“Take It One Step at a Time”
Words, music and performance by Arabella Egan
By GWEN OREL
At one point, Rachael Quinn Egan dialed 911 by accident.
It was not easy setting up a home studio for her 14-year-old daughter Arabella to appear on “The Today Show” — even though the producers had been in touch for weeks with instructions to help.
They were using three iPhones, and then Arabella’s Airpods had trouble connecting.
But it was worth it.
Last week, on Thursday, Sept. 10, Arabella Egan, a freshman at Montclair High School, played her song “Take It One Step at a Time” on TV.
She had previously played it for her graduation from Renaissance Middle School.
“I was so nervous, I was shaking. I felt like I couldn’t speak properly,” Arabella said about performing for “The Today Show.”
The producers of the show reached out to the family on Aug. 10. Egan had put the song on Facebook, on her own page and on a parents’ page. Someone sent the song to producer Joanne Mathison at “The Today Show,” and she sent an email asking if Arabella would like to come on the show.
Egan said with a laugh that she nearly missed it, thinking it was junk mail.
“I’ve always known she can play, and that she’s got a beautiful voice,” she said. “It was really great to see her finally show what she can do, shine her light. We were so proud.
“But for it to go this far, we’re just stunned. My husband can’t stop weeping.”
Arabella has been writing songs since she was 5; her first was a wordless song called “Beanie,” for her little sister, Angelina, who is 12. Arabella also has an older sister, Francie, 22.
But this song grew out of pain and disappointment.
“We were going to go to D.C., and have an overnight trip. So many plans were canceled so suddenly because of coronavirus,” Arabella said. She had been looking forward to the trip to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture since sixth grade.
Then she saw what happened to George Floyd. “Wow, what a world that we’re living through right now,” she remembered thinking.
“Everything just seemed so dark and horrible.”
Her music teacher, Dana Spagnuolo at Renaissance, asked her to write a song for the eighth-grade graduation slide show. Her piano teacher, Judith Dewette, also suggested that she write about how she was feeling.
“We were really worried about kids to be honest,” Egan said. “I’m really grateful that Arabella is able to kind of heal herself with her music.”
The chorus of the song reminds people:
Life has not been fair to us
But we know we can’t give up…
Take it one step at a time
Don’t be afraid
Even though we lost what we had
We still have the memories
It’s easy to say that everything’s wrong
But hand in hand we can move along
To the next phase of our lives
So take it one step at a time
Egan and her husband Mark are both amateur musicians who put themselves through college busking on Grafton Street in Dublin. Mark opened for Tori Amos and Elvis Costello and the Waterboys, Egan said. So the parents love seeing their daughter gain musical recognition. “We’re living vicariously through her.”
Arabella had to miss two periods of school on her first day to be on “The Today Show.” She’s not enthusiastic about remote learning so far — it’s her first year in high school, and hard to meet new people that way.
She’s a little shy about her achievements, and only posted that she would be on TV on the morning it happened. But this year, she said with a smile, she is going to put herself out there more.
The world fades away for her when she performs. “I just hear all the harmonies, and I hear the melodies coming together,” she said.
“It’s like a whole story in my mind. I’m just focusing on the words, and I just listen for the little parts of the song that I like the most. And I get really calm and relaxed, and I feel really happy when I play.
“I wanted this song to be hopeful for people. I just needed to hear the words that everything was going to be OK. We’re all going to be fine.”