Interview of Zach Perlmutter

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One evening, a fellow NSLC student approached me. “Kelina has an assignment for you,” he said. “Go interview that kid Zach. He got signed or something.” Kelina, one of the Team Advisors, works in music journalism and knew I am pursuing a career in the same field. I knew Zach already because he always chilled with my roommate, Nickolaus, and I. We played many games of wall ball together. I knew he played guitar, but did not know anything aside from that.

That was all I needed to hear. It was an opportunity to get my foot in the door of music journalism. Immediately, I found Zach and told him I was interviewing him. He seemed shocked at first by my blockhead confrontation, but he realized I meant nothing by the way I went about it. We went to his room; I had never actually stepped inside there, but it was unkempt and smelled of boy. He apologized for his roommate’s clutter, and we began.

Where do you reside regularly and how old are you?
Drums, Pennsylvania and I am 17.

How did you get discovered?
I have a few YouTube videos. My most viewed song is “Butterflies.” This guy from a new record label called Death Row Studios contacted me saying they were looking for breakthrough talent. I haven’t signed anything yet; it is all up in smoke right now. My father and I are going to set up an appointment when I return.

Since “Butterflies” is your biggest hit, how many views did you have?
Around 270,000 hits, but at my dad’s office I put a stack of CD’s out for sale so I will see how many are gone when I get home.

Who was “Butterflies” written for?
My first love, Christin. We were together for about two years then she moved to Bethlehem, PA. We tried working it out for a while. It was rocky; then, for some reason, her mom flipped her lid and sent her to live with her grandma, which was even further away . . . But the way she acted that last time I talked to her, it made me think that nothing she said was true.

Who are your music influences?
Secondhand Serenade, Goot, Gorilla Zoe, Yellowcard, Cute is What We Aim For, Dangerous Summer, The Spill Canvas and Romance on a Rocket Ship. Oh yeah, I met the guy from Romance on a Rocket Ship a few times, kinda weird dude.

How did you get into music?
My parents forced me to play the violin, saying it would be good for me. I wish they would have forced guitar on me instead. (Laughs)

What is your earliest memory of music?
I was maybe 5. I was in my sister’s room with my grandpa and he was letting me pluck the strings of her violin that was before he died, though.

Do you play shows? If so, where?
I normally play shows in these little restaurants. I played this one show at an Irish pub and had to stop early because there was a brawl. Another place I normally play at is the clubhouse of this housing development near my home. There is also a park near the clubhouse where I usually go to chill out and think. I recently played a show in Washington, D.C.

What was the difference from playing that show in D.C. and back home?
I was pretty nervous, but the crowd seemed more inviting.

All right, one last question before you start playing: What kind of guitar do you play?
I own this beautiful Schecter with mother of pearl on the frets. The only problem was the recordings I did with it turned out horrible. So one year, I asked for an acoustic. My parents took me out to look for one, and I found this Taylor acoustic that held a beautiful full tone. My parents said the only way I could get it is if I pulled my grades up, which I knew was impossible. So I gave up. Then one day, my mom told me to look in her trunk and there it was! I have recorded a good bit with it; I like the sound it gives out.

Finally, I get to hear what Zach’s capable of. He pulls out the Taylor acoustic that he has been telling me about, sighs softly, stiffens his back and begins playing “Butterflies.” The intro has a slight blues four/four beat to it that is both solemn and joyful. This type of intro feels reserved, like the artist is holding back something that is waiting to be understood. It was a fuzzy little tune that seemed to radiate sunshine with each chord. “Butterflies” is a contemporary rock ballad about love with a sting of harmonic blues.

As he played, I could not resist the urge to smile. You could feel the energy pouring out of him. He plays from the heart. A few parts in the chorus his vocals broke into staccato repetition that gave the song more of a groove feel.

The second song he played was a cover of Usher’s “OMG.” The original being a pop/dance song, would prove to be a great transition. On every downbeat, I could hear his foot thump in tempo with his playing. He made use of the decrescendo section of the song by softening his voice to match his instrument’s tone. It is a rather interesting variation of the song, not quite as danceable but a good little tune to play on a bad day to change your mood around.

The third and last song Zach played was a freestyle jam he had made up on the spot. I am a huge fan of improvisation. Zach played this song with unrelenting easiness, which surprised me. This song was the most intricate of three songs, with heavy lows, stinging pitches and a breakdown that was handled with snapping precision. This song felt enlightening. I had the urge to break my masculinity and give someone a hug.

His singing is that of a warm, full whisper that resonates between his acoustic strumming. He showed no signs that he even remembered I was in the room. Zach played this song to its fullness. He left no room for fillers or for over-extensions that ruin most acoustic songs. It was like giving your love one last kiss. As your love is about to speak, you leave. Knowing they aren’t fully satisfied until they can say whatever it is they needed to say. Making your love feel so happy, yet utterly craving for more.

Zach Perlmutter looked up from his Taylor acoustic and sighed heavily. “I think have enough for my story,” I said. His eyes held a look of understanding something that was beyond words and obviously beyond my realm of comprehension. He was about to say something when his roommate flung the door open and entered the room. The roommate seemed a little upset I was sitting at his desk. I figured this would be the right time to leave, but before I left Zach mentioned his YouTube account name, P3arled, to see any of his videos.

Zach did an excellent job portraying his musical stance, even under such short notice. I have to give him a great amount of respect for his ability to perform so well under conditions in which he had no time to properly prepare, or warm up for that matter. I expect great things from Zach and plan to stay in contact with him to see if he had gone through with the appointment at the record label.

—Nathan T., Denham Springs, LA

To contact the writer, e-mail Nathan at


Photography Class Visits the National Zoo

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Photography Class Visits the National Zoo from NSLC Comm on Vimeo.

Liz Visits the Newseum

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Liz Visits the Newseum from NSLC Comm on Vimeo.

A Typical Monday

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On a typical Monday morning, one would expect to find students reluctantly crawling from their beds, dreading the rest of their day. That was not the case at NSLC this morning. Though surely some of us were eager to leave those comfy dorm beds, we were all equipped with the desire to continue our classes we left off the previous week. For those of us with afternoon classes, we shuffled into the Ward classrooms in the morning to learn about the different aspects of the communications world. My group tackled Media Convergence. For a group of students gathered together in an attempt to learn about how to become journalists, the message of the class seemed a bit ironic: Everyone already is a journalist. We learned about the term “citizen journalism,” meaning each person is a witness, writer, photographer and videographer and at any given moment can surpass professional journalists. The lesson was empowering, not to mention gave us pride in our video-capable phones and music players.

In the afternoon, you may have seen the eager filmmakers migrating from shoot location to shoot location, usually lugging around a huge bouquet of helium balloons or a large container of fake (but edible) fake blood. The shoots took up our afternoons much faster than we anticipated, teaching us a valuable lesson: you may be the director, but your deadline is your god. All the students felt the pressure of the impending final showcase of our work that will punctuate the story of our time here. All the students and staff felt the sleep deprivation when it came to the nighttime workshops. A rousing debate resulted in Clay’s Media Ethics class. The controversial photograph of the vulture stalking a child by Kevin Carter, presented us all with a question that could define us, both as journalists and as people: What is more important, the ethics of journalism or the morals of our humanity? The verdict was mixed and we all felt the significance of the issue at hand. We moved on to what we thought was a lighter note, but ended up an equally serious topic. We watched Datelines’ “To Catch a Predator”  and discussed the ethics of it. We found out that the law and the media are closer neighbors than we thought, and when the two mix, we are left morally and ethically conflicted.

All in all, it would seem this July 12 was just another unpredictable, thought-provoking, humid day on the American University campus, and by Saturday we will all wish these days could have lingered just a bit longer.

Holly B, Norwich, VA

On Taking Risks

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I’ve never categorized myself as the athletic or risk-taker type. A year or two ago, I would have stared at the forty-five feet tall climbing wall and hidden in the shadows, watching enviously as everyone else attempted to climb.

But many things can happen in a year. Even before I came to NSLC, I was starting to break out of my shell. When our group stood at the climbing wall, I was thinking, I don’t want to be known as that girl that chickened out. Besides, if I don’t do it now, then I’ll regret it forever, always wondering what would have happened if I had climbed.

I watched as the first boy in our group climbed the rock wall, like it was a piece of cake, and then several more girls followed him. So it’s not a superhuman task, I decided. I can do it.

But I did the rope ladder instead, and I was first to do it, and I was in for a surprise. As soon as I placed my foot on the rope rung, the entire ladder sank down. That time, I nearly backed out, but I told myself, I can’t stop, not when I haven’t even started.

It was tiring, but I kept going. You have to get halfway there. After that, it was, you’ve gotten this far, just a little more. Then, you’re almost there, you can do it!

And I did it. I climbed all the way to the top. I was sore and exhausted afterwards, but I didn’t regret trying the ladder. I’d done something that I had never before thought that I could achieve.

Next on the course was a zip line, which I was really excited for. Then I saw that we had to walk across a rope to get to it, and I started weighing my options again. But this time, I was quicker in deciding that, yes, I do want to do the zip line, and if I have to walk across that rope, then I’ll do it.

Besides, if the Hobbits did it in The Lord of the Rings, then so can I.

I was taught to work before having fun, so I knew that I had to do something that I didn’t particularly like, in order to do something that I did want to do. And the zip line was completely worth it.

After that was the wooden jungle gym, and I admit that there were many times when I thought that I was going to fall, even though I knew that the workers would never let that happen. I just focused on my goal, just focused on getting through the course, and I made it.

I was third in my group for the jungle gym, and the first two passed going onto the second level. But, again, if I didn’t at least try, then I’d regret it for a very long time.

I did it, I passed, I was exhausted, but the feeling of succeeding at something so difficult to me was amazing. When you sacrifice so much blood, sweat, and tears, it makes victory that much sweeter.

Finally, we got to “relax.” There was a large mechanical swing, and I immediately knew that I just had to do it. The first time I went on, I had to pull the rip cord. I had no idea how to work it. When I did figure it out, none of the three of us on the swing were anticipating the initial drop anymore. But that made it more fun.

I did it a second time, still as the puller. Two of my friends were with me on the swing, and I asked them if they were ready. One said yes. One said no. I pulled.

But, hey, what’s life without surprises? Our day began with hard, physical work, which I wouldn’t have done a year ago. But now, I know that I can do it, and, if I get another opportunity, I will do it again.

I tried, I pushed my limits, and I succeeded. And I do not regret a thing.

After all, Lance Armstrong once said, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.”

— Jessica C. Lee, Potomac, MD

Backpack Journalism Reflections

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Today was pretty awesome. All three of the speakers – Dr. Paul Lisnek, Professor Coleman McCarthy, and Mr. Robert Pruitt – were amazing. I felt like the session with Mr. Pruitt really brought the whole group together.

The “snap cup” during TA meeting was the highlight of my day. “Snap Cup” is when everybody writes something nice about every other person in the group on slips of paper, and the slips of paper are put into a cup where they are mixed up and read aloud.

— Colleen B, Silver Spring, MD

Today we went to Baltimore harbor! We went down into the Indian festival nearby. The culture there was amazing: from the colorful skirts and outfits to the music being played live and books being passed out. We enjoyed the sights and smells of the free buffet feast. Then we got a henna tattoo to remember the time we spent there. It was my favorite part of the harbor experience. Later we walked by the water and watched the paddle boaters. They had dragon ones! Then we went to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe where we had to be careful eating and not mess up our new tattoos. The burgers were awesome. Then we explored the Barnes and Nobles. It was the biggest i’ve ever seen! Then we had to board the buses and head back. It was another fun day at NSLC!

— Arden P, Lantana, TX

I’ve been here for a week and today was the breaking point when I realized: Why not go all out and be comfortable with people who treat me with respect! I’m awkward and everyone in my TA group knows I’m clumsy. But for me to get up and dance (I realized later), I got more out of my shell. That’s a lesson that will always stay in my memory.

— Danni W, Brandon, MS

Today was just plain awesome. Despite the fact that I was tired, I really enjoyed the first couple speakers and thought it was way cool about all of their accomplishments and how inspiring they were. Mr. Pruitt, though, was probably one of the most inspirational and awesome speakers of my life. He was absolutely amazing and I respect every single thing he said.

Arlington Cemetery was very moving and I loved Baltimore Harbor and the shopping. I also love everyone in my TA group and I’m going to miss everyone so much. This has been an awesome experience!

— Hannah M, Milford, IA

Mr. Pruitt was awesome! I have never met someone that can move everyone in the room – make them dance, bawl tears and then smile beyond measure all at the same time in only two hours. Serious mood swings, but great.

Then it was off to Arlington Cemetery, which created a serious mood. It was wonderful seeing all the veterans and adopters of veterans in t-shirts that read, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran”. It was very moving.

Baltimore was nice for me because it’s my home sweet home.

Busy day but best day ever!

— Shannon C, Catonsville, MD

Today was a very hustling day. Being a “lion”, I felt as if I didn’t have time to think since I found myself just trying to get things done and on time. The morning was spent running around. We had three guest speakers, all of which were very inspiring and had many things to teach us. Mr. Pruitt was surprisingly very fun and very inspiring. After, we went to Arlington Cemetery and saw the Kennedy grave stones. Anyway, I spent the ride home talking to Hannah, and it was so interesting hearing her talk about Iowa, as it is very different to my life in New York. I love my TA group.

— Katrina B, Commack, NY

We went to the Arlington Cemetery after a seminar on peace with the very Professor McCarthy, but I did get to thank a veteran. It was kind of awkward because the veteran and I stared at each other for a few seconds before I reached out to shake his hand, but it was a sentimental moment. It was pure like a lot of life isn’t when I got to thank him for serving the country.

— Yaling C, Randolph, NJ

Commitment in Action

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Once I took some time to get used to breaking out of my comfort zone, the experiences here were really inspiring. From just getting to know people from across the country to getting involved in group activities and workshops, I became a completely different person. My favorite moment was during the Commitment in Action session with Robert Pruitt, because he allowed us to find ourselves. I laughed, I cried, I danced, and I left the room completely shocked at how much I had grown in as little as two hours. Overall, the NSLC experience is a challenging way to find who you really are.

— Nicole M, Berkley, Michigan

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