Broadcasting her songs to a broader audience

Writing a song is fulfilling. Performing it for a radio station located on another continent is exhilarating. Since the summer of 2020, senior Rebecca Marcelo has reached thousands with her songs dedicated to vulnerability and self-empowerment.

Marcelo was selected for a virtual performance in August 2020 through Wish USA, a branch of the Filipino radio station Wish 107.5 that traditionally allows aspiring artists to showcase their music by performing as a guest on a bus.  Because of the limitations of the pandemic and potential Internet issues, Wish USA showcased a pre-recorded performance of Marcelo. In between songs during the show — which occurred August 23 — the host, DJ Teej, interviewed her on an Instagram livestream.

“I’m so used to just publishing [my songs] through Spotify or SoundCloud and then getting feedback through text. Speaking with someone face to face virtually is so different because you see their reaction more vividly. I also get really nervous on camera, but it’s really fun — it’s exhilarating,” Marcelo said.

In addition to the songs “Still Hurting” by Anna Kendrick and “Listen” by Beyonce, Marcelo performed her single “i’m sorry,” which is centered around her experience with unrequited love and self-acceptance. 

“[‘i’m sorry’] is actually kind of ironic — I’m not actually sorry, it’s more of a sarcastic type of apology where I’m like, ‘I’m sorry,’ to the people who didn’t believe in me. It’s a song about me feeling not good enough and realizing [that] I am,” Marcelo said. “Sometimes, I don’t know how to express [my emotions] to people and I’m very close-minded. But when I write it down and I make it into a song, for some reason, it just comes out easier. That’s why I’ve been writing songs; it made me realize how much it inspires people and how much people relate to it.”

After receiving positive feedback on YouTube for “i’m sorry,” Marcelo released three singles and extended plays (EPs) — “i’m sorry,” “blue” and “wish i could be like every other girl” — on Spotify in early September of 2020. Each song has garnered around 1,000 streams and views on Spotify and YouTube. 

“I’m still processing it,” Marcelo said. “I just released [the song] and the feedback that I got is crazy. I’m feeling overwhelmed in a good way — like a good stress — and I’m really excited about the songs I’m going to make and more opportunities to come for me.”

As a fourth-year Rhapsody in Blue member and chamber singer at Walnut High School, Marcelo learns vocal techniques and performance strategies that she applies to her own music. Through her involvement in school choirs, she is able to experience performing in a different environment with different expectations than releasing music online. Her exposure to singing in a large group setting also helped her gain confidence in her style of singing and songwriting. 

“I joined the school choir because I was shy when it came to my music and singing, especially during freshman year. I thought choir would help me gain more confidence and friends,” Marcelo said. “It helped me find my style because with choir, there’s this stigma that you have to have a certain voice in order to be in unison, but our teacher is more about individuality and how you choose to express yourself. I definitely learned more about my style and finding [my] own voice.”

Throughout her childhood, Marcelo took dance and voice lessons, which shaped her interest in music and the arts. From ages 10 to 13, she also taught herself how to play the piano, ukulele and guitar by following YouTube videos. Marcelo began writing and producing songs at age 14, but it wasn’t until two years later that she began releasing them to the public. Her songwriting consists of transforming arbitrary thoughts into structured words and lyrics. She then works out an accompaniment by creating a rhythm and instrumental. She draws inspiration from the artists Conan Gray, dodie and girl in red for both her lyrics and the style of her instrumentals. 

“I love how music can connect people; it doesn’t matter what language you speak, it doesn’t matter who you are — if you go through one experience, it’s likely that another person has gone through that experience and that just brings people together,” Marcelo said. “What I want [listeners] to gain is some sort of feeling that makes the song feel personal the way it feels personal to me.”

Marcelo has plans to pursue singing and songwriting as a career. As of recently, she is focused on applying for a vocalist position in the United States Navy Band. The band is the official musical organization of the U.S. Navy and typically performs at ceremonies.

“I was surrounded by music my entire life, so I can’t live without music without feeling like a part of me is missing,” Marcelo said. “When you love something so much, it drives you to go beyond what you ever thought you were capable of. With music, I have a growth mindset because I love it so much and I would do anything for it. The way I see it, this is just the beginning.”

By Emily Cao, Feature Editor
Photo courtesy of Becca Marcelo