For Camas High School Senior Vivienne Funches, music has always been a part of her life. She recalls her earliest memories of being in love with music as far back as preschool. Music was something that truly inspired her, from artists like Imogen Heap, Corrine Bailey Rae, Alicia Keys, and Lauryn Hill. These artists helped shape not only what kind of music she listened to, but also shaped how she wanted to sound as a vocal musician. Funches first joined the Grass Valley Vocal Jazz choir when she was in elementary school, and as she grew older she continued to be more involved with music.
This Jazz choir had an impact on Funches because it was a way for her to connect with and learn about African American culture, which is not seen in Camas.
Funches said, “Throughout my childhood, beyond my family, I never had many connections to being Black or being around Black culture, because of the fact that our city is predominately white… After being exposed to people like, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Lena Horne, it made me feel connected to a part of myself.”
The Grass Valley Vocal Jazz choir also allowed Funches to step into the light with her first solo. When she was in fifth grade she had a solo on the song “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner. Not only did this allow her to show her skills as an artist, but it also landed her a DownBeat Student Music Award for “Outstanding Soloist” from the Chicago-based Jazz magazine called DownBeat.
Once she arrived in middle school she began to start expanding her musical horizons by listening to artists such as Frank Ocean, Solange, SZA, and Kendrick Lamar. After hearing Frank Ocean for the first time, Funches knew that his music was representative of the music she would want to make, and what she would want to be like as an artist.
CHS is another place where she has grown as a musician. The Select Treble Choir and Select Vocal Ensemble that she is a part of, as well as CHS music teacher Ethan Chessin, have helped her to refine and build upon her skills. Two of her favorite songs that she has hung at CHS are the X-Factor by Lauryn Hill and a Latin song called Gaudete. Funches sang the X-Factor as the talent show and Gaudete as a solo, Not only did she love the solo, but it meant so much to her because it was the last Select Treble Choir performance she had before the lockdown and the shift to remote learning.
After discovering artists like Solange, SZA, Frank Ocean, and many other Black musicians throughout high school, her identity was something that she had started to embrace.
“As I got older when I really started coming into my blackness and started accepting myself and loving myself for that, listening to black musicians really was something that became important to me,” Funches said.
In the future, she wants to start her own nonprofit organization dedicated to activism and becoming a community organizer. She knows that there is work in local communities that needs to be done and is willing to put forth the effort. Funches believes music is something that can also be tied to what she wants to do.
She said, “I believe that music can help heal people, can connect people, and provide a view into other’s experiences that they may not see otherwise. And if there is a way I could do both activism and music along with it at the same time it is something I would love a lot.”