Finding the Right Progression: My Journey as a Singer-Songwriter (So Far)

I discovered the singer-songwriter in me when I was young, writing my first song at age 11 for vocals and recorder. My whole graduating class played my song while I sang it at our Fifth Grade Promotion. It’s one of the first moments in my life that was so incredible for me. The teachers at my school took my interest so seriously that I sometimes think it must have been a dream that I now mistake for a memory.

I started primarily taking trumpet lessons in my later elementary school days, then continued through middle school band and beyond, though I had the chance to play flugelhorn and learn a little euphonium. I started teaching myself guitar around 13, eventually starting to write songs for vocals and guitar. I soon chose to audition to major in music at a creative and performing arts high school, and was accepted. For four years, I spent three hours each school day playing and learning about music from talented, professional musicians. I continued guitar, picked up piano as I learned music theory, and started to teach myself the ukulele, which I now know well enough to teach lessons in. Every time I became skilled enough at a new instrument, I would start to incorporate it into my songwriting.

I tried to start bands with musically inclined friends of mine a countless number of times. For the most part, the bands I tried to make happen were all talk. We’d come up with names and ideas, and then it would go no further than that. One of the bands that I started with my closest friend in middle school was productive - we wrote a few songs and loved what we were doing. We never had any gigs but we had fun, and both of us have continued to work on music to this day.

Since I have attended college, I have been majoring and minoring in scientific fields, and my schedule is packed. I knew I wanted to stay as involved in music as possible, and found other people who played ukulele on campus as well as participated in a musical. However, I remember one day during the end of my first year, where I had a complete breakdown because I thought I had lost my dream of being a musician. That I was giving it up since I had made very few advances in my solo career, and I was no longer even talking to anyone about having a band. I am passionate about scientific work; I wouldn’t be pursuing it if I wasn’t. But it felt horrible losing my grip on another passion of mine. It felt hopeless and discouraging. I thought about my options, and remembered a wonderful and talented girl named Fia Nicoloso who I met in my introductory chemistry class, who played ukulele and loved Panic! at the Disco as much as I do.

I had nothing to lose, so I asked her simply over a text: “Hey, Fia, would you want to be in a band with me?”

She said yes.

It was a proposal of sorts, and her answer was exactly what I hoped for. She had answered almost immediately without any further explanation needed, which was a sign that she was as excited as I was.

We only recently had our first performance as a band for a small group of people at our university. We may not be performing much yet, but this time the band is real. Our band has a name and possibly a logo soon. Both of us have been writing original songs, and two of our closest friends who are getting married have asked us to play one of our original songs at their wedding and play for their first dance.

I’d say, of all the uncertainties in my life, not knowing if I’d have any future in music was one of the most upsetting. However, the path to something amazing will not always be clear or easy. I am happy with the progress I have made, and where I am as a singer-songwriter now. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Jessica Keller (She/Her) is part of the Concept: Staff. Learn more about the staff here