Student Spotlight: Ember Szaflarski ’23

Student Spotlight
This story appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Indian Springs Magazine.

Ember Szaflarski ’23
is a free spirit who grew up traveling the world. When the pandemic began during their ninth-grade year, being quarantined at home brought about many new emotions, and they turned to creating music as an escape.

“I was feeling trapped by the limits of being in one place all the time,” says Ember. “ I still had some inspiration to work on my music, but I was craving a new experience.” 

As travel restrictions were relaxed in the summer of 2021, Ember received a scholarship from Indian Springs’ Andy Abroms Memorial Fund to attend a songwriting workshop at the Berklee College of Music, the alma mater of 125 Grammy Award-winning musicians. 

“When I got there, it felt amazing,” says Ember. “It was like the world was a mountain, and there was so much more than just this rock I’d been living under.”

At the workshop, Ember was energized to find themselves surrounded by like-minded peers who were equally as passionate about writing music. Ember took advantage of the atmosphere to let loose and build their skills and confidence in improvisation and performance, specifically on their favorite instrument, the bass guitar.

“The trick to being a good bass player is knowing when to keep it simple and when to put in your own flavor while maintaining your specific style,” says Ember.

Suppose you have witnessed Ember in their element riffing in one of Indian Springs’ concerts or theatrical productions or teaching as an assistant in the contemporary music program. You might never guess they have only been playing for two years. They started out learning musical theory on the piano with the intent of producing electronic music and first picked up a guitar out of curiosity while visiting a cousin in Poland.

Ember has released two tracks on streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music, under the moniker “Autumndreammerr.” They are especially proud of the second track, “Moonrise,” which has an improvised bass solo and varying time signatures. Ember describes the style as art-rock with components inspired by anime and funk. They enjoy music from all around the world and genres ranging from progressive rock to jazz fusion—“music with layers where you can find something new every time you listen to it.” Their next release will be instrumental math rock, emphasizing progressive riffs and unconventional harmonies.

“The thing is, I haven’t had much experience playing that type of music,” says Ember. “It’s going to be difficult to write something coherent that I’ll actually be able to play, but I’m ready for that. I feel like I need a challenge, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Ember plans to produce an album of music characterizing each year of their high school experience and journey. Though they enjoy making the music, writing the lyrics is just as important. They always start with the lyrics when crafting a new song with vocals.

“In addition to the instruments, the lyrics are another aspect of composition where I can convey the emotion that I want a song to have,” says Ember. “Music translates feelings into a form that all people can understand, and I would love for my music to be able to reach others on multiple levels, both with sound and with words.”

Ember draws inspiration from singing alongside their friends in Indian Springs’ concert and chamber choirs, being “encased in a sphere of sound.” But their most significant source of inspiration and the thing they appreciate most about Indian Springs is nature.