At the age of 16 Zoe Rosen (COL ’16) wrote her first song. She was moving from Switzerland — where she grew up — to Canada, and she utilized a class assignment to express her feelings.
“It was about saying goodbye to Switzerland and what that experience was like. I got to perform the new song at my new school a year later,” she said. “Even people who were at the new school could relate because people who had moved could relate to that kind of experience.” Although she felt nervous as she shared her work with the public for the first time, she knew she had stumbled upon something special.
“Songwriting was something that was very new for me, but I was already very excited, and I knew right away it was something I loved,” Rosen said. Armed with her guitar, Rosen has been writing and performing ever since.
It was around this time that Rosen also began taking lessons in order to classically train her voice. As a result, her interests lie not only in writing and performing her own indie-pop songs, but also in opera. Both of those passions are nurtured by her major, American musical culture, which fuses together music theory, criticism and practice.
The major is housed in one of the university’s smallest departments, the Department of Performing Arts, which is emblematic of the music culture at Georgetown.
“It’s nice having such a small music program because you get to know everyone in it really well,” Rosen said. “Hopefully, as the music program continues to expand, it will become something Georgetown prioritizes in the future.”
The general community of musical artists at Georgetown is also a small but growing group. Rosen was brought together with other musicians by initiatives such as the Guild of Bands, a course in the music program that helps assemble and give practice space to musicians, and the recently formed GU Jam Sesh. Jam Sesh is a group unaffiliated with the university that was formed this past summer in an effort to connect musicians and give them spaces in which to perform. Rosen credits these two groups with giving her more opportunities to share her music.
“With the start of GU Jam Sesh, I got to perform at a bunch of stuff [last] semester and also openmics. Last semester was definitely a big improvement from last year, in terms of performing opportunities,” she said.
When it comes to songwriting, Rosen is constantly inspired by other artists; right now, her favorite song is “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood and Of Monsters and Men and Imagine Dragons are currently dominating her playlists. But she’s also particularly inspired by someone a lot less indie: Adele.
“Even though her songs are more R&B Pop, she’s a really good songwriter so she’s someone I listen to a lot for inspiration,” Rosen said. Like Adele, she frequently writes about her own life experiences such as changes, relationships of all types and romance. Like Taylor Swift, she’s not afraid to call out exes in her songs.
“I’ve … [called people out], but I haven’t done it to the same extent as [Taylor Swift],” Rosen said. “If I did that I might be uncomfortable singing the songs in front of people. I try to sing things that are less controversial but are still saying what I want to say.” But just listening to any sort of music is what inspires Rosen the most.
“Listening to other artists is the biggest inspiration because you can hear how they can turn anything into a song. If you listen to what’s on the radio, you can write about the most ridiculous thing and [turn it] into a hit song.”
Rosen is currently working on recording a handful of her songs with the goal of releasing an EP by the end of the semester.
Looking toward her post-graduation life, Rosen hopes to pursue some sort of career in the music industry, though she isn’t sure yet whether she’d like to land on the performing side or the business one.
“I want to see what a career in the music business would be like and then from that see what I like better,” she said. “It’s definitely something worthwhile to consider as a career even though it’s very difficult to break into.” No matter what happens, Rosen enjoys writing and performing her own songs and intends to keep at it.