Songwriting seminar inspires personal tributes to Class of 2020

Some Vanderbilt students participating in Adjunct Artist Teacher of Piano Deanna Walker’s songwriting seminar at the Blair School of Music planned on penning songs about graduating from college. Then the novel coronavirus pandemic hit. The students left campus, and the desire to process their emotions through song increased exponentially.

Walker, who is a professional composer and songwriter herself, said songwriting can be an incredibly useful way to process issues at any time, but right now, in particular, her students are using songwriting as a powerful platform to express their thoughts and feelings.

Walker said she and her students were moved by this excerpt of a song by Oliver Fair, a senior from Los Angeles, who is graduating with a degree in human and organizational development.

The sun is breaking through these trees
Gotta go online now to get degrees
Thinking back on the past four years
It’s getting harder to fight back tears

Can’t tell if days are moving slow
Or I’m just restless, ready to go
Day by day, feeling heavy
Gotta keep my patience steady


Senior Fiona Bultonsheen, an economics major from Center Valley, Pennsylvania, co-wrote a song with Emilio Amaya, a computer science and math major from Oak Park, Illinois, that Walker describes as “emotionally honest, vivid, and truly universal for all college students right now.” She strongly encouraged the pair to turn the song into a video.

“Our song was originally one of celebration,” Bultonsheen said. “It’s still a celebration, but in a more nuanced way of acknowledging hardships while also pressing forward. It’s called ‘Rewind.’”

Amaya calls the song a “permanent snapshot” of his life during this season.

“I still don’t think I have fully processed how unprecedented a situation like this is,” he said. “While that is the case, I wanted to maintain a streak of positivity. Despite the circumstances, I will never lose the incredible memories I have made with my friends over the past four years. And like I wrote in the song, you can never say goodbye without first saying hello.”

Video and lyrics by Emilio Amaya and Fiona Bultonsheen

I realized
I didn’t get to say goodbye
Cuz now we’re stuck inside
And all our plans have gone and died
I know this ain’t how we envisioned things

They stripped everything and now it’s really tough
And every day is just another day closer to enough
I’m on a stay-at-home vacation
But man what happened to my life’s celebration?

I know we’re late but welcome to graduation
Sometimes I forget what it felt like during the good times
When we lived our fullest lives
Of dancing all night alongside our best friends
Until the day ends
And as the distance gets bigger and the time flies
nd as we know the sun will rise up in the sky 

I know these memories will never ever leave our minds
know these memories will never ever leave our minds

 I wanna stop and press rewind
And I want to go back to those times
I wanna stop and press rewind

And I — I know this ain’t goodbye
Because I know
You can never say goodbye without first saying hello
Bout four years ago
We were wide-eye youngins who were ready to grow
And so it goes
And it was right here
It was every late night as the good times they appeared
With friends near
As the Ubers would steer
Us onto rooftop sites
Dancing under city lights
We could do it all night

So let’s switch it up
I know its true in my mind
That eventually with time
You’ll be back by my side
So let’s keep on moving forward
Because I know we will find
A point that feels like we pressed rewind 

I wanna stop and press rewind
And I want to go back to those times
I wanna stop and press rewind
And I — I know this ain’t goodbye