KAPAA — The best summer of her life was the six weeks she just spent at Berklee College of Music in Boston, said Pearl Michel.
“I was wrapped up in music the whole time,” she said. “I learned an amazing amount of music, and it changed me as a musician.”
The senior at Kapaa High School is an aspiring singer/songwriter. She has been playing the piano since was four years old and has been writing her own songs since she was 12.
In July, she had the opportunity to expand her musical talents by attending a summer performance program offered by Berklee College of Music.
Berklee’s alumni include John Mayer, Natalie Maines from The Dixie Chicks and Ben McKee of Imagine Dragons.
As part of the program, Michel took classes in vocal styles, a slam poetry class, musicianship, ensemble and theory. She also attended music history, performance and songwriting lectures.
“It was so inspiring, being around other musicians,” she said. “At first it was scary because a lot of people want to be songwriters, but I used it an opportunity to collaborate.”
In the six weeks she was there, Michel wrote 10 songs.
“My last week there, I wrote the best song I’ve ever written,” she said.
The song, “More Than the Last One,” is about love and relationships.
“It asks, ‘Do you love me more than your last love. What makes us special that wasn’t special in the last relationship,’” she said.
While Michel said adjusting to life in a big city was scary at first, by the end of the summer, she was able to navigate Boston easily.
“My mom took me to Boston a few days early and we got to know the city,” she said. “It was such a big city at the time, but us going a few days early really helped because, during the camp, I could go out with friends, and we weren’t lost.”
Michel plans to pursue a degree in songwriting at Berklee.
“I love Berklee so much. It’s definitely a hub of talented musicians, and it was inspiring to be there,” she said.
She credits her success to her piano teacher of four years, Barbara Samm, and Kapaa Middle School ukulele band and chorus instructor, Mary Lardizabal.
“I wouldn’t be here without them,” she said.
The program cost $8,000. Michel and her family raised the funds for the trip and flight via a GoFundMe account and donations from the North Shore Lions Club and the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay.
“We were able to get the perfect amount of money — it was amazing,” she said.
She said she’s excited to take what she learned from the program and use it in Catherine Lei Paleka’s music tech 4, or songwriting, next semester.
“I can’t wait to apply what I learned from Berklee in class,” Michel said.
Michel has advice for other Kauai students thinking about taking a leap off island.
“Kids just need not be scared and just go for it,” she said. “It really opened me up to possibilities of getting out of my bubble; it’s easy to stay here and be scared of what’s out there.”