C/O Matthew Ball, Unsplash
How our thirties will be the new twenties
By: Ana Mamula, Contributor
I remember being a kid and daydreaming of what it would be like being able to drive, have my own place, have kids and attend university. From such a young age, I was envious of those older women who seemed so much more independent than I was.
I remember saying to myself, “In my early twenties, I will definitely be married and by my mid-twenties, I’ll definitely have kids. Three exactly.”
Looking back, I laugh to myself. I’m currently a twenty-year old full-time university student and I am no way in hell getting married or having kids soon. Life moved so much faster than I expected, leaving me envious of that little girl who had no troubles in the world. While she longed for her twenties, she never had to deal with the stress of work, school, relationships, paying taxes and so much more. It’s as if we progressed from being driven to school in the backseat of our parents’ cars to driving our own in the blink of an eye.
Despite life moving so fast, leaving us with less than seconds to breathe, it carries many substantial events that form who we are. However, I believe one decade in particular holds the most importance for us. Our twenties.
Our twenties truly capture everything about who we are and who we are going to be. It is during our twenties that the most life-changing events in our lives occur. The start of this decade is a transformational moment, what with coming out of one’s teen years in the beginning and ending as a fully grown adult. Our twenties are when we make those friends we carry with us for the rest of our lives. They’re when we could meet our significant other, when we could receive that job we have always wanted and when we buy our first home.
Due to all of these life-changing events that society tells us we have to go through in our twenties, the pressure is beyond difficult to carry. Individuals often consider graduating from university and achieving financial stability as adult life’s most important milestones, according to a report from The Atlantic. Carrying the weight of both these monumental events only furthers the narrative of what everyone should be accomplishing in their twenties.
So how do you get through your twenties? How can you be successful at getting through these important years?
As cheesy as it is, my advice is to stop trying to meet society's deadlines of where you should be and how you should act in your twenties. Our twenties are the years we look back on as we age to realize how much we grow in life. And you do not have to get married or have kids to do that.
In fact, an article by The New York Times makes the comparison that your twenties are similar to stem cells, with a million possibilities and outcomes of what your life could be.
We are capable of doing whatever we please. As long as the path we are choosing to take is the one we want to take, not the one our parents or friends want us to take, not the one society wants us to take; that is when we are truly successful.
C/O McMaster University Concert Band
The McMaster University Concert Band looks forward to bringing the band together in person as COVID restrictions ease
Under the School of the Arts, the McMaster University Concert Band offers students the opportunity to practice music in an ensemble setting, engage with the Hamilton community through performances and meet other students interested in music while doing so.
No matter which discipline or program you belong to, all McMaster University students are welcome to audition for the band.
Students can choose to join the concert band as a course for credit if they would like. Regardless of whether students are receiving credit or not, all players complete the same band activities.
Typically, the MCB gathers together for rehearsals once a week and holds three regular performances. Additional performances and engagements with the community also occur throughout the year.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ensemble conducted all rehearsals and performances online in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Speaking to last year’s experience, President of the MCB, Duncan McCallum, said that although doing everything online was not an ideal experience, the band was able to learn a lot from the challenges they overcame.
“It was a much more collaborative process. We were all trying to figure it out together so that was I think rewarding and certainly something new that was cool to experience,” said McCallum.
Doing everything online taught the band that there are benefits to working in smaller groups and that virtual participation opens up opportunities for more guest speakers or musicians to engage with the band.
Now, for the 2021-2022 academic year, McMaster has announced that students are welcome to come back to campus. However, many COVID-19 protocols are still in place. If the band wishes to incorporate in-person components within their rehearsals, they must adhere to the protocols.
Thus, McCallum said that exact plans for how the school year will play out are still undetermined. For now, meetings will be conducted virtually.
McCallum explained that having to consider the different instrumental needs of the band introduces an added level of difficulty for meeting in person. Different mask procedures would also have to be adapted to accommodate the players.
In addition, social distancing poses another barrier for the band. Students have to remain six feet apart. In a typical year, the band is comprised of about 70 students, so finding enough space for the band to meet would be difficult.
Despite all these challenges, McCallum looks forward to bringing the band together in person.
“There’s a lot of barriers to [meeting] in-person, but I think everyone’s so eager to do so that we’re just going to jump on it any chance we get, [even if] that means playing outside in a parking lot [or] being spaced out in the bleachers of the concert hall so that we’re all far away [enough] from each other,” said McCallum.
Wendy Tang, vice-president of the MCB, said that on top of practicing music, building a community is also an essential part of the band’s culture.
“Apart from rehearsals, as execs we also ran a lot of events so students can also feel that community because honestly, a big part of our concert band aside from it being a band is also the community that we’ve built,” said Tang.
Having events where students can socialize and get to know each other is something that the executives of the band aim to do every year.
McCallum also emphasized that despite still having to do things online, learning from experiences from the previous year greatly benefits the new year.
“[Not just the band, but] a lot of classes and clubs, they [also] felt like they adapted because they had to, not because [it was] the best circumstance. This year, we want to make it the most rewarding experience we can with whatever is thrown at us, whether that means being online for part of the semester or being in-person as much as we can,” said McCallum.
C/O Georgia Kirkos
After a year of online school, McMaster gives professors the opportunity to teach courses in-person once again
For the past year, McMaster University has been completely online, with libraries and residences closed and classes taking place on Zoom and Microsoft Teams. However, as of this fall, not only has McMaster’s campus opened up, but many students now also have the opportunity to take classes in person once again.
“It was really left up to the instructors to decide how they wanted to offer their classes in the fall because we wanted to make sure that they felt comfortable,” said Associate Dean of Social Sciences Tracy Prowse.
Prowse explained that, in the faculty of social sciences, professors were first given the option to choose between online and in-person learning in February of this year, amidst the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who did choose to offer their classes in person were given the option in August to switch to a virtual platform instead, depending on their level of comfort with the current situation.
“There were a very small number of courses that were originally scheduled to be in person that were shifting online,” explained Prowse.
Prowse added that decisions to shift courses back online were made in August, so that course outlines could still be posted by mid-August, allowing students to prepare for the year.
Maureen MacDonald, dean of sciences, offered perspective on how decisions about in-person learning were made within the faculty of science.
“We did, of course, consult with the professors about their preference and we took that tremendously into account, but it was a larger conversation about the learning outcomes and the learning experience and we did try to construct it so that every science student would have the potential to have at least one in-person learning component this term,” explained MacDonald.
For courses that are taking place in person this year, numerous safety measures have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As MacDonald explained, along with public health measures such as masks, McMaster Facility Services ensured that all McMaster buildings had appropriate ventilation.
Further, as Prowse explained, any course that is a degree requirement must be accessible online as well. This means that, for these required courses, lectures must be recorded and uploaded to Echo 360 and assessments must take place virtually as well.
“[With] any in-person class that is required for a degree, the instructor also has to ensure that a student could take that [class] virtually,” said Prowse.
MacDonald stated that the return to some level of in-person learning will hopefully benefit students at McMaster, citing the importance of personal connection with peers and instructors.
MacDonald also highlighted the unique significance of in-person learning for the sciences.
“For science, we really believe the tactile component of experimentation, of physically trying to conduct an experiment or manipulate something in a discovery-based format, does lead to an enhanced learning,” said MacDonald.
Although the plan for the winter semester is contingent on COVID-19 restrictions, Prowse stated that students should expect a return to in-person classes.
“It's just been really nice to see students on campus. Even if a lot of their courses are still virtual or online, it's still nice to see people,” said Prowse.
C/O Zula Presents
With a mix of music, improvisation and film, the Something Else! festival has something for everyone this fall
By: Sarah Lopes Sadafi, Contributor
At the foot of Harbourfront Drive, the Something Else! festival is bringing live performance back to the Hamilton area at Bayfront Park this fall. The festival is a not-for-profit initiative highlighting diverse, marginalized and unique voices in the arts, in an effort to fill the gaps in Hamilton’s arts scene.
Cem Zafir, the director of Something Else! festival, began presenting music as a passion project in the early 2000s while also working as a postal worker. At the time, he focused on jazz, improvised music and the avant garde. After being transferred to a post office location in Hamilton in 2012, Zafir started writing grants for the Something Else! festival in 2014. Seeing the prominent rock music scene at the time, he seized the opportunity to fill the lack of diverse and unique voices in the Hamilton music scene.
“As [my partner and I] spent time in Hamilton, we felt like there were so many [styles of music] that weren’t being covered . . . For a local scene to grow, we need to be open to new ideas — from poetry to spoken word, to various forms of music. Anything that’s more adventurous and generally falls through the cracks,” said Zafir.
Seven years later, the festival has expanded from jazz and improvisation to include film, dance and mixed and multimedia arts. Zafir’s not-for-profit organization, Zula Music & Arts Collective Hamilton, has now grown to a group of 15 people working to organize the Something Else! festival and associated arts series, Watch it Burn!
The name Something Else! was inspired by an Ornette Coleman album of the same name. Additionally, the name is reminiscent of the common saying ‘that was something else’, referring in particular to something off-center and apart from the norm—exactly what the festival strives to showcase.
Hungry for local acts, the Something Else! festival emphasises the importance of highlighting Hamiltonian voices in the arts. In order to feed Hamilton’s cultural fabric, Zafir holds that we need to amplify the unique talents that we have right here at home.
Ronley Teper and The Lipliners is a multi-genre local Hamilton music act that has participated in the festival since its conception in 2014, with a focus on improvisation and collaboration in musical expression.
Teper described feeling nervous prior to her performance at the festival on Sept. 11 for the first time in 18 months, followed by the joy of finally being back in front of an audience in a space with COVID-19 measures in place. She hopes the audience felt that range of emotions from her day at Bayfront Park.
“Joy and laughter are some things that I love to emit, but I also try to tempt the other emotions,” Said Teper. “People tell me that they love me or hate me, because you can’t hate without love. I always want people to feel something when they leave —i ndifference is dangerous.”
As the end of September approached, there are still a few performances left to see before the end of Something Else! festival.
Brass Knuckle Sandwich is an improvisational duo of Nicole Rampersaud and Marilyn Lerner, with an upcoming performance at the festival on Oct. 8. They hope people walk into their set with an openness to experience.
“When being in front of audiences, being in the same space, learning and having an open mind opens up new connections and points of commonality. In an age of divide, divide, divide, we could all use some of that connection and an open mind can help make that happen,” said Rampersaud.
The festival operates in accordance with all provincial COVID-19 guidelines currently in place. It is run entirely outdoors with contact tracing for the limited capacity and staff and volunteers are masked at all times. Sanitizer, wipes and extra masks are also available at the venue.
Admission to the festival is granted on a pay what you can basis, in an effort to increase accessibility and ensure all arts-lovers have access to live performance. The suggested donation of $15-25 includes several diverse artistic acts, as well as a provided dinner.
Zafir emphasised the importance of coming to the festival with an open mind.
“The choices we make are entertaining, intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving. If you come in without judgement, if you just let it wash over you and be present, you’ll walk away with something. Coming with an open mind and being present will lead to getting turned on to new things, new ideas,” explained Zafir.
The festival will be running every Saturday until Oct. 9 at Bayfront Park Pavilion.
“It’s just music. It’s not precious, but it’s sacred,” said Zafir.
C/O Robert Bye, Unsplash
Check out these advocacy and social justice groups on and off campus to start finding your community
Community is a crucial piece of any university experience. It will be even more important this year as we return to campus, particularly for the many students for whom it is not only their first time in Hamilton but also their first time away from home entirely.
Finding and building community can be difficult enough after a move, nevermind during a pandemic. It can be difficult to know where to start. One place might be the issues in the world you’re passionate about. Groups or organizations dedicated to these issues are wonderful places where both community and social justice advocacy can thrive. Furthermore, having a strong sense of community, while also tackling these issues you care about can help you cultivate support systems not only as you navigate university but also in the face of larger issues.
Included below is a list of groups both on and off campus, sorted by the social justice issues they’re concerned with, who are doing some excellent work in the Hamilton community. It should be noted this is not an exhaustive list of all the wonderful groups and organizations in Hamilton; there are many more groups that can be found both on campus and off.
If you identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, are passionate about 2SLGBTQIA+ rights and peer support:
If you’re passionate about anti-racist and anti-oppressive work, check out:
If you’re passionate about climate and environmental justice, check out:
If you’re passionate about food security and nutrition, check out:
If you’re passionate about healthcare and public health, check out:
If you’re passionate about housing and supporting unhoused individuals, check out
Graphic By: Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator
With more study spaces and expanded facilities, an updated hub for student life is underway
At McMaster University, the David Braley Athletic Centre serves multiple purposes for students, including recreation, fitness training and rehabilitation. As a staple building of McMaster for more than 14 years, this year, facilities at DBAC will be undergoing some changes.
The MSU presented three name options for students to vote on, including “The Marauder Activity Centre”, “The Student Life Centre” and “The Hub.” Ultimately, students voted for the building to be called the Hub.
Within the Hub, there will be four floors. The main floor will have an open-concept study area and event space. The second floor will have a grocer and more lounge areas. The third floor will include peer support services. The fourth floor will have bookable multi-purpose spaces as well as multi-faith prayer spaces.
John McGowan, general manager of the MSU, said that even though the third floor of the Hub will include spaces for MSU services, the original location of SHEC and WGEN will not be moved. “The intent of the Hub was not to relocate our current services, but to provide more meeting space,” said McGowan.
Following the completion of the Hub, it will also be physically connected to DBAC, allowing students to walk between both buildings with ease.
Along with the building of the Hub, an upcoming expansion to the Pulse Fitness Centre will be completed. Currently, the Pulse is where students have access to a wide range of fitness equipment and facilities.
With an additional 60,000 square feet of space, this expansion will include new equipment, a women’s only fitness area, more cardio and weight training spaces, a climbing wall and a bouldering wall.
Since 2017, students approved a $95 per year fee whichwill increase by $2.99 per academic unit following the completion of the Hub. Included in this fee is the annual membership students have for access to the Pulse.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students who wish to workout at the Pulse must sign up for a one and a half-hour timeslot in one of three Pulse locations. This includes the Sport Hall Pulse, Pop-Up Pulse, and Track Pulse.
As a consequence of the current construction occurring at the Pulse, fitness equipment is not evenly distributed amongst the three locations. However, Fitness and Wellness Coordinator Lee-Anne Wilson, said that students can check ahead of time to find out what sort of equipment is available at each location.
Fitness trainers are also available at each location and can support students in finding alternatives for their workouts.
Although she might not be able to experience the new expansion and facilities offered at the Hub following graduation this year, Victoria Cirone, a fourth-year kinesiology student and fitness instructor at the Pulse shared that she is excited to know that the Pulse will be expanded due to how busy the gym was prior to the pandemic.
“The gyms were crowded, there were a lot of people to a squat rack and especially at peak hours, it was really busy. I’m glad that there will be more equipment, facilities, rooms and that sort of thing," said Cirone.
If all goes according to schedule, students who will be at McMaster in the 2022-2023 academic year can look forward to enjoying this new change for DBAC as well as all the added facilities brought forward by the Hub.
C/O Georgia Kirkos
#HopeandHealingCanada installation by Tracey-Mae Chambers reflects on how we recover from the weight of the pandemic and ongoing tragedies
How do you mend a broken world under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing tragedies in the news? How do we hope and heal again in these times? Métis sculptor and installation artist Tracey-Mae Chambers created #HopeandHealingCanada after contemplating these questions and recognizing the need to reconnect society.
#HopeandHealingCanada is an installation project Chambers began this summer to promote conversation, reflection and reconnection between people and with the environment during the current pandemic. The only material used in the installation is a vibrant red string. The string is intermingled and merged with the surrounding environment and it is up for only a limited amount of time—usually constructed and taken down on the same day.
One of her latest installations of the project can be found outside of the McMaster Museum of Art and it will be up throughout the fall semester. This is Chambers’ 18th stop out of 63 venues she will visit. The project was originally intended to be showcased only in Ontario; however, it has since gained great attention and will now be displayed in locations across Canada.
The string used in the piece illustrates a tangible connection in a time when many are deprived of real, physical interactions. The colour red, as the colour of blood, symbolizes powerful emotions such as passion, courage and anger that unite people together.
“During [the] COVID-19 [pandemic], the community became very small for us . . . and I felt like I didn’t know how to get back to the community at large,” said Chambers.
Through her work, she wanted to emphasize not only reconnection with friends and family, but also new connections with strangers. As part of this narrative, she also reuses the string to build the next installation after it is taken down and unravelled.
“So, the string itself is actually travelling the country too and I like that because the stories themselves that happen at each place go with the string,” said Chambers.
The string has already travelled to multiple parks, galleries and art museums. Chambers sets no limits when it comes to the kinds of environment she is willing to work in and no two installations look the same. In fact, the painstaking and transformative nature of the project is part of the message: to adapt to the new realities of the pandemic.
Before the installation at each venue gets taken down, she documents it through photographs. At the end of the project, the photographs will be used to create an art exhibition as well as a book. Additionally, each photograph will be accompanied by a story related to the location.
For example, in the photograph of her installation in Black Creek Pioneer Village, the red string can be seen forming a long house over rows of desks in a classroom. The classroom is located inside a residential school which was the template for the model of residential schools Egerton Ryerson had designed and promoted. The composition of the installation represents the lost and forgotten children being brought back to their homes and communities. Building the installation at historic locations such as this is one of the ways Chambers has found opportunities to heal from the intergenerational trauma experienced by her Indigenous community.
Stories of the Indigenous communities are important to the project because there is still much awareness that needs to be raised and healing to be done from the history and treatment of First Nations communities in Canada. When the remains of 215 Indigenous children were discovered at Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, Chambers felt confused by Canadians who were surprised by the news.
“I think settler culture is feeling this massive guilt and shock, but the Indigenous communities knew those graves were there, so it’s shocking to me that Canadians didn’t know that,” she said.
However, for both sides involved, the settler culture and Indigenous community, Chambers hopes her exhibit will be part of the healing and conversation. For Chambers personally, the project has been important to managing both the pandemic and processing the long, painful history of her ancestors and community. It has also helped her to feel more powerful, get back on her feet and realize the importance of finding support, connection and community.
Looking ahead, Chambers is excited to travel across the country with her project and capture more pictures of the installation in the winter. When #HopeandHealingCanada is complete, she wishes to continue to explore the stories of residential schools. Currently, she is still trying to make sense of the way in which lost Indigenous children are being discussed, as though they are abandoned and left unprotected.
“There is a lot of information to try to sort through and come to terms with, but it's a thought in process that will end up in something,” said Chambers.
Chambers’ installation reminds us of hope and healing amidst global unrest. More importantly, it provides a space to reflect about our past and future relationship with the Indigenous community. It can feel difficult to reach out to communities you do not belong to or feel unwelcomed in. However, Chambers and her art relay the message this does not need to be the case. She encourages students to visit Indigenous art centres or friendship centres and reach out. As illustrated by #HopeandHealingCanada, there are new connections waiting to happen all around us.
Ainsley Thurgood/Photo Assistant
Remember that you aren’t the only ones who live here though
By: Derek Elliott, Contributor
Every September, the areas of Ainslie Wood and Westdale welcome a new group of McMaster University students who are eager to participate in university life and enjoy living in the area. Truth be told, there really is a lot to enjoy. You will find as you settle into the area that it is a great place to live. It’s very walkable and very convenient, close to Cootes Paradise, with parks and playgrounds, miles of cycling trails nearby, the recently renovated Westdale Theatre, lots of bars and restaurants and of course all the facilities that the university has to offer. You can even hop on a quick bus or train to Toronto, but Westdale has everything one would need.
For those of us who live in this area, the presence of McMaster students adds a spark of life that it otherwise just wouldn’t have. We really do hope you enjoy the few years that you will be living among us.
As a long-time Westdale resident myself, there are a few things I’d ask you to keep in mind.
Please be aware of those around you. Westdale and Ainslie Wood houses not just students, but many families and elderly folks live in the area. Some folks have very young children and some are commuters who have to get up early to travel for work.
Have a good time and enjoy yourself but remember that you need to keep the noise down, especially after 11:00 p.m. Unfortunately the mix of large numbers of young, energetic people, alcohol and/or other stimulants can result in otherwise decent responsible people acting in irresponsible ways. This can make things challenging for the more “permanent” residents of the areas surrounding campus.
In the age of cell phones and social media, a small gathering of friends can quickly get out of control. It happens at least once a year around here. If you’re renting a house and it happens to you, don’t be afraid to call the police for help. If you don’t, be assured that somebody else will and you’ll get the blame for the loud party.
Along the same lines, residents take pride in keeping our yards clean and tidy. It’s part of what makes the neighbourhood a pleasant one to live in. If you’re renting, please keep your yard in a reasonable state — free from garbage and overgrown weeds. When it snows, the sooner you shovel your sidewalk, the easier it is to do. You may be lucky enough to live next door to someone who has a snow blower. Many of us who do just keep going down the sidewalk when we’ve finished our own. In Hamilton the temperature fluctuations cause freezing and thawing which can lead to really dangerous conditions on sidewalks. If someone is injured, the signatory in your house could be held legally liable.
Consider this — if your parents or guardians were living in this neighbourhood, how would you behave? I know you're here for a good time, but please respect those of us who are here for a long time.
Welcome to the neighbourhood and by following these suggestions, we can all live together safely, comfortably and happily.
Graphic By: Yoohyun Park/Production Coordinator
As varsity sports returns to McMaster, the women’s soccer team is ready to take on new challenges in the upcoming season.
After a disappointing season in 2019, in which the McMaster Marauders lost in the Ontario University Athletics quarterfinals against the Western Mustangs in London, the players are eager to make a comeback, as an exciting season with 10 league games is approaching.
The Marauders have been placed in the central division, which will host opponent schools such as Algoma University, Laurentian University, University of Toronto, Nipissing University and Ryerson University.
The first two games of the season come against the Algoma Thunderbirds, who will have a two night stay in Hamilton for the start of the OUA season. The opening games will take place Sept. 25-26 at Ron Joyce Stadium.
The Marauders will likely slide into their games with confidence for the opening games, having a clear winning record against the Thunderbirds in previous years. McMaster has won every single game against Algoma, keeping a 12-0 conference record ahead of the opening games. The most notable win against the Thunderbirds was a dominant 12-1 win in the 2014-2015 season at Sault Ste. Marie.
The next opponent the Marauders will face are the Laurentian Voyageurs. McMaster will host the first game on Oct. 1 at the Ron Joyce Stadium, then travel to Sudbury for the away game on Oct. 3. Although McMaster has not against played the Voyageurs before, they will be hoping to grab as many points as possible, considering that Laurentian had only two wins in their season last year, while being defeated a total of eight times.
Of all potential opponents in the regular season, it’s speculated that the Marauders’ biggest challenge may be the Toronto Varsity Blues. Although Toronto did place fourth in their eastern division in last year’s season, they excelled through the playoffs and made it to the finals, where they lost to the York Lions. This high standard of soccer only promises an exciting match between the Blues and the Marauders. The first fixture will take place on Oct. 6 in Hamilton and the second game will take place four days later in Toronto.
Joelle Chackal, the Marauders’ central striker, is confident that the team has the ability to make it past the playoffs and improve on the team's previous records.
“I think that there is a big chance of us progressing into the play-offs and making it far, but we have to take it one step at a time. It is also a very young squad, composed of lower-year students, so we have a lot of potential going forward. WI am very excited to take part in the season and I am looking forward to it,” said Chackal.
When asked about the toughest challenge in the upcoming season, Chackal reiterated that the Toronto Varsity Blues would likely pose the biggest challenge.
“I think that out of all the teams, Toronto would be the toughest one. They have the biggest financing and have had an extremely strong team in the past couple of years. But I am positive that we will do our best to prevent any unwanted result against them,” explained Chackal.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted some progress in women's soccer for over a year, the new season brings nothing but excitement and confidence among the squad, who are looking forward to experiencing university-level soccer.
C/O Rania Saxena
Singer-songwriter Rania Saxena discusses her musical journey, passion for outer space, and upcoming EP
By: Edwin Thomas, Contributor
This article marks the beginning of Behind the Beat, a new series highlighting Hamilton-based music artists, their musical journeys and recent work.
Emerging singer-songwriter Rania Saxena’s creative journey began when she was very young. Growing up as an only child, Saxena took to making up games and drawing to keep herself entertained. Looking to explore new creative outlets, she also began taking guitar lessons. Her guitar teacher encouraged her to sing while playing to improve her technique, which unintentionally improved her vocal abilities as well.
In high school, Saxena surrounded herself in a group of friends who wrote original songs and performed at their school. Her peers inspired her to start writing her own songs. Her first few performances were as gifts for her close friends and family, with the most notable being a song she wrote and performed for her father’s birthday. She received a lot of praise from people attending the event for how relatable the song was, which encouraged her to continue writing and performing songs.
“I realized that music can not only be a way for me to express myself, but for other people to find some of their truth in my words . . . that was pivotal,” said Saxena.
She continued playing original and cover songs for her friends and family, which eventually led to her performing original songs at her high school’s talent shows.
In 2018, Saxena began attending McMaster University’s Health Sciences program. She found the atmosphere to be very welcoming, encouraging her to grow and try new things. She found herself surrounded again by musically inclined peers as part of the Health Sciences Musical. She recalled the excitement and energy she felt performing in her first performance in 2019, and later on in her 2021 performance in BHScreentime. She considers her peers in the musical her family and an integral part of her university experience.
Saxena started publishing her music to Soundcloud during her time at McMaster, using the microphone on her earphones to record and Garageband to produce. Her early songs involved only her voice and a ukulele as they produced the best quality given her resources at the time. These songs were heavily influenced by artists such as Lorde, Hozier, and Dodie. Later on, in songs like don’t you need a break, Saxena expanded her musical repertoire, incorporating drum loops, piano chords, and a plethora of other sounds in her songs.
She began to develop her writing style, incorporating events from her life, such as heartbreak, and her admiration of nature into the lyrics. Another major influence on her writing style came from her grandfather’s passion for poetry. She started with couplets which later evolved into free-form poetry that she used as a foundation for her lyrics. Her songwriting process typically begins with either the poems she has written or the melodies she has recorded in Voice Memos on her phone. Additionally, she made original album covers for her singles using paintings and digital art she created. After releasing her first few singles, she performed mini-setlists in fundraisers for the Health Sciences Musical at the McMaster University Student Centre.
In her songwriting process, she often draws inspiration from her fascination with space. The imagery in her lyrics is used to illustrate the likeness between the grandeur and vastness of outer space to her experiences with love and heartbreak, seen in the song cosmic avenue. She often uses space-related symbols to signify the importance of events in her life, such as comparing her mother’s love and care for her to the moonlight that wraps around the earth at night, in mama moonlight, a birthday tribute to her mother. Cosmic Queries by Neil deGrasse Tyson in particular has been an important inspiration for songs in her upcoming EP.
Over time, her music has evolved to include a variety of themes, including self-conflict and frustration in her most recent single, speculation, where she described an inner turmoil during a darker time in her life. She found her relationship with music became a therapeutic outlet for her.
“What started out as a fun hobby has turned into a form of therapy for myself. What started off as me just goofing around and trying out different things has ended up with me using song-writing and composition as a way for me to process my emotions,” explained Saxena.
The new circumstances of the pandemic, however, limited her access to the resources she used during her time at McMaster, so she invested in a midi keyboard, guitar and microphone to continue making music. Though the pandemic hindered her plans, she used her spare time to teach herself how to produce, mix, and master records using Logic Pro through YouTube tutorials. She found the experience to be very valuable to her musical comprehension. It was also at this time when she started writing songs for her EP.
When asked about advice that she would give to future artists, she said it is important to find your voice.
“Why aim to be the second Billie Eilish when you can be the first you?” she asked.
This is a mantra she has taken to heart to find her own music style. She encourages other artists to experiment with rhythms and sounds outside of their comfort zone to help them find their style.
Her first EP is set to come out later this year, drawing influence from Sarah Kinsley, Lorde, and Clairo. She has kept most of its details under wraps but revealed there will be rock-influenced songs as well. As for her future after McMaster, Saxena plans to continue her music career, hoping to make a debut album. Additionally, she has not been able to perform in-person since the pandemic but looks forward to more performances in the future.
Her music is available on most music platforms and can be found here.