Amherst teen wins recognition in national arts competition

  • Arden Lloyd of Amherst is among the winners of a national competition that recognizes promising young artists. ISABELLA DELLOLIO


  • Arden Lloyd of Amherst, who plays tumpet, piano and guitar, is among the winners of a national contest that recognizes young artists. ISABELLA DELLOLIO

Staff Writer
Friday, February 05, 2021

AMHERST — Arden Lloyd first starting taking piano lessons when she was 8 at the behest of her parents. It wasn’t something she particularly objected to, she says, but on the other hand, “I didn’t take it too seriously.”

But these days Lloyd, a senior in the Amherst Regional High School program, is plenty serious about music. She plays the trumpet, piano and guitar, writes and sings her own songs, and hopes to have a career in music.

Oh, and she was just named a finalist in a national competition that rewards promising young artists — in fields ranging from theater to visual art to music — with prize money and opportunities for creative and professional development support.

Lloyd, who turns 18 this month, was one of six finalists in the Voice/Singer-Songwriter category in an annual competition hosted by the National YoungArts Foundation, a Florida organization that supports young artists.

She’s also among 60 budding artists nationwide nominated to be 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

Among the alumni of the YoungArts program are country singer and songwriter Chris Young; jazz trumpeter and composer Terrance Blanchard; classical violinist Jennifer Koh; and screenwriter and director John Ridley, who won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2014 for “12 Years a Slave.”

In a recent phone interview, Lloyd said she was thrilled to be named a finalist in the competition, for which she won $3,000. But she’s even more excited about pursuing her interest in music in college in the fall, she said (she just received her first acceptance notice, from Northeastern University).

“This is what I want to do with my life,” said Lloyd, who is completing her last year at Amherst Regional by taking courses at Greenfield Community College. “Whether it’s performing, producing music, writing, I’m interested in all of that.”

She says she began to take piano more seriously around age 11 and 12, which is also when she began writing songs. She taught herself guitar — she’s just recently begun taking formal lessons — and she also took up the trumpet in 10th grade and joined the ARHS jazz band.

“I was super-nervous at first,” she said. “I didn’t know that much about jazz.” But she notes that fellow students helped her learn some of the ropes. She now plays (virtually) with the Amherst College jazz ensemble, where students have also helped her.

She said she’s also become more disciplined in recent years about songwriting, setting aside time “to work more methodically” on lyrics and music and not waiting for inspiration to strike. She works as well on singing and is taking vocal lessons.

Ani DiFranco is one key influence on her own work. “Her lyrics are incredible,” Lloyd said. “She’s like a friend. Her music just helps me through a lot of things in my life.” She also likes “a lot of folk-pop stuff” and has delved more broadly into jazz, R&B and hip hop to expand her musical vocabulary.

Lloyd isn’t sure where she’ll end up next fall — she’s waiting to hear from two other college choices — but music will be a big part of wherever she goes.

“One of the things (National YoungArts Foundation) tells us is to be self-sufficient, to learn about all the ways to have a career in the arts,” she said. “That’s what I want to do.”

More information about Arden Lloyd’s music is available at ardenlloyd.com.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.