ZCHS Grads Release Debut Album Created During COVID-19
Zionsville Community High School 2021 graduates Jack Schrepferman, Cooper Davenport and Evan Emsley recorded and professionally distributed/released their self-titled debut album under the name “Arboretum” on June 11, 2021. The self-described indie rock, pop and folk album has been streamed 26,000-plus times across all major streaming platforms and has been picked up by several official Spotify playlists.
I spoke with these incredibly talented and thoughtful young gentlemen about the genesis of their friendships, the creation of their band and what their futures might hold. The fact that this album was a total DYI project—produced and mixed entirely by Schrepferman in his basement storage room/studio—and was written and recorded over the course of a year by these three artists without professional assistance makes for interesting story worth celebrating.
An Inspired Trio
The talented musical trio are all products of Zionsville Community Schools music programs and cultivated their musical theory and performances on concert band instruments. Access to this quality education remains a very strong part of their musical identity even though the majority of the album is filled with loud drums, screaming guitars and synthesizers. The musicians do retain their roots, however, with moments such as a pop tenor saxophone solo on the album’s first track, “Grace.”
The artists are pleased with the exceptional streaming statistics and community support; however, they are by no means satisfied. They are already knee-deep recording a new project, running outside ad campaigns and seeking management as they begin college.
Schrepferman shared, “Me and Cooper have been friends since first grade, and Evan I became friends our freshman year of high school. We’d all been friends and musically connected for a very long time. A little over a year ago, we came together after realizing that we had all been working on fun little projects, and we began writing contemporary music.”
The three came together in 2020 and created their own creative outlet that provided a productive and positive release from what was happening in the community and the world around them.
“When we were writing the album, we liked to go to Zion Park down by the water,” Davenport said. “We would bring our guitars and set up a hammock and create music together.”
Emsley added, “I remember coming out of lockdown, and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. It was one of the first times that we were able to hang out again, and we decided to start working on the album, which was kind of cool.”
When asked how much their experiences throughout 2020 played a role in developing the track list, Schrepferman replied, “The track list itself wasn’t planned out specifically. We would bring individual songs to each other, and the [track] list fell into place. Looking back, I can see most of our high school experiences summed up in an album. Which is cool because it wasn’t super intentional.”
The DYI Music Generation
The Gen X and older generations created several “garage-band” phenomena, and the younger generations are certainly taking advantage of modern technologies and have created new genres and techniques from their parents’ basements that, in the case of “Arboretum,” rivals the quality of any professionally recorded studio album.
“Essentially, all of the recording process was done through the DAW Logic Pro Apple program,” Schrepferman explained. “It was all recorded, mixed, programmed and produced in the setup of our basement studio. I have a little storage room in the back corner. We’ve definitely been upgrading the equipment as we’ve been working. We recorded everything through a two-channel interface and layered every single layer on top of each other that had been recorded individually.”
Schrepferman is currently studying audio engineering at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. Cooper is attending the University of Virginia where he is studying engineering, and Emsley is at Purdue University where he is studying computer science.
Though the three are at their respective universities, their work with their debut album and future albums is far from over.
Schrepferman said, “We want to use everything that we’ve gained from this album, and we’re definitely not finished yet. We’ve been recording and have got some material that we’ve been working on. We will find chunks of time on breaks and in the summer to work on stuff remotely, writing individually and bringing it to each other. People can definitely look forward to more to come!”
The Meaning Behind the Album Title “Arboretum”
“We wanted to tie [the album title] to Zionsville because it shows our appreciation for the community and how living here has shaped our childhoods,” Cooper stated. “The single word ‘Arboretum’ is subjective and is widely appliable as a stand-alone word. But the meaning becomes a little more apparent when you look at Zionsville itself. It means a lot to the three of us.”
Shout-Outs to Supporters
The three young men expressed their sincerest gratitude to their families and friends for their unwavering support and encouragement throughout their musical journey that has only just begun.
“One friend who helped us immensely on tracking bass for the album is Ronin Kiekbusch,” Cooper shared. “He is an amazing bass player in the jazz band and is a senior at ZCHS. He also plays in the local band ‘The Papercuts.’”
The trio also threw a lot of love at their former teacher and mentor Aaron Coates, who instructed these three in AP Music Theory class as well as in Show Choir Combo.
“He is one of the most charismatic teachers and people I’ve ever known,” Schrepferman said. “He’s incredibly talented, and to be in a class where your teacher actually does what they’re teaching was definitely inspiring to all of us.”
Be sure to check out “Arboretum” on Spotify and iTunes and for all the band’s information/announcements, follow them on Instagram @arboretumcollective.