“I can see a future for myself in the music industry, whether on the business side as a manager or financial analyst, or as an artist.”
Musician Lawson Dunford ’23, ’24 — who goes by the artist name Lawson Hill —and Sarah Kane ’23 had seen each other around campus but never spoke until their senior year. One quick exchange sparked a friendship and artistic partnership that will be realized with the upcoming release of Hill’s debut album “Flower of Life.”
“I ran into Sarah in the hallway and was like, ‘Hey, I have a few demos. Would you maybe want to collaborate on an EP?’” recalls Hill.
This collaboration eventually morphed from an EP (extended play) to a full album. Hill plans to release “Flower of Life” on Nov. 17.
Throughout the last year, Lawson Hill, who has performed with the Clark jazz ensembles Head Check and Violet Times, called upon his connections in the Clark community to find instrumentalists, producers, mixers, and a faculty advisor to help bring his album to fruition. With the help of 15 to 20 peers and Professor , Hill gave life to the ambitious musical ideas he’s been cultivating since he began songwriting in high school in Gray, Maine.
Hill hopes listeners will feel a connection with the project, which is a celebration of his personal journey. The lyrical story chronicles Hill’s experiences with embracing queerness, love, loss, and self-expression. Personal growth is at its core.
“My biggest goal was for people to feel like it’s their project as much as it is my project,” says Hill, who sings and plays acoustic guitar.
Hill’s musical style blends his singer-songwriter roots with the indie rock music he holds dear. His unique sound attracted the help of his collaborators, with an emphasis on teamwork. Hill asked his fellow musicians to listen to his demos and offered them the freedom to infuse their own artistic style.
Kane offered her skills as a production engineer with the assistance of Marco Marvin ’25. Together they recorded the instrumental and vocal tracks that would later be mixed and mastered by Josh Girouard ’23. Other Clarkies contributed, including violist Gerdlie Jean-Louis ’25, singer-songwriter Mimi Mahoney ’23, drummer Max Macort ’23, and bassist Nathan McKenna, a former Clark student who now attends the University of Connecticut.
Hill and Kane co-produced the album, which was recorded entirely at Clark.
“Thankfully, we were able to do everything in the recording studio in Estabrook Hall. You’ll even hear the beeps of construction sometimes,” he notes with a laugh.
Hill credits Kane with maximizing the musical content from his demos in the final song composition. “She was able to understand the vision and bring it to life,” he says.
He cites a particular lyric from his song “Moonlight Solace” that captures the mood of the entire project, particularly his desire to seize the moment:
“Darkness in the light,
Hide behind the fleeting faces,
It’s not what you like,
So, take the life your soul embraces”
Kane feels most energized when a song starts to come together.
“Once you start putting in the instrumental tracks with the recordings you’ve been building from the ground up, the song starts to sound like what you’ve imagined,” Kane says. “Nothing else compares to the excitement of that moment.”
Since graduating, Kane has been completing an apprenticeship with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, hoping to graduate into a sound-engineering position. She embarked on her journey in the audio field when she enrolled in Freyermuth’s Computers and Music course in fall 2021.
“Halfway through the semester, I thought, ‘This is what I want to do,’” recalls Kane, who says she is captivated by the nitty gritty parts of audio engineering that might intimidate others.
With the album nearing release, Hill has assembled a promotional team, including photographer Arina Karakhashian ’24, music video directors Moses Millman ’24 and Henry Reyes ’24, and graphic designer Isaac Perreault ’23.
Organizing people and delegating roles for the project has aligned with Hill’s business studies and aspirations.
“This project definitely coincides with my MBA because I was acting as a sort of project manager,” he says. “I can see a future for myself in the music industry, whether on the business side as a manager or financial analyst, or as an artist.” Hill majored in as an undergraduate
The record-making process reminded Hill of baking a cake. When he was composing and recording his demos, it was like going to the store, getting all the ingredients, and preparing them at the counter.
He compared producing the record with Kane — recording and arranging all the sonic elements — to mixing the batter, with the actual sound mixing done by Girouard to shape each individual song the equivalent of blending the ingredients and popping the cake into the oven.
Mastering the record meant adding all the finishing touches, which, of course, was the icing on the cake.
Hill is already working on his next record, which will pick up his life’s story where “Flower of Life” ended. He also plans to release a poetry chapbook soon.
“Even if you feel like you’re not ready,” he says, “don’t be afraid to share your ideas.”