Participants in a recent Musical Alchemy session. Top from left, Kahleel Bernard '23 and songwriter Anne Buckle. Bottom, Jasmine Gess '23.

Communications Office student writer Melissa (Aurelie) Kaleka ’24 recently took part in a Musical Alchemy songwriting session with professional songwriter Anne Buckle, offered by the Counseling Center. Kaleka talks about the experience here.

The idea of writing a song in an hour-and-a-half was a farfetched idea to me and one I was apprehensive about as I signed up for the Counseling Center’s newest offering, Musical Alchemy. Run via Zoom by professional singer-songwriter Anne Buckle, the program aims to have students write a song based off of any current feelings they are having, no matter their experience level.

Buckle started the session by sharing a bit of her life story. She grew up in Peachtree City, Atlanta, surrounded by classical music while her mother’s side of the family was more into country music. Cousin-in-law to Johnny Cash, she spent summers learning country and folk songs. Influences from both genres, along with French and American pop music, shone through as she plucked her guitar. She recalled her time as a country singer in Tennessee attempting to make it big before reinventing herself as a blend of all her musical influences as WILDWOOD. 

This led Buckle to ask about our musical tastes and if we had any previous experience with songwriting. I, personally, am a big fan of music, with strong roots in indie and alternative, but any prior attempts to write a song had been crumbled up and thrown into the trash. Once we began writing, my experience level ceased to matter.

Along with another student who had also written songs in the past, we brainstormed lyrics for a song about running, a shared interest between all three of us, using it as a metaphor for overcoming hardships and persevering. The chorus was a mantra reminding you that “each step you take will get you farther.”

We worked on the lyrics while Buckle strummed chords and created a melody almost simultaneously, nudging us in the right direction as we struggled to find a rhyme for “over.” Somehow everything clicked, and by the end of our hour and 30 minutes, we had the lyrics, melody, and a demo recorded by Buckle. 

The song is, of course, rough and needs to be tweaked before I will be satisfied, but the accomplishment that came with creating something was all I needed. Buckle had given us advice about our own songwriting, reminding us that it’s okay if it takes a while before you think your song is ready, and, like our song mentioned, the journey’s worth it. 

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