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Monmouth Music Artists: The Not-So-Hidden Gems

Monmouth University is filled with incredibly talented individuals when it comes to music, and on-campus organizations like Blue Hawk Records and MU Players showcase these talented young people. Three Monmouth students in particular have been making their way into the music world for years now. Consisting of three different distinct genres and sounds, they all stem from one thing: their love of music and creating it.

Olivia Melfi, a junior music industry student, has been singing and songwriting since she was twelve. Melfi mentioned her anxiety and shyness when it came to singing in public and how she didn’t conquer her fear until coming to Monmouth. Singing and writing songs in her bedroom was one thing, but sharing her creativity with others was something that took time. Until about a year and a half ago, she needed to get over her fear and stop hiding behind the scenes. She said, “I was scared to get attention and for anyone to hear me sing and hear my songs. But that changed eventually, and I now wanna be in the forefront and want to share my music and my voice with everybody.”

You may recognize the name Olivia Melfi because she is featured on the Blue Hawk Records 19th Compilation Album, “Back on Track.” Her song “All This, All That” is a pop ballad that will have your head nodding. One of the notable things about Melfi’s artistry is her knack for songwriting and lyricism. She mentioned how being in pop music has no limitations for her as far as what her songs and lyrics are supposed to look like. Her song “Place Card,” incorporates both rock and pop elements. It starts off slow and sad, then transitions towards the end into more of a rock-centric feel.

Melfi is involved with Blue Hawk Records on campus and credits them with helping her evolve as an artist, as well as having help from Lakehouse Recording Studio in Asbury Park. “There’s not many schools in the country that can say they have that—being able to release a song through a record label at their school and record it in a state-of-the-art recording studio. It’s such a privilege, and I’m so honored to be a part of that,” Melfi said. Look out for Melfi’s upcoming Christmas cover of Alvin and the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” which comes out Nov. 17.

Another Monmouth artist who’s been making music for years is Samantha Spano, a junior music industry student. She grew up on every kind of music imaginable: heavy metal, doo-wop, and folk, to name a few. But country music is where her heart truly lies. “Country music made it okay to say you were hurting, and [it also lets you] know that other people had felt that at one time. Country music made it okay for me to say things that I was too scared to say otherwise,” Spano explained.

Country music artists like Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift inspired Spano to pull people in with the same type of storytelling. Spano is also actively involved with Blue Hawk Records on campus and was on their 19th Compilation Album, performing her song “Whiskey Don’t Work.” Spano has come out with the songs, “Lie to Me” and “Jesus Tattoo,” which reel you in with infectious southern drawl. Who doesn’t love a badass country song? Spano explained her songwriting process and how she loves to create characters and storylines. “…I find it really funny when certain people try to pinpoint which song is about who because, spoiler alert, most of the people in my songs are not real,” she revealed. “The men will be shaking in their boots about that one.”

Spano brings back the Nashville twang sound with her Carrie Underwood meets Lainey Wilson vibe. You can find her playing at the Asbury Ale House on Nov. 30 and the Wonder Bar on Dec. 9. Keep an eye out for this Coastal Cowgirl because she is definitely not going anywhere!

Another genre Monmouth explores is rap. Justin Ume is a senior at Monmouth studying music industry and goes by the stage name UMÉ. Ume explained how creativity has always been with him in his life, whether it was basketball or running his own clothing brand. He didn’t start full-time with music until 2018. Ume now writes music not only for himself, but also for many different artists. “I love working with different people, but I also love my own vision and building my own sound,” he said. “It’s something about being able to do both to me that’s really prideful but also very, very valuable. And I love the creative journey of it all.”

Ume explained that his writing process varies; sometimes it takes hours, days, or even months. He said, “There’s times where I need to sit and take a step back, live a little bit and experience things, feelings, moods, and go through the ups and downs. That helps me to draw inspiration that I can add to my music.” Ume has learned to trust the process and that the creativity will flow through at the right moment to create something special.

Ume recently dropped his new song “Baggage Claim,” which is about your flaws, growing up, and claiming your own identity. Essentially, it’s about “claiming your baggage.” Ume’s rap sound is entirely unique in its own right. Not only is it lyrically impressive, but he manages to create a beat that will reel people in. You can find all his songs, like “PISCES” and “Case Closed,” on streaming platforms.

There is never a shortage of talent here at Monmouth University. Music is something that bonds and connects people of all different cultures, regions, religions, and more. If you want to be in music, what’s stopping you? As Melfi put it, “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent, so if you have a talent in life, don’t let it go to waste because you’ll have no idea how you could better your life and positively affect others.”