When she’s not doing operatic vocal warm ups in her dorm at 6 a.m. or hitting the gym for a workout class, you can catch  Elle Winter (C '22), performing her newest single "One More" for loving fans or acting alongside big names like Naomi Watts, Elle Fanning, and Susan Sarandon.

Meet Penn’s very own Hannah Montana. English and communications student by day and successful recording artist by night, this Manhattanite got her start in the music and acting world at the early age of 12, when she was discovered by Radio Disney. She then competed in season five of Disney Channel’s Next Big Thing. She says she basically started singing and talking at the same time and grew up being inspired by artists like Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and The Black–Eyed Peas.  

“I knew it was what I always wanted to do.” 

Now, at 19, Elle has broadened her musical horizons and used her gap year to develop her own musical personality outside of Disney, by incorporating elements of pop, EDM, and soul into her songwriting. “After this period of exploration, I really knew what I wanted to write about, how I wanted to write about it, and how I wanted to sound.” 

Elle just completed a whole new body of work and plans to perform it at Disney World soon. “It’s very true to me, lyrically, melodically…I’m very excited to perform.” Nevertheless, being a full–time student and rising pop sensation doesn’t come without its challenges. “But I have three midterms that Monday!”

She credits her ability to balance a hectic college lifestyle with a music career to careful and intentional scheduling, the short commute from Philadelphia to New York, and admiration for her fellow classmates. “I think it’s nice to see other people pursuing their passions here and it kind of motivates me to keep juggling and keep making it work.” 

In fact, it is the education, tight–knit community and plethora of opportunities, that drew Elle to Penn in the first place. “It has always been very important to me to go to college and I love Penn…I meet a new person every day that just blows me away…And they offer programs at the Kelly Writer’s House…There are just so many opportunities for me, as a songwriter, to master my craft.”

At the very heart of it all though, Elle’s main goal is to inspire and connect with others through music and spread the joy she feels when singing. She does so through her involvement with Music is Medicine, a non–profit organization that connects artists with pediatric patients. “In 2014, me and my friend…collaborated through Music is Medicine… and we wrote a song for a cancer patient…It’s called "Unthinkable," it’s out and all the proceeds actually went to cancer research.” She hopes to work closely within the Penn community and become an ambassador at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Maybe not all Penn students can relate to performing for large crowds and collaborating with celebrities, but Elle definitely displays the signs of any typical Penn freshman. “I’ve started to go to Van Pelt and I really like it. I go to Mark’s Cafe, it’s fabulous! I swear they put some sort of sugar or something in the coffee.” 

But she hasn't checked every item off her freshman year bucket list. “I haven’t had a Philly cheesesteak. I don’t really eat a lot of carbs…but I could be mourning my midterms so I’ll go treat myself to cheer myself up.” 


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