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That Sweet Space of Art, Science and Life

That Sweet Space of Art, Science and Life

by Kaira Mediratta

Kaira Mediratta

I bake all three layers of the cake and stack them. All that’s left is the frosting. I quickly dump the butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar into the bowl and turn the mixer on high. I take one look, and it’s clear I’ve made a mistake: I forgot to sift the powdered sugar.

It’s 12:26. Starting over on the frosting would mean racing to the store. Mrs. Low, who has requested this cake for her daughter’s birthday, is coming to pick it up at 1:00.

With its golden hues, the cake’s layers perfectly complement the rich, lemon curd filling. But who wants a birthday cake with lumpy frosting?

In sixth grade, I recognized my passion for baking: an art form that requires creativity and flexibility. Soon after, I began an informal baking business, producing countless cakes ever since.

I trace my love of art back to one afternoon, on a special trip with my Daduthe Bengali word for maternal grandfatherlooking out over a sea of Venetian rooftops. My Dadu starts sketching; the setting sun reflecting off the rhubarb tiles. He then pulls another sketchbook out of his bag and hands it to me: “Draw as much as you can, whenever you can.”

Although I lost that sketchbook years ago, his advice has influenced my development as an artist. A few months ago, I realized a lifelong dreamhaving a piece hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Artafter winning a gold medal through the Scholastic Art & Writing contest. Despite a bitter, cold snowstorm, my Dadu managed to get to the opening reception. We pushed through crowds of people to look for my painting. I could tell that he was surprised when he caught sight of it, because I hadn’t told him it was a painting of him. I’d finally found a way to thank him for fostering my creativity.

I always thought of myself primarily as an artistic person. However, as I matured, the dichotomy between art and science in my life faded. My interest in science bloomed when I started taking classes at the American Museum of Natural History in middle school.

I remember standing in the doorway of the ichthyology department, staring at rows of shelves, containing thousands of tiny glass jars. At first I’m stunned by the sheer numbers, but looking closer, I realize that each jar holds a different specimen, preserved in formaldehyde. Surrounded by species from every corner of the earth, I’m amazed by the vast collection around me. This sense of scientific curiosity would lead me to apply for, and ultimately work at, the museum in high school.

At the intersection of art and science, baking is a metaphor for my life. It demands exact proportions and procedures, but requires creative solutions. And through experience in the kitchen, I’ve learned math, chemistry, and patience. Most importantly, I’ve learned not to fear starting over. As I approached high school, after being at the same private school since kindergarten, I became hungry to engage the world outside of this bubble. After auditioning for art at LaGuardia on a whim, I was happily surprised to be offered a spot. Next stop – open house.

The elevator doors open, and a marching band blocks my path through the hallway. To my left two girls paint an elaborate mural, while to my right another student belts out a dulcet aria. The whole place is crazy, but in the best sense of the word.

After open house night, I make my decision to enter a school five times the size of my old one. I wouldn’t know a single person. As terrifying as that sounds, I embraced the change.

In the end, the choice was as simple as fixing the frosting of that birthday cake. I threw on my shoes, grabbed my wallet, and bolted out the doorand, somehow, the cake was ready at 1:00.

Kaira Mediratta graduated from LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts this week and, after a Gap Year, will be a freshman at Williams College

Keys to My Passions

by David Webster

I stare from afar at the big beast that stands in my living room, intimidated by its beauty, and uncertain of what may happen if I touch it. Yet its sight is so striking and inviting. I want to touch it to produce the tunes that my mother plays occasionally. One day I climb on the bench, my feet innocently dangling over the ground. I place my small, chubby fingers on the off-white keys. Beautiful noises flow, varying from high to low, soft to loud. I control all of it; I feel like the God of the keys.

If I had not engaged with that mysterious contraption when I was six-years-old, I would have lost the chance to develop a passion, piano. Today my relentless pursuit of passions and interests go beyond the piano. They have been nurtured by the inescapable resolve and independence that grew up with the taunts of two big brothers. I remember the Christmas when I was ten.  My older brothers were 15 and 17– too old for toys but not quite beyond the magic of Christmas morning.  “What did you ask for?” they nagged.   I ripped open an intricate blue rapper as they waited anxiously. It was just what I had wanted, the software  “Landscape Architecture and Design”.  They traded a glance and burst out laughing simultaneously like the hyenas in The Lion King. “That’s what you asked for?” they queried.  They always made jokes about my eclectic interests; from the time I opened my framed Monet paintings at 6, to my light box and my 3D animation tools at 8.

There is nothing like the bit of fun teasing from big brothers to prepare you to confront bigger challenges. Last summer, I concluded the NYU Summer Institute of technology program knowing that our required final performance would be difficult. I would not be performing on the piano, which I have done every year since I was six. My job was to perform the rap lyrics in a song that my group wrote and engineered. Yikes. I stood backstage, awaiting the erupting audience applause that would signal the end of the preceding groups. I didn’t want to leave the homey little room backstage, which didn’t pose any opportunity to fail. My heart raced. My hands were sweaty. My stomach was locked in knots. Yet I took that first step onto the ominous stage, with two hundred eyes staring at me from the audience. I walked into the blinding stage lights facing the crowd and performed. Our performance wasn’t perfect. Although we could have used a second sound check (ironic for a music technology program), I still walked offstage, head held high, knowing that what I had personally accomplished went far beyond what the audience had seen.

Did I hate being so nervous? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

However not every experience or challenge overcome is immediately gratifying; some involve lessons that unfold over time.  Take, for example, the gray day that I ended my teams’ chances for progressing through the county tournament.  I was a young freshman who, until then, had warmed the bench on the varsity team. It was the bottom of the seventh inning.  Our slow but hefty catcher had just been walked to first base.  I heard the coach’s voice. “Webby! You’re in” My feet trembled within my loosely tied cleats as I jogged nervously to first base. “Hopefully he just wants me to run the bases,” I thought. But when the sign to steal came, I had to go.  The silence as I ran tensely was one of the loudest noises had ever heard.  The first baseman had the ball, and a look of monumental accomplishment on his face. With great precision, he threw the ball to the second baseman, which applied a tag that seemed to slam me deep into the sand. I had been picked off, and it was the last out of the game. The easier option is always to linger on base. But still, there is something that gives me the courage to push myself and go all out to second base.

I am sometimes apprehensive in the face of new challenges, and I am initially reluctant to partake in activities that force me to exit my niche of familiarity. Yet I overcome the reluctance to face the risks of unknown as I have become well acquainted with challenge.  My experience with it is irreplaceable and will only help in the time ahead. As I conquer a new hurdle, I will always feel my swinging toes, microphone in hand, dashing through the sand towards new opportunities.

David Webster will be a junior at Williams College in the fall and is a 2011 graduate of Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey.

Keys to My Passions

by David Webster

I stare from afar at the big beast that stands in my living room, intimidated by its beauty, and uncertain of what may happen if I touch it. Yet its sight is so striking and inviting. I want to touch it to produce the tunes that my mother plays occasionally. One day I climb on the bench, my feet innocently dangling over the ground. I place my small, chubby fingers on the off-white keys. Beautiful noises flow, varying from high to low, soft to loud. I control all of it; I feel like the God of the keys.

If I had not engaged with that mysterious contraption when I was six-years-old, I would have lost the chance to develop a passion, piano. Today my relentless pursuit of passions and interests go beyond the piano. They have been nurtured by the inescapable resolve and independence that grew up with the taunts of two big brothers. I remember the Christmas when I was ten.  My older brothers were 15 and 17– too old for toys but not quite beyond the magic of Christmas morning.  “What did you ask for?” they nagged.   I ripped open an intricate blue rapper as they waited anxiously. It was just what I had wanted, the software  “Landscape Architecture and Design”.  They traded a glance and burst out laughing simultaneously like the hyenas in The Lion King. “That’s what you asked for?” they queried.  They always made jokes about my eclectic interests; from the time I opened my framed Monet paintings at 6, to my light box and my 3D animation tools at 8.

There is nothing like the bit of fun teasing from big brothers to prepare you to confront bigger challenges. Last summer, I concluded the NYU Summer Institute of technology program knowing that our required final performance would be difficult. I would not be performing on the piano, which I have done every year since I was six. My job was to perform the rap lyrics in a song that my group wrote and engineered. Yikes. I stood backstage, awaiting the erupting audience applause that would signal the end of the preceding groups. I didn’t want to leave the homey little room backstage, which didn’t pose any opportunity to fail. My heart raced. My hands were sweaty. My stomach was locked in knots. Yet I took that first step onto the ominous stage, with two hundred eyes staring at me from the audience. I walked into the blinding stage lights facing the crowd and performed. Our performance wasn’t perfect. Although we could have used a second sound check (ironic for a music technology program), I still walked offstage, head held high, knowing that what I had personally accomplished went far beyond what the audience had seen.

Did I hate being so nervous? Absolutely. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

However not every experience or challenge overcome is immediately gratifying; some involve lessons that unfold over time.  Take, for example, the gray day that I ended my teams’ chances for progressing through the county tournament.  I was a young freshman who, until then, had warmed the bench on the varsity team. It was the bottom of the seventh inning.  Our slow but hefty catcher had just been walked to first base.  I heard the coach’s voice. “Webby! You’re in” My feet trembled within my loosely tied cleats as I jogged nervously to first base. “Hopefully he just wants me to run the bases,” I thought. But when the sign to steal came, I had to go.  The silence as I ran tensely was one of the loudest noises had ever heard.  The first baseman had the ball, and a look of monumental accomplishment on his face. With great precision, he threw the ball to the second baseman, which applied a tag that seemed to slam me deep into the sand. I had been picked off, and it was the last out of the game. The easier option is always to linger on base. But still, there is something that gives me the courage to push myself and go all out to second base.

I am sometimes apprehensive in the face of new challenges, and I am initially reluctant to partake in activities that force me to exit my niche of familiarity. Yet I overcome the reluctance to face the risks of unknown as I have become well acquainted with challenge.  My experience with it is irreplaceable and will only help in the time ahead. As I conquer a new hurdle, I will always feel my swinging toes, microphone in hand, dashing through the sand towards new opportunities.

David Webster will be a junior at Williams College in the fall and is a 2011 graduate of Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey.

Does Dad Know Best?

by Chan Williams

His eyes frightened me. I was six and I knew something horrifying would happen, but I did not know what. All I saw was the anger in his eyes over a joke that had sent my friends rolling in laughter on the carpet of our Kindergarten class. At this moment, the laughter was gone.

Dad screamed at me. His anger was not over the actual joke. His outrage was tied to the clarity of my expression and word choice. I can’t even remember the joke itself. Yet I will never forget my father’s reaction over something that was a hit with my classmates. Dad, as always, was the toughest audience.

My father’s approach to parenting demands that I should be nothing less than perfect. He is intimidating. However, I have grown to appreciate his vision, ambition and his impact on my success as a student and an athlete. His ultimate faith in my abilities expresses itself harshly at times, but I always find myself trying to be a stronger person after his critiques and proud whenever I win his praise. I also know the roots of his high standards are tied to the poverty of his childhood which, at 14, would force him to steal food from a store so his family could eat. He would grow into a successful businessman who vows that the pain of the poverty in his past would never confront me or anyone else in our family.

My parents divorced when I was one year old and I moved with my mother from Scottsdale, Arizona to Washington DC, while my dad was in Chicago working in finance. He visited me every weekend, but not for father-son bonding time. He wanted to make sure that he was on top of my education. The only thing that took my dad away from an important business meeting was something related to my grades, school work or extracurricular activities. His mindset blended into mine so much that I stopped arguing with him. I began to care about my education and future as much as he did.

I am one of the strongest math students in my grade and I can’t separate my passion for math from my dad always pushing me to excel in the subject. For example, I remember spending four hours with him in a small breakfast café learning how to multiply before going to my friend’s birthday party.

My father does not like excuses, which compels me to push myself in the classroom and on the field. During my second year on varsity lacrosse, we were practicing fast break situations. While I was standing near the goal, my teammate fired a misplaced shot that hit me in the shin. I had trouble walking on my leg the moment I stood up, and our athletic trainer put me in crutches and sent me to the emergency room. It was painful to walk for a week, but I still played in our game the next day.  When I was 14, my father noticed my tenacity and began to involve me in business decisions. At first, he merely shared the details of his deals. Eventually we were taking international trips together for business purposes. By then, he had an interest in South African television. So I travelled with him to Johannesburg and our connection strengthened.

A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to live with the dad who was becoming my friend. In my head, it seemed as if it would be a smooth transition. Other family members cautioned me that it would be tough. I ignored the warnings and moved to Chicago in my junior year. Shortly I saw the same dad who did not see a joke for what it was when I was a six year old. He scrutinized every move from changing my sheets every week as opposed to every two weeks to the methods used when studying for a test. After six months, I returned to Washington.

I’ve learned to appreciate the fundamental differences between my dad and me. They partially grow out of our different upbringings. He has groomed me to be a leader, while no one mentored him. He was forced to groom himself. He believes it makes his life easier if he approaches every situation in the same manner. So he tries to take care of the small and large problems with the same intensity. As of right now, I evaluate every situation differently, and react in a way that is particular to a situation. However, I have internalized the reality that talent, athletic or intellectual, must accompany hard work and tenacity, whether that means staying up late to finally comprehend that last math concept or staying after practice to discuss the game plan with a coach.

Chan Williams will attend Williams College in September, following a Gap Year. He is a 2012 graduate of Georgetown Day School in Washington DC.