The Muse Behind the Music

A look inside the ‘Bedroom Bops’ YouTube music competition started by a LASA senior to spread positivity during a hard time.


Zoe Klein, Finance Editor

“Hi Ari, I’m Ari.” Senior Ari Wagen stood behind a microphone in his bedroom, his walls plastered with concert posters and records, a family member sitting behind him on the electric guitar. He counted down from three and began to sing. After four minutes of singing, he stepped back and nodded at the camera. The next singer-songwriter on his YouTube playlist entitled “Bedroom Bops” began the same routine. “Hi Ari…”

When Wagen came up with the idea for the “Bedroom Bops” songwriting contest, one rule was integral—participants must film in their bedrooms. With a state-mandated lockdown in place, Wagen realized that since young people had more time on their hands, putting this time to use through music could spread positivity and inspiration for all those involved—musicians and audience.

Wagen’s idea was inspired by NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts—small performances done by musicians from remote locations. He liked the idea but wanted to create a contest more accessible to people in his age group.
“I was going to submit, but one of the requirements was that you had to be 18, so I started thinking up a different contest for younger, student-age musicians,” Wagen said. “With COVID-19 meaning that everyone had more free time to create, I set up a contest to encourage young musicians to write and play music.”
Wagen started writing music himself during his freshman year. After four years of trial and error, he said that his musical expression has changed with his interests.
“I started playing bass guitar in the summer of 2016, and after seeing a few of my classmates successfully record and release music, I began recording music that winter,” Wagen said. “I’ve recorded and produced music with Ethan Oroshiba as Work in Progress since freshman year, but it’s taken me a while to find my own sound and style.”
Senior Ella Thompson entered the contest with her song “Quarantine.” She has also been writing music since middle school and said she agrees—music is an important creative outlet for her.
“I started writing music because I always had lots of ideas in my head, and I didn’t want to waste them,” Thompson said. “Even now, most of the songs I write, I will sit down and scroll through my voice memos to get some inspiration from melodies or rhythms that have popped into my brain randomly.”
Like Wagen, contest winner and sophomore Jaxon Gonzales has found himself resorting to writing music to take his mind off of being quarantined. He entered the contest with his song “Periwinkle,” which is the kind of song that he says he doesn’t often write.
“To me, it’s always been a way to talk about what I don’t like to talk about with others, so that’s even more important now with everybody being worried about what comes next,” Gonzales said. “It also just gives me something to do and something to think about with all the extra time.”
Gonzales entered the contest out of both a thirst for creativity and out of a common sentiment during quarantine: boredom. He believes that this contest gave him the opportunity to take advantage of ideas he hadn’t considered before.
“I decided to participate because I love making music and I was very bored stuck at home, so it gave me something fun to do,” Gonzales said. “One of my biggest struggles is not getting caught up in cliches, so this being so different I think let me write stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Quarantine might be boring according to Gonzales or discouraging according to Wagen, but they also believe it has also become an outlet for artists and musicians to find ways to create and publicize themselves. Gonzales wasn’t used to showing off his talents, but this quarantine-themed contest gave him a way to.
“It was awesome, but I was honestly surprised [that I won] given how good all of the other submissions were,” Gonzales said. “I hadn’t played for many people before this, so it was new but a lot of fun.”
Wagen already has another contest in the works called Starry Singles with similar rules and more prizes. He hopes it will provide the same comfort and inspiration that Bedroom Bops has.
“A lot of people are emotionally penned up and discouraged being stuck at home during this pandemic,” Wagen said. “I think that the catharsis and release that any form of artistic expression offers is more valuable than ever right now.”