Storytelling school

SU alum produces ‘guitar-driven storytelling’ with her music

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Even though Gillian Pelkonen has been playing and recording music since she was a child, she says she still gets nervous every time she is about to perform at a show. For Pelkonen, performing nerves are an inevitable part of being a musician, despite the abundance of musical experience and education she possesses.

“The only thing worse than being nervous about playing is not playing,” Pelkonen said. “The more I did it the easier it got and it really helped that a lot of people in my group were my really good friends… so it definitely made it easier, being able to look to my left and right and know that if I fell , people would catch up with me.

Pelkonen is a 2020 graduate of Syracuse University, where she studied television, radio, and film at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Pelkonen also holds a Masters in Audio Arts from SU. Originally from Long Island, New York, Pelkonen now lives in the Hudson Valley and works as an assistant sound engineer for Dreamland Recording Studio.

Outside of his 9-to-5 job, Pelkonen’s own musical career ranges from writing his own songs and singing with his band, Gill with the G, to sound engineering and teaching sessions. individual for audio recording.

Pelkonen said she grew up performing in talent shows and musicals before college. She added that she was influenced by the music her father listened to, which included bands like the Beatles, Styx and Van Halen. Pelkonen was also able to start recording music at a young age with the help of his father.

Although her current influences are constantly changing, she has said she draws inspiration from independent artists such as Phoebe Bridgers and Christian Lee Hutson and music producers like Jack Antonoff and Ethan Gruska. Pelkonen said she hopes her audience can connect their own interpretations to her songs.

“I don’t know how other people perceive my music – I don’t even know how to perceive it,” Pelkonen said. “It would be great if people thought I was a unique indie artist, but I feel like everything I do is super derivative, because I’m influenced by a lot of things.”

Pelkonen has described his music as pushing the boundaries of traditional acoustic indie as it does not exclusively use acoustic instruments and incorporates a folk style. She said she writes, sings and designs all of her own music to produce “guitar driven storytelling”.

While in Syracuse, Pelkonen performed with the group Main Squeeze a cappella, as well as in house shows and in groups of friends. Pelkonen met current SU seniors Sarah Gross and Lauren Goodyear through Main Squeeze, and they collaborated on music together.

“She’s a multi-talented woman,” Gross said. “It’s often hard to tell where she’s best because she’s such a creative and a very visionary person, and I think anyone who comes in contact with her is immediately inspired to do more. And I’m always amazed by the number of hats she wears and her passion for each one.

Goodyear sang backup harmonies for house shows and recordings of Pelkonen songs. Pelkonen serves as a role model for Goodyear, who has said she hopes to work in the music industry after graduation.

“I really admire how she’s gone and she’s made all these moves in such a short time and found such a beautiful niche location that still carries weight and recognition,” Goodyear said.

Pelkonen also continued to work with SU Recordings, but she was not signed until her second year. They made her an experimental artist where she could work with someone who could improve her songs.

The pandemic disrupted Pelkonen’s internship and post-grad plans, so she decided to pursue her Masters in Audio Arts at SU before entering the industry.

“At first I wanted to go get my MFA in writing, then I kind of pivoted when that didn’t work out. And I got my Masters in Audio Arts, which is like a combination of VPA and Newhouse, because I felt really passionate about working on music, but I didn’t feel like my skills were where I needed to be to find a job,” says Pelkonen.

Pelkonen’s years of education and experience are a major resource in her day-to-day work as an assistant sound engineer, where she helps set up equipment for recording sessions and communicate with artists.

Despite her level of experience, Pelkonen said she faces the challenges of being a woman in the music industry.

“As a woman, you’re always challenged and you always question yourself in any area, because that’s how we’re raised,” Pelkonen said. “I have a master’s degree and I always feel inadequate in spaces where people who know (less) and have done less come in and don’t doubt themselves that way.”

Over the next few months, listeners can expect the launch of Pelkonen’s official website, new releases and live broadcasts.

“It’s never too late to start, which I guess everyone says, but it’s so true,” Pelkonen said. “And if that’s what you want, you’ll find a way to do it, and if people make you feel worse, then you’re probably not with the right people,” Pelkonen said.