Voice, Piano, Guitar, Ukulele
I’m River, and I’m a singer/songwriter and actor! I’m 24 years old, and I’ve been singing since I could make sounds at all. Singing was my first passion and love, which lead me to start songwriting at the age of 7, and this all then introduced me to theatre at 11 years old. At 13, I began picking up different instruments to learn songs to cover, and from there learned enough to be able to songwrite with those instruments. In 2020, I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from The University of the Arts here in Philly. There, I studied many different vocal styles, acting styles, music skills, and play and song writing, and this kickstarted my love of composing broader bodies of work. Since graduating, I’ve recorded a concept album for a musical I wrote (called Ghost Town: the musical) which released as part of the 2021 online Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and have done a staged reading of Ghost Town as part of the Polyphone Festival of New and Emerging Musicals. I’ve sung on other composers’ concept albums, performed and helped develop many new musicals, released a single co-written with one of my closest friends, and at this point have even composed my first ever short film score!
I adore music, it’s something that makes me feel so alive. I got the bug to start teaching when I was home visiting family a year or so ago, and my little brother showed some interest in piano. He had never touched one before, and so I was able to give him his very first lesson. Seeing him interact with something he was so interested in but wasn’t sure how to navigate, and helping him learn how to navigate it was something that fulfilled me in unexpected ways. Being able to share my love and joy for music with someone and to set someone up on their own musical journey brings me immense amounts of joy, and I hope to do that for a long, long time!
When did you begin playing guitar, and why?
I first picked up a guitar at age 13 and on a whim decided to learn “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons. Within the hour, I knew the chords and the strumming pattern, and was able to play it for my Dad, who was a beginner guitarist at the time and was shocked that I could already play that. I started playing because I wanted to be able to accompany myself while singing and also wanted to be able to write my own songs completely, not just the lyrics and melody.
What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?
Voice is number one! That is and always will be my first love. I also play piano and ukulele! Ukulele was my first very own instrument, even before the guitar, and it’s what made me want to play guitar. I began to play piano here and there in high school, but was lucky enough to receive some lessons in college as part of my degree- that’s when I really fell in love with it. I’m also learning bass, mandolin, and pick up a violin here and there for some fun and a change of pace, but I’m an extreme beginner at those three at the moment.
What are your personal goals as a musician?
My goal is to never stop learning and improving upon my skills, and also to release an album or ep in the next year or two. I’d also love to compose for some more films!
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember the first time I started learning about the circle of fifths in a voice lesson in high school, and how it felt like all these different pieces of a puzzle finally clicked into place for the first time, and I could see things I couldn’t see before that. The interconnectedness of music felt shocking at the time. I’ll always remember that moment so fondly.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?
Thinking about writing is also writing.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument
Learning how to navigate my mix voice was very challenging throughout school- there’d be days when it would click, and days when it wouldn’t, and learning ways to work through those moments is what got me through.
What is your biggest musical achievement?
So far, I think it’s composing for a short film. I always wanted to do that, but wasn’t sure I’d get to- and now here I am!
Favorite thing about teaching?
I love watching someone get excited about what they’re learning, and get excited when they realize that they can actually do it. It’s so beautiful to see.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?
Always remember that even though learning gets challenging at points, remember that music is also fun. There’s always some joy and fun to find in music, even in its challenges!
Personal music projects:
I record music under the name “river dear”, and have released a song called “dusk” with one of my closest friends!