Best friends and songwriting partners share their musical journey.

Colleen Dauncey and Akiva Romer-Segal, the music and lyrics team for The Louder We Get, were destined to create music together. The duo first met at Henry Wise Wood High School in Calgary through the drama program, where they sat right next to each other on the first day, and became fast friends.

Both Colleen and Akiva grew up with families who embraced the arts. Colleen was raised in a musical household, with parents who were both musicians and school teachers. Akiva’s parents were also both teachers, and as a family, they attended the theatre, opera, art exhibitions and museums together. Both of their early experiences with art and music piqued their interest in the arts. 

Following high school, the pair went their separate ways. Colleen began a degree in International Business at the University of Calgary while Akiva pursued a career in Set and Costume Design, studying at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Once Colleen graduated, she made a move to Quebec to become fully fluent in French, complementing her pursuit of a career in international business. During this time, Akiva began meeting artists in Toronto through the musical theatre and cabaret scene. One night Akiva attended a cabaret, and a certain performance set the stage for Colleen and Akiva’s partnership together.

“I connected to a performer that night, Sara Farb. I loved her voice and her unique musical sensibility, and I was inspired to write lyrics for her,” says Akiva. “Once I sent her a draft of a song, she said if I could have music written for my lyrics, she’d perform the song at her next cabaret.”

Akiva called his best friend in Quebec to share his dilemma. While Colleen had never considered a career writing musical theatre, she had been writing pop music as a passion project, so she suggested that she could try writing the music for Akiva’s lyrics. And that is when the musical writing team was born.

“We managed to write this song together using video chat. Me on my piano in Quebec, and Akiva on the other end in Toronto,” shares Colleen. “As promised, Sara Farb ended up performing our song at her next cabaret, and we started to get interest in our work.”

Shortly after, Colleen visited Akiva in Toronto, where she immediately fell in love with the artistic scene. She quit her job in Quebec and moved to Toronto one month later.

“We didn’t set out to do this, but the reaction to our work encouraged us to pursue this career together,” said Colleen. “The fact that we had set out on completely different paths and still ended up where we are now, in a career that challenges us and brings us so much joy…it kind of makes me believe in destiny.”

Over the following decade, Colleen and Akiva would write more than 100 songs together and create the music for six full-length musicals, including The Louder We Get. Colleen and Akiva’s success led them to meeting producer Mary Young Leckie and playwright Kent Staines of The Louder We Get.

“Mary and Kent met with us and told us about their idea for the project, and we were instantly intrigued,” said Colleen. “Marc’s story resonated with us. We went to high school at the same time as he did, so we followed the story when it was happening, and of course the themes of the show are meaningful to us.”

To make sure Colleen and Akiva were a good match for the production, they wrote three songs on spec, inspired by moments of Marc’s story. The first song they ever wrote is the title song of the show, The Louder We Get, along with Mother Mary and Inside Out. They performed these songs for Kent and Mary, and a few weeks later, they got the call that they had been selected.

Now after six years of working on the score, their vision has come to life on the Theatre Calgary stage.

“Writing a musical is a commitment, because it is such a collaborative art form, it takes a lot of time to hone it and make sure everyone involved is telling the same story,” states Akiva. “When you’re writing a new musical you need to make sure it’s something you’re passionate about, because it’s a story you’ll be telling for a long time.”

And passion is what has driven Colleen and Akiva to creating the inspiring music and lyrics for this production.

“We’ve been working on this project for years, and yes I get to write with my best friend, but it can sometimes be a lonely existence as a significant portion of our work is done in isolation,” shares Colleen. “We’ve spent a lot of time singing these songs to each other in a small studio apartment, but now we have 23 cast members singing them to us, and it’s truly amazing to be here at Theatre Calgary.”

Both reflect that the truth of this story is what inspired the music. Anytime they felt stuck along the way, they would always go back to Marc and his experience, and would frequently call him to ask what it was like going through certain parts of his journey. Each time, his words would help them move forward. They have kept the truth and essence of his story top of mind in the music they’ve created.

Both Akiva and Colleen hope the show has a meaningful impact on audiences, and that the messages resonate regardless of their generation.

“I want people to be able to see something on stage that may or may not be completely comfortable with, but recognize that this is a human being and their story,” said Colleen. “I hope the music helps people find a way to understand that someone like Marc is just trying to be a human with human rights, and that they walk away with more empathy.”

“I’d love for those who come into the show feeling voiceless and powerless to leave understanding the power they have to spark change,” states Akiva. “You’re not as voiceless or powerless as you may think. You matter. There are people who share those same concerns, and the same passion to inspire change. Change can start with an individual, grow to involve a community, and eventually affect the world.”

Buy tickets!