspiration hits, I kind of just let it flow, and it can come at the most random times. I’ll write stuff on napkins or on my phone notes. I do it when it comes to me; I don’t force it.”


I know you go to DownBeat. How long have you been going to DownBeat for?
“I have been going to DownBeat since the start of tenth grade. We had the first Venice Got Talent show here and Joe, who is one of the hosts of DownBeat, was the host of the talent show here. He talked about DownBeat, and I was like ‘wow that sounds like such a great space.’ I have never been to an open mic before so I had one of my parents take me down there, and I just fell in love with it, and I’ve been going ever since.”

What do you like about DownBeat?
“DownBeat is really great because it is such a warm and inviting place for whoever wants to perform. We have had dancers, singers and poets; we have had people rap. People that read parts of stories, we’ve had bands, people who play the trumpet and all these other different things. It is so encouraging because it makes you want to keep going when you have all this love and support.”

Have you recommended others to go to DownBeat?
“Oh yeah. I have talked about it whenever anyone asks me where I go to perform my music; I always say DownBeat. It is probably the best space for high school kids. I feel like as high school kids, a lot of people don’t have cars or money or places they can go or are even allowed in because most open mics are in bars.”

Besides DownBeat, have you performed anywhere else?
“I have. I’ve done the talent show here for the last two years we’ve had it. I also have performed at Boys and Girls Club events like the Gala that was a little while ago. Ms. Thrasher, who runs the BSU at our school, was kind enough to ask me to sing the Black National Anthem for the BSU assembly, so that was really cool. A lot of the things I do perform at are kind of connected to the school. I also perform poetry. For poetry, we do the slam where we perform in front of all these schools and judges. I do perform outside of school, but it is mostly tied to the school.”

Did your passion for poetry come out of music, or is it vice-versa?
“I think they kind of went in tandem because without poetry, I don’t think my songs would be as poetic or without songs, I don’t think my poetry would be as flowy as I can make it. I never really thought ‘oh I could write poetry’ until maybe eighth grade, but once I came here and met the poetry team and Ms. Witham, I really just got into it. I feel like I have always written songs, but they weren’t good until I brought my poetry roots into it.”

In the beginning, were you afraid to perform?
“It’s kind of weird. If you actually know me and don’t just see me perform, I actually have really bad anxiety. I also don’t like being in the spotlight or in the center of attention because I don’t know how to handle compliments or things like that, but I have always wanted to be a performer and get my stuff out there, maybe not necessarily on Broadway. If someone is just listening to me through a phone, that makes me feel more comfortable, but when I do perform, I try to be the calmest that I can be because I appreciate the art of performing. You know, like getting in front of a bunch of people is really hard, and I am proud of myself for kind of getting over my fear, my stage fright and getting better, but yeah, it wasn’t always like that and even now it is still not like that. I still don’t really like being put in the spotlight or being used as an example for other people.

What are your friends saying about what you do?
“I have like a group of friends that I don’t really do music stuff with. My poetry people know I sing, but I write poetry with them. I don’t really sing in front of my school friends, but I definitely do have my small group of friends who are just so overwhelmingly supportive of my music. They are always asking me to sing to them my new song or whenever I need to practice for something they say ‘sing it 50 times in front of me! Do it right now! ‘ or even when they catch me singing they’ll barge in and say ‘that was beautiful! Keep going’ and I love them for that. I definitely think that not just my friends, but a lot of people I have met through DownBeat and also at school are super supportive of my poetry and my music which is really cool.”

What are your plans for after high school?
“I honestly don’t know what career I want to go into because saying that I want to be a poet, a writer or a musician is kind of hard because it is a hard job to get into. Not a lot of people have the easiest route. I do plan to go to SMC until I can transfer because I want to get into something with audio engineering or studio producing. I feel like with that I can get a good job. Audio engineering and producing will help me with my music on my own time. I am definitely not going to let poetry or anything like that go. If I can take poetry classes and music classes in college, I will most definitely do that, but I think later on the more realistic thing is to go with something that will get me a good job, but will also help me in my own process.”

Do you plan to releases music online for people to listen to?
“I definitely do. I have a Spotify, but I only really do covers on it. I like doing cover music because you can always make it your own, but I feel like right now where I am at, I don’t have the full equipment to record an instrument nor do I have the recording software needed. I do have the Boys and Girls Club, but I don’t always have time to go. I have a few songs that are finished, but I don’t want to release anything until I have like an EP.”

What about poetry? Do you plan to publish any of your poems?
“I think writing a poetry book would be super cool, and I have actually thought about that a lot. It is something that I want to do because I do have binders full of poems and just stacks on stacks. I think it would be cool to take some of my favorite ones and put them in a book to publish.¨

Do you think after high school you’ll continue to do what you do right now?
“Oh yeah, definitely. I’m going to sing to my kids, basically do what my mom did for me. She was an artist and a singer, and she was in a band all throughout high school and her adult years, but she had to settle down later because she knew she needed a good job. I think I am going to do something similar. I am going to keep all of it in my life. The one thing is that school is school. A lot of people say they hate school or they love school; they are one sided, but I know I need my education and that it is important to help me get farther in life. Music, poetry and the creative things are what makes me happy and keeps me going.¨

Who would you say has influenced you?
“I don’t think there is one particular person because I know there is a lot of people that say ‘Selena Gomez is my inspiration,’ but I don’t really have one person, but rather a mentality. You know when my friends pump me up, that inspires me to write more music. Being surrounded by love and support is what really keeps me going.”

Any words of inspiration?
“I would just say to keep going. I have hit so many low points, rocks, boulders. I remember writing a song and not being happy with it at all and just scrapping it and scrapping it, same goes for poems. I said ‘I’m never going to do this. I’m not a musician. I’m not a singer. If I can’t write one song, what am I going to do?’ But I kept going and changed it completely into something I am really proud of. You just really have to push forward. It’s more of a process; step back and look at it from a different perspective. If you’re in your own head all the time, you are going to get paranoid and anxious, but if you really step back and look at the whole picture, you can have a better mindset that will really help you in the future.”