Vulnerability, honesty and earnestness. These are values that elevate a songwriter’s craft to the next level, but would all be inaccessible without the additional element of courage. 

Julia Ivory (or Julia Vaccaro to her friends and family!) is one creative who has come to recognise her courage in hindsight. The twenty-two year old JMC songwriting student and second place recipient of the 2024 LACM X ICMP International Songwriting Competition acknowledges her battles with mental health and the determination to overcome them as the catalysts to her becoming the emerging songwriter- and human being- that she is today. We caught up with Julia as she begins to reach her stride as a bonafide songwriter to hear more about her journey thus far, in life, at JMC and beyond.

Always a singer for as long as she can remember, 
Julia first took up songwriting as an exercise for catharsis in her high school years. Finding strength in the lyrics of her earliest songs, Julias music became a source of self-expression and self-exploration as she navigated the hardships of adolescence. “Looking back at the young girl that had to sort of fall in love with herself again, I was being brave but I did not know it at the time… when I look back I genuinely don't know how I did it”.

After finishing school,
Julia bounced between different degrees and universities where she says she spent a lot of time trying to be something that she thought she should be. “It was all like, oh, I did really well in school, so I need to do something that will be a good Plan B…. but it was taking up all the Plan A time”. With songwriting always on the back burner, the decision to pursue a formal education in the subject came when Julia came to the realisation that the life she was creating for herself wasn’t one that was making her happy. Coming to JMC, Julia says she felt “comfortable” right off the bat.

“I think being surrounded by like minded people who loved music, or any art, was a whole different experience for me because I was doing all of these other things. I was like ‘ooh, this is new, I like it and I want to know more’... I really benefited from the one-on-one studio time with my tutor
Paul. He gave that space for vulnerability, which was really important to me because I was learning to do that within myself”.

The most recent (public!) culmination of
Julia’s newfound vulnerability can be heard in ‘If Only I Knew’, a tender but powerful track that heralds in a new musical era for the songwriter. Julia says her style has definitely changed a lot in the last year or two since beginning her songwriting education. “I'm definitely trying to go more towards a stripped back style inspired by artists like Olivia Rodgrigo or Fiona Apple. I really love lyrics , obviously. I tend to spend most of my time on it. And vocals. I love experimenting with what I can do vocally”. ‘If Only I Knew’ began as an assignment for one of Julia’s JMC songwriting classes, with the song’s credits outlining the expert guidance of JMC’s teaching team.

Evidently, Julia’s experimentation has paid off, with ‘If Only I Knew’ securing second place in the LACM X ICMP International Songwriting Competition entry. This prestigious competition hosted by the Los Angeles College of Music and London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance invites students from a selection of the world’s most cutting edge music institutions to submit their songs for consideration. Julia describes her second place win with ‘If Only I Knew’ as surreal. “For me, I was so happy, but at the same time I don't think I realised in the moment the extent of what it was or what it entails. Not that I didn't think very much of it, but I mean, I saw how many schools were involved… Not that I played down my expectations… but sometimes I do. Just in case it doesn’t work out you know?”

This win not only recognises
Julia’s innate talent for songwriting but helps set her up for a future career in music with incredible prizes from leading music tech companies including Ableton, Native Instruments and DISCO.

This year, JMC is proud to have two students amongst the winning student cohort with
Julia taking out second place and Kye Arnot receiving an honourable mention for his song ‘The Gaps I Could Fill’. Julia and Kye competed against students from across the globe to make up two out of four winners! “I’ve done eisteddfods and all that random stuff you do as a young singer but now as an adult, being able to focus on things that I know I can show and be proud of is just really cool” explains Julia. “It’s really cool to feel recognised”. 

To anyone considering studying songwriting at JMC,
Julia says “it doesn’t have to be as much pressure as you think it needs to be. Making friends, sharing songs you like and building a close circle of people that inspire you is really good because you can look up to them…Just do your best and love what you do”. 

Interview and words by Clare Neal.

Find out more about Songwriting at JMC