Student musicians pursue passion, embrace Austin music scene at UT

Peyton Sims, Life & Arts General Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as part of the November 19 flipbook. 

After a week of long, back-to-back classes, government freshman Sydney Skinner strums her guitar at a local coffee shop.

Dedicated to her craft, Skinner said she believes one of the biggest misconceptions about creating music lies in the amount of effort put into it. She knows her aspirations can only be achieved with hard work. 

“The thing that separates the ones that succeed and the ones that fail is consistency,” Skinner said. “You have to be willing to put in blood, sweat and tears every single day.”

When Skinner was 4 years old, she’d lay on her bedroom floor listening to music instead of playing with toys. Now, as an active member in UT’s choir and the chair of songwriting at UTalent Records –– the University’s student-run label –– Skinner is paving her way toward her dream. 

“Music for me has always been an escape,” Skinner said. “I started writing music when I was 14, after my best friend moved to Florida. I feel like every song that I’ve written so far has just been me trying to heal from things that happened within the last year.”

Every time Jackson Cox, an international relations and global studies sophomore, hears Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay, he thinks of car rides to school with his mom, the sounds from the CD filling the vehicle with what are now memories.

“It’s that type of album where if I hear any snippet from a song, I immediately know exactly what song it is,” Cox said. “It was the first album that I was super passionate about.”

After receiving a guitar for Christmas in sixth grade, Cox began to experiment with music. He developed an alternative rock style inspired by favorites such as Coldplay, The Killers and The Strokes.

“During the pandemic, I really took (music) as my main hobby,” Cox said. “I’ve found that concerts are some of the best places to connect, especially around campus. I’m not necessarily trying to build a career out of it, (but) it’s something I’m very passionate about.”

A couple of months ago, Nathaniel Ogren became the lead singer of a band called Yardsale! Performing at gigs around Austin, the sociology and rhetoric and writing sophomore continues to explore his indie-rock style.

“Part of the reason I chose UT was because there was such an amazing live music and student life scene,” Ogren said. “We’ve been developing a relationship with the city.” 

Coming from a musically inclined family and showing his own interest at 6 years old, Ogren said his family always supports him. Besides being his number one fan, Ogren’s father also influenced his music taste.

“I started writing (my own) songs when I was 13,” Ogren said. “My dad took me to my first Bruce Springsteen show when I was 5 years old. He’s always been who I’ve looked up to in terms of songwriting and onstage performance.”

While Yardsale! thrives on performance, Ogren said balancing school and finding time to do what they love can be a hassle, especially when most of the members are engineering majors.

“Coordinating schedules and finding time to work together can be difficult, but part of the blessing about it is that music is restorative and rejuvenating to us,” Ogren said. “Being in the band is a way to care for myself.”