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Honors thesis becomes self-produced album for ASU graduate Amanda Stone

Amanda Stone in a recording studio singing into a microphone with headphones on.

ASU honors graduate Amanda Stone has released an album of songs she wrote, titled "Finding."

May 17, 2023

Producing an album of original compositions was more than an honors thesis project for Amanda Stone, who recently graduated Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a minor in voice performance and honors from Barrett, The Honors College. 

In addition to fulfilling honors thesis requirements, the album was a creative way of reflecting on her personal experiences and growth.

“When I started this album, I had a fairy-tale version of it, that it would be a journey of finding myself. But I quickly learned that there was a reason why this album is called 'Finding' and not ‘Found,'" Stone said.

The album, which is a musical journey through Stone’s life, pulled from her musical and personal experiences and what she learned in the ASU vocal performance program. She wrote the songs, performed and recorded them with a band she hired, and worked on editing and postproduction for the album that was officially released this spring. It took two years to complete the album.

“All of the songs were written when I was 19 to 20 years old,” Stone said. “I wanted to finish all of the songs before I turned 21 so it could be essentially a time capsule for the 20-year-old me.”

The album, titled “Finding," is available on YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music.  

Stone began singing at 4 years old when her mom put her in their church choir. Her great-grandmother taught her to play the piano when she was 6 years old. For several years, Stone sang in church choirs and the Barrett choir. She also served as an assistant conductor for two children’s choirs.

She also kept up with her academics and service as an undergraduate teaching assistant in the Ira. A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and a summer undergraduate research assistant and lab volunteer at the ASU Adaptive Intelligent Materials and Systems Center. 

Stone started the album project with a title and general theme, which was about finding herself. Once the theme was established, it took about a year and a half for her to write all of the songs. That turned out to be the longest part of the album-producing process.

Stone knew she wanted a song for her great-grandmother, who is her musical inspiration and biggest role model, on the album.  

“If I ever wrote music, the first song would be for her,” Stone said. To make sure this song was the best it could be and accurately reflected her great-grandmother, Stone interviewed her mother, grandmother and other people who knew her great-grandmother personally. As a result, the song “Golden Heart” on Stone’s album was created.

Other songs on the album were written along the way of Stone’s self-discovery journey. Stone’s album has 10 songs, but she doesn’t have a favorite.

“It’s like choosing a favorite child,” she said.

Stone used Barrett thesis funding, which is available to honors students completing their honors theses and creative projects, to compensate those who helped her with the project, including band members, and to cover the costs of mixing and mastering the album, a professional photo shoot for the album cover and release party.

First reactions to album

The release party, held earlier this spring at Boho Jungle Space in Phoenix, marked the first time Stone presented her album publicly.

The response to her album was overwhelmingly positive.

“Amanda's immense love, passion, artistry and talent for music shined through each song, and I'm grateful I had the opportunity to experience her dedication pay off,” said Ava Lemke, a Barrett student studying political science and disability studies.

Lemke said her favorite song is “Golden Heart," the song Stone wrote for her great-grandmother, “because the lyrics and accompaniment pair beautifully with one another.”

Kellie Phong, an ASU electrical engineering major, said party attendees got caught up in the emotion of each song.

“When the songs were sad, people shed a tear and were wiping at their eyes,” Phong said.

Asked to identify her favorite song, Phong said, “This is a tough one because Amanda sounded like a Disney princess for all of the songs. But if I had to choose, it would be 'The One' because it is an upbeat, hopeful take on the beginning stages of liking someone. She reflects about her past relationships and the lessons she’s learned but remains open to love and it is such a great song.”

Anthony Procopio, a Barrett student who graduated ASU this month with a bachelor’s degree in music composition, music education and psychology, was taken in by the love and joy he felt at Stone’s album release party.

“I think my favorite part was just seeing how joyful Amanda was throughout the party and seeing that the multiyear project had finally finished,” he said. “You could see the pride in her face, and I joined her in sharing that pride for her extremely hard work,” he said, adding that “I Still Have Home” is his favorite song.

“I remember talking with Amanda about how she wanted to end the album, and how whatever the song ended up being, it needed to tie in the musical and lyrical themes,” he said. "'I Still Have Home' did exactly that, and in doing so, it brings a certain degree of nostalgia that lands perfectly with the idea of being able to return home, no matter the journey.”

Fulfilling academic, creative passions

Stone reflected positively on the time and work it took to produce her album.

“This album has really been a way for me to reflect on some of the major experiences and inspirations in my life that have shaped me into the person that I am today,” including those from high school and college, both good and bad, she said.

“It is important to reflect on what has gotten me to this point and what will get me ahead,” Stone said. “This has been a wonderful opportunity to learn more about myself and connect more with people in this stage of life.”

Stone said she wanted to attend ASU and Barrett to fulfill her academic and creative passions.  

“As an engineering major, and someone who was passionate about music, I wanted to attend a university that had a strong program for both,” she said.

“Barrett has provided me an opportunity to grow academically and professionally, as well as to be in a community of like-minded people.”

Stone will start a PhD program in mechanical engineering at Purdue University in August. She hopes to ultimately work for NASA and perform music semiprofessionally.

Story by Alex Marie Solomon, who graduated ASU in May with a bachelor’s degree in communication and honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

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