Greenwich high school student wins songwriting contest

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GREENWICH — For Yuta Takahashi, a high school student from Greenwich, eating ice cream in the aisle is a quintessential summertime moment.

He aimed to capture this feeling and his desire for an endless summer in his song “Ice Cream in the Driveway”.

Its universal theme — and years of music lessons and Greenwich High’s electronic music class — paid off for Takahashi, who won top honors in a national songwriting contest with the single.

It was a big moment when he was warned, he said.

“Before, I would show my friends, and they would say, ‘Oh, that’s great.’ But it was always kind of like maybe they were just saying that or they were just being nice. But it was very empowering to have a real musical organization telling me that my track was a good track,” said he declared.

The single, which he mixed at home, won in the high school division of the 2022 Student Songwriter Competition held by the National Association for Music Education. At 2 minutes and 34 seconds, it has an easy pace, understated feel, and includes imagery like scrolling through an iPhone looking at footage on a cold day, wishing it were summer.

“He’s a great example of so many talented and bright students we have here at Greenwich High School. And we’re very proud,” said Barbara Freedman, who teaches GHS songwriting and electronic music class. with Jason Polise.

Freedman and Polise should know. Since 2009, six of their students have won titles in the competition.

The annual competition, which closed this year on April 18, is open to students from kindergarten through middle school whose work is recommended by a teacher or other NAFME member. Up to eight composers received cash prizes in this year’s competition; all participants received written evaluations of their work.

Takahashi’s path to winning songwriter started early. He said he had been interested in music “all his life” and in college took formal lessons in sax and alto, he said.

In middle school, students generally did not sign up for both the band and the orchestra. Thus, he would choose whether he would practice saxophone in band class or play alto in the orchestra every week and coordinate with his instructors, said his mother, Aiko Takahashi.

“He’s always had a good sense of rhythm since he was 5 years old,” said his father Yoshi Takahashi. “He’s just a natural.”

Yuta Takahashi heard about GHS electronic music and songwriting classes at a college assembly, but it wasn’t until a friend invited him to make music that he decided. that he wanted to pursue songwriting, he said.

His parents encouraged him to ask to change his school schedule halfway through his freshman year so he could have a class in the electronic music studio. They bought him a guitar, a keyboard and a computer to enable him to compose at home.

“Having a big space and a supporting school music program in middle school and high school is really awesome,” said Yoshi Takahashi.

“I was very lucky,” admitted Yuta Takahashi.

While Yuta Takahashi was taking saxophone and alto lessons, his mother remembers that he learned to play guitar, drums and keyboard from YouTube videos. He also plays the piano.

GHS’s electronic music program, which dates to the 1960s, according to Freedman, features rows of iMacs with keyboards and composition software. A recording studio has specialized doors to lock out students’ sound.

“I wouldn’t be where I am now skill-wise if it wasn’t for this class,” Yuta Takahashi said.

Polise performed “Ice Cream in the Driveway” for the younger students in the program. He said they were “super inspired” and could identify the qualities that made the piece a winner.

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