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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Photo Essay: Student musicians hone their craft on campus

Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor
Sophomore Olivia Graban strums her guitar in her Shenkman room. Among her other musical talents, Graban sings, writes songs, plays piano and serves as the communications director for the Student Musicians Coalition on campus.
Rosa Nomvuyo Fihla poses for a portrait session for her EP, “The Sad Songs,” which was released last month on Spotify and Apple Music. (Courtesy of Sophie Moten)

With a background in piano and vocal training, senior Rosa Nomvuyo Fihla, a singer-songwriter from South Africa studying interior architecture, had all the right tools to write her own music. She grew up with a piano in her home and spent hours playing on it as a child.

“As a kid, me and my friends would hang out and make music and put on performances and so I kind of continued with that all throughout high school,” Fihla said. “But it wasn’t until COVID actually or 2019 that I was like ‘I actually want to make music that I can put there and share with people.’”

With a strong musical background since a young age, Fihla, like many creatives, said the pandemic offered a unique opportunity to further explore her music and kindled the desire to put her work on a larger platform. To achieve that goal, Fihla released a three-song EP titled “The Sad Songs” last month.

Fihla said periods of struggle and burnout from different moments in her life inspired the work.

“I remember there was one night I was lying in bed,” she said. “I was so sad and I had this like tune in my head like Do, doo, doo-doo-do-doo. I whipped out my notes app and I just started writing,” she said.

Fihla said she hasn’t set firm goals for her music career besides helping others connect, allowing her to keep music as a self-fulfilling passion that never feels like work.

“The goal is to just put it out there and for it to be something that I created,” she said.

(L-R) Gibby Gibson, Dylan Weiss and Issac Appelbaum pose for a group portrait at the Student Musicians Coalition space in the University Student Center. The space, which recently moved from the basement of Shenkman Hall, is a functioning recording studio and rehearsal area. (Auden Yurman | Senior Photo Editor)

The “post-rock” band Dundrum came to be when drummer Issac Appelbaum and guitarist Dylan Weiss met on Instagram during their freshman year while studying virtually during the height of the pandemic. Once the two met in person, they hit the ground running and never looked back. 

“We started jamming, and we’ve been jamming ever since,” Weiss said of the band’s trajectory.

Earlier this spring, Weiss and Appelbaum met guitarist Andrew “Gibby” Gibson through the GW Student Musicians Collation, which Applebaum and Weiss lead as executive members. They recently started working with alumnus Connor Peters, who will be the band’s new bassist.

A guitar rests on the ground of the Student Musicians Coalition practice space in the University Student Center. (Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor)

Weiss and Gibson named the band Dundrum after the name of a Dublin, Ireland suburb where they both spent time abroad.

“It’s a really boring town with nothing in it, but it sounds cool,” Weiss said. “It’s got a mall.”

In a purposefully stark contrast to the band’s name, their sound is one filled with energy.

“Mainly just loud,” Gibson said. “It’s loud music. It’s loud, fun music. Genre – Loud.”

Dundrum plans to start recording original music in November, which the group intends to release on Spotify.

(L-R) Max Cohen, Gibby Gibson, Zach Basile and Issac Appelbaum, members of the band Home Remedies stand for a portrait in University Yard. (Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor)

Gibson and Appelbaum are also members of the band Home Remedies along with guitarists and vocalists Max Cohen and Zach Basile. Basile and Cohen met at a concert that SMC and WRGW hosted, where they both covered songs by the band Modern Baseball while performing as solo artists. The similar taste in music, and long, flowing hair led them to grow close and start making music together.

The four eventually joined to form Home Remedies as they were planning to perform at the Sunrise GW Fossil Free Fest last spring.

Max Cohen, the vocalist and guitarist for Home Remedies, yells into the crowd at a performance at the DC 9 club. (Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor)

Home Remedies is also working to record new music to debut its upcoming album, which will draw inspiration from the children’s book “Goodnight Moon,” by Margaret Wise Brown.

“There is wisdom in the book,” Basile said.

For now, the bands are both scheduled to perform at the DC 9 club Friday night from 7:30 to 10 p.m., along with other student musicians from GW.

Olivia Graban, a sophomore and singer-songwriter, is photographed in her Shenkman dorm room. (Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor)

Sophomore Olivia Graban is a singer, song-writer, guitar and piano player and communications director for the SMC.

Graban says she is influenced by the likes of Alicia Keys, whose song writing and production she finds inspiring. She said the community she has found with other artists at GW has made progressing as a musician easier.

While not officially a member of a band, she said she plans to collaborate with Dundrum and Home Remedies as a vocalist.

WRGW partnered with the SMC to host a “Fall Gig” in late September. Both Home Remedies and Dundrum performed at the event. (Danielle Towers | Assistant Photo Editor)
(L-R) Blake Ewing, Liza Mozolyuk, Bryan Fischer and Cliff Khowara, members of the band E-19, pose for a group portrait in Rome Hall. (Erin Leone | Staff Photographer)

For E-19, it all started in Mitchell Hall. In fall 2021, guitarist Cliff Khowara and keyboardist Bryan Fischer, who both also sing in the band, began playing music together. Not long after, Liza Mozolyuk heard them playing and asked if she could join. Drummer Blake Ewing followed and completed E-19, named for the intersection of 19th and E streets, where Mitchell Hall is located.

A year later, the band has progressed beyond just a group of friends jamming in a dorm room. They’re still good friends and hang out when they’re not practicing together, which they say contributes to their chemistry as a band.

Bryan Fischer and Cliff Khowara perform with their band E-19 at Lisner Auditorium in late August. (Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor)

In its first year as a band, E-19 has played five shows on campus, including at First Night and a few gigs at Lisner Auditorium in August. They’ve released singles including “In 2” and “Out of the Orphanage,” the latter of which is also the name of their upcoming album.

Liza Mozolyuk belts out some notes at an E-19 band practice in the University Student Center Friday. (Erin Leone | Staff Photographer)

The band members describe their style as along the lines of alt-rock, but they each have a wide array of music tastes that combine during their writing process. They’re hoping the release of “Out of the Orphanage,” which they’re currently recording, will help them burst into the D.C. music scene. That’s not to say they’ll stop playing and collaborating at GW, but they want to branch out to playing at restaurants, clubs and wherever else they can get their instruments through the door.

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