The feeling was nothing new to Kaufmann. She experienced it before she sang, “It Had to be You” at her father’s wedding. Again it was present at the Celebration of American Spirit, where her sole voice carried the National Anthem to nearly 5,000 onlookers. Stage fright was an old friend
But one thing set this performance apart from all the others: her friends were there. Kaufmann had never performed in front of her peers before, yet she was about to sing, “Don’t Stop Believin” by Journey, at the Link Crew’s freshmen mixer.
“I was really, really, really nervous to sing at the freshman dance because it was all the people that knew me,” Kaufmann said. “And I knew if I messed up, all the people in my grade, it was their first impression of me.”
Many were new to Kaufmann’s musical talent, while others were familiar with her music, but hearing it for the first time live.
Kaufmann has been playing piano for 10 years. Even before that, he dad recalls her passion for music.
“I remember when she was two years old, on the piano, and always wanted to be a musician,” father Scott Kaufmann said.
Kaufmann has been singing and writing her own music since sixth grade. When expressing all of her emotions in a diary became too difficult, someone suggested she write a song.
“At first I thought it was stupid, but then I got into it and every time I wrote a song I felt better,” Kaufmann said.
Kaufmann’s lyrics remained private to her, sometimes paired to a simple piano melody. But when a friend from a musical she was in invited her to an informal recording studio, Kaufmann got a chance to put together her first real song, “Yesterday.”
“I had never recorded any of my own songs, so being able to make a finished product of a song I had jotted down on paper was awesome,” Kaufmann said. “It felt like the real deal.”
Kaufmann draws inspiration for lyrics from her feelings, whether it’s a middle school crush, as was the case for “Shout,” or home sickness at camp with “Alone.”
While she loves creating meaningful songs that express her, Kaufmann often finds herself writing silly lyrics about anything from bubble gum to goat cheese. When a friend jokingly said, “Girl, I’m gonna mess you up,” one day at Indian Hills Middle School, Kaufmann immediately heard it as the catchy chorus to a new song. After adding a few versus she recorded it on her phone.
“One of my friends asked me to send (the song) to her, so I did,” Kaufmann said. “Then she sent it to like, the world, and it got around.”
Sophomore Taylor Runion heard “Girl I’m Gonna Mess You Up” on the bus back from drill team camp. One girl had the song on her iPod, and soon, all the Lancer Dancers knew about Kaufmann’s musical talent.
“I like that she takes the initiative to do all that stuff on her own,” Runion said. “And that she comes up with original lyrics.”
Just like in, “Girl I’m Gonna Mess You Up,” Kaufmann’s music starts with a phrase for the chorus. Then come the versus, and a bridge.
“(The lyrics) just kind of appear on the page,” Kaufmann said. “It’s just my feelings, but they manage to rhyme.”
Next, Kaufmann takes it to her piano. Her fingers convert the simple melody in her head to matching chords. Soon enough, what started as a single line she jotted down during seminar has become a full ballad. She will then transfer the song onto GarageBand and add guitar, orchestra or pre-programmed beats in the background.
Kaufmann said that not all songs make it this far. It takes her about a month to complete a whole song.
“I’ve got, like, a hundred songs just floating around in notebooks everywhere that don’t turn into anything,” Kaufmann said.
When she started becoming more involved with music, Kaufmann asked her mom about voice lessons. Now, for an hour every Wednesday, she prepares for upcoming auditions or performances.
Singing at the freshmen mixer was a new experience for Kaufmann. The screaming crowd and support of a band changed Kaufmann’s perspective on her goals in life.
“I used to be positive that I wanted to go on Broadway,” Kaufmann said. “But I think what I want to do is get a music career and be able to tour.”
Kaufmann had attended practices with freshmen band, “Break” before singing with them and the Link Crew dance. When they asked her to become a permanent addition, she had to decline. Between writing songs, performing in musicals, drill team and school, Kaufmann said that she doesn’t have time for much else. For now, she’ll keep writing songs and auditioning for musicals.
“What happens will happen,” Kaufmann said. “I just need to continue with what I’m doing and another good opportunity will present itself.
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