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Penn State Alum Uses Music, Experiences To Promote Community Change

Penn State alum Aaron Berger, better known as Aaron Bear, credits himself with creating a new genre of music: heart-healing indie-folk. He makes his music with the hope that people can connect with themselves, others, and their communities.

“If we are to be happy in this life, to feel fulfilled in this life, and if we are to connect with each other, we have to start getting more into the heart,” Bear said.

Bear’s latest single, “Ancient,” was recently released to all streaming platforms on April 18. The song is intended to help listeners connect with their deep emotions and “open up to their authenticity.”

In “Ancient,” Bear dives deep into his own heart to find forgiveness toward his parents and their rocky relationship while he was growing up. Along with the song, Bear shared a nine-page letter with his parents, explaining why he wrote the song and how he felt growing up.

“It’s ultimately me forgiving my parents for the experience, and I don’t really think I forgave them until the song was birthed,” Bear said. “But the only way you can forgive somebody is through love. Just accepting them for who they are and what they did and surrounding it with love.”

Bear never imagined this is what his music career would turn into. While at Penn State, he performed at almost every single downtown bar, doing mashups of *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys or covering old rock bands. He even performed after football games at Café 210 West.

Bear also said that he owes a huge debt of gratitude to the Penn State Songwriters Club after the group allowed him to perform his first-ever acoustic songwriter gig at Webster’s downtown.

After a few years post-graduation, Bear moved across the nation to Portland, Oregon for a new job but lived out of his car for a few weeks and visited some national parks in the process. While on the west coast, he posted a Craigslist ad “looking for musicians to jam with.”

In turn, Bear met his good friend and producer, Tommy, who helped engineer, mix and produce his debut album, “Let Love Transform.” The title came from a card drawn from an Oracle deck, the day of which he was leaving for a 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat in Washington.

Vipassana meditation stems from the Buddhist religion, and it was the technique that Buddha used to awaken himself. Bear said that this retreat was the hardest physical and mental challenge of his life. However, it was incredibly rewarding.

“You basically become a monk for 10 days straight,” Bear said. “And the reward is the ability to be more skilled in non-attachment. If something happens, it doesn’t throw you off course, and you accept it.”

After this experience, Bear moved out of Portland and traveled all over the world to get a better grasp of his spiritual self. He traveled to India, Nepal, Thailand, and all over the Middle East, playing music and connecting with the world around him.

Bear said he’s completely rebranded his music and performance since graduating from Penn State. He used to contact bars and other music venues, but now he switched to more of a “ceremony space musician,” such as yoga classes and psychedelic spaces.

Bear is also starting a master’s program at Northeastern this fall to do more research on creative practices and explore how music can produce community change and social cohesion. He hopes to eventually start his own yoga and music festival where people can listen to music, meditate, and come together as a community.

Through all the places he’s been and all the things he was able to experience, Bear encouraged those pursuing a career in music, or just going through life, to do the things that make you afraid.

“What you’re afraid of is a showing of what you need to pursue to come out of the other side stronger and more wise,” Bear said. “Lean into the fear, be uncomfortable, and try new things.”

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About the Author

Tobey Prime

Tobey is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism from Lancaster, PA. He is a major Pittsburgh sport's fan, and Miami Heat fanatic. When Tobey isn't writing for Onward, you can catch him looking at photos of his pugs. Send your best insults to [email protected] or sports takes to @tobey_prime on Twitter.


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