Sophie Nyson loves singing, writing and recording music for herself. But the 25-year-old always shied away from taking her music to the next level.
Nyson, who goes by the name Matisse Zuzu when performing, released her first single and music video “Past Tense” today. Zuzu said she owes a debt of gratitude to Grand Rapids Community College, where she’s pursuing an Associate of Music in Recording Technology.
“GRCC gave me the confidence to get to a place where I was ready to release this song that I’ve been sitting on for several years,” said Zuzu, who is using a Futures for Frontliners scholarship to attend college.
Futures for Frontliners is a state scholarship program for Michiganders who worked frontline jobs in essential industries during the state’s COVID-19 shutdown. The scholarship, now closed to applications, provides eligible frontline workers with free in-district tuition to pursue an associate degree or a certificate at their local community college.
A similar program, Michigan Reconnect, is still available for adult learners 25 and older.
Zuzu was eligible for the Frontliners scholarship because she worked as a credit union teller during the 2020 shutdown.
“Because I didn’t go to college straight out of high school, I thought I’d missed my chance at a degree,” she said. “Futures for Frontliners was a gamechanger for me because I just couldn’t have afforded college otherwise.”
Zuzu grew up in Grand Rapids and dabbled in music composition as a teen. After graduating in 2015 from East Grand Rapids High School, she wasn’t sure what to do with her music – or her life.
But after attending her idol Aurora’s concert the following year, she longed to perform on stage. Zuzu wrote “Past Tense” in 2020, recording the vocals and piano at home herself. But she still didn’t know how to take the next step.
Eventually, she connected with a professional producer, and they re-recorded the single for release. Alec Hawkins, her future brother-in-law, worked with her to film, direct and edit the music video, which features a Heritage Hill home and the Aquinas College campus.
“The single showcases a wide dynamic range and represents my desire to let any and all genuine emotions shine,” she said.
Though thrilled with the song’s release, Zuzu knows there’s still a lot of hard work ahead if she wants to make it in the music world. She attends GRCC part-time while working and looks forward to the fall semester.
GRCC’s Recording Technology program, which debuted in 2000, has been a great addition to the Music Department for students like Zuzu, professor Timothy Heldt said.
Like all music majors, students who have selected an emphasis in recording technology must complete courses in music theory, aural comprehension, applied music, performance class, piano and major ensembles. In addition, they learn the fundamentals of the recording arts, analog and digital recording console operation, microphone design and technique, and multitrack audio production and mixing.
Heldt said the program provides students with the state-of-the-art equipment and training they need to succeed. And that includes Zuzu.
“She’s a very conscientious student, a dead serious learner and tries to absorb everything she possibly can,” Heldt said.
This story was reported by Beth McKenna.