Independent Study Leads to Students’ Musical Collaboration

Independent Study Leads to Students’ Musical Collaboration
  • Makers
Ravenscroft Communications

David Gring ’21 and Nate Guenard ’21 combine their talents and experiences to collaborate on writing a song.

Nate Guenard ’21 (left) and David Gring ’21

One of Ravenscroft’s innovative approaches to helping students discover their passions and develop their interests is the Upper School’s independent study program, which allows students to pursue an academic interest that is not otherwise covered by the school’s curriculum. Students work with a faculty sponsor to set learning goals, create a course outline, secure study materials and define how their success will be assessed.

David Gring ’21 and Nate Guenard ’21 have each worked with Upper School English teacher (and accomplished musician) Kevin Flinn on independent studies. Recently, with encouragement from Flinn, the two collaborated on a song. Here’s what they shared about their work.

“I’ve been involved in music my whole life and started writing my own original songs in middle school,” David explained. “Wanting to improve my songwriting skills, I took an independent study with Mr. Flinn in the spring of my sophomore year. Although the course only lasted a semester, I have continued to write songs and run ideas through Mr. Flinn.”

His success inspired Nate to pursue an independent study with Flinn as well.

“I have been producing instrumental tracks since middle school, but it was just something I did for fun. This year I wanted to challenge myself to sharpen my production skills and try new things,” he said. “At the end of the first semester, Mr. Flinn recommended that I add vocals over some of the beats I had made. I can’t sing, but I knew David had plenty of experience from his independent study.”

“David is also co-president of the Coffeehouse Club, which performs music for students,” Flinn said of his suggestion. “When I began working with Nate, I realized that his instrumental beats were perfect for collaboration with a vocalist. Over the holidays the two worked together on a song that showcases their respective talents.”

At top, a screenshot of Nate’s work on the project, using a music-production software called FL Studio; at bottom, a screenshot of David’s work, using a software called Logic Pro X. 

The collaboration proved to be productive for both musicians. Nate composed all of the musical elements of the song through his work with Flinn — “everything from the distant bells to the detailed high-hat patterns,” he said. Building off of those chords and the overall song structure, David wrote the melody and the lyrics to the song and recorded the vocal tracks.

“Nate and I have known each other since middle school and played in Ravenscroft’s Middle and Upper School bands together, but we didn’t collaborate on our own music until this winter,” David said. “I’m used to writing lyrics and melodies around my own song style and structure. It was an awesome experience writing lyrics from scratch with an entire beat and structure already given to me. It was challenging but also super-fun to try this new project and pick up where Nate left off, especially since his style and structure were so unique and creative.

With a nod to the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has created — as a member of the wrestling team, he has been attending classes remotely since the return from the holiday break — David said, “Another cool aspect of this project was that Nate and I could collaborate digitally and give each other feedback without even seeing each other in person.” 

The result of their collaboration, “The Man on the Moon,” releases today on all streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon. Follow this link to listen.

“Nate assembled the perfect base on which David built his vocals,” Flinn said. “I was beyond impressed with the professional-sounding outcome of their collaboration!”

“It was a great experience working with David on this song,” Nate concluded. “Hearing the project come full circle and become a complete song was so refreshing after listening to the same instrumental over and over again while working on it.”

“Music remains a huge part of my life,” David added, “and I hope to continue songwriting in college, whether that be academically or extracurricularly.”