local high schooler taps friends, family for album
As a rule, high school freshmen are timid. They appear small, they speak quietly, and they still defer to authority. High school freshman aren’t sure how they fit in, they only know that they want to.
Kirsten Morgan is a high school freshman.
Unlike most high school freshmen, however, Morgan already has her name attached to an album of original music and a music video. “Headphones,” the album’s title track video, has already received nearly 4,000 hits since it was posted to YouTube on Jan. 15.
While many teen-created music videos on YouTube chronicle amateur guitar/piano/banjo playing as seen through a laptop cam, Morgan’s video has the sleek, choreographed look of something that was professionally done.
In an ever-expanding cyberworld where young entertainers can find fame by going viral on Teh Internets – think of Biebs or Rebecca Black – it makes sense that more young people are posting their work online. The difference between Morgan, 14, and other teenagers posting on the Web is production value. While many teen-created music videos on YouTube chronicle amateur guitar/piano/banjo playing as seen through a laptop cam, Morgan’s video has the sleek, choreographed look of something that was professionally done.
In part, the professionalism evident in both the album and the video is thanks to Morgan’s piano teacher and album collaborator, Dan Weggel. Weggel, 31, began giving Morgan lessons three years ago and has known the Morgan family for years through local swim teams.
Weggel frequently carries a handheld recorder with him, and in the summer of 2011, Morgan and Weggel began recording melodies, lyrics, and chords that would arise during lessons. A few marathon songwriting sessions and numerous email exchanges later they realized they had enough music for a full-length album.
“We didn’t really document who did what,” said Weggel, “so that’s why in the credits it’s all ‘songs by Kirsten Morgan and Dan Weggel.’ ”
Weggel and Morgan recorded all of the songs at his in-home recording studio, and the duo sent the album to a Nashville company for mastering. Although Morgan plays piano, trumpet, and guitar, she chose to just sing on the album.
In the video, though, Morgan also dances.
The video “Headphones” begins with Morgan trying to navigate the stress of daily life. She huffs into her bedroom, does a sigh-lean against the door, and then dons a pair of red, jeweled headphones. Freshman no more, Morgan is instantly transported to a colorful world in which she is the confidant, glamorous leader of other teens escaping high school freshman lives.
The most notable feature of this alternate reality is the choreography. Performed by dancers from the Eau Claire School of Dance and local high school dance teams, the elaborate dance formations in the video were created by Miki Hegg, the assistant director of ECOSD who Weggel and Morgan hired when they decided to make the “Headphones” video. In addition to choreography, Hegg also supervised costumes, make-up, and hairstyling.
“I didn’t know how hard the dance would be or what it would be like,” Morgan explained. “We practiced like three hours a day for the week over winter break, and the dancers picked up the dance really easily. Not being a dancer, I kind of practiced on it a lot. It was hard, but it was fun.”
Weggel and Morgan also credit Weggel’s brother Will for directing the video, the YMCA and South Middle School for providing shooting locations, and Morgan Music for sponsorship.
“The whole community was really involved,” Weggel said.
Now, Weggel and Morgan are looking to the future and trying to figure out how to fit into Eau Claire’s music scene.
“It’s kind of like, I don’t know, just nerve-racking to put it out there, but I’m, like, excited at the same time,” Morgan said. “I just hope (people) like it and appreciate that I’m only 14. ... It was hard work and it was really fun making.”
Although live shows and more videos are distinct possibilities, the only thing that Morgan knows for sure is that she wants to continue making music.
“If you like making music and stuff, I would go for it, because it’s really fun to do,” she advises other teens. “It’s scary at first, but it’s exciting.”
And a pair of truly sweet, hand-bedazzled headphones sure doesn’t hurt.
Headphones is available online at iTunes, CDBaby, and Amazon, and can be purchased at Morgan Music in Eau Claire. Check out the video on YouTube or at