Héloïse Goncalves '23
When it comes to UMass Amherst’s Registered Student Organizations—better known as RSOs—there’s a little something for everyone. There’s 3D Printing Club, Competitive Bass Fishing, Belly Dancing Club, and now, thanks to Vocal Jazz and Jazz Lab Ensemble vocalist Héloïse Goncalves ‘23, there’s the university’s first-ever Songwriting and Production Club.
Though it only became an official RSO in October 2022, the UMass Songwriting and Production Club had been a long time in the making.
Goncalves, a music education major with a lifelong love of performing and music, was inspired to create it after two particularly memorable classes. In the spring of her sophomore year, she took a music theory class with Professor Miriam Piilonen, which touched on some aspects of songwriting and first sparked her interest.
But her passion grew this summer when she enrolled in a songwriting class taught by none other than Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, and record producer Charlie Puth. (Seriously.)
“I wanted to learn more about songwriting and production, so I reached out Professor Piilonen to talk about it,” Goncalves says. “I was hoping she would create a class or curriculum that touched on songwriting.”
Instead, her professor suggested they create a club and open it up to other students. So, during the fall of Goncalves’s junior year, Songwriting Club was born.
“It was kind of rough. I started by myself,” she says. “Usually when people start clubs, there’s already a group formed, but I was in a situation where I was alone.”
She reached out to a few friends she thought might be interested in joining, but many said they wouldn't have time between their heavy courseloads, internships, extracurriculars, and jobs.
Yet they held the first meeting anyway—and more than a few people showed up.
Goncalves began leading weekly workshops on songwriting. Yet it was difficult to manage all aspects of the club on her own, especially when occasionally only a handful of people would show up to a meeting.
“We had a lot of people who were interested in attending, but some weren’t interested in making the club official; they were just interested in making music,” Goncalves explains. “Thankfully, in the spring [of my junior year], there were a few others who were interested in trying to help me, and we all became friends.”
Together, she and her friends hashed out specifics of what they wanted the club to look like, when meetings would be held, how they would market themselves, and soon enough, the Songwriting Club had more than 200 members and was meeting twice per week.
On Tuesdays, the club hosts workshops where Goncalves or another club member will present on music production or songwriting for about thirty minutes. Following the presentation, everyone breaks up into groups to try to apply what they just learned.
Then, on Wednesdays, the club offers time and space to simply hang out, share music, and get to know one another.
“People come in and show their current projects and current songs. Some people will come in and start writing a song during that hour,” Goncalves says. “I just wanted to increase the community building.”
The club also hosts guest speakers and even open mics, the most recent of which was held at The Drake in downtown Amherst.
“At first, it was tough to get people to participate. I didn’t realize how vulnerable it is to share your own music,” she says. “But now we’ve actually built friendships, and people feel a lot more comfortable sharing stuff and getting feedback from other people.”
In addition to her role with the club, Goncalves is involved in several music and vocal ensembles, including Vocal Jazz, and she’s also studying to become a teacher.
“For me, the right path was music education. It felt comforting to know that after my four years, I could teach in public schools,” she says. “I’m really excited about teaching middle schoolers especially. I really love that age period of adolescence. I think our role as a teacher is so important during those times.”
Despite juggling a lot, Goncalves says she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I wish I had gotten involved in more even sooner,” she says. “The Songwriting Club allows me to do my own projects, and also help promote other people’s music. We’ve built a great community.”
To learn more about the UMass Songwriting and Production Club, follow them on Instagram @umasssongwriters.
(Story by Crystal Maldonado, Director of Marketing & Communications for the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.)