It’s Universal

A close-up at some of Hickman’s inspiring music-makers


One way that many high schoolers deal with the pressures and emotions that come with this hectic time in our lives is through music – for many of us, a day without Apple Music or Spotify would be hell on earth. However, many Kewpies go further than just listening to music – a growing population of Hickman students are creating music themselves. Unbeknownst to you, the girl who sits in the back of your English class could play bass in a band, and the quiet boy in physics could shred on the electric guitar.

One musician you may have heard of is senior Effie Lillig, whose self-composed girl-with-guitar ballads have graced the likes of Rose Music Hall, the Stephens Lake Amphitheater, and countless small shows around town and at Cooper’s Landing. Effie’s been around music her whole life: “Both my parents are music lovers and my dad is a really talented guitarist.” After trying out piano and ukulele, Effie found her niche in playing the trombone (“I like reading bass clef”), and guitar. 

With a little help from her dad, guitar began to feel natural – Effie doesn’t know if it’s nature or nurture, but either way it’s obvious that she’d got some real skill. As for the future, Effie is hopeful. “If I can make money off of my music and still enjoy it, enough to want to do it and not have it be something taxing and that would be pretty incredible”

In words of parting, Effie has some advice for other young musicians. “Don’t make the music that you think you need to for people to like you. When I first started making music I thought I would have to be like those indie rock girls with a guitar and a loud voice, but after a while I realized I didn’t really like that. That’s not even what I listened to anymore. And I was like, I’m just gonna play my quiet little songs and have a good little time. Write really short songs that have virtually no real meaning. And I love doing that. They’re like silly little poems.”

Another musician of a whole different variety is Freshman electric guitarist Carter Smith. Just like Effie, Carter’s dad was an inspiration. “My dad used to play Money for Nothing on the guitar, when I was around 11 and I really liked the riff at the beginning.” That’s when Carter started teaching himself to play, and when he moved to Columbia a few years later, he found a teacher. Now he’s ready to move to the next steps of his path as a musician – forming a band and starting to perform for audiences. At the moment he’s actively searching for band members, so if you’re looking for a guitarist, don’t hesitate to contact him!

You might know Junior Alex Basi as a marching band kid, a ping pong champion, or a speedcuber (really fast rubix cube solving), but he’s also a talented musician. “I play the piano mainly, but I also know how to make a brass instrument buzz and I know a few chords on the guitar” Alex has been playing piano since all the way back in kindergarten. When asked where he gets his inspiration, he’s quick to answer “My inspirations for music specifically would be some of my favorite composers, people like Hans Zimmer and Ludwig Göranssan. In the future, Alex hopes to keep his piano playing up as a hobby: “I will definitely have my keyboard with me in college so I can sit down at night and jam out” 

You can listen to Alex on his Instagram music account,@italianpanokey. He also puts on an annual concert with his family to support down syndrome awareness. 

Hickman doesn’t only have solo artists – Our school is also home to many bands. One up-and-coming musical trio is the band Estrella, made up of Kenzie Cortez, Matilda, McKenzie, and Emmett Wright. Kenzie has been into music since she was young “I play a handful of different instruments and I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember.” The band recently formed when Emmett and Matilda reached out to Kenzie. “I was always anxious to reach out to anyone, so when Matilda and Emmett reached out to me looking  for another member, I was beyond excited,” she says. Some of their musical inspirations include Phoebe Bridgers, Beabadoobee, Fiona Apple, and Mitski, but Kenzie is also inspired by her grandpa, Mike Davis. “He gave me my first guitar and was a big push in me singing at my first open mics; he’s also a musician himself and seeing him travel to play is so cool to me.” Estrella is hoping to get music on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music in the future, as well as play shows around town and at school related events, so keep an eye out for this promising new band!

This year you may have noticed posters and bright blue T-shirts around the school, featuring psychedelic art, gnarled faces and the name “Drona.” Drona is a band made of siblings Arjuna, Surya, and Pasha. Arjuna is a HHS junior, Surya a Freshman, and Pasha a 6th grader at Jeff middle school. The band, which came together in the spring of 2021, fuses multiple music styles to create a unique and captivating sound. Arjuna says “We mix indie rock, shoegaze, mathrock, metal, and electronic music together to make tunes that include elements of all of our musical tastes.” Drona’s advice for Hickman students wanting to make music and bands is to just keep going: “Be extremely persistent and as prolific as possible. Also, it’s important to utilize local resources like darkroom records, which can help you record your music, and the Hickman siccjams club that will help you find bandmates.”

You can listen to their music on ALL streaming platforms – Just search for Drona! They also have a YouTube account, Instagram account ( and a website ( where they post updates on new music and performances. Follow them for info about their next upcoming performance at True False Film Festival!

Aleena Simmons is a solo artist at Hickman who plays mostly guitar and some drums and bass. Aleena got into music in middle school: “I really saw music as an outlet for me – I’ve done sports before but I wasn’t ever the best at them. Music was something that I was really interested in and felt confident doing.” Her greatest inspirations are her teacher Josh Cochran at the Palen Music center, and David Grohl: “His whole career is amazing, and he is an awesome musician as a whole.” Aleena plays at open mics as often as she can, as well as occasionally posting clips on Instagram. Her advice for aspiring musicians is to just go for it: “Music is one of those things that is universal, no matter what age or how experienced, everyone is able to enjoy music. So if you have aspirations to play and make music, nothing’s holding you back.”