2011 Humanitarian Award Winner _________________________________
Each year the GMA honors a musician with its Annual Humanitarian Award for music dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues. The 2011 award goes to Megan Makeever for her album, Unstoppable. Her songs bravely contain lyrics about personal themes such as body image, unrequited love, gratefulness and self-confidence. She has a broad appeal because she writes from experience about universal themes. Makeeveer is currently a flute performance major at St. Olaf College. LINK
The Unstoppable Megan Makeever
By Yayoi Lena Winfrey
With her bubbly disposition and warm personality, Megan Makeever seems a natural winner for the first annual GMA Humanitarian Award.
Born and raised in Bozeman Montana, she began dreaming of singing at age three. By the time she was five, she was playing piano and later learned flute, guitar and cello.
Currently a senior at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, Makeever says her teachers were surprised to learn she had released a CD, featuring songs she wrote and sang, because they’d only known her as a flautist enrolled in classical flute performance studies.
At 18, Makeever released her first album titled, Movin’ On. Two years later, in 2012, came Unstoppable, her second album and the source of her GMA honors.
“I always wanted to be a singer and songwriter who played guitar and piano,” she says enthusiastically. Although she has no plans to stop playing the flute, Makeever is setting it aside for now. Rehearsing and practicing the instrument takes six to seven hours a day that could be used for creating her next album.
“I spend lots of time in practice and rehearsal rooms,” she explains, “and, I feel I’m not communicating with people the way I want to.” Her way of communication is through writing and singing songs. Although she still enjoys classical music, which she describes as “musically and harmonically complex”, Makeever thinks it doesn’t reach enough people. “Classical music is less accessible to a wider range of people,” she clarifies. “There are no lyrics.”
Growing up in a musical family, Makeever developed her skills naturally. Her mother, a flute teacher at Montana State University in Bozeman, is a professional flautist. Makeever’s father, a retired trumpet professor at Montana State, plays in the Bozeman Symphony along with her mother who also plays for the Billings Symphony. Makeever’s older brother just completed his music education at Montana State.
Although she was heavily influenced by her family, Makeever says they only encouraged and never pushed. Still, she admits, “I’m kind of the black sheep of the family.” Citing her choice to pursue singing and songwriting, she reasons that it’s because she wants to relate with everyone she can through singing about her own personal experiences. With a preference for simple lyrics and melodies expressing universal messages, Makeever says most of her songs revolve around body image and self-esteem issues.
“There’s a lot of angst in post-adolescence women,” she explains, “What I’m singing about is mostly for young people who have been hurt, who have had a tough time.” Calling herself a closet philosophy major, Makeever says she’s “focused on the concept of empathy”, because she understands that most people are not much different than her.
“Some people think my songs are sad,” she confesses, because she sings about unrequited love, being used by men and heartbreaks. However, she also looks for the beauty in those experiences. “I’m grateful (those guys) broke my heart because some good art came out of that,” she laughs.
Her goal, Makeever says, is to connect with as many people as possible by “trying to embrace the concept of life. Instead of writing so much about my own experiences, I’m trying to create universal concepts,” she says. “The life we’re living as Americans, we’re pretty well off compared to the rest of the world.” Yet, says Makeever, there are universal feelings everyone shares. “We as humans are trained to suppress our emotions,” she expounds. “A lot of people are afraid to cry in front of one another.”
Makeever’s sense of humanitarianism is exhibited through her determination to connect to everyone through her music. “At a human level, emotions are what relate us to one another,” she says. “I want to make people feel less alone in their feelings.” Listeners of her music, says Makeever, often approach her after a show to tell her, “I feel like you just spoke my life.” That, she finds gratifying. “I want to break down those emotional barriers and genuinely sing about how I feel,” she adds. “Emotions are the most real thing that I have and the most powerful are through music, whether playing in an orchestra or show.”
As for her songwriting process, Makeever says, “Ultimately, it’s the lyrics. I’m not the best piano or guitar player.” She says she uses background music as a vehicle for the words she’s trying to say and the stories she wants to share. Starting with a concept about what she wants to sing, she usually develops the lyric first. “I almost hear the lyric in my head and then the melody,” she says. “I have an idea of a general concept about what I want to sing and go to the piano. Then, I find a chord progression and the words and music come together.”
As for winning the GMA’s annual Humanitarian Award, which honors a musician dedicated to social justice, humanitarian causes or environmental issues, Makeever is ecstatic. “I hope this actually makes me be taken seriously as a songwriter,” she says, “which is something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time.” In the past, she’s feared promoting herself.
“It’s been kind of hard for me pre-Global Music Awards,” she explains, “because I want people to listen to my music, but I don’t want them to think I’m conceited.” Makeever says that after winning the award (GMA’s Award of Merit), an article was published and, suddenly, a lot of people who knew her as a flautist began listening to her music.
“They had no idea,” she laughs. “They just thought I was a ditzy blonde flute player.” Makeever’s fondest wish is to connect with people on a deeper level and reach a wider audience. “This has been a really wonderful thing for me,” she says referring to the Humanitarian Award. “Now my dreams are coming true, and I realize I have more to offer than what I say with just my flute.” LINK