Senior Andrew Mao fosters a sense of community with his songwriting


Daydreams at Midnight: Andrew Mao’s album “Daydreams at Midnight” was released on August 26th.

Westminster senior Andrew Mao has always been surrounded by music. His passion started at just six years old when he joined the orchestra as a violin player. However, he has since discovered a stronger passion for a different area within music: songwriting. During quarantine, Mao began to take music more seriously, writing and releasing his own music. Known among his classmates and friends as a friendly person, Mao does not just express himself through music of his own. At school, Mao can be found blasting music from Playboi Carti to Joji through his speaker on Spatio and making the space more enjoyable.

“He’s very outgoing, exuberant, and nice,” said senior Soumia Vellanki. “I think that those are the same three qualities that make him a really captivating performer and make people feel really comfortable around him.” 

These relationships carry over to the classroom, where Mao is a diligent student and active participant. He takes the time to acknowledge those around him, including teachers he has had previously.

“I don’t ever pass him without him saying hello,” said English teacher Sabrina Johnson. “At the beginning of the year, he and a couple of guys I had in my class last year came back to visit and check in. I think that’s really remarkable for a young person to keep up those connections with other people.”

Over quarantine, however, Mao was unable to continue these social interactions face to face. With little to do at home, he took songwriting more seriously than playing violin, which he has developed as a member of the Westminster chamber orchestra.

“Songwriting is something I am definitely more passionate about. I think it’s a lot easier to convey my emotions, tell a story, and influence others,” said Mao. “Hopefully my music can have an impact on people and make their day with a lyric or something like that.”

Mao’s lyrics are mainly based on life experiences, people and places he interacts with, and artists he looks up to, including Quinn XCII, Juice Wrld, and The Kid Laroi. He often relates to certain messages within their lyrics and finds similarities in their interests. In turn, their style of music and their approach to songwriting inspire Mao as he writes his own lyrics.  

“Sometimes there are songs that call for different things,” said Mao. “Sometimes there’s a song that requires more upbeat, inspirational lyrics, or sometimes more sad, melancholy lyrics. It also really depends on the beat.”

Creating music, however, is a team effort. Senior Ryan Githuku produces beats, which he then sends to Mao. From there, Mao writes the lyrics. Occasionally, Mao records after a verse and then continues writing the rest of the song, but he usually tries to finish all of the lyrics prior to recording.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions make it difficult to record in a studio. To resolve this ongoing issue, Mao set up a condenser mic and pop filter in his house.

“It’s not the best quality, but it gets the job done for now,” said Mao.

After recording the lyrics, Mao sends a file containing a “rough draft” of the song to Westminster alumnus Cole Thompson, who cleans up the audio and beats. Unfortunately, this process has been more difficult for Mao and his collaborators than they had anticipated. For the most part, they are unable to join together in the same room to produce music. Instead, each team member works separately from home, a task that proves challenging when creating music, a traditionally collaborating and fluid medium. 

“We weren’t able to get together,” said Mao. “It’s a lot harder and more difficult than working on it together in one room at the same time because then we can bounce ideas off each other.”

These challenges have not stopped Mao from his passion, as he plans to release a music video for one of his songs in the near future. The details are not entirely clear, as Mao leaves most of the production to senior Jonas Du and Westminster alumnus Andrew Stevens, leaders of the Studio W filmmaking club on campus.

“I don’t know much about video production, so they have been telling me what to do, and we have also been taking a lot of different shots,” said Mao. “It is a really cool experience. I’ve never filmed a music video or anything like it before.”

Most filming is done outside at locales like parking garages and the bridge around Ponce, as filming must comply with COVID-19 regulations. Despite these challenges, Mao persists and is eager to continue doing what he loves so much — making music. His talent continues to impress many around him.

“We were very surprised that someone so close to us was making very professional sounding music,” said Vellanki. “Mao’s music is really an option for different types of people to enjoy.”

His work resembles both pop and rap. Thanks to high production quality, the music is able to represent Mao himself, making him an engaging figure to many on Westminster’s campus. 

“Andrew seems to be somebody who is in tune to people,” said Johnson. “I think that in terms of writing music and writing lyrics, you need that emotional intelligence to be able to write music that’s worth listening to.”

 His music can be found on the popular streaming services Spotify and Amazon Music. His most recent album Flying Solo was released Dec. 2 of last year and features five songs. His other works include the album Daydreams at Midnight which consists of 13 tracks, in addition to two singles, “Better Days” and “Lost Soul.”