Screen Capture from Charpentier's TikTok
To say that junior Sarina Charpentier has both talent and passion for music, songwriting and composing would be an understatement. Just take a listen to some of her songs below.
Charpentier began her musical journey at a very young age. As a toddler, Charpentier started to roam into the world of music with just a toy electric keyboard. At the age of ten, Charpentier’s mother started to notice her daughter’s talent and enrolled her in piano lessons. Showing immense musicality, Charpentier quickly completed all 10 levels of the Piano Crescendo Program at the MacPhail Center for Music and received many local piano awards and recognitions. But Charpentier’s potential and love for music did not stop there. In middle school, Charpentier started picking up other instruments as well. First, she joined the school band where she played the clarinet for three years. Then in 6th grade, she taught herself the ukelele and even attempted the drums for a few months.
Now a junior in high school, Charpentier has started to explore music on a more serious and personal level. Especially with the extra time spent at home during the pandemic, Charpentier has been able to utilize her musical skills in a multitude of ways, most specifically in songwriting. Starting off with just small snippets of covers, Charpentier started to write her own songs, lyrics and all.
One of the first digital songs Charpentier created is called “Pink to Purple”. This song expresses an experience with one of her childhood friends. Charpentier wrote this in the spur of the moment after a drive past her middle school.
“Pink to Purple”
We were five when we were put in the same class
and all too soon, oh just like that we were best friends
It was a mutual agreement that the best color was pink and though we argued much you’d think that we were family
We would bike to each other’s houses and build the next castle made of pillows and blankets, all the sorts
And your mom she’d make us our favorite snacks the ones with pretzels fixed just like a cat
And the time flew by before middle school came by, but we held close never batted an eye
Then one day I asked you to come around again and that look from that sound again seemed so distant
Looked at your new-found friends and said, “don’t talk to me again” and well I thought, oh well I thought it was all in my head
Said “I don’t know who that is but what’d you get on the pop quiz? I’ll probably fail so just give me the answers”
And you started wearing purple and ignoring all my calls so I walked home and forgot about it all
Evident in her very personal and anecdotal lyrics, Charpentier has been using songwriting as an outlet to express herself and her stories. She said, “They [songwriting] really let me put my thoughts into words. And just making them and finding sounds expresses my feelings really well. I write about people and my emotions… about family life and about how I need to find myself as a person and how I’m independent.”
But besides her own personal story, Charpentier has also used music to tell a larger story of the community and current events. Recently her English Fiction & Consciousness classes, Charpentier was asked to create a project for her end-of-semester assessment. While almost all of her peers chose to write a conventional paper, Charpentier chose to write a song. Titled “Consciousness,” Charpentier tells the story of the black experience in America and about the inner battle with self-acceptance. Although not an easy task, Charpentier was able to create a masterpiece with the support of her English teacher Claire Wahmanholm. “Getting close to the due date, I was like, I think I want to back out and just write a paper and Dr. Walmaholm was like ‘no go with your gut. No trust me, go with your gut.’ So I toyed with it every day after school and it was something I actually really really enjoyed doing. I spent hours making the song. I layered a choir into it and I got some samples from youtube towards the end like the police sirens. I played the piano and the guitar,” said Charpentier.
I see myself in the mirror To find some youth holding my veins
My hands hold these walls to blend So one day eternity can end
Running and running away but I still can’t find any gain outside my body society hates
In this room full of souls, I still find myself alone And he’s gone What went wrong?
Our orchestration don’t erase the complexion In your mind there’s no reflection
This buzz makes my eyes hate the taste of the way I’m dancing and falling for you not for me
Am I not something aligned in my brain? The blue don’t solve any internalized chains
Charpentier is half Japanese and raised by a single mother. And although “Consciousness” was not directly written about herself, she still heavily resonates with the lyrics she created. She said, “I’m not black but I tried to create it around a lens of the black experience and things I have experienced as being mixed. I feel like this represents a past part of me because I used to be really insecure and didn’t really feel like I was wanted or excepted.”
Listening to the intricacy of this piece from the backup vocals, to instrumentals to harmonizing, you would have never guessed that Charpentier only used a few simple tools to create all of her songs: her voice, a few guide samples, instruments and GarageBand. No fancy machinery and no expensive microphones. In fact, thanks to her musical instinct, Charpentier has been able to incorporate many different sounds into her music with just the piano. Charpentier said, “I spent a lot of time learning GarageBand but basically my piano skills can improvise to let me play any other instrument in GarageBand because if I play the piano on the app it can change it to a different sound and keys so I can literally put in any kind of sound into the song. And over time, every song I’ve made, I’ve gotten better at using the app and I find out more things that I can use to make my music more intricate.”
Haven’t taken a single songwriting class in her life, Charpentier has proven that passion, hard work and just a pinch of talent is enough to create magic. Even as a perfectionist, Charpentier has recognized her potential for producing and more importantly her enjoyment of it. However looking into the future, Charpentier has still not decided if music will become her career or just remain as a lifelong hobby. “If I’m being honest, I love making music. Genuinely, for the first time this is something that is really emotionally stressful on me because I love it so much,” said Charpentier.
Part of the stress Charpentier feels comes from her family and society. She said, “I’m a junior and my mom’s kind of pushing me like ‘Sarina what are you gonna do?’ EJ and Gabe [her brothers] are going into their own schools and have chosen majors.”
Another stress factor in play is the music industry itself. Charpentier has recognized that being a musician does not automatically lead to fame or money. In fact, the glam that society has cast on musicians and artists, as seen on the news and mainstream trends, does not reflect the lifestyle and career paths of most musicians at all. Charpentier said, “I know the majority of musicians today live paycheck to paycheck. Even if you have the skills, it’s still a one in a million shot where you actually make it big. So I’ve been thinking do I want to take the safe path and pick a more stable major or do I really want to follow my passion and strive to do what I want. I know I love to make music but there are also so many other aspects to life.”
With much uncertainty surrounding her future, Charpentier is nevertheless certain that music will never cease to fade from her life. Even during the busiest year of high school, Charpentier always makes time for her music. Her most recent song “Reflection,” is a good example of how she’s channeled her emotions into a touching creation.
I’ve been down this road before It’s kinda funny, how we change when we open up the door
If only I could realize My lows and my highs Would I be alright? oh
These people feel like they’re a forest of skin Scraping round’ me, they drown me Until I can’t find the end
Which way’s left and which is right? It don’t matter for the night Can I even fight anymore?
Repetition is my friend Cuz we both know hows it ends My bones are restless Can’t feel again Will I descend? And spend
My days in the dark, tryna make the time for the things that I never wanted?
Will I lose all my ground, chasing a life in a future leaving me haunted?
What’s now isn’t working I keep on searching answers for my soul
And if I’m honest? I don’t know at all
Repetition is my friend Cuz we both know hows it ends My bones feel restless Can’t feel again Will I descend?
This article is the first time that Charpentier has publically released the full versions of “Pink to Purple”, “Consciousness” and “Reflection”. In the near future, Charpentier hopes to produce a few more songs before uploading them onto digital platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. As of now, Charpentier is actively posting clips of her music and singing on TikTok.