Emelia Piane produces “Quarantunes” music album


Provided by Emilia Piane

Emelia Piane’s music workstation waits ready for her to set to work. Emelia has committed herself to releasing one song each week, adding to her album “Quarantunes.”

By Nicky Edwards-Levin, University of Chicago Laboratory High School

On the morning of March 19, junior Emelia Piane woke up to a surprise. Her shock didn’t come from seeing that the first song on her first album, “Quarantunes,” had more than 100 listens already. Instead it came from being woken up by her mother raving about Emilia’s song.

“‘I heard your song and — oh my gosh!’” Emelia remembers her mom exclaiming.

In the weeks where everyone seems to be house-ridden, Emelia has put her time to use, committing herself to a task of releasing one song a week on her new album, “Quarantunes,” a product of many years of musical experience, both at home and at school.

For as long as she can remember, Emelia has lived around music. From her father, a jazz musician, to spending time with family friends who seem to always talk about music, creating her own product seemed like an inevitability.

“I’ve constantly been surrounded by creative people in the music world,” Emelia said. “Creating music automatically was more accessible for me — we have mics and recording equipment at home, which made it so much easier for me to just get up and do it, but having spent so much time around these people has been really important.”

Emelia’s life at school has also helped shape her musical path. With freshman jazz band and orchestra in ninth grade and numerous music-related independent studies throughout the years, Gordon Parks Arts Hall has become a second home for Emelia.

“In so many of my classes that I’ve taken, a lot of it is interactions with other students,” Emelia said. “You sort of pick up things from them. In talking with classmates about their music, it gives you a better understanding of what to listen for when you’re songwriting yourself.”

Outside of class, Emelia spent much of last year working with the student band Rooftop Parking, whose members graduated in 2019. Being able to see and participate in the publishing process was invaluable to Emelia.

“Last year I was seeing the songwriting and recording process with Rooftop Parking, so I got to experience that while also being good friends,” Emelia said. “Working with them gave me a really good idea of how everything worked — recording, writing songs, mixing and mastering.”

But with a full, seemingly inescapable house, and only a blank, white wall to look at while writing her music, social distancing’s challenges have not spared Emelia.

“Recording things in a house full of people is quite a challenge, especially because a lot of the time, my dad is trying to teach virtual drum lessons in the basement,” Emelia said. “It’s turned into a ‘It’s 2 in the morning and I’m going down to record my vocals.’”

Furthermore, getting songwriting material is, especially in a blank room, challenging.

“You also really don’t get a lot of inspiration from, like, staring at a wall,” Emelia said. “I can’t hang out with friends and have experiences to write about, so the process requires a lot more creativity for me.”

But once the drums have quieted and the inspiration strikes, the process of writing, recording, mixing, mastering and releasing her songs — to many, a Herculean-sounding task — goes quickly.

Music teacher Francisco Dean isn’t surprised.

“I’ve been teaching 22 years. There’s a handful of students that come through high school and are just hungry to learn. There’s an energy that they have, an intensity. Whether it’s as a bassist, or engineer, leader, — they’re going to get the job done to the best of their ability. That’s Emelia.”

In the five weeks since, Emelia has successfully stuck to her task of releasing one song every week. As classes ramp up to speed and she gets more work on her plate, Emelia said that her weekends — or Sunday nights — might be her primary working time. But, thus far, she’s kept up her tempo.

This story was originally published on U-High Midway on April 22, 2020.