Remember Calvin when you’re famous: student musicians make names for themselves


Photo courtesy Adelyn Roush

Junior Adelyn Roush and sister Ava have performed as a musical duo around their hometown of Nashville, Indiana.

For many college students, music provides a crucial soundtrack to map the highs and lows of higher education. But for three Calvin students writing and performing their own songs, music isn’t just playing on their headphones. It’s a form of self-expression, a career aspiration and a way to honor God.

Adelyn Roush: A voice not her own

In summer of 2020, junior Adelyn Roush co-wrote her debut EP “Divided” with her younger sister, Ava, and produced the record with the help of a friend. Supported by their family and friends, the sisters embarked on a performance tour in their hometown of Nashville, Indiana, as a duo act called Adelyn & Ava. The two played in restaurants and house concerts and opened for bands like The Arcadian Wild and Aaron Smith & the Coal Biters.

Roush described the experience as both “special and scary.”

“When you’re performing something that you wrote especially … it’s a very vulnerable experience,” Roush said. “So, it’s very special because you feel like you can connect with your audience in a way that doing just cover songs — it’s not quite the same connection.”

According to Roush, a songwriting class taught by Professor Wakeman during her freshman year started her on the journey towards the project. The class deadlines propelled her to begin her writing; the rest of the process was a combination of inspiration and work.

Roush said the greatest challenge she has faced and continues to face was self-doubt. “The hardest thing is … setting aside that piece of self-criticism enough to create.”

Despite the challenges, Roush considers music a gift and perceives it as her offering to God and others. This inspires her to continue to create and perform. 

“It’s a way that I can both see God and praise Him and give back to Him because I feel like, in some ways, my voice is not my own,” she said. “I didn’t do anything to either earn it or deserve it … It’s a gift to share.”

Music has been a part of Roush’s life since she was born. She sang in the choir of the Mennonite church where she grew up and attributes her early understanding of harmony to the four-part church hymnals. Her parents are both worship leaders in their home church, and they encouraged and supported their kids’ musical pursuits within the church. They have been highly supportive of Roush and her sister’s first music endeavor outside the church community. Roush also mentioned that she and her sister sang on street corners back home for fun before they recorded their EP.

Although Roush loves to perform, her busy college schedule prevents her from spending as much time on her music. Instead, she seeks opportunities to collaborate with friends who share a similar passion for music here at Calvin.

Roush and junior Grace Lunger performed at the Calvin showcase last year and were featured on Calvin’s TOKNIGHT Show. The attention they received from the feature landed them an opening gig for artist Chris Trapper over the summer in Lunger’s hometown of Marshall, Michigan. The two friends also recently opened for the Ben Daniels Band.

Despite the significance of music in her life and her success with it, Roush intends on pursuing it only as a hobby.

“I didn’t want it to seem like work. I didn’t want that pressure of having deadlines, like, ‘you need to write an order to make money’ sort of thing,” said Roush.

“It’s such a huge part of me,” she said. “I know I have confidence that it won’t ever fade.”

Students can find Roush’s music on all streaming platforms under “Adelyn and Ava.”

Andrew Deters: A bop about banana bread

Deters played in Benjamin James Childs and The Skinny Limbs acoustic show at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea on Aug 27. Photo courtesy Paloma Havlik.

As a film major and a live musician in a band called The Skinny Limbs, senior Andrew Deters is hardly a free man. But when he does find some free time, he writes songs on his guitar.

Deters wrote his first song at Calvin and has composed seven songs since then. According to him, he spends more time revisiting his old songs than writing new ones. Deters finds that there’s always the chance to discover a new verse or play a chord differently. He described songwriting as unpredictable, both when it comes to inspiration and the length of the process. Sometimes, his songs even begin as poems.

“Your songs don’t have to be … like a document that is sealed. It can be a very fluid thing,” he said.

Music wasn’t always an obvious interest for Deters. He only circled back to it during his high school years when he volunteered in the youth group worship band at church.

It was through worship volunteer opportunities at Calvin that he discovered his niche as a singer and guitarist. Deter served as a worship apprentice in his sophomore year and after that, began volunteering at local churches. The Skinny Limbs band is his first significant music venture outside of the church.

Deters said his church experiences influenced his songwriting.

“My faith is not necessarily … directly expressed in my lyrics and my music, but I think that it definitely informs the things I want to talk about in my music,” he said.

In addition to his faith, Deters said his music is also influenced by a combination of art and nature. He listed artists like Adam Melchor, Hippo Campus and Brotherkenzie as having a significant impact.

Deters said he considers music to be a way of letting go and approaches his songs with that mindset.

“I don’t necessarily write to be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m gonna perform this one.’ I’m writing it because it’s something that I’m feeling that I want to put in words and just get out.” He’s even written a song about his appreciation for banana bread.

Deters said he has considered recording professionally but is waiting to gather a greater song collection. When it comes to his art, he would much rather have it come organically. 

In the meantime, students can find his music on Bandcamp under “Andrew Deters.” The Skinny Limbs will be opening for The Districts on Friday, Oct. 15 at the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids.

Dubem Nweke: The double life of a Calvin recording artist

Senior Dubem Nweke, who goes by Bee-Z, recently released a self-titled EP. Photo courtesy Dubem Nweke.

It’s been four years since Dubem Nweke released his first record as Bee-Z, an R&B and Afrobeats artist. The senior engineering major has released twelve songs since then with the help of his friends and producers, Oziren Zedomi and Einstein Essibu, both Calvin students.

According to Nweke, his music career began as a joke with his friends during his first year at Calvin. Zedomi had sent Nweke one of his beats so he could attempt freestyle for fun. The producer surprisingly liked the outcome, and with his friend’s encouragement, Nweke went on to record the song as his first.

Nweke recalled his initial uncertainty and anxiety during the early stages of his career. “It was like … I’m putting this out for the rest of the world to critique. Am I ready for what that criticism might look like?”

Nweke said he’s grown confident about his music since then and feels the freedom to release whatever he chooses.

He described his music as a reflection of what he listened to growing up because it’s what comes naturally to him. His music is a product of his background as well as his accumulated music experience. 

Nweke grew up playing the trumpet in church back in Lagos, Nigeria. At Calvin, he performed with the symphonic band his first year and the jazz band his sophomore year. This semester, he has signed up to play for chapel services. 

Nweke said he cherishes music because it serves as a tool for interconnectivity.

“Music is a language … it transcends different languages,” he said. “Sometimes there’s no words in music and you still feel like you’re being spoken to.”

Nweke said he hopes people find a similar feeling in his music. He typically allows people to discover his songs on their own.

He also conveyed a need for an interactive space for creatives at Calvin.

Nweke told Chimes he often feels like he is living a double life and continually has to distinguish between his life as a Calvin engineering major and his life as an artist. He considered the adoption of a music “persona” to be necessary. 

Nweke expressed that a music career would be his ideal path if he weren’t dealing with the constraints of reality. 

“I really do see myself doing this full time if possible. I feel like I’ve definitely found something that I’m good at, ” he said. “It’s just effortless … I yearn to make music … to be a part of music … One thing I’m sure of is that I’m not going to be leaving music anytime soon.”

Students can access Nweke’s music on all streaming platforms under the alias “Bee-Z.”