Creating a culture of creativity: Basement Records empowers students
Art evokes many different meanings. No matter the medium, art is thought-provoking and compels us to have a shared experience through our emotions. While Brandeis may be known for its research, it shares a large community of talented artists and creators through the student body. Basement Records, a campus club, aims to bring together artists of all kinds. They helped to create a directory of students that are creating film, music, photography and other mediums as well as create a community. The club was born in 2016, and while there was some loss in membership during the pandemic, it was revived in late 2021. When the president at the time went to study abroad, it was time for a leader to rise. Lizbeth “Liz” Sandoval ’25 serves as the current president of Basement Records alongside several other students on the leadership team. Her vision was to create a community that supports and uplifts BIPOC — Black, Indigenous, People of Color — artists and creatives.
Sandoval is nearly celebrating a year in her role as president, in which she has been overseeing projects, delegating roles, and managing outreach to the Brandeis community. “Basement Records is an inclusive space meant to foster an environment for all multi-media creatives to connect and collaborate,” Sandoval said in an Oct. 6 interview with the Justice. Sandoval is double majoring in Business and Psychology and doing a minor in CAST — Creativity, the Arts and Social Transformation. While she is not focusing on music in her academics, she is no stranger to it. From drums to piano, she can play a total of six instruments, and said she has felt connected to music since she was young. She recounts a time when her mother described her as “a musical kid from the beginning,” as she was active in the womb whenever her mother listened to music.
She also briefly discussed her interest in connecting Brandeisians with high schoolers in Waltham. She led and created Melody Mentors in collaboration with Basement Records, Africano Waltham and Str8up Entertainment in addition to COMPACT as a third collaborator. Mentorship of young artists of color is especially important to Sandoval, who is a queer Latina. She discussed the importance of her roots in Latinx music being an inspiration to her as a creator and artist. There is nothing better than being able to share that experience with others, she says, and Melody Mentors does just that through a variety of events and workshops for students.
In separate interviews, the Justice was able to get to know two other officers for Basement Records, Ariana Camaj ’26 and Simon Fidin ’24. Camaj is another student whose focus and passion for music is outside of academics. Her interests mostly lie in the creative outlet of photography. She works as a marketing specialist, particularly as a photographer. She also works on creating promotional posters as well as outreach and networking. She is currently working on a new program called From the Attic, a subgroup within Basement Records focused on executing events to showcase individual talent. It allows “creatives who are eager to take their creative pursuits to the next level ... to shine and grow” as written in their sign-up form.
Camaj got involved in Basement Records through a friend of a friend, where she met Aaron Kelly ’24, who goes by Ace. She quickly learned the ropes and became an officer. Camaj expressed her passion for making sure there is accessibility to programs for everyone. “When a lot of people think about music or photography, they think you have to be talented. In reality, being bad is normal. There is a learning curve to anything creative,” she shared in an interview on Oct. 26. There are many students who do not know about the video and recording studio on campus, which can be found in SIMS [Sound, Images and Media Studio]. Having accessibility to different equipment is imperative to young creators to find out what works for them and to be able to have a chance in making their dreams come true. Camaj’s advice to artists just starting out is to take it step by step and to realize that “being creative is beautiful.”
Simon Fidlin ’24 couldn’t agree more. He currently serves as Artistic Director of Basement Records, and helps to organize events, run workshops and create concert materials. His favorite part of the job is mentoring people with creative projects, like music videos. Self-taught in Logic Pro, Fidlin is an artist creating and producing his own music. He was classically trained in viola and piano, but he is most interested in the new wave of hyperpop. “I really love music that combines elements of multiple genres,” Fidlin says, smiling. While he is double majoring in Biology and HSSP — Health: Science, Society, and Policy — he is doing a minor in music, and though he is unsure of a career in music, he would welcome it gladly.
“Shyness shouldn’t dissuade you,” Fidlin says. “There are so many resources out there to take advantage of: SIMS ,Basement Records, WBRS’ open mic nights.” He strongly encourages new students, especially first-years and mid-years, to find their life in the arts. The goal of the Basement Records’ leadership team is to have students create work that brings them joy and fulfillment and leave a lasting legacy after Brandeis.
SPEED ROUND Q&A WITH BASEMENT RECORDS
What is your favorite genre?
Liz Sandoval — Latin bachata
Ariana Camaj — Rock and oldies hip-hop (1980s – 2000s)
Simon Fidlin — Hyperpop
Who is your favorite artist?
Liz Sandoval — Chavela
Ariana Camaj — Chris Cornell, when it comes to rock
Simon Fidlin — Brakence
What does Basement Records mean to you in a few words?
Liz Sandoval — “Belonging”
Ariana Camaj — “Artists supporting artists”
Simon Fidlin — “Creativity”