Ella Seavers is a senior at Mountlake Terrace High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ella Seavers is a senior at Mountlake Terrace High School. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Bullied for autism, Terrace teen finds her voice in music

Mountlake Terrace High School senior Ella Seavers is a multi-instrumentalist with her eyes on the future.

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Ella Seavers, 17, is a largely self-taught musician who sings and plays the guitar, piano, drums, clarinet, trombone and more.

The Mountlake Terrace High School senior is in the early stages of piecing together her own musical, based on real-life stories of struggles people have lived through in various minority groups.

Q: How’s your senior year been so far?

A: It’s been really good, in terms of figuring out what I want to do, and starting a bunch of personal projects that have been meaningful to me. Things always have their ups and downs, but I’ve been able to push through and stay happy doing what I love.

Q: What personal projects?

A: For a school project, in our STEM English class I’m looking at whether it might be possible for same-sex couples to have biological children. For personal projects, I’m working on writing a musical. I do a lot of composing and arranging and writing in general.

Q: What kind of music?

A: The stuff that I’m into? I was in jazz band a few years here. So I’ve gotten a taste for jazz music. My uncle does a lot of rock music so he’s been teaching me some stuff for rock. I know a lot of pop songs on guitar, and I write more pop-like music when I’m doing singer-songwriter stuff. I’m into chamber winds and a lot of classical music.

Q: What do you go home and listen to? Like, do you have a favorite band or artist? Or a few?

A: For my songwriting style, I really like Ed Sheeran. The way he weaves words into these beautiful songs. His lyrics are really something that I look up to. For musical theater, my favorite musical is ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’

Q: What’s that one about?

A: It’s about a boy who has really bad anxiety. He’s a high school student. Every morning he’s supposed to write himself a letter that says, ‘Dear Evan Hansen, today’s going to be a good day, and here’s why.’ It’s about his journey and struggles to be himself. It’s something that resonates with me personally. I am autistic, so my whole life I’ve been bullied for being different. So I’ve worked really hard to understand a lot of societal norms, and how I can fit in and have good friends, because I’m very much a people person. I went through a really hard time my sophomore year, setting expectations too high for myself. And I went through a lot of depression and anxiety that year.

Q: What helped you to get through that?

A: My friends and family were super helpful. My music, for sure. I started writing a lot of music at that time about how I was feeling and some of the thoughts that were going through my head. Not only is it an outlet for me, but it’s also important that people understand and can hear that these really are issues, and people go through them. It’s also a way to reach out and say, ‘Hey, you’re not alone, I’ve gone through these sorts of things, I go through these sorts of things. You’re not alone.’

Q: Music can be powerful in that way. What instruments do you play and when did you start to play them?

A: Oh goodness. I play the clarinet. I’ve been playing that since fifth grade. I play the guitar, and I want to say seventh grade I started playing around with it, but just in the last few years I’ve been getting pretty serious with it, and using it to write my own material. I’ve played drums since eighth grade. There’s other instruments I know how to play, but I don’t play them all the time. Trombone. Flute. Ukulele. Oh, and I’m learning the piano and mess around with that, and how it works with other instruments. My brain takes in patterns really, really well. I just wonder if it has anything to do with my autism, finding patterns and how they connect with each other, and how chords kind of progress.

Q: Do you want to talk about theater?

A: Theater has helped me to become who I am. Because of all of this bullying that I’d gone through, I was very closed off. I came into high school with the mindset, ‘OK, it’s a new fresh start, don’t give anybody anything to have against you.’ I went into this state of mental health issues, anxiety issues. I didn’t want to come school. I was just giving up because I pushed myself way too hard. I joined a bunch of AP classes, I was on two soccer teams, I was on jazz band before school, honors classes, STEM classes — and it was too much. And in my brain I kept saying, ‘Why can’t you do it?’ I shut down. I’m not taking AP anymore. It’s not the material of the classes, it’s just the pressure. I went into junior year, stepped way back, and said, ‘We’re going to try this again.’ I started gaining confidence little by little, when I was at no confidence. I joined the school singing competition and performed some original music I’d written the year before, from some of the stuff I was going through, and ended up winning, and that was a huge, huge confidence boost for me. I can put myself out there. I can act, and I can be weird, and nobody cares because we’re all weird and we’re all wacky people. And I can be in the hallways with theater people and just be weird, because I’m not so scared that people are going to judge me, or tease me about it, or find something they don’t like about me, because it’s not that important anymore.

Q: Do you know what you’d like to do after high school?

A: I would like to go to college. I’ve been working on applications. The obvious choice around here would be UDub. If I could go anywhere and money wasn’t a problem, it would be NYU. For a while, I’ve thought about double-majoring in engineering and performing arts, but I think I would like to go more into performing arts. Since I’m interested in such a wide variety, not just performing, I’m also into the writing and composing and scriptwriting. And being a STEM person, I’m interested in the stage design and all those sorts of things. My brain is very analysis-based, so I’ve always been really good at math and science and the grammatical structures of things. I’ve taken French this year and last year. It’s a lot of memorization and also patterns.

Q: Pourquoi français?

A: My dad. I have a lot of French descent in my family, and my dad studied abroad in France for a while. He loves the French language as well. When I was really little he was trying to teach me English and French, and he’d ask me in French, ‘What does the cow say?’ and I’d moo at him.

Q: If you could talk to yourself in seventh grade, what would you want to say?

A: I’d probably tell myself, ‘I know things are hard. I know things suck right now. You’ll have a really hard time dealing with all of this, but at the end of the day, it’ll help frame you, and help you to become a much better person, and you’ll get through it. Things will still be hard all the time, but you’ll get to a point where it has helped you to become who you are, and it’ll help you to become the person that you want to be.’

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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