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Alum musicians give Mayfield students a glimpse into musical life after high school

Last Friday, we welcomed a panel of five alum musicians to participate in Mayfield’s first-ever alum-student music summit, hosted by Clarabelle Sullivan ’21 and Michaela Sinclair ’21. This virtual meeting was a chance for recent grads to answer burning questions from student musicians about their post-Mayfield musical journeys.
Instrumental music teacher Christin Hablewitz says the event was the brainchild of keen student interest. Clarabelle, a singer and bassist, posed the initial idea during a brainstorming session, and although Ms. Hablewitz set out to help plan the event, she says, “Instrumental Conservatory came up with the format, questions to prepare the artists for their talk, and they came up with Q&A questions too.” Clarabelle went on to host the event, and Michaela ran the Q&A.  

The alums covered a lot of musical bases. There were Michelle and Melissa Macedo ’06, identical twins—one Barnard grad, one Emerson grad—who make up the indie pop duo Macedo. They were recently voted #1 on KROQ Locals Only and featured on the cover of Pasadena Weekly. There was Anna Arboles ’13, who studied guitar performance and audio engineering at USC’s Thornton School of Music, and is now a live music sound engineer while pursuing her own musical passions, including solo works and as a member of a “four-piece, polyrhythmic, riff-driven post-rock band” called Gypsum. (Ana’s musician sister Cami Arboles ‘16 also planned to participate but couldn’t ultimately be there.) There was Kaetlyn Liddy ’17, who is attending Brown University in their Applied Music program, with a special interest in musical theater performance. And there was also Melodey Soong ’18, a classically trained pianist who is currently a junior at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in music and philosophy, neuroscience and psychology. 
 
Melissa Macedo was especially encouraging to the dozens of Mayfield students at this Zoom event, telling them, “I think high school is a great opportunity if you want to be a songwriter or a singer-songwriter.” She added, “You don't have to figure all of that out now, obviously, but it's good to be creative, to try things out.” Her sister Michelle agreed and offered that high school can be a very artistically productive period, “Now is a great time to just write down whatever, and now's the time to experiment and not judge yourself based on what you're writing.” 
 
All the panelists encouraged Mayfield students to find their collaborators—their musical community—in high school and college, because many of these people would continue to be their collaborators and community after college too. That’s how Anna Arboles met her fellow band members from Gypsum. Anna also talked about the way opportunities in the music industry can open up in unexpected ways. She said she “accidentally got a job doing audio tech” in college and explained how that was a gateway to audio engineering, which has become a substantial part of her career. She explained she had “a robust year of touring” before COVID hit.
 
There was some reflective soul-searching among panelists about how they continued to nurture their creative spirit over this past year, largely lacking live music and live audiences. But one of the highlights of the event was when each of the panelists shared a single track from their diverse musical repertoire. And the questions from Michaela Sinclair brought some levity to the discussion too, especially when she asked, “If you could play duet with anyone in the world, who would that be?” This was an easy one for Kaetlyn Liddy. With her love for musical theater, it would have to be Broadway powerhouse “Audra McDonald!” (Kaetlyn had already shared a clip of herself singing from the musical Ragtime, and McDonald had been part of the original cast.)  
 
Michaela also invited the alums to share their favorite musical memory from their Mayfield days. The Macedo sisters fondly remembered a production of Fiddler on the Roof, when they played mother and daughter. Anna remembers lugging equipment from the Music Room to the staircase at Pike for lunchtime concerts. Kaetlyn vividly recalled the out-of-state vocal competitions with vocal music instructor Andrew Alvarez, and the joy when Mayfield had a surprise win!
 
Some of these alums have pursued music professionally, but with others still in college, they continue to imagine how their career might pan out. It was Melodey Soong who offered some sage perspective on that, saying: “I think college is a time where you are able to explore what you want to do. It's a time to make mistakes too. I think it's really important to go through those mistakes and realize, ‘Oh, if something's not working then try something else.’” And while Melodey is pursuing some other professional interests currently, she adds, “I think overall music is, has been, and will always be a part of my life.”
 
After the event, Ms. Hablewitz remarked on the “kindness and openness of the guests” and that generosity they showed the current students. And most importantly? Ms. Hablewitz loved that they encouraged Mayfield students “to keep playing music.”
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.