Namarah McCall (’11) uses her vocation as a musician to help other aspiring artists

May 3, 2023


Lucas Tang ('23)

McCall returns to East to vocalize with and teach Chansons.

Like many East students, Namarah McCall (‘11) can vividly recall sitting in an assembly as a Cherry Hill elementary schooler, watching as members of East’s vocal small groups, such as Belles, perform. Even at that young age, McCall already knew that when she reached East, she wanted to be a part of the music department.

“I knew that I just wanted to be a part of every vocal thing I possibly could,” said McCall. “My whole family, we all sang. [I] grew up in a musical household.”

When she entered East as a freshman, McCall immediately signed up for the vocal workshop class, which all students must take to join the choir, and also joined the theater department. In her sophomore year, McCall auditioned for and joined Chansons, East’s all-girls choir, and in her junior and senior years, was a member of East Singers. She also sang along with the Jazz Band, one of East’s most prestigious groups in the music department. In addition to her involvement in choir, McCall was heavily involved in theater, acting in productions such as Aladdin and even serving as Vice President of the Thespian Society.

Throughout her years at East, McCall performed in many of East’s beloved music traditions, such as the spring musicals, Coffeehouse, choir concerts, and even Mr. East. But as involved as she was in these concerts and performances, she aspired to do more.

“We did all of these different great fun musicals and so I was looking for as many different ways that I could sing and perform on the stage,” said McCall.

Pulling from her involvement in musical theater and inspired by Clasual Harmony, East’s boys a cappella group, McCall and a couple of other girls started the idea of creating an all-female a cappella group. With Ms. Heather Lockart, who was also Mcall’s choir director while in Chasons, as their director, the group, dubbed “Key of She”, took off.

However, McCall didn’t always see a clear path to joining the music and performing arts industry. For example, while taking an AP U.S. Government and Politics class at East, she had even considered pursuing law as a career. Like many East students, McCall wasn’t yet sure what she wanted to do in the future during her time in high school. Nevertheless, she continued to channel her love for performing through singing, acting, and dancing.

“I feel like a lot of the times when we’re in high school, we feel like we have to have like ‘the thing’,” said McCall. “But all I knew is that no matter what I was always going to have music in my life.”

The moment that truly cemented McCall’s dream of pursuing a career in singing, songwriting, and performing came halfway through high school when she was 16. McCall had been dabbling in songwriting, and her guitar teacher at the time suggested that she record her song. The moment she stepped in the recording studio for the first time, McCall recalls, she knew it felt right.

“I got excited and I just really love the feeling of actually expressing what was on the inside and then you know, knowing that people wanted to hear it.”

After graduating from East, McCall attended Ithaca College, majoring in music and minoring in integrated marketing communications. Though McCall remained active within a cappella groups at the college, pop was the performance style that appealed to her the most, and thus, she began researching how to land opportunities in the pop music industry.

“[Music] was one of those things where you don’t necessarily know that you’re in the industry until you look back,” said McCall.

As she became more involved in the Philly music scene, McCall picked up on the various entrepreneurial skills needed to succeed in the industry. She learned how to effectively pitch her music, send the right emails, make the right phone calls, and keep the momentum going from one opportunity to the next. McCall also began experimenting with and discovering her music style, as well as learning how to produce and create her own songs.

“I really started to create my own lane with making music, you know, pulling from my acapella roots. I just love the voice and how we can create so many styles with just this one thing,” said McCall.

Today, McCall describes her music style as “Manna from Heaven.” She describes it as a type of improvisation, where she pulls from whatever audience or environment she’s immersed in as she creates music.

“[In the Bible], there’s a lore that any [of] the food that you eat would taste like whatever it is that you desired, and so I love to go into [performances] based off of how things feel created, or a sound, or a feeling based off of what I’m getting in that space,” said McCall.

Thus far, McCall has released over ten singles, as well as a full album, titled Deia (2018). Believing that artists should not feel boxed in, McCall’s discography encompasses different genres of music from a thought-provoking and soulful song entitled “Mindful” to a more pop-centric song called “Avacados.” For McCall, writing songs is not a formulaic process, but rather changes every time. Sometimes McCalls songs come to her in dreams, like with “Deia” or she will sometimes be challenged to put the puzzle of syllables, rhythms, and notes together.

“Honestly when it comes to the songwriting part of parts of the journey, and even when you’re creating every song knows how it wants to be before you start to write it,” said Mcall. And so the game is figuring out how it wants to show up in the world.”

Another unique aspect of McCall’s artistry is her ability to create music on the spot using a looper. A looper is a piece of technology that allows artists to record music and then play it back with the ability to add notes or lyrics over top of it. Essentially, McCall is able to create a song in a matter of minutes, starting with the beat and adding layer by layer.

In addition to performing and finding outlets for her creativity, McCall strives to help others tap into their artistry as well. She works as an artistry coach, holding one-on-one sessions and group workshops for clients. Currently, McCall also is writing her own book, Artistry for Everyone, which chronicles the experiences and lessons she’s accumulated as both an artist and artistry coach.

“[Artistry] is for everyone. It’s not about performance,” said McCall. “It’s the fact that everyone has an artistic and creative way to express whatever they feel whether they’re going into real estate, being a lawyer, or being a teacher.”

From her own experiences within the music industry, McCall has found that too often, artists are pressured to value factors such as the media and popular appeal over their ideals when deciding whatever creative work they want to put into the world. Especially with the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and Youtube and TikTok, McCall says, everyone seems to be chasing trends and creating whatever will generate the best numbers instead of truly expressing themselves.

“Of course, all of those things are necessary, right? Knowing the system and knowing how to play that game,” said McCall. “But I never want the people that I coached and the people that I trained to ever lose that soul of who they are or the spirit of who they are just because they’re trying to compete.”

Especially for young adults, McCall emphasizes the need to explore your artistry without feeling confined. In order to be an artist, you do not need to put on a persona.

“I walk my clients on how to protect your inner child and the imagination because a lot of times we’ll think, oh, well I have to make this song absolutely perfect, but I don’t have any ideas right now,” said McCall. “The reason why you don’t have any ideas [is because] you put way too much pressure on yourself. Like if you actually had fun, you might have a ton of different ideas that might not necessarily work, but now you’re in a totally different headspace.”

McCall crafts her identity through her art and has found a calling to help people embrace the freedom to simply be themselves in an artistic space, whatever that may be.

Leave a Comment

Eastside • Copyright 2024 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in

Comments (0)

All Eastside Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *