State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Category - Penn State News Reviews and Interviews

PS-U Oughta Know Artist: Julie Bouchard


Photo: Zoë Kushlefsky

Meet junior Education major Julie Bouchard – a young woman with a voice to rival Hayley Williams and modesty to rival…well, probably everyone.  She’s only 20 years old, but the long list of musical involvement and achievements that adorn her resume is on par with that of someone twice her age.

Prior to even arriving at Penn State, the Oyster Bay native had been playing piano since the age of 5, writing songs since middle school, and to top it all off, by her senior year of high school, Bouchard had already published an orchestral piece and interned with the competitive Oratorio Society of  Queens (an audition-based classical choir.)  This kind of classical training, no doubt, provided the stable foundation for her current  successes.  At Penn State, she composed and performed music for the School of Music’s productions of “Little Town Blues” and “Once,” performed with the Oriana Singers for two years, and won “Best Female Songwriter” and “Best Acoustic Act” at the Penn State Music Awards for two consecutive years.

Impressed yet? (If yesjul5, keep reading. If no, keep reading.) How about  once I tell you that, despite the talent she possesses as a songwriter and  singer, she has no interest in being in the spotlight?  In a statement, the  songstress revealed, “I like the idea of assuming a behind-the-scenes role  when it comes to music.  I love writing and I love putting my songs out  there, but I don’t think I’d mind putting my songs out there for other  people to sing.  I could still release my ideas into the world, but while also  maintaining normalcy in my own life.”

There’s no question that twenty-somethings as level-headed as Julie is a  rare breed among college populations.

Julie’s ear for catchy vocal lines transfers well into the acoustic pop genre  she typically represents in her songwriting. You can clearly recognize the way in which her #1 influences (Ed Sheeran, Mariana’s Trench, and Adele)  help to craft the way she plays guitar, attacks notes, and structures songs.  While she may draw upon other artists for inspiration, her voice is all her own.  Its spherical sound is booming, rich, and raw, and it engulfs you when you hear it.  She utters the most impressive vocal runs and jumps among any of the many singers I personally know, but all the while making it look absolutely effortless.

Already, she has a staggering 30+ original songs written, with each one coming to life in just under 10 minutes. She insists that if she likes a song she’s working on enough, then writing it should feel natural and fluid.  If she ever feels like she’s struggling to connect to the content in that moment, then it’s not worth it for her to keep pursuing. “I’ll throw out the idea and move on to the next one.”

If you want to catch one of Julie Bouchard’s jaw-dropping performances, keep your eyes peeled for open mics on and off-campus, as she’s a regular attendee.  In the meantime, though, settle your anxiousness by listening to her Soundcloud and Youtube channels.


Recap: Penn State Music Awards 2015


Yesterday, Open Mic Penn State held its 2015 Penn State Music Awards in Heritage Hall.  The night, designed to highlight the year’s most active and deserving student artists, featured musical performances of varying genres, improv dancing, spoken word pieces, and, of course, trophy distributions to the new generation of winners (listed below.)

Each one of the performers (also listed below) had something special to showcase.  There’s no denying that we have some truly talented artists here at Penn State, many of which unfortunately go unnoticed by the vast majority.  However, I will say that, in my mind, there were a few artists who truly resonated and showcased a unique style that’s all their own:

Keegan Tawa

Photo: Jonny Rabbit Photography

This electro-house musician is by no means a stranger to the spotlight, but for those of you who are only familiar with the name and not the music, I highly encourage you to attend one of his frequent Chome/house show performances. Keegan Tawa truly has an ear and brain for music.  Pushing the limits of a genre is almost second nature to him.  Tonight’s performance is just one example of this ability, as he creatively incorporated jazz saxophone and featured spoken word monologues into the mixes of his original electronic tracks.

Penn State Fanaa
Photo: Penn State Fanaa Facebook Page

Admittedly, it took me until the second song to realize it, but Penn State Fanaa introduces an entirely new dynamic to the organized mess of a cappella groups found on campus.  They describe themselves as an ensemble of South Asian singers who employ members’ diverse backgrounds to bring together a “fusion of cultures,” and I have to say that they achieve this mission rather nicely.  There was one girl in particular who blew me away with her beautiful, haunting vocal trills – a singing technique that characterizes a lot of Indian music.

David Gaines
Photo: David Gaines Soundcloud

Ohh myy David Gaines! You may remember seeing him perform at THON’s Got Talent last Friday night, but you may not remember what exactly he said in his spoken word performance.  Believe me when I declare that Gaines is probably one of the most articulate students we have here at Penn State. He is able to poetically piece together real, raw societal commentaries and set them to a rhythm.  As he’s performing, he makes you think, reflect, and feel.  I truly hope he gains more traction because he has a gift that deserves to be shared more widely.


And without further adieu, your 2015 winners of the Penn State Music Awards are:
Best Singer: Olivia Price & Shawn Fox
Best DJ: Keegan Tawa
Best Producer: Keegan Tawa
Best Songwriter: Julie Bouchard & Louie Petrone
Best Performer: Olivia Price & Daniel Wells
Best Dance Group: R.A.M. Squad
Best Poet: Jerrie Johnson & David Gaines
Best Rapper: Louie Petrone
Best Mixtape: Louie Petrone
Best Band: Mute Cities
Best Acoustic Performance: Julie Bouchard
Best A cappella Group: The Pennharmonics
Artist of the Year: Louie Petrone

Complete List of Performers:
Keegan Tawa (electronic)
Penn State Fanaa (a cappella)
Daniel Wells (r&b/jazz)
David Gaines (spoken word)
R.A.M. Squad (dance)
Andros Kalos
Ashadeep (spoken word/rap)
Julie Bouchard (acoustic pop)
Cecil Blutcher (rap)
Louie Petrone (rap)
**Moosh & Twist (hip-hop/rap)**


Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, nominees, and performers!  Each one of you is an integral part of Penn State’s developing music scene.

SOMA Arts Crawl Applications ACTIVE

Calling all musicians and artists: A couple days ago, SOMA (Students Organizing the Multiple Arts) announced the official February 28th applications deadline for their annual spring music and art festival, Arts Crawl.  The event, which is scheduled for Friday, April 17th, will feature talent both internal and external to the State College area.

art art3

For those of you who don’t already have the pleasure of knowing what Arts Crawl is, allow me to be your guide: Extending throughout the northern portion of campus, Arts Crawl is a festival-style event designed to celebrate the arts.  With over four different venues, soloists and bands are given time slots to perform original music, and artists are provided with spaces to display their original pieces (examples featured above, artists TBD.)  The evening wraps up with a widely-known (widely-known in an underground sense) headlining act.  In the past, headliners have included Why?, Ramona Falls, Future Islands, and most recently Kevin Devine.

We’ll be sure to announce the 2015 headliner once the gods grace us with the knowledge, but in the meantime, apply apply apply!

kevinmumblr*Photo credit to Eric Poluhovich (bands) and Simeon Pantelidis (art) for the featured photos.

Applications for Battle of the Bands 2015 NOW OPEN

movin on

The applications for Battle of the Bands are NOW OPEN at! The event will take place in Alumni Hall on March 21st, 2015 at 8pm. Battle of the Bands is a great way to showcase student bands. The winner of this event will receive the opportunity to be the opening act in Movin’ On 2015. Last year’s winner, Lenina Crowne had the chance to share the stage with acts such as Wiz Khalifa, Fitz and the Tantrums, Aloe Blacc, Sky Ferreira and Air Dubai. Applications are due February 28th, 2015 by 5pm to No late applications will be accepted. Don’t miss the opportunity to be part of the 40th Anniversary of Movin’ On Music Festival!

All bands who consider applying should meet the following requirements:

1. All bands MUST contain at least one member who is a Penn State University Park student.

2. All bands MUST be able to perform a 15-­‐minute set containing only original songs.

3. All bands MUST submit original music samples with their application.

4. No member of the Movin’ On Core or Executive Committee may participate in Battle of the Bands (or at Movin’ On).

5. Musicians may only participate in ONE band.

6. All musical genres are welcome, including but not limited to rock bands, alternative bands, pop acts, acoustic acts, solo acts, DJs, and rappers.

Movin’ On is an annual, ticketless music festival held on campus for University Park students near the end of the spring semester. Penn State’s Movin’ On Spring Music Festival is one of the largest and well-­‐known college music festivals in the United States and has become one of Penn State’s great traditions. This year’s music festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary and will be held at the IM Fields on May 1st, 2015!


Team Tawa Releases "Sunlight EP"

Keegan Tawa’s music seems largely inspired by the time of day/light vs. dark elements (see his Nightfall / Daybreak EP), and lucky for us it’s time for the introduction of a little sun to that mix with his latest “Sunlight EP.” Keegan has always accepted critique of his work during the writing process from close friends, but this time is different according to Keegan, as he claims this EP was developed with greater collaboration than in the past. “It is the culmination of all of my musical and artistic abilities, but more importantly, it is the first real, actual TEAM project I have built – the first one I can’t really claim sole ownership over. And that’s awesome.”

Lyrics and artistic vision were provided by his usual ghostwriter, Myles Billard, and the vocalists provided much of their own experience and ideas during development and recording. The lyrics truly inspire fantastic imagery and emotion, especially when paired with Tawa’s on-point production; they refuse to be overlooked on the EP’s biggest stand-outs, “Beautiful Motion” and “Sunrise In Blue (feat. Olivia Price).”

“Twilight,” the very edge of the end of day, opens this powerful EP with slow extended chords unfurling like smoke over the smooth glassy surface of undisturbed water. Zach Kramer croons over the track into the very powerful “Beautiful Motion,” which has a very distinctive and pounding chorus. Zach Kramer’s vocal talent is really evidenced here. The dynamics of all the songs are incredible, but “Beautiful Motion” is really grabbing and will have your head nodding. The vacuous pauses in the chorus setting the song apart feel as though the air has been sucked out of the room with every pounding synth and cry from Kramer.

From there we move into “Starlight,” sporting Beethoven-like arpeggios and a dreamlike, spacey quality that sends the listener’s mind drifting through pinpricks of light and sound, until night falls away that is, leading into the ominously titled “Sunrise In Blue (feat. Olivia Price).” Olivia’s more fleeting, ephemeral vocals  contrast nicely with Kramer’s clear, glassy tones and help power the EP’s stunning imagery. In every note, the listener hears this warmth like the sun’s rising, but it’s layered with this fantastic blueish overtone that haunts every aspect of the track. It’s inspiring and at the same time sobering. The closing song, “Sunlight,” marks the start of day and the end of the EP with reflective yet ominous piano playing out over warm strings; the sun has finished rising.

Overall, this EP shows a marked improvement in songwriting and collaboration for every person working with Team Tawa. It’s focused, elegant, well thought-out, and it finally has a place in your iTunes library.