10 Student Stories to Celebrate 10 Years: Kellen Vu
July 14, 2021
In celebration of 10 years of Bow Seat’s Ocean Awareness Contest, we are showcasing some of the young artists who have helped turn this competition into a global community of creators and changemakers working on behalf of our blue planet.

Kellen is an artist and musician from Phoenix, Arizona. He is currently studying Human Biology and Computer Science at Stanford University. One of his passions is using music to educate others and bridge the divide between disciplines. A multi-year participant in the Ocean Awareness Contest, he received a Silver Award for his song “Shore to Shore” and two Distinguished Honorable Mention Awards for his song “Dear Humanity” and prose piece “The True Monsters of the Sea.” In 2019, he wrote, directed, and edited a music video about calculus that won first place in Mu Alpha Theta’s national Mathematical Minutes contest. He now writes for The Sequels, an indie band that creates music based on books and literature. As an alumni judge for the Ocean Awareness Contest, he looks forward to seeing the inspiring work generated by students across the globe!

How long have you been creating music? When did you first become interested in the arts?

Music has always been an important part of my life. I first began playing the piano when I was five years old, taking lessons at the Phoenix Conservatory of Music. Then, from 7th grade to 12th grade, I attended Arizona School for the Arts, where I picked up the clarinet and the guitar. Through these organizations, I was able to witness the power of music to bring whole communities together. I met many of my best friends, for instance, during rehearsals. I also learned how impactful music can be when combined with other disciplines. In 12th grade, I became the guitarist and songwriter for The Sequels—a band that writes songs based on your favorite books. During the summer of 2019, we were named one of the best local rock bands by Phoenix Magazine. Thanks to The Sequels, I developed a deep appreciation for multimedia art forms and the combined power of words and music.

Kellen’s “Shore to Shore” from the 2018 Ocean Awareness Contest

What have you learned from participating in the Ocean Awareness Contest?

After doing the research for my entries, I became much more conscientious about the environmental impact of my everyday actions. For instance, I realized that my family was recycling a lot of things that shouldn’t be recycled, so I printed out a visual guide and taped it to the wall beside the recycling bin. I also began carpooling and planning smarter routes to reduce my vehicular emissions. Overall, the Ocean Awareness Contest made me realize that small actions can make a big difference.

How do you feel when you look at the collection of art created by Ocean Awareness Contest winners?

In 2020, I became an alumni judge for the Ocean Awareness Contest, so I got to see the process from the other side. As a judge, I was blown away by the talent and passion in every entry. Looking at the incredible gallery of art, it gives me hope for the future of our oceans and environment. I’m optimistic that in the end, our generation’s drive will prevail.

Kellen’s “Dear Humanity (A Message From Mother Earth)” from the 2019 Ocean Awareness Contest

Are you working on any creative projects right now?

Lately, I have begun exploring more creative projects in filmography and visual media. When the pandemic hit, I decided to become the Executive Producer and Co-Host of Love Is Blind Stanford, an online reality show for Stanford students. My goal was to provide a fun social outlet for students during an otherwise difficult time. The show was a big hit, gaining over 1,000 followers and stirring excitement across all class years. It also gave us a platform to showcase organizations performing important work, such as the Basic Needs Coalition. It just goes to show how art and media can be powerful tools for advocacy.

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10 Student Stories to Celebrate 10 Years: Kellen Vu

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