Althea Aguel, a student at Poly High School, poses with a GRAMMY statue. Photo courtesy Althea Aguel.

Almost a year ago, Althea Aguel had what she describes as the best week of her life while sitting in her bedroom with her eyes fixed on a Zoom screen. Aguel had just finished her 10th-grade year at Poly High School and was given the chance to participate in the prestigious GRAMMY Camp, hosted each year by the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles.

Next week, Aguel will get another opportunity to learn and grow as a songwriter, as she’s been accepted into the GRAMMY Camp for the second year in a row. She was one of just 81 students from across the country to earn the coveted invitation, and this time she’ll be able to experience the camp in person at USC’s Ronald Tutor Campus Center.

“It’ll definitely change once you get into the campus and get that musical connection,” Aguel said. “It’s so much easier to write with other people when you’re in person and not going back and forth on Zoom. So I’m really excited.”

The camp brings in industry professionals and established musicians to help teach and inspire the next generation. There are seven music career tracks offered at the GRAMMY Camp:  audio engineering, electronic music production, music business, music journalism, songwriting, vocal performance and instrumental performance.

“GRAMMY Camp is a prime example of the GRAMMY Museum’s mission and education initiatives,” Michael Sticka, president and CEO of the GRAMMY Museum, said in a news release. “We’re thrilled that the program is back in person and will continue to be one of the most immersive summer camps for high school students interested in a career in music and continues to give young people the opportunity to study with music industry professionals, resulting in a genuine learning experience about life in the music industry.”

The GRAMMY Camp is where another Poly Jackrabbit got his start in the music industry. Just eight years ago, R&B superstar Giveon was among the attendees. Now a successful recording artist, he’s already received an impressive seven GRAMMY nominations in his young career.

Aguel said she’s excited to build on the knowledge she gained at last year’s camp and looks forward to working with other passionate songwriters from across the country. The 81 selections for this year’s camp represent 69 different cities across the U.S. in 18 different states.

“I learned so much in those five days. I filled my notebook up with notes and tips, so there’s a lot,” Aguel recalled with a laugh. “I think the main thing for me was collaboration. Especially for songwriters, when people look at the credits of a song, they’ll see multiple writers and sometimes that will get judged a lot. But it’s really just a bunch of talented songwriters coming together to make a song they wouldn’t have made by themselves. I think the power of collaboration is something that I’m more open to now because of that camp.”

The students will also get the chance to hear from some successful musical artists across different genres. Last year, Aguel was excited to hear from some of her favorite artists growing up, including Echosmith, Andy Grammer and All Time Low. This year’s slate of artists includes Reyna Roberts, Silversun Pickups and Lauren Spencer-Smith.

Aguel’s love of music has intensified during her time in high school, and she’s already put together an impressive list of accolades. During sophomore year, she was accepted into the creators program at the student-focused nonprofit College Board. During her application process, she wrote a song about how she wanted to score a 5 on her AP U.S. History exam (which she later accomplished) and now she writes songs and produces videos for the College Board’s TikTok account.

She was also involved in the national YoungArts competition last year, receiving a merit award in the voice category as a singer-songwriter.

Though she clearly has musical talent, Aguel is also very academically focused. She says that she plans to pursue music in college, but wants to do most of that outside the classroom. She hopes to focus on English and media studies when she gets to college, tapping into her strong suits in the classroom, along with her love of reading.

Still, her love of music continues to grow, and over the past few years, it’s become an integral part of her life. Music has given her a valuable creative outlet, one that she’ll continue to cultivate next week at GRAMMY Camp and beyond.

“To be able to come up with stories through songwriting and have that way to express myself, not only through words but also through music,” said Aguel about what draws her to songwriting. “I think the world of music is just absolutely incredible. Music history is so cool, and to be able to use those inspirations in my work, I just think it’s such an amazing process.”

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