The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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The perfect song(writing team)

“I wanted to write you a song that makes you smile and makes you cry / I wanted a song that can pull on your heart strings one at a time,” Ben Charney ’15 and his sister Sara sing in “The Perfect Song,” which they wrote and composed together. This talented singer-songwriter duo of twins is separated by a long distance, as Sara goes to Occidental College in Los Angeles.

Charney and his sister had their big break in high school, when the two were chosen to perform at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A. for a benefit concert. There they met the producer who helped them professionally record four of their songs, which are now on an EP on iTunes. These songs can also be found on their YouTube channel, “The Charneys,” which has thousands of hits.

Charney and his sister have been making music since they were very young.

“Both my parents are musical,” Charney said. “They passed that down to me and my sister. My dad was always singing to us every night, and he taught me piano when I was very young. So, we’ve been singing and playing our whole lives.”

Charney began writing music in middle school, when he and Sara decided that they didn’t want to just play other people’s songs. They started writing songs and discovered that they enjoyed harmonizing with each other. They became a team, with Sara writing the lyrics and playing the guitar and her brother playing the piano and writing the melody.

“I’m constantly going over little melodies in my head, even when I’m in class,” Charney said. “If I come up with a melody, I will go to my key board and play it out and write it down, and then I will build on it until it’s solid.”

The Charneys’ songs are fresh and creative, with a pop-rock feel to them. Ben and Sara both have warm voices that complement each other well, and the guitar, piano and percussion blend nicely throughout their music. Many of their songs are upbeat, but others are slower yet uplifting and all are extremely catchy. It’s the kind of music you would dance around the house to in order to cheer up on a rainy day.

The two base their songs on their own lives—they find inspiration in their surroundings and their experiences.

“We write about the good and the bad things,” Charney said.

Their songs detail topics such as heartbreak and new relationships, fears of the future and, of course, the desire to create the perfect song.

Charney is very involved in the music scene at Grinnell. He is a member of the G-Tones and Con Brio a capella groups, takes voice lessons and is part of Grinnell Singers. Although he did not expect to, Charney has also declared as a music major.

“Music was always a hobby to me, until I came to Grinnell,” he said.

Charney feels his involvement in music at Grinnell has helped him to improve his musical abilities significantly.

“Taking theory and composition classes [has] helped me to expand my knowledge of writing music and even writing lyrics. I’ve also gotten better at performing from being in [G-Tones and Con Brio]. I’ve improved a lot over the past three years,” he said.

After graduation, Charney intends go into audio production, recording and mixing music. He hopes to continue writing on the side and the siblings intend to produce a full-length album.

Although they have less time to make music together now that they are living far apart, Ben and Sara still spend every summer playing music and singing together in their free time.

“Being able to sing and play music with your sister is really special,” Charney said.

Ben Charney '15 at the piano. Photo by Connie Lee.
Ben Charney ’15 at the piano. Photo by Connie Lee.
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