SWAN creates a community of songwriters on campus

One of the newest clubs on campus, the Songwriters Association at Northwestern is building a community among Northwestern songwriters. Eddie Ko, Founder and Co-Chair of the club, spoke about SWAN’s mission to make songwriting accessible to NU students, regardless of musical background.

EDDIE KO: I think I’ve always – always looked for a community of people who had me and kind of shared my passions for things. Because sometimes when you talk to people who aren’t passionate or don’t share the same things as you, it comes across as very compelling. I just kind of had a period in my life, where I was just like, I don’t want to have to convince anybody. I don’t have to convince people to like the things I find cool or to think that the things I find cool have value.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: It was Eddie Ko, a communications junior and founder and co-chairman of SWAN. Since fall 2021, Eddie has sought to create a space for student artists to produce original written work.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Allison Arguezo, and you’re listening to Sound Source, a podcast about Northwestern’s music scene. This episode is about the newest campus music club working to bring songwriters together: the Songwriters Association at Northwestern, also known as SWAN.


EDDIE KO: There are places where music is alive on campus. there are performance opportunities, but I found a lot of them were for people who were super established as artists, people who wanted to do it professionally.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: He wanted a less formal space, with fewer barriers to entry for students. With this new idea, Eddie began putting up posters to help generate interest in the club. That’s how co-president and Bienen sophomore Anna Castagnaro, along with other current board members, discovered SWAN. Anna echoed Eddie’s sentiment regarding the lack of spaces to make original works.

ANNA CASTAGNARO: We just realized that there really wasn’t space on campus for musicians to kind of create their own works and really feel seen by the community for it. And so it can be like just getting help composing or producing or just trying to find a space to perform their new works in a low-stakes environment.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: For the Vice President and McCormick sophomore Garrett Lee, SWAN is both a place where students can perform their original work and a place where they can find new inspiration.

GARRET LEE: I was in this place where I was constantly composing the same thing. So part of the reason I joined SWAN was to get more ideas, but also to try and approach my songwriting/songs in a different way.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: So what specifically does SWAN do? The club offers what it calls open music sessions, or studio sessions, where students can get advice and experiment with their music and composition. Bienen junior Sebastian Ortiz is one of the members who helps run the studio sessions.

SEBASTIAN ORTIZ: General members will come, and we will help them write a song. So whether it’s helping them with chord progressions, or any ideas that we could bounce back with them.

ANNA CASTAGNARO: It’s just cool. It’s cool to see people in small groups come in, maybe once a week, and work on stuff with them, and it’s like their own personal journey.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: SWAN also hosts different types of music-related events, such as its “How I Made” speaker event.

ANNA CASTAGNARO: It was sort of the spearhead of the outreach team and they got Moyana Olivia, one of the student songwriters, who is also in Bienen with me, to tell everyone about her writing process and the original music she composed. And it was really inspiring to see people show up to that and also, for me as a musician, it was really cool.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Looking to the future, the club strives to establish consistent quarterly events.

EDDIE KO: So for the fall, our plan would be to do, like, a party formation event or a party battle. Winter would be like kind of a quieter, more laid back neighborhood, like an open mic event or something. But it’s a bit muted and cold because in the background we’re preparing for the spring show, which will be like our main annual big show.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: This year, that spring show Eddie mentioned was Kresgepalooza. Here he plays his original song,Freshman friends at the event.

EDDIE KO: So for a long time, our discussions were just spring shows. We just called it Spring Show. At the end of winter term, I was wandering the halls of our lovely Kresge Centennial Hall and came up with this idea for Kresgepalooza.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Kresgepalooza, which took place on Friday, May 13, used different rooms across Kresge to showcase different student artists in a variety of “colorful” rooms, such as the Yellow Room, Blue Room, Dark Room, Red Room and more. Again. Both Garrett and Sebastian said the event was a great experience for artists and audiences.

GARRET LEE: There was this time when the performers had their soundcheck, but there were like five groups of performers, and they were like doing soundchecks for each other. They listen to each other’s music and think “Oh, that’s so cool”.

SEBASTIAN ORTIZ: It was very, very surprising to see such an intimate setting between the artists and the public. Because you can really say that the audience was invested and interested in what the performers had to say.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Interested in joining the club? The co-chairs said don’t worry about skill level.

EDDIE KO: Anyone can join SWAN. Accessibility is one of the main things we want to emphasize.

ANNA CASTAGNARO: Yeah, I think our goal is just to have a tight-knit community of musicians who can just make music. And I feel like accessibility is just a basic form of allowing that to happen.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Sebastian said SWAN would be happy to help any student through their musical process.

SEBASTIAN ORTIZ: I just want to start, you know, you can definitely come, and we’ll help you with all your ideas, even if you don’t know music theory, that’s for sure. Come and we’ll find something. We are a resource available to students.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: In addition to helping students become better musicians, SWAN hopes to develop a community of music lovers. Eddie said one of his favorite things about SWAN meet new people and get out of your comfort zone.

EDDIE KO: Learning to like meeting people, going up to people and saying, “Do you like this artist too? No way, me too. And sharing my songs with other people is something that has scared me for so long. And that’s something that SWAN really helped me start doing.

ANNA CASTAGNARO: Yeah, I think SWAN is just a really good place to be if you don’t know where you want to be musically, because I think it will help you as well as find other musicians who are in the same place. It’s always good to join, and just start and see if you like it. Chances are you will, and chances are you’ll find a great community that’s just as passionate about music as you are.


ALLISON ARGUEZO: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Allison Arguezo. Thanks for listening to another episode of Sound Source. The music for this episode was produced by SWAN member Donovan Batts. This episode was reported and produced by me. The Daily Northwestern’s Audio Editor is Lucia Barnum, Digital Editors are Will Clark and Katrina Pham, and Managing Editor is Jacob Fulton. Be sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @allisonarguezo

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