Penn Songwriters Collective — a newly revived student organization that combines songwriting and spiritual practices — will perform in its new form for the first time on Nov. 12.
At the performance, 16 songwriters in the club will perform original songs from a variety of genres that club members have collaborated on during weekly meetings throughout the semester.
This is the first year that the Collective has operated as a Penn club with a student board and auditions, with a focus on performance.
Previously, the group was led by Rabbi Micah Shapiro — who was a Penn Hillel Rabbinic Fellow for Innovation — as a three-hour-long monthly Hillel workshop.
According to College senior Benjamin Moss-Horwitz — a former staffer for The Daily Pennsylvanian who currently leads the Collective — its previous iteration included guided meditation and check-in discussions where students reflected on intimate prompts. Meetings also featured an exercise where students were given a poem and instructed to create a song for it within a limited time frame.
After Shapiro left Hillel in 2021, Moss-Horwitz and 2022 College graduate Abraham Frey took charge of the club. Moss-Horwitz said they noticed that meeting attendance was down, which he partly attributed to the way spiritual meditation and songwriting lost some appeal on Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moss-Horwitz said that he reimagined the club to contain the same atmosphere of a hybrid between a religious service and a group therapy gathering, but with the added element of performances.
The group still continues many of the practices started by Shapiro, but now members must audition to join and collaborate with the rest of the group to prepare for performances.
In light of all of these changes, Moss-Horwitz hopes to have the club officially recognized by the Student Activities Council so that it can receive funding.
In order to put together the songs for performances, each person in the Collective brings in originally written songs based on their chosen concepts to the meetings. The other members then decide what instruments should be played in unison, which lyrics could be tweaked, and where the chord progressions can be changed to improve the sound.
College and Wharton senior and songwriter Sanjana Akula said that for each member, their song is "their baby, but we all help with layering, what different instruments [to use and] figuring out what the mood of the piece might be.”
Junior and exchange student Léa Kevorkian said that the intimacy of the Collective helped her adjust to Penn, adding that the group felt "like a safe space" that made her feel comfortable in a new environment.
Moss-Horwitz said that the Collective is different from other clubs on campus because of its emphasis on collaborative work and the club’s beginner-friendly nature. Even though almost half of the songwriters in the club have recorded their own original music, many members have not performed yet.
The foundational teamwork approach was a pulling factor for why Akula joined.
"I wanted an outlet for just getting to meet other artists and collaborating," Akula said. "A lot of people are really great at a lot of different instruments. Unfortunately, I don’t have that talent, but I get to benefit from people that are really amazing at piano, stringed instruments, production, etc.”
The Collective's first performance will be at the Platt Student Performing Arts House on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 7 pm.