Seniors build different paths toward a musical future

Elena Sullivan

One hones her voice at the San Francisco Conservatory. One broadcasts his melodies to hundreds of viewers on YouTube. One strums his ukulele at open mics.

Three musicians are set apart from the student body because they have their own, individual paths envisioned toward creating a musical future.

Seniors Camille Fraizer and Gideon Elson sing together during Performance Workshop on Tuesday. Fraizer has been singing and playing the piano since seventh grade, and Elson plays the ukelele, guitar, and clarinet.

Seniors Jordan Moore-Butler, Gideon Elson, and Camille Fraizer each said that they want to pursue a future in music.

Moore-Butler, who has been singing since he was eight years old, said that he strives to become a professional singer one day, in part because he was inspired by listening to his mother, who is also a singer.

Moore-Butler records videos of himself singing and posts them for his 490 subscribers on YouTube.

“The process initially was that I’d play an instrumental on my computer and I would sing over that while recording,” he said. “Now, I just record with my iPhone, which I’ve found to have better quality of the voice than more expensive equipment, and it’s been easier to upload my videos on a regular basis.”

Elson, who plays the guitar, clarinet, and ukulele, uses every performing opportunity he can find to gain experience for a possible future career in music. He said that during part of his junior year, he and a friend were paid to perform every Saturday morning at a barbershop in downtown Tiburon.

“This widow who owned a barbershop wanted live music, so my friend Aiden and I would play there for the people getting their hair cut,” Elson said. “The room was tiny. It would just be the haircutter, the guy getting his hair cut, and the woman standing while my friend and I played in the corner, but it was fun.”

Elson said that he doesn’t have much stage confidence yet, and that he doesn’t dance on stage.

“I like practicing and being able to get better, and then showcasing it,” he said.

Fraizer, on the other hand, said that she often sings opera and classical music at the SF Conservatory, but she is trained to do more contemporary work in Performance Workshop and drama.

Elson and Fraizer said that over the summer, they began performing together at open mics around the Bay Area. They have performed at the Sleeping Lady in Fairfax, the Sweet Water in Mill Valley, and the Starry Plow in Berkeley. Elson often harmonizes with Fraizer while he plays his ukulele. With an audience of about 30 to 40 people, he said they play both originals and covers.

Fraizer said that she enjoys performing more at open mics than most other places.

“It’s always more of an adrenaline rush when there are more people there,” Fraizer said.

Fraizer also sang at graduation last year and Elson performed at Night of Blues and a benefit concert last June.

Moore-Butler learned to play guitar freshman year, but said that he mostly uses it to accompany himself and write songs.

“My goal has always been that I want to be famous, I want to be big,” he said. “I sing all the time, people look at me in the hallway and my sister has to tell me to stop because I’m singing to myself and people must think that I’m crazy.”

He is taking the next huge step in his dream of becoming a singer by going to a professional recording studio in Sausalito for two hours this month, a studio gig that he received as a gift.

“I’m on my fifth original song and I’m trying to get a few more,” he said. “Once I get recordings that are good enough for me to use as a demo, I’m going to send them to my friend’s dad, a producer in D.C. and ask him what the next steps are for me in terms of being a musician.”

Moore-Butler has never taken voice lessons outside of Performance Workshop, but he said that that he wants to so he can expand his vocal range. He said he also wants to try performing on street corners in San Francisco.

He said that he began songwriting this year, a talent that allows him to say things that he cannot in real life.

“To be able to have a passion for something to such an extent that you feel like you can express whatever you want to by just saying some words and playing some chords, it’s really powerful,” he said.

Fraizer said that she also writes her own music and that performing her own songs has a different feel than performing covers.

“It’s more than just the music and sharing music, especially if it’s something that you wrote,” she said. “When you perform an original it’s always more nerve-wracking than if you perform something that you didn’t write. Composing-wise I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with performing songs that I’ve actually written.”