Sound Source: SWAN creates a community for songwriters on campus

Allison Arguezo, Reporter



One of the newest clubs on campus, The Songwriters Association at Northwestern is creating community among songwriters at Northwestern. Eddie Ko, the club’s founder and co-president talked about SWAN’s mission of making songwriting accessible to NU students regardless of musical experience. 

EDDIE KO: I think that I’ve always – was always looking for a community of people who got me, and kind of shared my passions for things. Because sometimes when you talk to people who aren’t passionate or into the same things as you, it just feels like a lot of convincing. I just kind of was having like an era in my life, where I was just like, I don’t want to have to convince anyone. I don’t have to convince people to like the things that I think are cool or think that the things that I think are cool have value. 

ALLISON ARGUEZO: That was Eddie Ko, a Communication junior and founder and co-president of SWAN. Since fall 2021, Eddie has been looking to create a space for student artists to perform original written work.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Allison Arguezo, and you’re listening to Sound Source, a podcast about the music scene at Northwestern. This episode is about the newest music club on campus working on bringing songwriters together: the Songwriters Association at Northwestern, also known as SWAN. 


EDDIE KO: There are places where music is alive on campus. here are performance opportunities, but I found a lot of them were for people who were super established as artists, people who wanted to do it professionally. 

ALLISON ARGUEZO: He wanted a space that was less formal, with fewer barriers to entry for students. With this new idea, Eddie started putting up posters to help garner interest for the club. That’s how Co-President and Bienen sophomore Anna Castagnaro, as well as other current executive board members, found out about SWAN. Anna echoed Eddie’s sentiment about a lack of spaces to perform original work.

ANNA CASTAGNARO: We just realized that there weren’t really spaces on campus for musicians to kind of create their own works and really feel like seen by the community for it. And so that can be like just getting assistance with composing or producing or just trying to find a space to perform their new works in like a low-stakes environment. 

ALLISON ARGUEZO: For Vice President and McCormick sophomore Garrett Lee, SWAN is both a place for students to perform their original work, and one where they can gain new inspiration. 

GARRETT LEE: I was in this place where I was composing the same thing over and over again. So part of the reason I joined SWAN was to gain some more insights, but also like try to approach my composition/songs in the different way.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: So what does SWAN do specifically? The club offers what it calls open music sessions, or studio sessions, where students can get guidance and experiment with their music and songwriting. Bienen junior Sebastian Ortiz is one of the members that helps run the studio sessions.

SEBASTIAN ORTIZ: The general members will come in, and we’ll help them write a song. So like, whether that be helping them with chord progressions, or any ideas that we could bounce off with them. 

ANNA CASTAGNARO: It’s just cool. It’s cool to see people in small groups just come in, maybe once a week, and work on stuff with them, and it’s just like their own personal journey.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: SWAN also hosts different types of music-related events, such as its “How I Made” speaker event. 

ANNA CASTAGNARO: That was kind of spearheaded by the outreach team and they got Moyana Olivia, one of the student songwriters, who’s also in Bienen with me, to tell everyone about her songwriting process and the original music she’s made. And it’s been really inspiring to just see people show up to that and also like, to me as a musician, it’s been really cool.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Looking to the future, the club is working to establish consistent quarterly events.  

EDDIE KO: So for fall, our plan would be to do, like, a band formation event or a battle of the bands. Winter would be like a kind of more toned down, chill quarter, do like an open mic event or something like that. But it’s kind of like toned-down and chill because in the background, we’re ramping up for the spring show, which will be like our big main annual show.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: This year, that spring show Eddie mentioned was Kresgepalooza. Here he is playing his original song, ​​Freshman Friends, at the event.

EDDIE KO: So for a long time, our discussions were just spring show. We just called it spring show. At the end of winter quarter, I was walking around the halls of our lovely Kresge Centennial Hall and I came up with this idea for Kresgepalooza.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Kresgepalooza, which took place on Friday, May 13, used different rooms throughout Kresge to showcase different student artists in a variety of “colored” rooms, like the Yellow Room, the Blue Room, the Dark Room, the Red Room and more. Both Garrett and Sebastian said the event was a great experience for both performers and audiences. 

GARRETT LEE: There was this one time where performers had their soundcheck, but there were like five groups of performers, and they were like doing sound checks for each other. They’re like listen to each other’s music and saying like, “Oh, this is so cool.”

SEBASTIAN ORTIZ: It was very, very amazing to see such an intimate setting between performers and audiences. Because you can definitely tell that the audience was invested and interested in what performers had to say.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Interested in joining the club? The co-presidents said you shouldn’t be worried about skill level. 

EDDIE KO: Anyone can join SWAN. One of the major things that we want to emphasize is accessibility. 

ANNA CASTAGNARO: Yeah, I think our purpose is just like having a tight-knit community of musicians who can just do music. And I feel like that accessibility is just a basic form of allowing that to happen.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Sebastian said SWAN would be happy to help any student throughout their musical process. 

SEBASTIAN ORTIZ: Just want to start, you know, you can definitely come by, and we’ll help out with whatever ideas you have, even if you don’t know music theory, for sure. Come by and we’ll figure something out. We’re a resource that is at students’ disposal.

ALLISON ARGUEZO: Besides helping students become better musicians, SWAN hopes to grow a community of music-lovers. Eddie said one of his favorite things about SWAN is getting to meet new people and get out of his comfort zone.

EDDIE KO: Getting to like meet people, getting to walk up to people and say, “You like that artist too? No way, me too.” And getting to share my songs with other people has been something that I’ve been so scared about for so long. And that’s been something that SWAN has really helped me to start doing that. 

ANNA CASTAGNARO: Yeah, I think SWAN is just like a really good place to be if you don’t know where you want to be like musically, because I think it’ll help you just like find other musicians who are in the same place. It’s always good to join, and just start off and see if you like it. Chances are you will, and chances are you’ll find a really good community who’s just as passionate about music as you are. 


ALLISON ARGUEZO: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Allison Arguezo. Thanks for listening to another episode of Sound Source. The music in this episode was produced by SWAN member Donovan Batts.  This episode was reported and produced by me. The audio editor of The Daily Northwestern is Lucia Barnum, the digital managing editors are Will Clark and Katrina Pham and the editor in chief is Jacob Fulton. Make sure to subscribe to The Daily Northwestern’s podcasts on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or SoundCloud to hear more episodes like this.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @allisonarguezo

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