Byrdhouse band members pose and flip in an April photoshoot on Alumni Park. Ben Blaufarb, Josh Nash, Garrett Podgorski and Thomas Lowe posed for their Spotify cover photo (left to right). Photo courtesy of Byrdhouse
Amid busy class schedules and slow-rising piles of work, college musicians at Pepperdine said they carve out time to pursue their passion for music.
Rising bands and artists — Byrdhouse, Nolan Harvel, Jordan Palani, Jackie Ferrari and Oliver Westover — said they made it their mission to pursue and succeed in their music careers.
“What makes musicians so connected is we’re always chasing excellence, always wanting to grow, and we always want to push the envelope and progress,” Harvel said.
Indie pop-rock group, Byrdhouse, said they paved their way through the trappings of a big music industry. Junior lead singer and keyboard player Josh Nash, junior guitarist Garrett Podgorski, senior drummer Thomas Lowe and Pepperdine alum Ben Blaufarb (’22) make up the band. The four musicians said they have been able to kickstart their careers and grow in exposure in the past year.
“It was just Josh and I at first last September, and it’s still just us writing the lyrics and songs,” Podgorski said. “But, last spring is when the four of us came together and started doing shows and playing.”
Since then, Byrdhouse’s following has increased to 2,245 followers, as of Oct. 4, on the band’s Instagram. Podgorski said they are on an uphill trajectory. Although, being beginners in the music industry can be daunting — although the four said they are finding their way.
“It’s definitely overwhelming, but I feel like we’ve all been musicians long enough that we know it never feels perfect in the beginning, but we just gotta keep our heads up,” Podgorski said. “I think we all know that, if we keep trying and going at it, something will come of it.”
Podgorski said the band has played a few live shows over the past few months and is working on more in the near future. He said they hope to be playing regularly around the Los Angeles area soon.
“Our favorite part of doing music is performing live,” Podgorski said. “We love seeing the enthusiasm in the crowd and seeing people sing our music back to us. It’s the best thing.”
Podgorski said the band is hopeful for the future. Their collective goal is to be able to make a living with music and be able to sustain it Podgorski said. , The band has two songs out on all streaming platforms, “Left and Gone” and “King of Love,” and are working on an EP.
Nolan Harvel is a senior Music Performance major with an emphasis on classical guitar. When he first started at Pepperdine, Harvel said he never thought to make his own music, but after COVID-19, that all changed.
“I started creating music during COVID,” Harvel said. “I turned my room into a music studio and just started producing and writing music on my own.”
Now, Harvel is a senior working for a Pepperdine-run podcast, “Centered On The Arts.” In the podcast, different artists and industry professionals are interviewed about their work, and Harvel said his job is to emulate the style of the artist.
“On the show, I write about four to five tracks per episode with the sound of the artist being interviewed,” Harvel said.
A friend referred him to the podcast position last fall, Harvel said. From then on, he said he has been writing music for the show since season two and is still working with them now.
In addition to his work with the podcast, Harvel said he has scored four student films. Harvel’s most recent project was when he composed music for film major Kelly Needleman’s short film, “Eaglewood.”
With various musical endeavors and interests, Harvel said there is more he still wants to explore. He is unsure where he wants his music to take him but said he is steadfast in his drive to succeed because of what music does for the world.
“I have so many interests in the musical world that it’s difficult for me to say just one thing I want to pursue,” Harvel said. “I make music because music is a universal language, and in the current time we live in, it is the only thing anyone can agree on that brings us together, and it’s the only thing that brings us together.”
Not all of Pepperdine’s rising musicians are music majors. Graduating this semester, Sports Administration major Jordan Palani, said he has been involved with music all his life but just recently started making his own music.
“As a kid, my dad managed a few reggae artists from San Diego, Calif., and growing up, I saw those guys as my role models,” Palani said. “They’re the reason I started singing.”
Palani said he uses his music to express himself, and he is now becoming the person his younger self only dreamed he could be. He wants his music to inspire kids who were in his position to be bold and go for their dreams, he said.
“My goal with music is to inspire others to be creative and do what they want in life,” Palani said. “I know there are people out there who are discouraged or never pursue a passion or hobby they have due to some reason. I want people to know that if you love something, why let anyone else tell us that we can or can’t do it?”
Over the past two years, Palani said he has been lucky enough to create music more seriously. Although, being a beginner in the music industry has induced a lot of disappointing outcomes — such as sleepless nights and self-doubt.
Despite this, Palani said he is proud and grateful for the progress he has made for his band, “ForgetxTomorrow.”
Palani said one day he hopes music is the only concern he will ever have.
Advertising major Jackie Ferrari has been pursuing music seriously for the past six years. Ferrari said she is currently on a short hiatus from classes to refresh and recenter her focus without the pressures of outside influences.
Since 2007, Ferrari said she always wanted to be involved with music. Now, her goal is to be able to build a music business around her work and tell a story with the sounds and lyrics she creates.
“I use music to tell the story that God is writing in my life and help others know they’re not alone when they’re going through pain,” Ferrari said.
Her involvement in music started as an interest but grew into a deeper dedication, Ferrari said. She makes music not only for fun, but as an outlet for her pain. Ferrari said God has helped her overcome many obstacles, and she wants to share that through music.
“I make music because it helps me process the painful things I have dealt with in my life, and I really want to share my story,” Ferrari said. “I want to let people know that God can use your pain to strengthen you rather than to break you.”
Ferrari said she has put out about 10 or 11 original songs over the past three years and is anticipating her very own EP early next year.
“I love producing, writing, singing, rapping, performing and playing instruments,” Ferrari said. “Balancing the five things can be hard, but I’m learning to really delegate things more and focus on the things I’m best at.”
Business Administration major Oliver Westover is a rising pop musician who began singing at the age of 4 and writing music at 16.
“I would say that my music is definitely pop, but it has many influences spanning from Maroon 5, to Coldplay, to Michael Jackson and even Sugar Ray,” Westover said. “I try to incorporate organic elements like the guitar or piano in the instrumental and overall focus on the melody of the song.”
From a young age, Westover said his older brother’s courage to pursue music and create songs inspired him. If it wasn’t for his brother, Westover doesn’t think he would have been able to do this.
Now, Westover said the two are living in L.A., creating music together. A significant reason Westover chose Pepperdine is its proximate location to the music capital of the world.
“I am super grateful to have my brother, for he has made many of these connections and has introduced me to many industry people,” Westover said. “Pursuing a career in music can be quite daunting, especially with all of the competition, there are days where you feel like nothing is working, and you want to give up, but I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”
Currently, Westover said he has written dozens of songs with his brother. He plans to continue writing music and hopes that his pursuit of music will have an impact on listeners and future fans.
“Ultimately, my goal is to make music that projects a feeling; songs that make the listener feel a certain way — maybe a way they have never felt,” Westover said. “I want to make a positive impact with my music. It could be for five people, or it could be for millions. Either way, I just want to bring joy to people’s lives.”
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