Local teens work towards a musical future


Shayan Newell

Tala Newell is just one of many teens who enjoys performing. “I am definitely an introvert in real life but performing has always given me a safe outlet from that. Also, the the rush of adrenaline is very addicting,” Newell said.

Taylor Swift was just 16 years old when she first claimed a spot on Billboard’s Hot 100

Billie Eilish was 15 when her hit song ‘Ocean Eyes‘ made the list, and Stevie Wonder was only 13 years old when he topped the chart with ‘Fingertips.’ 

But young musicians are not exclusive to record labels and big hits. Even locally, teenagers are working to find a place in the music industry. 

“I have played at malls, shops, and gatherings like Save the Music and Christmas in the Park,” said local singer-songwriter Tala Newell.

But without official management or the corporate machine that backs almost every mainstream artist, teen musicians are left to fend for themselves by organizing their own performances and recording their own songs.

“I usually hear about gigs from other musicians that I have gotten to know through the years. Sometimes someone who has seen me somewhere invites me to perform, but typically it’s just word of mouth,” Newell said.

Independent musicians of all ages encounter difficulties with booking and recording. But especially for teenagers who have to meet the typical time demands of being high school students, finding time to dedicate to creativity is a challenge.

“It is difficult for me to sit down and really mindfully write a song. I’m always stressing about allocating time and whether or not I should be doing homework. So those rare 3 a.m. moments when I get an idea and walk it over to the piano or a guitar are the most valuable ones to me,” said Lina Saleh, a Carlmont junior and singer-songwriter.

Even outside of scheduling and being able to make time for music, the effort and energy needed to practice and study can be too overwhelming.  

Swaraa Joshi, a Carlmont junior and choir student, echoed Saleh’s concerns.

“Both music and academics require different skills and much time to refine. You need to be able to practice, for example, playing the piano but also essay writing and maintain both skills even though they require such different knowledge,” Joshi said.

Despite the challenges and obstacles young musicians face, one thing consistently keeps them performing: their love of music and how it connects people.

“There are different interpretations when it comes to music,” Saleh said. “I just love being the one who gets to write it and perform it, knowing what a song means to me, but also analyzing what it might mean to someone else.”