Amherst senior is a U.S. Presidential Scholar

  • High school senior Arden Lloyd of Amherst is an aspiring singer-songwriter and music producer. PHOTO BY ISABELLA DELLOLIO

  • Arden Lloyd of Amherst, who plays guitar, piano and trumpet, is one 161 high school seniors named this year as U.S. Presidential Scholars — and one of just 20 in the arts. ISABELLA DELLOLIO

Staff Writer
Thursday, May 20, 2021

AMHERST — Back in January, high school senior Arden Lloyd was a finalist in a national competition that rewards promising young artists with prize money and opportunities for professional development support.

Now Lloyd has been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, one 161 high school seniors chosen from some 6,000 candidates for the award, considered a top recognition of students’ academic achievement, leadership qualities and other attributes.

Lloyd, who’s 18, has been recognized as a Presidential Scholar in the arts, in her case for music: She’s a singer-songwriter who plays three instruments and plans to pursue a career in music production and performance.

“I’m thrilled by this — it’s a real honor,” she said in a phone call from her home. “The one bad note is that it’s happening during the pandemic.”

She notes that the program normally brings all the award winners on an expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for various activities, including recitals and receptions in their honor. Plans for recognizing students this summer have not yet been announced.

But Lloyd, who will be attending Northeastern University in the fall, will have other things to keep her busy this summer after getting her high school diploma (she’s a senior in the Amherst Regional program who takes some classes outside the school). She has a couple of summer jobs on tap, including on a blueberry farm in Heath, and she also plans to record and release an EP of original songs.

Since starting with piano lessons at age 8, Lloyd has picked up guitar and trumpet and in more recent years written and performed a number of songs, which she releases on various online sites such as Bandcamp and SoundCloud.

It was her original songs that made her one of six finalists in the Voice/Singer-Songwriter category in January in an annual competition run by the National YoungArts Foundation, a Florida organization that supports young artists.

Among the alumni of the YoungArts program is screenwriter and director John Ridley, who won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2014 for “12 Years a Slave.”

Lloyd says she’s been working on a new batch of songs that “really capture this moment in time for me — finishing high school, preparing to move on to college. They’re all from the bottom of my heart.”

She records her music at home on her computer, whether playing guitar or piano; the enforced isolation of the pandemic, she says, has provided a good amount of time to work on the songs. The arrangements of her new tunes are deliberately straightforward and stripped-down, she notes: “I want them to sound like I’m sitting right next to you.”

But with COVID-19 restrictions easing with increased vaccinations, Lloyd is also hopeful she’ll have some opportunities to play some live music this summer with friends or in public forums; she’s been playing trumpet virtually with the Amherst College jazz ensemble this past year.

“I’m definitely on the lookout for some COVID-safe open mics this summer,” she said with a laugh.

More information about Arden Lloyd’s music can be found at ardenlloyd.com.