Ross School - Senior Project 2007-08

Student: Taylor Schiffman

Mentor: Hailey London


Title: "What Doesn't Break Me, Makes Me...It Made Me"


For my senior project I composed a demo consisting of two original songs. I have always found music to be inspiring and therapeutic and I wanted others to feel the same way by listening to my music. My songs are directed towards inspiration, and to know that life will always be alright even when it seems like it’s the end. In addition, I wrote a paper which consists of background information on the effects music has on the mind of humans. I researched aspects of music therapy then took 10 lyrics by different artists and examined them to find the meaning and inspiration within each song. In my paper I explain how these lyrics inflict happiness, and what they do to the listener.



Songs: Everything/Today and Tomorrow


I first started thinking about my Senior Project back in tenth grade. I always knew I wanted Ms. London to be my mentor but I was not quite sure what my project was going to be, however I knew it had to be in the Performing Arts domain. My first idea was to do a rendition of a few scenes from the musical Rent. The problem with that idea is I knew I would not be able to perform in my project because I would have to be directing my actors, and I wanted to be able to perform. My next idea was to do fundraising for the schools in New Orleans but I once again realized that wasn't exactly what I wanted to do. The idea that I had, and the idea that I went into my Senior Year with was to work with orphanages. I was going to work with children and teach them different songs, skits, and different dances. Problems occurred with that when the Orphanages weren't calling me back and it began to become too confusing to coordinate. Thats when I thought up my final idea. I was going to record a demo of four original songs, and figure out a topic to write a paper on.

I knew that I wanted my songs to not be ordinary, but songs that were inspirational and could help my listeners if they may be going through a difficult period in their lives. I began my process. I began thinking of situations I wanted to write about. Usually when I have written songs, and recored demos before I always wrote the lyrics first and then would think of melody. I soon realized that this wasn't working for this particular project. I then tried to write the melody, and then the lyrics, which ended up working for me. Then I had to figure out how I would tie in the English domain with the Performing Arts domain. I decided to write a paper about the way lyrics effect the mind. I began researching various cases of Music Therapy, and started to do research on the various songs, and artist I was going to be talking about. The songs that I used in my paper were "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash, "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen, "Keep Ya Head Up", by Tupac, "I Know I Can", By Nas, "Don't Give Up", by Peter Gabriel, and "We Are The World" by Michael Jackson. I started to research what these songs meant to the artist that either wrote them, or performed them. I wanted my listeners to listen to my music and turn to passion and positive thinking, as opposed to self destruction.

The main phrase that I focused on throughout this project is, "music is not geared towards one age group." Meaning that a ten year old child, and a forty year old adult could be listening to the same song miles apart and be able to relate to it in someway. Music is extremely healing and versatile. My goals for this project was to convey the message of inspiration. I really wanted the listeners to get a full understanding of what my lyrics were trying to do and find ways to connect my interests. I wanted to be able to tie in two domains rather than just focus on one, because I feel that is a very important skill to acquire. To record two very different song styles. My first song "Everything," is  song that is obviously inspirational. It is about a boy who is about to give up on himself and he feels as if he can not carry on any longer. In the chorus I repeatedly say "You are are've got everything..everything you need." In my second song "Today and Tomorrow" it is a song where the listeners really have to find the meaning underneath the lyrics. Which means that by just listening to it quickly  a person will not be able to tell that this song is very inspirational. This is a song which really takes time to listen to.

I wanted to understand the process of writing lyrics with a theme, as opposed to just writing freely without a time cap. I also wanted to make sure that I would finish on time, not only to get a good grade, but to fulfill my own needs and prove to myself that I could actually finish within the time cap. I had many challenges, but also many discoveries along the way. My first conflict was time management. In the beginning I was missing some deadlines and I thought I had more time then I did. The times that I set out for myself in the end actually all got pushed back about a week.  The next big challenge for me was the conflict with my music teacher. In the end of October my guitar teacher of five years, who was going to help me with this process and find my a recording studio, told me he could no longer help me due to personal issues. At this time I was completely frantic and I was certain that I wasn't going to finish. I then was informed that my boyfriends father John Mascali was a musician and had written many songs in his life. He helped me with absolutely everything, finding a recording studio, listening to my lyrics, playing on my demo, and performing with me on Performance Night. Without his help I could never have done this.

I was having a lot of trouble with sticking to my theme while writing my lyrics. I had wrote twelve songs throughout this whole process, and none of them conveyed the theme that I was trying to find. So that took me a very long time. It ended up taking me about three months to write these two songs. I acquired many skills along the way. I learned how to write lyrics with a theme in mind, sing in a higher key. I wrote both songs in a high key because I wanted to challenge myself throughout this process, and I was able to handle it. I learned how to feel comfortable with performing my original songs, I learned more about the recording process, I learned how to focus and actually research on one particular topic, I learned how to analyze lyrics, connect two topics, and to finish a long term project.

At the end of this project I had a large amount of personal significance.  I was able to bring my music to the public, the chance to connect my two major interests, and to search the meanings beneath the lyrics. For the future I plan to continue compose, write lyrics, and sing. I will continue to perform my music, however I do not plan on being a forty year old woman singing at local restaurants tying to live out my dream. I will not be researching in the future, although I will be taking psychology classes during Colleges. I am very fortunate to be able to go to The Ross School, and to have this opportunity to do a project like this.

Works Cited or Works Consulted

Coulter, Janie R. How Inspiring: Tapping Into Songwriting. Feb. 2000. Viewed 11 Nov. 2007. <>.

Davis, Kevin. Does Music Soothe the Savage Beast Within? Jan. 2000. Viewed 11 Dec. 2007. <>.

Gabriel, Peter. LyricsFreak. Viewed 14 Dec. 2007.<                                       20107494.html>.

Jackson, Michael. Lyrics007. 28 Dec. 2007 Viewed 12 Dec. 2007<       %20Are%20the%20World%20Lyrics.html>.

 “Live Aid.” Wikipedia. 27 Jan. 2008. Viewed 11 Nov. 2007. <>.

Nash, Johnny. St Lyrics. 2007 Viewed 11 Nov. 2007.<>.

Nas. Lyrics007. 28.Dec. 2007. Viewed 10 Dec. 2007. <>.

Oliver, Rob. Can Music Heal? Viewed 12 Dec. 2007. <>.

Poultney, David. Studying Music History Learning, Reasoning, and Writing About Music History and Literature. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1996.

Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia Tales of Music and the Brain. Canada: Alfred a Knopf, 2007.

Springsteen, Bruce. Lyrics Mode. 2007. Viewed 14 Dec. 2007. <>.

Tupac Metro Lyrics. 2008. Viewed 12 Dec. 2007. <>.

The Tweakmeister, Rich. Your Music, Inspiration and Style. 2002. Viewed 11 Nov. 2007.<>.

Community Member (Details)

My outside consultant was John Mascali. John Mascali is a musician and songwriter who helped me through my entire process. Not only did he help me find a recording studio, read all of my songs, give me advice, but he also played on my Performance Night as well. I owe much credit to him, and am so thankful to have used him for this project. I was able to meet with him twice a week since the last week of October, and that was incredible for me because I had a lot of time to work with him throughout this experience. I also went with him to the recording studio five times, where John Schultz his friend was the engineer and lead guitarist, and his friend Pat who played the drums for my project.