Blogs by InnovatorsBox®

Introducing: Pause to Wonder, A Special Holiday Album with a Modern Twist

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Ti’s the season and I’m so thrilled to introduce you to our special Holiday album by InnovatorsBox Studios! This one is one of the few albums that has a mix of both originals and covers music where you’ll find some of your favorite holiday songs but with a creative twist. And I hope reading this behind the scene blog will share why we wanted to do so!

First for context, the end of the year holiday is one of my favorite holiday seasons of the year. It’s not just because of Christmas, gift-giving, hot chocolate season, vacations, and being Christian, it’s often the key time I get to really remind myself where I have been all year, where I want to be, and where I’m grateful for. It’s a time of reflection, reminders, and reimagining of what more is to come. This also means it’s a time of growing and growing isn’t always full of rainbows and colors.

Some growing moments are painful like that winter I spent alone abroad without family and friends, asking myself, ‘why I am doing this to myself and feeling alone?’. At times, it’s a moment to remember that I’m having so much fun but is these the people I want to end the year with and how can I carve out time to really treasure being present with the family and friends I love and not get carried away in the flashiness of the holiday season? 

In other words, this is the time of year of celebration and reflection but also many emotions yet often the media and music tend to celebrate one-sided stories – extreme happiness and happy ending or sadness of not having it. Did you know that more people feel lonely, sad, and depressed over the holiday in the expectation that we have to be celebrating or enjoying these days a certain way as the media portrayed? So when the team and I got together to ideate how we can create an album to celebrate diversity, innovators stories, and creativity, we immediately found a common theme – how can we tell the diverse stories of the holidays and not just the one-sided joyful depiction of what holiday often has presented. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still very jolly and thrilled about the holidays as I am today and will be again. But we felt like the human context of those layers of people’s emotion was missing and normalizing that celebration of all emotions, which is why I hope listening to our originals and covers will leave you feeling even more heartwarming and snuggled.

THE DEVELOPMENT

What I loved about this project was that this was our very first project all ten of our team members really got to co-create. From the inception of the project idea to the actual development we came together as a team to catch up, ideate, and share our dreams on what this album could be and why it was important for us. Here see our live ideation from our August group meeting.

MEET THE TEAM

Knowing how busy everyone is, it was a pleasant excuse to see and collaborate with everyone, but it was more heartwarming to be reminded that this is the team that really is thinking big and creating with a bigger heart. While we shared our dreams of ‘let’s create the next best holiday album to set a new bar’, what I loved the most was why they wanted to. Yes, the group echoed the same thought: what we felt was missing in the market was holiday music for all audiences.

Monica: What does the end of the year holiday season mean to you?

Rowanne Chang

It is time to reflect on the year! Did I tell my loved ones I love them enough? Did I achieve the goals I set at the beginning of the year? And most importantly, I tell myself I did a great job this year and now I deserve a good rest.

Kelly Gravo

Joy, love, thankfulness, family, and God. Also conclusions and new beginnings.

Ravi Lad

To me, the end of the year holiday season means time for a break, for reflection, and for family. There is a mood about the season that’s just delightfully different!

Isaiah Weatherspoon

The end of the year holiday means a time for giving, and spending quality time with loved ones!

Paniz Farokhnia

The end of the year holiday season for me is a time of coming together, reflection, and mostly gratefulness.

Serin Oh

Gratitude, reflection, and birth of a new season 🙂

Giorgio Schipani

The holiday season for me means family, and spending time with those you love.

Music for singles that weren’t about feeling lonely but celebrating their own voice. 

Music for people who may enjoy the winter season but may not have a good memory with the holiday season due to prior experiences and the toxic positivity may drain their energy. 

Music for families to enjoy the family experiences including the non-conventional families that we don’t see in the typical holiday pictures. 

Music that wasn’t just about the winter holidays as it’s not winter for everyone at this time of year. 

The commonality we came back to was the lack of diversity in the commercial holiday music we enjoyed. Even the pieces we loved and adored, we realized, did not fully represent how everyone felt! And we wondered… what could really be created to speak for all innovators?

Monica: What is one of your favorite memories developing this album?

Rowanne Chang

I like the fact that everyone in our team has different impressions about the holiday season and we could be able to exchange our ideas.

Monica: What inspired you to create the beats for the new holiday songs in this album?

Paniz Farokhnia

Monica’s references were great to get inspiration from for this album. Hearing how we wanted the first track to be about reflection inspired us to make something on the music side that is a little bit more serious to help tell the story better from the start! I added a little bit of the jingle bells melody before going into the music to symbolize how we tend to get into this reflective thought when we go into the holiday season & new year.

Monica: How is making music at InnovatorsBox different from elsewhere?

Kelly Gravo

It’s an open and limitless creative environment. It’s refreshing to work on a team with an abundance mindset - which enables me to explore new musical possibilities. Also, it’s cool to work on the logistics and creative sides of IB Studios.

Monica: What inspiration helped you create the visual for this particular album that was different from the other ones?

Rowanne Chang

We still stick to the main core value which is “home”. No matter where we are or what we are doing, holidays remind us of this value. But what I want to present is also that wherever your loved ones are, there is a home.

This is where our group ideation was pivotal which was building on everyone’s strengths and different experiences. Every one of our team members specialized in a different musical instrument, grew up in a different household, different city, and different culture (some with different languages!) How can we have the album celebrate diversity organically through our diverse stories, experiences, and insights? This is how we were able to ideate on a lens that we felt was missing while trying something new to challenge ourselves in how to communicate this musically in a harmonious way. 

While Serin Oh and Isaiah Weatherspoon oversaw the overall production flow and the quality of the album development to align, each track has a special touch and focus by each team member.

Monica: What was the story inspiration for this new song you wrote?

Serin Oh

For “Calendar”, I was brainstorming on how 2020 has affected the way we celebrate the holiday seasons. I imagine that a lot of people had to spend the holiday season away from their loved ones due to the travel restrictions. To share this reflective sentiment, Isaiah and I took inspiration from modern-day Christmas tracks, most notable songs from Ariana Grande’s Christmas album, and dove deeper into how we can also sonically articulate the merry yet somber sentiment.

Monica: What inspired you to create the beats for the new holiday songs in this album?

Isaiah Weatherspoon

Besides working with the talented IBS team members, One of my other main inspirations for music creation has been through searching and listening to plenty of versions of holiday songs. This helped me to build more musical ideas while adding musical elements that I am drawn to!

Have you noticed the creative twists and surprise we had throughout each track? Here is the detailed breakdown!

Of course, as you can imagine though, working as a group with diverse interests, styles, musical development styles, and time zones… and doing this all virtually was not an easy task. Project management and constant communication were key to ensure everyone felt informed, heard, and supported as everyone also had various other projects, both in and out of InnovatorsBox. We relied on Slack, Google documents, Loom videos, emails, and Zoom calls to communicate, but also be reminded that this is an evolving process and constant flexibility is key.

Monica: What was most challenging developing the album?

Serin Oh

The most challenging aspect of developing the album was definitely embracing everyone's unique vision while also creating a cohesive project. I am very glad to have been working alongside Isaiah throughout this project to check the overall cohesiveness throughout these songs because we were able to provide feedback from two different points of view. And I must say, creating an album with people across five different time zones added to the flavor of this project!

Isaiah Weatherspoon

Finding creative ways to recreate holiday songs that all know and love! This project has definitely helped me grow as a music producer. I am grateful!

Paniz Farokhnia

It was being able to be serious with the music but also not too serious to the point we lose happiness. Keeping it in just a chill reflective groove is what I was shooting for.

Giorgio Schipani

Probably the Christmas Lo-Fi song. Lo-fi music is always incredibly challenging because it has a sound that is created to be ‘dirty’ and with rough edges.

Monica: What is one of your favorite memories developing this album?

Serin Oh

My favorite memory in developing this album was becoming closer with my fellow project manager/ producer- Isaiah. We were given the chance to share our stories with each other during our meeting calls and I was reminded once again why I love collaborations so much!!

Paniz Farokhnia

Making the vocal chops in the intro song.

Isaiah Weatherspoon

One of my favorite memories has been working with fellow project manager/singer-songwriter, Serin on this whole project! My other most favorite memory of developing this album is having the privilege of creating great music with the IBS team. It has been an awesome way to end this year!

Ravi Lad

While producing Carol of the Bells, I got to arrange a part for French Horn (the instrument I played in my school band for 9 years while growing up!). THEN, I got to record it and mix it into the track itself- what a throwback!

It also permitted us to grow. Each of us was challenged in different ways as we wanted to try something new and we wanted to delight our listeners and empower them through the album.

Monica: What was most challenging developing the album?

Kelly Gravo

Being satisfied with my output. I’m still healing from a traumatic period of my artistic journey where I’ve been critical and demanding of my voice - and so being able to sit in appreciation and gratitude with what my voice sounds like now is in itself humbling and beautiful.

Ravi Lad

Arranging Carol of the Bells carefully and tastefully. We’ve all heard the melody before so I wondered ‘how can I make this something new and spectacular?’ I found myself constantly thinking about what instrument would be in the spotlight, and how to keep things interesting by adding or removing sounds every 4-8 bars.

Monica: What is one of your favorite memories developing this album?

Kelly Gravo

Our first team meeting for this project. We intentionally ideated on so many components - the emotions associated with the holiday season, aesthetic musical choices, and how the setlist can tell a greater story. It was a reflective meeting that kept me rooted through this journey!

Giorgio Schipani

Overall I would say the atmosphere that it created in my studio whilst working on it. It had always been a dream of mine to work on a Holiday record!

Most importantly, we were happy. We were happy we could create something meaningful for you to bring a smile. And we’re glad this gave us a chance to create, have fun, and grow. Do you hear our happiness and joy in the music? 🙂

Monica: What do you hope others will feel and can relate to when they hear this album?

Ravi Lad

I hope listeners will be happily surprised to find something new and different in their ears as they enjoy this year’s holiday season.

Kelly Gravo

That the holiday season is beautifully nuanced. There is joy and laughter, also loneliness and frustration. I hope that people will feel and show empathy this holiday season - and reflect on our collective human experience 🙂

Giorgio Schipani

I hope people will feel warmth and love, wherever they might be, and I hope they will cherish the music together with their loved ones.

In all, looking back, I’d highlight that this album reminded me of the importance of setting a clear intention and mission to why you are doing what you do. While we had a lot of changes and moving pieces as any project would go through because we had a clear intention of why we wanted to do this and for what purpose, we were able to come together as a team with more creativity each time. 

This is the second holiday we are welcoming with the pandemic. I know a lot of what we are facing now is not exactly what we thought where we wanted to be or how we wanted to do something but I hope that does not prevent you from celebrating where you are and knowing how each step celebration to where you are is what would help you shape your tomorrows. 

We hope listening to this album reminds you that hey you’ve made it this far and while things may look different there are more growth and joy coming around the corner if we take a moment to smell the flowers in the streets.

For us, this project has only reaffirmed our hope to create more music for you that tells meaningful stories. We’re already ideating in our next project for Spring 2022, any stories and insights you’d like for us to consider? Let us know.

For now, wishing you all a wonderful holiday and a happy new year coming soon. 

Oh, wait, my team has more things to share with you!

Serin Oh

Monica: Why is the song “Calendar” meaningful for you?

Serin Oh

My grandparents were unable to spend Christmas with us last season due to the limitations imposed by the Canada-US border. We were calling and texting them consistently and the common thing we would always repeat was “I miss you” and “I love you”. Also, as someone who is in a long-distance relationship, I also had to spend the holiday season away from my partner and when there’s a day that we get to celebrate Christmas together, I can imagine us reflecting on these moments.

Monica: What was your favorite track on the album?

Serin Oh

Surprisingly, my favorite track of the album is actually one of our original tracks - “Pause to Wonder”. I personally really enjoyed challenging myself with trying out a spoken word/rap-esque type of delivery with Monica’s words over Paniz’s vibey grooves.

Monica: 2021 was quite a year, what are you most proud of accomplishing this year? Why?

Serin Oh

I am most proud of laying down the foundations to live a life I have always dreamt of: of being an artist. 2021 has been a year of developing relationships with people who want to join me on this artistic journey, either as fellow music industry colleagues or supportive listeners. Also, I can feel that I have become more articulate as a songwriter to convey the honest questions I have myself.

Monica: What do you hope 2022 will bring for you?

Serin Oh

In 2022, I hope to continue building on top of the foundations that were laid out in 2021. I hope my songwriting will only become more intentional in the stories I tell and the relationships with those I love will deepen even more. As an artist, I hope to perform more, release more music, tour, and meet more supportive listeners on this journey!

Paniz Farokhnia

Monica: 2021 was quite a year, what are you most proud of accomplishing this year? Why?

Paniz Farokhnia

For 2021 I’m most proud of my journey out in LA. I moved out here two weeks prior to 2021 and this whole year has been a rollercoaster but I’m proud of how fast I have been able to reach some of my goals having been here for barely a year!

Monica: What do you hope 2022 will bring for you?

Paniz Farokhnia

I hope 2022 will bring better times for everyone around the world. With the pandemic, I know it has been tough on the whole world. It will be nice to be able to move forward from it.

Isaiah Weatherspoon

Monica: What was your favorite track on the album?

Isaiah Weatherspoon

Although each track holds a special place to me, I really enjoyed recreating “Jingle Bells” with the rest of the team. This is my favorite track because it was so fun mixing everyone’s vocal harmonies in with the music! Everyone did an extremely great job with their vocal performances, so this made the track so much more fun to work on!

Monica: 2021 was quite a year, what are you most proud of accomplishing this year? Why?

Isaiah Weatherspoon

2021 has been a year of growth for me to say the least. One accomplishment that I am most proud of achieving has been publishing my first children’s Music Coloring Book. I never thought that I would be doing something in regards to book publishing, but I wanted to find a unique way to draw youth and the next generation to music! It was a surreal experience.

Monica: What do you hope 2022 will bring for you?

Isaiah Weatherspoon

I hope and pray that 2022 will bring me joy, peace, good health, more life and musical growth!

Ravi Lad

Monica: What was your favorite track on the album?

Ravi Lad

Sweater Weather! Isaiah did an incredible job with the production by taking a well-known song and spinning it in his own unique and creative way.

Monica: 2021 was quite a year, what are you most proud of accomplishing this year? Why?

Ravi Lad

2021 was a year that brought me an incredible amount of change. I joined InnovatorsBox in February, quit my day job as a petroleum engineer in June, and started a business in the audio engineering space in August. I am most proud of myself for taking the leap. Years ago, I never would have thought I’d be here.

Monica: What do you hope 2022 will bring for you?

Ravi Lad

I am hopeful that 2022 will bring me further confirmation that I am on the right path (re: my career change decision).

Kelly Gravo

Monica: Why is music important to you?

Kelly Gravo

Music is my paintbrush of choice. It brings me joy yet challenges my sanity at moments, haha. The most beautiful thing is that through it I’ve learned so much, yet I feel like I’ve only touched the surface.

Monica: 2021 was quite a year, what are you most proud of accomplishing this year? Why?

Kelly Gravo

Dealing with my anxiety. The past year has been mentally traumatizing for me, and with graduation coming soon, I’ve been in an on-and-off state of worry vs confidence. This year, I opened up about my habit of worry and doubting - and my home church family has loved and supported me in this! Vulnerability and seeking support has been my biggest lesson this season.

Monica: What do you hope 2022 will bring for you?

Kelly Gravo

I hope to learn, travel, and create more. In my gap-ish semester before graduation, I want to spend time with my family and learn about my heritage. As a creative manager/marketer, I want to sharpen the possibilities of how I can tell beautiful and intentional stories. Most importantly, I want to be a catalyst for others in their storytelling. I cannot wait to leave school, find a full-time job (hopefully, fingers crossed!!), and also do lots of freelance projects where I can hone in on creative marketing and talent management!

Rowanne Chang

Monica: What was your favorite track on the album?

Rowanne Chang

Too many, you should just hit the play button!

Monica: 2021 was quite a year, what are you most proud of accomplishing this year? Why?

Rowanne Chang

I am proud that I am able to embrace my own depression now. When I can embrace it I am more confident and understanding of self-love.

Monica: What do you hope 2022 will bring for you?

Rowanne Chang

I hope we will be able to travel more! Not only can I go to the countries I’ve always fancied, but my family can visit me too.

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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