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Music to Your Ears

Bienen alum Kellen “Pom Pom” Pomeranz ’11 wins a Grammy Award.

Pom Pom Hero

By Diana Babineau
Fall 2021

If you’re a fan of John Legend’s hit song “Conversations in the Dark,” you’re already a fan of Kellen “Pom Pom” Pomeranz too. A songwriter and producer based in New York City, Pomeranz has worked on some of today’s most popular songs, such as “Novocaine” by the Unlikely Candidates, which topped Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart for 33 weeks.

Pomeranz does much of her work behind the scenes — writing songs, working with artists in the recording studio, finishing up production. But in March the Bienen School of Music alumna stole the spotlight when she won a Grammy Award for best R&B album as co-producer and co-songwriter of John Legend’s Bigger Love (2020).

“It was amazing,” Pomeranz says. “I had never met him before I worked on [“Conversations in the Dark”], but he was up to every expectation you would have about John Legend. From the second he opened his mouth and played the piano, he sounded exactly how he does on the record.”

In addition to her Grammy win, Pomeranz is the third woman ever to be featured on Apple Music’s producer playlist series Behind the Boards. That’s a big deal in the music industry: Between 2012 and 2019, women comprised only 12.5% of songwriters and 2.6% of producers, according to a study by the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. 

But when it comes to diversifying the industry, Pomeranz is optimistic. 

“People seem to be a lot more open to embracing diversity now,” she says. “I get to work with so many young artists and managers — they’re from a different generation, and they’re super excited about ushering some change into the business.” 

Looking back on her time at Northwestern, Pomeranz says the composition and music technology program “played a huge part in my musical upbringing.” It also introduced her to the commercial side of making music. “Music theory, ear training … finding the right chord progression to go to or hearing that melody in your head and then transposing it onto the keyboard — those are all skills that I learned at Bienen. I use them every day.”

Chris Mercer, a lecturer in the program, remembers Pomeranz as a quick learner with a flair for musical expression. “Even at that stage, Kellen’s songs and mixes were fresh and interesting, and she had a natural gift for hooks,” he says.

While Pomeranz has worked with a number of big-name artists, she loves helping up-and-coming artists launch their careers. Her favorites right now? “Leyla Blue … renforshort … Tai Verdes — there’s so much good music out there,” she says.

Diana Babineau is writer and editor for the Office of Global Marketing and Communication.

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