GLYNDON SENIOR SINGS
SOPHIA PAFFENBACK, STUDENT, GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER CENTER FOR ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY
Performing her own music in her own way
By TEAM BCPS
MEET SOPHIA PAFFENBACK, WHO PERFORMS AS SOPHIA BRYTER
Sophia Paffenback, a rising senior at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, might soon also be climbing the music charts.
The Glyndon resident is enrolled in Carver Center’s digital instrumental music prime. Using the stage name Sophia Bryter, she is a singer/songwriter committed to her own authenticity and autonomy.
Identifying Fiona Apple as her musical role model, Sophia says, “I want to perform music that I make and I write. I want to do it the way I want to do it.” Reflecting on the music industry and its legacy of record companies and others altering artists’ images, Sophia says, “I want to shape myself.”
“I want to perform music that I make and I write. I want to do it the way I want to do it.” - Sophia
Sophia (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
Sophia recording at Stages Music Arts (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
And she is doing just that.
She fronts her own band, and an album of her original music – her first – will come out later this summer. She is using money earned from summer jobs, band gigs, and a little help from her parents to pay for album production. Two singles from the album, “Paranoid” and “Ghost Town,” have already been released. Her next single, “Diablo Des Flores,” drops on July 8. She distributes her music on all streaming platforms, promotes her music via Instagram, and performs throughout the area at places such as Zen West, Wits End Saloon, and The Recher.
“I have been nonstop reaching out and emailing people,” Sophia explains, “reaching out to radio stations and such, and trying to line up performances.” Evidence of her success? She will be playing at the Ottobar on August 18. “I booked that myself,” she says.
cover art for Sophia's single “Paranoid,” reated by Izzy Vallar, a Carver Center visual arts student
Sophia Bryter, Morgan Gonce, Oliver Unger, and Andrew Young recording vocals at Stages Music Arts. (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
Morgan Gonce, Sophia Bryter, and Oliver Unger rehearsing (Photo by Brigette Paffenback )
Sophia Bryter on keys, Morgan Gonce on guitar, Oliver Unger on bass, and Andrew Young on drums, recording at Stages Music Arts. (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
WRITING SONGS BECAUSE SHE NEEDS TO WRITE THEM
In addition to the 11 tracks on her album, Sophia estimates that she has probably written more than 50 more songs in her lifetime. During the COVID quarantine, she says it felt like she was writing a song a day. “Much to my parents dismay,” she laughs. “I was constantly on the piano.”
Asked about her songwriting process, Sophia says, “It all depends on what you are feeling at the moment. It happens differently every single time. Sometimes it starts with a lyric you hear in your head. A lot of times the music and the lyrics come at the same time for me.”
“The thing about writing songs for me,” she continues, “is that I write them because I need to write them. I need that outlet. When you are writing as a necessity, as a way to understand a situation, it is so satisfying to finish that song. You don’t need to do anything with it. Through the process of writing it, I understand how I feel. There is nothing more understanding than my piano and my notebook.”
“When you are writing as a necessity, as a way to understand a situation, it is so satisfying to finish that song. . . There is nothing more understanding than my piano and my notebook.” - Sophia
SINGING AT AGE 5, PIANO AT AGE 6
Sophia’s musical journey began quite early. She was accepted into the Peabody Children’s Chorus at age 5 and began playing the piano at age 6. She remained a member of the chorus for 9 years.
“My mom (Brigette Paffenback) says that I started singing when I came out of the womb,” Sophia laughs.
During her earliest years with the chorus, her mother would wait for her during rehearsals, often sitting outside the office of the piano department chair. One day, she attracted the attention of the department chair and convinced her to listen to Sophia play.
Sophia in the Peabody Children's Chorus, May 6, 2012
Sophia practicing her piano playing, November 6, 2011 (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
Sophia practicing piano at home. May 19, 2013. (From a home video shot by Brigette Paffenback)
“I could play a line from a song from ‘The Little Mermaid,” Sophia says.
Apparently, she played it well enough that the department chair connected the family with piano instructor Hanchien Lee. “That was one of the best decisions,” Sophia says. “Ms. Lee was an unbelievable teacher for me. She moved to Philly a few years ago, and now I work with one of her friends, Grace Kim, who is equally amazing.”
Sophia also received music lessons through the Peabody Pedagogy Program for three years. Through that program, students working toward their master’s degrees at Peabody earn college credits by teaching younger students.
While she was a member of the Peabody Children’s Chorus, Sophia attended Franklin Elementary School and then Sacred Heart School of Glyndon for middle school.
“Franklin Elementary was a great experience for me,” Sophia says. “I loved it there and had wonderful teachers. I participated in the school choir and orchestra.”
It was in Grade 8 that she began songwriting. “Once I started, I couldn’t stop,” she says.
“I come from an artistic family,” Sophia notes. “My mom is a photographer, and she takes many of the photos I use for my marketing. My dad (Bill Paffenback) was a musician when I was little. He had his own band, the Devils You Know. One of the places they played was The Recher on York Road in Towson. I think that’s especially cool, because now I have performed there, too.”
Sophia with her dad at one of his solo gigs. March 15 2008. (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
Outtake from “Ghost Town” cover. (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
Sophia (Photo by Brigette Paffenback)
FINDING AN ARTISTIC COMMUNITY AT CARVER CENTER
When it was time for high school, Sophia knew that she wanted to attend Carver Center and enroll in its Digital Instrumental Prime program. “It’s not too far from home,” she says, “and it is a community. It is not just a place where people are learning; people are connected at Carver. And art is everywhere, literally everywhere. You hear it throughout the building. You see it on every wall.”
“. . . people are connected at Carver. And art is everywhere, literally everywhere. You hear it throughout the building. You see it on every wall.” - Sophia
According to Sophia, in the Digital Instrumental Prime, led by teacher Christopher Bassett, the emphasis is on composition, but also on growing as a musician and learning how to work with other musicians and how to perform together. “We learn how to record and produce our own music,” she adds. “I enjoy it a lot!”
"Sophia is a top-notch singer-songwriter, pianist, and lyricist," says Bassett. "Despite her immense talent, she manages to stay humble and open-minded, and is always open to stepping outside her comfort zone, accepting an outside-the-box challenge, or collaborating with classmates who have different musical inclinations and backgrounds than she has. She is a prime example of the creative individualism and collaborative spirit I like to see in the DIM program."
Sophia admits that virtual learning made school a lot more challenging. “A big part of Carver is the community -- is making relationships and figuring out how to work together. That is hard to do when you can’t be in the same room, but we made it work.”
Along with her classmates, Sophia recently performed at Carver Center during a reception for the Teacher of the Year program. She is involved in the Tri-M Music Honor Society and next year, she will serve as its publicist.
Outside of school, Sophia takes voice lessons with Valerie Adelung, a vocal music teacher and music department chair at Carver Center.
“Sophia is so talented and can often be found practicing the piano or creating beautiful music in her down time,” says Adelung. “Her piano abilities are amazing, and she works hard to constantly improve her skills and learn new ones. . . With her work ethic and passion, I can’t wait to see the amazing opportunities that will open for her in the future!”
“(Sophia's) piano abilities are amazing, and she works hard to constantly improve her skills and learn new ones.” - Valerie Adelung, a vocal music teacher and music department chair at Carver Center
AND MORE COMMUNITY AT STAGES MUSIC ARTS
More than a year ago, Sophia went to an open mic night at Stages, a music school and recording studio in Hunt Valley. “They were so welcoming,” she says. It was there that she met Mitch Treger, a Baltimore based musician and songwriter. She now also performs in his band Mitch Treger & Accomplices.
Stages has two audition-based bands, and Sophia auditioned and was accepted into one of them. The band performs at events throughout the area, including the Dundalk Heritage Festival in July. Sophia has also taken guitar lessons at Stages, and it is where she is recording her album and where she has made strong friendships.
Sophia’s band is comprised of two other Carver Center students, Morgan Gonce and Oliver Unger. Her drummer is not a BCPS student. The cover art for her single “Paranoid” was created by Izzy Vallar, a Carver Center visual arts student.
“I met Morgan when we participated in a virtual concert together at Stages,” Sophia explains. “After that, she reached out to me, and said that she had a lot of fun performing together. That’s when I took a shot and asked her if she wanted to play on my album, which at the time was very much unfinished. Then she came over, and it just worked. She became a big part of the album, and her guitar just fit in so well. Similarly, Oliver heard one of my songs and asked to sit in on one of our sessions. The album would not be what it is without them and my unbelievable drummer, Andrew Young.”
Her bandmates express their mutual admiration. "Sophia is amazing,” Morgan says. “She's not like any other musician I've met before. When I first met her, I was blown away that she could write music so well and be the age that she is. She's the perfect person to collaborate with because she just makes it so easy. I have no doubt that Sophia Bryter will do big things and be a name everyone knows."
“When I first met (Sophia), I was blown away that she could write music so well and be the age that she is. She's the perfect person to collaborate with because she just makes it so easy. I have no doubt that Sophia Bryter will do big things and be a name everyone knows." - Morgan Gonce
Listen out for more from Sophia Bryter!
© 2022 Team BCPS