Pascale Carvalho ’26 wanted to carve a unique musical path for herself when she decided to join her middle school’s orchestra.
“My older siblings played the violin, and I was like, ‘I want to be different,’” she said. “So I started playing the cello.”
Today, Carvalho continues to be a musician in the most multifaceted sense of the word. She is a singer, songwriter and composer who plays jazz, classical, pop and indie-rock music. She also writes pop and indie-rock and composes classical and soundtrack music.
“It’s all about getting better,” Carvalho said. “I’m not in a rush to show off my skills because I feel like there’s just so much space for me to grow.”
But Carvalho’s musical journey hasn’t always been easy. In ninth grade, she started experiencing neurological problems and lost partial feeling in two of her fingers. But although she could no longer play the cello, Carvalho was by no means ready to leave music behind her.
“I started focusing on guitar and I started focusing on writing music,” she said. “That’s how I became a composer.”
It was also around this time that Carvalho began exploring soundtrack composing, having the opportunity to write intermission and background music for her high school’s theater productions.
But Carvalho had found herself drawn to the genre long before high school. She began listening to video game soundtracks in fourth grades and remembers being particularly “obsessed” with The Legend of Zelda. “Back when I was playing piano, I would always beg my piano teacher to let me play the Zelda soundtracks,” she said.
“I wanted to be able to write music to make people feel the way that I felt,” she said. For her, soundtrack music — “writing music to trigger the emotions of the listener or to follow the emotions that are going (on) on the screen” — is where she can put “the most emotional energy.”
When she arrived at Brown, Carvalho was eager to get involved in the local music scene. She was the guitarist for Musical Forum’s production of “Spring Awakening,” has written several pieces for her music classes and even performed on campus.
But she added that the on-campus music scene is not always the most welcoming space — which is indicative of how the music industry operates at large. “There still is profiling,” Carvalho explained. “Of course you don’t expect a Black woman to be a composer — nobody would.”
“When we look at the popular music scene here and in general, of course I’m expected to write R&B music,” she said. As a result, Carvalho often finds it hard to find a space for herself and her work on campus. But “I’m not going to (pander) to what people want me to write.”
“I’m going to be passionate about what I write and share it with people who I know will be passionate about it as well,” she added.
Currently, Carvalho is recording vocals for the music she has written over the past three years and consolidating her work into an album. She plans to release the album, consisting mainly of indie music, sometime this year.
On the composition side, Carvalho is trying to submit more pieces to classical competitions around the country through organizations such as the American Composers Forum. One of Carvalho’s compositions was performed by the American Modern Opera Company during their visit to Brown last Thursday.
Barron Clancy ’26 — one of the students who played Carvalho’s piece alongside the AMOC — wrote in a message to The Herald that Carvalho’s “command over texture in a tonal context is excellent.”
“Not only was her piece comfortable and fun to play, but there are some pitches that ring better than others on the violin, and she definitely used those to her advantage,” Clancy wrote.
Ayushman Choudhury ’25, who played piano in Carvalho’s piece “Verso” last semester, wrote in a message to The Herald that Carvalho “writes with a unique combination of angular and smooth textures that create a rich sonic atmosphere.”
As far as future plans go, Carvalho wants to continue writing as much as possible and plans to collaborate more with fellow musicians. And while Carvalho recognizes the value of producing music, she explained that she is more focused on the “process of becoming a better writer.”
Carvalho’s roommate Nimrit Ahuja ’26 was quick to recognize her hard work and dedication, citing Carvalho’s performance at a 24-hour music challenge and “Spring Awakening.”
“She has such diversity in her abilities and strengths and it’s really inspiring to watch her consistently jump into new opportunities and excel,” Ahuja wrote in a message to The Herald
“Since entering college, music has become a lot more important to me,” Carvalho said. “After having a little bit of an environment change, and (facing) a little bit of backlash in terms of what it is I am expected to write and what kind of musician I’m expected to be, I’ve doubled down on this (as) what I want to do.”
Rya is an arts & culture section editor from Albany, NY. She is a junior studying English and Literary Arts, and her favorite TV show is Breaking Bad.