Holly Izzo wants a career helping others. Music is her pathway to that career.
When she first came to Southern, she was a nursing major. Now she is a senior pursuing a music degree.
“My idea was I wanted to be a caregiver, and nursing seemed like the most logical path to take, especially since a lot of people in my family are nurses,” says Izzo.
When she struggled during her sophomore year, she decided that nursing was not the path the wanted to take anymore. She wanted to still be a caregiver but combine the passion she had for music.
“It took me a while to find music therapy, but when I finally did, it was because of my grandmother who passed away a few years ago,” says Izzo.
When Izzo’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a music therapist, who would come once a month to sing to her while she was in bed.
Her grandmother had forgotten her family and how to take care of herself. But when the therapist sat next to her and sang, she would remember the words and sing along and sometimes she would dance along.
“That’s a big motivator for me because I know my grandmother never really had the opportunity to ever do anything that she wanted. She was a single mom with four boys, and they were dead broke,” says Izzo.
Izzo became a music major and has since made the Dean’s List and is one of the top students in her graduating class. Singing always came naturally to Izzo, who had her first performance in grade school where she first shared her passion.
“Nobody in my school at all knew that I could do that. My teachers didn’t know that I could sing like I did, so nobody really gave me the time of day with music until that performance.”
Izzo never took music lessons until college and is the first musician in her family.
Unlike Izzo, being a musician was always the goal for junior Gleeson Edwards, who is also a music major.
“Ever since I was a kid, I loved doing music. I did the choir in high school and, you know, throughout my life I knew once I got to college this is what I wanted to study,” says Edwards.
Edwards is a vocalist and a member of the Jazz Ensemble. Edwards and her classmates are required to participate in the music ensembles of their choice.
Professional artists like Erykah Badu served as an inspiration for Edwards, a native of Guilford. She plans on pursuing music full-time, and moving to New York to kickstart her career.
“I really want to be an artist and put out some albums, have a fan base. To be able to go out and tour and have performances and people who can connect with music I produce is what I, ultimately, want,” says Edwards.
“It’s really about the connection I have with music—you know when you hear a song and it really makes you feel something, or you’re in a tough time and you can listen to an album and it just like changes everything for you.
“I want to be able to do that for that for other people and just give back the experience that I had growing up.”
Oghenefejiro Onakpoma took matters into his own hands. He started putting out his music on SoundCloud under the name Jiro.
“I like making pop music,” says Onakpoma. “[Singer] Chris Brown is definitely my biggest influence, he kind of has a big impact on what I make, what I wear and how I perform.”
Onakpoma is also a member of the track and field team on campus, where he made All-American honors in his sophomore year.
The Interdisciplinary Studies major grew up in a Nigerian household of which his father was also a musician. Onakpoma says he listened to a lot of African music at home but wanted to “branch out.” He has also been inspired of late by [singer] Eric Bellinger and others.
“It doesn’t even need to be just somebody famous. I feel like if I like your voice and the way that it sounds then that’s going to impact my music,” says Onakpoma
On Nov. 23, 2019, Onakpoma released a self-titled EP “Itsjirobaby” and has recently released the music video for his song “High School Crush” which is featured on the EP.
He started performing at showcases, where he says he learned more about himself as a musician. When he graduates, he wants music to keep music in the forefront.
“I definitely want to keep putting out more music and put more time into music,” says Onakpoma. “I feel like I can’t put more time into music because of track and school.”
One student musician who is also making a name for himself in the music world is freshman Conor McCarthy, secondary education major, who is a bassist and backup singer for the band Kim Normal. He has played at multiple venues like Toad’s Place in New Haven.
“My band Kim Normal, we’ve been playing more frequently than we used to. [We’ve] been playing at a lot more cooler places like Indie, DIY venues and some more established places,” says McCarthy.
High-energy performance comes naturally for Kim Normal, often as a form of release for McCarthy and his band mates, Carl Nelly and Ethan Williams.
“It’s my favorite thing to do. If I could have my way I would get in a van and tour every state in America three times over,” says McCarthy. “I love playing because you get this release when you get on stage. We pretty much destroy our bodies on stage.”
The band released an album titled, “On Your Own Wave” in 2019 as well as a single, “53.”
“Music is the release, because you can get so many moods from one instrument that, whatever I’m feeling I can just play it,” says McCarthy. “So, I’ll just always be in my room playing away.”