Katherine Lynn-Rose never watched Avatar: The Last Airbender until Netflix added the series in May. But at the suggestion of her friend from theater school, the 17-year-old Broadway enthusiast decided to check out the beloved animated show. She became hooked immediately. As they got deeper into the story of Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko, the pair came to a consensus. “We were both like, ‘Okay, there needs to be a musical for this,” Lynn-Rose told Nerdist.
So Lynn-Rose got to work. “We just started brainstorming ideas. And then I started writing a few songs and I posted them on TikTok, but I didn’t expect them to blow up like they did.” In just days, the young creator went from having around 300 followers on TikTok to over 50,000. The songs soon made their way to Twitter too, where they found a whole new audience. It inspired Lynn-Rose to create an account there. One of her songs even found its way to original Avatar cast member and voice of Azula, Grey DeLisle.
@katherine.lynnrosehow bout an azula song? 🤔 ##avatarmusical ##atlamusical ##avatarthelastairbender ##avatar ##atla ##azula ##theatrekid♬ Friend or Foe – katherine.lynnrose
DeLisle was a fan of the song. The voice actor recorded and shared her own version of Lynn-Rose’s composition about the troubled Fire Nation leader. “I woke up to that and I freaked out,” Lynn-Rose laughed. “I was scrolling through my Twitter notifications and people were saying, ‘Imagine waking up to this.’ I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ And then I saw it… like Azula sang my song. This is crazy!”
It wasn’t just the Avatar cast who fell in love. A well known TikTok creator contacted Lynn-Rose wanting to collaborate. “AbigailWritesMusicals reached out to me and she actually dueted one of my songs. And she asked, ‘Do you want to join our team for an ATLA musical?’ So I joined their team!”
Fans have already seen a couple of those collaborations bear fruit as Lynn-Rose teamed up with Joshua Turchin. He performed a song she wrote for Prince Zuko and recently wrote a song for Lynn-Rose to perform as Azula. The pair are part of a growing group of TikTok users who are putting together a plan for a full length ATLA musical. But really, it’s Lynn-Rose’s passion for the show and her skills as both a performer and songwriter that have made waves.
@katherine.lynnroseit was soooo fun working with @joshuaturchin on this song! ##atlamusical ##avatarmusical ##avatar ##atla ##firenation ##zuko♬ Destiny – katherine.lynnrose
So what was it about the 15-year-old animated series about a group of ragtag kids trying to save the world that spoke to the artist? “Being an Asian Canadian teenager, I only really had Mulan and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan to grow up with if I wanted to see my culture being represented in the Western media,” Lynn-Rose explained. “So watching Avatar was really special to me because there’s a huge fan base, and most of them aren’t even Asian. Like anyone can appreciate this amazing show and how it appreciates so many cultures, which is really special.”
The show spoke to Lynn-Rose for another personal reason. “When I was five, I started learning how to play the Chinese zither, guzheng. That was a really huge part of my childhood because that’s basically what got me into music in the first place,” she shared. “I started performing with that, and then I stopped around eight or nine. So hearing the original soundtrack in the show, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my childhood.’ That really brought me back and made me think, ‘This just holds a really special place in my heart.’ That really inspired me to take on both Broadway music and the Asian-inspired music and put them together to create a musical.”
@katherine.lynnrosedid I sneak Avatar’s Love into the instrumental? yes ##atla ##avatar ##avatarthelastairbender ##avatarmusical ##atlamusical ##aang ##appa ##theatrekid♬ In the Clouds – katherine.lynnrose
The first song that Lynn-Rose wrote was the delightful and light “In the Clouds.” Avatar Aang, the central character, inspired the song. “I started off with the chord progressions and then I came up with a melody,” she said. “Originally, this was just a fun song, the lyrics were a lot different. It was just going to be some generic song. But when I was orchestrating it, I really got flying through the air vibes. So I was like, ‘Oh, this could be Aang’s song,’ and then that’s when I started to write the lyrics around Aang.”
Lynn-Rose continued. “For Azula’s song, I knew that I wanted a really strong rhythm for the instrumental and I came up with that first, and then after that I came up with lyrics. Then for ‘Ba Sing Se,’ I wrote the lyrics first and then I wrote the music around that. So it really varies between songs.”
@katherine.lynnroseThere is no war in Ba Sing Se 🙃##atla ##avatar ##avatarthelastairbender ##atlamusical ##avatarmusical ##basingse ##katara ##tophbeifong ##sokka ##aang♬ Welcome to Ba Sing Se – katherine.lynnrose
With her uplifting project going viral, the singer-songwriter has inspired viewers. She also influenced other artists on TikTok; they’ve recorded multiple reprises and collaborations. “Since I post most of the karaoke to my songs, I really like going through all of them and seeing all these amazing people—either seeing covers of them or I’ve seen people make reprises to the songs. I’ve seen people sing as Mai in Azula’s song. It’s really cool seeing how creative everyone is on TikTok. And being able to collaborate with all these amazing people is really insane.”
So what’s Lynn-Rose’s ultimate goal for the songs she’s writing and the ATLA musical? “The absolute dream would be going on Broadway and having the show on the big stage.”
Featured Image: Nickelodeon