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For You & Me: Coco's talent on display

Tristan Paulette '27

Apr 19, 2024

“It was the most rewarding moment of my life. Seeing people enjoying my music makes me so happy… I learned about myself, and I found my music and songwriting style,” said Coco Zhai ‘24. The event that she was speaking about was her capstone performance, titled “For You & Me.” She played a variety of songs, most of them self-written and produced. Her originals carried an extra twist: they were inspired by people at Mercersburg. For example, “Conversations” was inspired by Ben Cho ‘24, and “What I Want to Say to You” was inspired by Maria Rihn ‘24, both people who have impacted her life. In addition to those songs, she performed her originals, “Until the End,” “Stay with Me,” “With You,” and “Wish List,” “Losing Happiness,” and “Falling For U.”

In addition to gaining inspiration from the personal growth of her friends and classmates, she has also seen herself evolve as an artist. “This year, I did a lot of extra work in order to improve as an artist. I've been studying AP Music to enhance my music theory knowledge, I took music classes twice a week outside of school to study production and songwriting, and also I did a lot of research during my capstone class.” About the challenges of the Arts Practicum, Zhai said, “I think it was the songwriting process. It is hard to write 10 new songs within a month, I had to really squeeze ideas out of my mind and make sure it's good. I learned about myself, and I found my music and songwriting style. As well as how to really manage time effectively due to the huge amount of work I had to put in. I would recommend the arts practicum capstone for the students who want to be fully immersed in the arts. It takes a lot of time and creativity, but it surely is rewarding.”

The audience hooted their approval after each piece. Pema Namdol ‘27 said, “I really enjoyed the show, and I thought that she had some really good songs. The energy of the crowd was really good.” She continued, “They were all new songs, and I thought that she did pretty good in all of them. I thought it was really fun to see someone who I know has a lot of talent and see everyday get to show it off in front of everyone.”

Kristen Pixler, Fine Arts Teacher has watched Zhai develop in her years at Mercersburg. “She came to Mercersburg with such a background in music and performing,” she said. Pixler emphasized Zhai’s need for time to prepare and a specific space to write, create, and perform her works. “She wrote all of those songs!” she said, “I mean the amount she has done in such a short time… is incredible.” When asked about the performance itself, she had this to say: "She is such a strong performer… If you were there, all of her friends, everyone who was there was singing along, super engaged with what she was doing… Not surprisingly, she had a packed house and more would have come if there was space. I think it was just an absolute celebration of her and it was wonderful and it was one of the most special performances I have ever seen… It was tremendous, it was a wonderful night and I hope she feels the pride and the love from the community.”

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