Student singers, songwriters and producers: pursuing passion through art

Georgia Arnold / The Occidental

In dorm room closets, Booth practice rooms and production studios, students aspiring for careers in the music industry are writing songs and mixing beats. Shaping their own mold for what being a student-musician entails, this community of student-musicians shares a common goal of impacting people through their music by expressing their personal outlooks. Stemming from a passion for their art and rooted in various life-impacting experiences, five students are furthering their music goals through singing, song-writing and producing.

Vivienne Rubanenko

Vivienne Rubanenko is a musician at Occidental College in Los Angeles, on Oct. 16, 2018. Georgia Arnold / The Occidental

Vivienne Rubanenko (first year) is a singer, piano player and songwriter from Sherman Oaks, CA with a specific interest in jazz ballads and R&B. Rubanenko wrote her first song when she was nine years old. According to Rubanenko, she has been surrounded by music her whole life because her mother is a singer and songwriter who produces music in Glendale.

Rubanenko said she finds her music to be personal and aims to inspire the viewer with her content.

“[My music is] a place for people to feel like they can kind of see their own experience and not feel alone. A lot of people have told me that my music reminds them that they’re not alone in a situation because someone else has felt that same emotion,” Rubanenko said.

Rubanenko’s EP is titled “Runaway from Reality” and she produced her new song, “Honey,” with her friend Christian Douglas. In collaboration, Douglas and Rubanenko call themselves SilkSpace. Rubanenko’s music can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music, Pandora and SoundCloud.

Rubanenko plans on double majoring in music and cognitive science. She said her music will be different when it is influenced by an academic setting because it is more structured and organized.

“I don’t write my stuff down. I just kind of memorize it, so being forced to be in an environment where I have to be more focused — I’m still creative, but creative with a cap on it is going to be difficult for me,” Rubanenko said.

No matter which professional career Rubanenko pursues, she will always save time for her music.

“It’s always going to be something I am going to do because it is a part of my identity,” Rubanenko said.

Sachi Granich

Sachi Granich (senior) talks about her experience of making music while being a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. Georgia Arnold/The Occidental

Sachi Granich (senior) is a musician from Oakland, pursuing a major in economics and a minor in studio art.

Granich said she started singing in middle school but did not take it seriously then.

“I think it was one summer when one of my friends was just talking to me, and he said, ‘If you could do anything, what would it be?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know, I’d just like to sing more,’” Granich said.

Granich said that many guest lecturers, jazz teachers and one opera teacher made an impact on her passion for music. She began writing only for herself and initially did not want anyone to listen to her work, but her vocal teacher encouraged Granich to record her own music.

Granich creates and records music in her brother’s studio at his house in LA. She explained that she writes with the intentions of making meaningful music and does not write to a specific genre.

“It starts with some line that speaks truth to me, some sort of, ‘Oh, that’s the way I’d want someone to hear that’— as long as it conveys some sort of meaning and image,” Granich said.

Granich turned to music for comfort.

“When I first really began, [music] was mostly a kind of way of dealing with some really intense need to create that I had not really felt for a while,” said Granich. “So, it was distracting me from doing my work — the fact that I wasn’t making anything — so I just had to do it. Even though it might have taken away from academics in the moment, it definitely helped overall, because I was not happy and was frustrated.”

Granich’s music can be found on SpotifyApple Music and SoundCloud.


Rayhan Tabani (first year) is a young musician and student from San Diego. Taken at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Georgia Arnold/The Occidental. His most recent song is a remixed Bryson Tiller song entitled “Cancelled”.

Rayhan Tabani (first year), who uses just “Rayhan” as his artist name, is from San Diego, CA. He is a music and kinesiology double major. He plays piano and guitar and sings R&B, with an aim to make his music about truth.

“[My music is about] truth and honesty. Everything I sing about is true to myself. I’m really serious about my music, and every song I write is either from a story or a letter to somebody. So, every time I write a song, it’s intended to somebody,” Rayhan said.

Rayhan said he started singing in the sixth grade with no serious goals. In eighth grade, he started boxing, which he became too focused on — his coach advised Rayhan to take a break, which gave him an opportunity to revisit his interest in music. After four months, Rayhan released a mixtape that went viral throughout his school and the local community, he said.

Rayhan began performing with rappers at house parties and at clubs, including the Anaheim House of Blues, a rock club. To promote his music, he visited malls and beaches six to eight hours a day in the summer.

“I’ll walk up to people and say, ‘How are you doing? I’m going to be your favorite artist. Give me 15 seconds. If you don’t like it, you can slap me and if you like it, you can just check out my music.’ Something funny like that,” Rayhan said.

Rayhan performed for artist John Givez and was booked to perform for YFN Lucci before his show was canceled. He left San Diego because he felt there was more opportunity for him in Los Angeles.

Before attending Occidental, music professor Desiree LaVertue reached out to Rayhan asking to collaborate after seeing his portfolio. Rayhan said that although his mother was previously not as excited about his music, she was supportive in response to LaVertue’s outreach. As of now, LaVertue and Rayhan have not produced anything in direct collaboration.

Rayhan does not use professional studios. In fact, he records in the closet of his dorm room unless he is collaborating with other artists because of the expense of recording studios and how they impose ideas on artists, Rayhan said.

“[Studios] like to rush you and you have to pay a nice chunk of money and unless I can get in for free or they know me, then I don’t like doing that,” Rayhan said.

According to Rayhan, he is completely dedicated to his music and aims to change the world through R&B, often dreaming about music and recording in the middle of the night.

“If I have to live in my car, I’ll live in my car. I’ll die for this stuff. It’s my life,” Rayhan said.

As an outcome of his music, Rayhan said he enjoys talking to and inspiring people.

“As long as I could spread love and impact somebody’s life and change somebody’s life. I’ve changed one person’s life, and I was like ‘Okay, I could die now,’” Rayhan said. “If I die tomorrow, at least I know I did everything in my power to try and make the world a better place.”

When Rayhan is not making music, he can be found cutting students’ hair in Bell Young. He started this hobby when he was just in eighth grade.

“One of them [a resident in Bell Young] had a bad haircut and I said, ‘Let me change your life today,’” Rayhan said. “When people come to get a haircut, they come in feeling like whatever but when they leave, they feel like a new person. Make them feel good, confident.”

Rayhan said he is on a path to change people’s lives through haircuts and music. His music can be found on SoundCloudSpotify, iTunes, Tidal, Google Play, Amazon Music and YouTube.

Anoop D’Souza


Anoop D’Souza (senior) discusses why music and music production has been such a big part of his life since he came to Occidental College at Occidental College in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018. Georgia Arnold/The Occidental. Since his first year at Occidental, Anoop has been successfully making music and distributing it on SoundCloud under his DJ name “Desouza” for years, and has millions of plays on his songs.

Anoop D’Souza (senior) is a music producer from Oklahoma City majoring in music production. According to D’Souza, his passion for music came accidentally. As a kid, D’Souza played piano, guitar and drums but said he did not intend on continuing or pursuing this, as his parents forced him to play.

Before college, D’Souza said, a friend passed away, and many of his friends had left for college. Since D’Souza had nothing to do, he opened up GarageBand to distract himself by mixing music. He showed the mixes to his friends at tennis practice in Oklahoma City, and they encouraged him to make more music.

“I kind of just locked myself in a room for two weeks, skipped class and taught myself how to produce and DJ,” D’Souza said. “I spent all of my money that I had saved up over the summer to buy speakers and play for free.”

D’Souza planned on majoring in biology and was taking pre-med courses until his sophomore year, but music professors David Kasunic and Adam Schoenberg persuaded him to join the music department after D’Souza met Schoenberg through a film scoring class he took in order to fulfill his core requirements, D’Souza said.

According to D’Souza, he has collaborated with people associated with Rick Rubin, a renown record producer, former co-president of Columbia records and founder of Def Jams. This past summer, D’Souza headlined at a music festival in Oklahoma City Aug. 26.

“Whatever’s going on in my mind that can help people relate to something if they’re feeling alone or not feeling alone, or if they just want to vibe,” D’Souza said. “Now I just want to make things happier, because it’s a sad time to be living in, and all the music you hear is sad, in general.”

D’Souza plans on staying in LA for a year and then continuing his career in New York. He is committed to finishing school but is ready to bring his music to a wider audience.

“I feel pretty creative when I’m with my friends or on campus and see all these people. I think that would be taken away if I wasn’t here,” D’Souza said.

D’Souza’s music is available on SoundCloud, Spotify, and YouTube.

Sydney Cameron

Sydney Cameron is a musician at Occidental College in Los Angeles, on Oct. 16, 2018. Georgia Arnold/The Occidental

Sydney Cameron (sophomore), a singer and songwriter from New York, is a potential sociology major and music minor. Cameron said she got her start in music playing the piano when she was eight years old, but did not enjoy it. Her parents told her to choose an instrument and stick with it, so she continued playing. Growing up, Cameron took voice lessons and participated in musicals.

She started writing music in middle school and her piano teacher pushed Cameron to record one of her songs in eighth grade. According to Cameron, it was not until she stopped taking piano lessons that she realized she liked playing music in her free time. Cameron started writing music again in her senior year of high school, crafting her own music genre as she went.

“When I was trying to think of what avenue I wanted, I was like, I want to be this cool R&B girl, but when I was writing, I wanted to stay more true to what sort of naturally flows,” Cameron said. “I think now, my avenue is a new age R&B. For this project [my single] especially, it’s more of a futuristic theme, because it makes more sense with the sounds.”

According to Cameron, her music writing process is rooted in poetry writing and centered around healing.

“[The purpose of my music is] to help people through certain experiences they have. The songs I’m writing now seem to have a similar theme of love and relationships, but more recently I’ve been writing more about my identity and obviously being a black woman,” Cameron said.

Cameron writes music as she feels inspired but only records in a studio garage above her producer’s loft in New York. However, Cameron uses Occidental’s practice rooms as a method of stress relief and tries to go daily.

“[My music is about] how I really am the type of person who gets infatuated with the idea of someone or who someone is and I really tend to make someone’s life more perfect than it actually is,” Cameron said

This summer, Cameron was chosen as one of the top 20 finalists out of 8,000 applicants on a talent search for Atlantic Records, which Cameron said was a great experience.

Cameron’s first single titled “Good to Me” was written at the end of last semester and recently released. Cameron said the song is about loving the idea of someone rather than the actual person. According to Cameron, she will release a song each month for the next four to five months, she is certain that she will continue to pursue music as a lifelong career.

“It’s always what I’ve been meant to do,” Cameron said.

Cameron’s music can be found on Spotify, iTunesSoundCloudGoogle Play, AmazonNapster and Tidal.