Between poetry and a biochemistry degree, Victoria Heitzmann has an EP to squeeze in
A gift for Victoria Heitzmann’s birthday this year is easy: Just help crowdfund her album.
You may already know Heitzmann as a busker in Cambridgeport’s Dana Square Park or from Sunday performances at the Citywide Senior Center in Central Square before the coronavirus pandemic. You may have seen her perform with the Total Eclipse a cappella group at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where she just graduated. You may follow her on Instagram, where her posts of poetry have grown into live weekly sessions.
Achieving the dream of recording her music isn’t tied as much to turning 18 on July 16 as it is a race to finish it before heading off to study biochemistry in the fall, Heitzmann said in a recent call. While she hoped to take time off to focus on music, the University of California at San Diego doesn’t allow gap years.
She expects to end her summer recording sessions with up to nine songs paid for with a $5,000 campaign, which is nearing its goal.
Her first finished track, called “Goldfish,” is a powerful proof of concept – a wrenching refutation of a damaging relationship that floats over a warily picked guitar and a production haunted by echoes. (A non-album mix of “Goldfish” and other songs are on Heitzmann’s SoundCloud, called ashes4bones.)
“My album is a lot about healing from abuse and trauma and finding love in that,” Heitzmann said. “I have shared [“Goldfish”] with some people who’ve gone through similar things as me.”
Listen to “Goldfish”:
Heitzmann grew up in France but came to Cambridge with a Harvard-educated mother returning there for a job. Though the family is now scattered to New York, Connecticut and Dubai, Heitzmann opted to stay behind, living with friends. Now she finds Cambridge has shaped her as a person – biochemistry is “something that I would have never done if I would have stayed in France,” she said – and as an artist. After two years in the Boston Symphony Children’s Chorus, at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School she began Total Eclipse and served as president of the Poetry Club.
Though she’s been playing music for nine years, starting off as a classical pianist at Interlochen in Michigan and the Berklee College of Music in Boston, it was in Central Square where an eighth-grade scholarship to the Beats By Girlz program allowed her to learn Ableton music production. “The goal was to educate girls because girls don’t usually mix a lot. I saw that and I was like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of potential to make music even if you don’t have a band,’ or to just enrich your music overall,” she said.
The a cappella singing, musical training and poetry all came together recently with the help of her former guitar tutor, Dan Sitar. He’d told her that if she ever wanted to make an album, he could play a role. “When I finally felt ready this year,” she said, “I emailed him. We just started to work together.”
A final element was listening to a lot of music by Lizzy McAlpine, a Philadelphian and friend of a friend who studied songwriting at the Berklee College of Music until 2020. She helped shift Heitzmann’s interests away from more straightforward pop into an area tinged with jazz and colored by diminished chords. “I was always writing, since probably I was 7 years old. But during the quarantine, my style of music changed a lot – just because I had time to focus on it, and there were a lot of things going on in my life and, obviously, in the world that were inspiring me,” Heitzmann said. “During the pandemic, I started writing a lot more and trying to find the meaning of the music.”
If her production schedule at a Billerica studio and Boston’s Cybersound allows it, Heitzmann plans to perform more publicly, hitting Harvard Square or Boston Common. “I’m kind of trying to get out there more,” she said.
When the fall arrives, though, she plans to set aside the guitar and the accomplishment of producing an album at 18 to embrace her studies.
“It feels all the more relevant during this period,” she said, “where chemistry is sort of saving the day.”
- Victoria Heitzmann’s crowdfunding campaign is here.