Posts Tagged ‘Music’

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A Stolen Flute and the Search for Home

A Stolen Flute and the Search for Home

by Kennedy Sapp

kennedysappMy new flute devastated me. It felt nothing like my first flute–the one I loved at first sight. I was 10 when I walked into band, sat down, and opened up my case to the chrome keys and the gleaming gold mouthpiece. I immediately felt at home with the beauty in my hands. However, my flute symbolized the life that would soon slip away.

At 12, my family moved from Westchester, New York to Oak Park, Illinois. I felt like an outsider and hoped my love for music would connect me to a community of bandmates. On my first day, I opened my locker, reached for my flute and felt nothing.

My flute was not the only thing stolen on that day; I lost trust in the place I wanted to call home. I walked into the lunchroom, devastation still clear on my face, as I tried to find a place to sit. I looked around the lunch room, confusion immediately settled over me. I looked to my right and noticed table after table of black students, then I looked to my left and saw tables of white students .

In Westchester, diversity was not only black and white. I could walk down the hallway and see a girl wearing a hijab as easily as waving at a friend in a yarmulke. In Oak Park, I only had two clear-cut options that I disliked. So I made a third. I walked over to an empty table and sat down.

Suddenly, six girls joined my table. One of them, Briana, was new to Oak Park as well but already knew everyone. “Once you start meeting new people it gets easier. And then once you know them all, you can’t help but be yourself.”

She became one of my best friends and I tried to follow her advice. Yet feeling at home was still a struggle through middle school and first year of high school. Ironically, I found comfort in an unlikely place–the Chemistry Club in Tenth Grade. English and history were always my favorite subjects. When my brother suggested I join the Chemistry Club, I thought it wasn’t for me. However, my willingness to try something new led me to that morning meeting. I saw kids from my science class, but also girls from my dance team, kids in Model UN, and so many other types of people. Students eagerly showed me how to make the glow-in-the-dark slime.

Growing up my parents constantly preached of the importance of diversity and I saw the concept in strict terms of race, ethnicity and religion. The Chemistry Club–mostly white students with a few blacks–would not seem too diverse by that standard. Yet the interests, opinions and passions of everyone in that room were so diverse. In that moment, I began to truly feel at home in Oak Park.

Changing my frame of mind allowed me to meet extraordinary people and hear unique stories of my classmates. Initially I saw Oak Park on the surface as black and white and failed to dig deeper.  

I have also formed a lunch table that looks so different from what I saw on my first day in Oak Park. There are blacks and whites, dancers and athletes, and males and females. When I see new students or others sitting alone, I invite them to our table.

Seven years ago, someone found my old flute in the bathroom and it sits in the guest room of my house, while my newer flute is in my closet. I rarely play either, but they are reminders of how far I have come. In Oak Park, I have learned that one must take initiative to turn a community into a new home. There may be bumps along the way that may become opportunities to produce change. Just take a look at my lunch table.

Kennedy Sapp, a 2015 graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, is a freshman at Vanderbilt University.

Following the Crowd as an Individual

Following the Crowd as an Individual

by Matthew Gilbert

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A stampede gushes my way. Teenagers jump, leap and holler. They want to get closer to the stage, but a low fence is in their way. Security guards scramble to keep everyone from rushing over it, but it’s too late. Hundreds of charging fans overpower them. In a split second decision, I choose to run with the fans to avoid being trampled. I can’t think of a better place to spend my 17th birthday than the Mad Decent Block Party, a music festival.

I’ve always loved the animation and excitement that comes with large, loud crowds. My first memory experiencing this intensity is a New York Liberty basketball game with my father when I was eight. I couldn’t get enough of the electricity generated by the screaming fans. Years later, I would experience the same rush at a Red Bulls game as I cheered, waving my “Red Flag.”

It wasn’t until my junior year sociology class that I discovered Durkheim’s theory which explains that electric feeling: collective effervescence. It’s the feeling of euphoria and social bondage large groups of people experience when acting together. Cavemen felt it chanting songs and performing rituals around fires, and they named it “God.” The emotional experience of the devout at church is similar to my feelings at a concert. I realized something else in that class–my love of sociology and my desire to explore its many applicable concepts. I am not in love with just being in a crowd. My passion is analyzing crowd behavior when the sociologist in me goes to work.

Beyond crowded concerts, I look for the social forces influencing the actions of those around me.  The subway ride from Park Slope to school on the 3 train allows me to apply the concepts from class in a real world paradigm. Graffiti tags in the train tunnel compel me to question how the deindividuation of this “art” will increase crime rates. In the hallways, I notice the impact of socioeconomic status on education when comparing my public and private school friends’ SAT scores, highlighting the differences in their college preparedness. I see the irony after school, when my friends jokingly make fun of “raging feminists” for “exaggerating gender inequality,” but they don’t see the misogyny all around us as we walk through Brooklyn Museum’s featured exhibits filled exclusively with male artists. The sociological laws of group behavior affect so much of our lives that we fail to realize how little control we actually have.

However, I find freedom from social pressures by studying the forces that control behavior. Interpreting the motivation behind group behavior allows me to make decisions as an individual while remaining an active citizen of a community. True individuality can blossom when the restraints of social mores and folklores are lifted from the subconscious. As I scroll through music on iTunes, I know to not let the popularity of a song determine if I like it. Studying the “Bystander Effect” gave me the responsibility to overcome this powerful situational force and call the police when someone outside my friend’s house on Suffolk Street was attacked with a hammer. The laws of group behavior don’t hinder my individuality, but understanding them gives me the tools to fully develop myself.

I am aware of all this as I stand in front of the blazing lights, feeling the energy all around me. I have no idea who is performing, nor do I care. The only thing I can feel is the heart of the show, pulsing in time with the bass. It’s impossible to think about anything else when the music is this loud. Individual lines blur into a larger collective. As the show picks up speed, my friends flash me gleaming smiles. In this moment I know I won’t be satisfied as just a member of the crowd; I must also study its behavior.

Matthew Gilbert, a 2015 graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, will be a freshman at Wesleyan in the Fall.

Ask ‘Why Cornell,’ and My Answer Starts With an iPod

Ask ‘Why Cornell,’ and My Answer Starts With an iPod

by Calvin Ng

calvinI start the day with country, say “Won’t Back Down.” Then I move onto rock, “Charlie Brown.” Yet, I can’t finish my 45 minute commute to school without hip hop. “The Other Side” is often the lift I need for the day. My versatility does not end with my iPod–it trickles into my academic life from history to math. I am drawn to Cornell’s College of Arts and Science for the opportunity to explore my diverse academic interests.

When I think of math and history, I can’t escape an engagement of Greek and Roman culture. The two civilizations had similar gods, similar governments, and similar architecture that reflects the evolution of mathematics in many ways. Yet, the two are so different, and I questioned how the Romans could have become tyrannical and made so many poor decisions. It was as if they had not learned from the Greeks at all.

At Cornell, I picture myself sitting in classes such as Cultures of the Middle Ages: Medieval Frontiers Societies or The United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the scope of these courses is small, relative to World History or U.S. History, I’ll be able to learn more of the smaller details within the periods. The in-depth background information, which Professors Oren Falk and Kohler-Hausmann will provide, will change the way I think about these eras.

At Stuyvesant, I have taken the most advanced math courses available. Each semester, as I took a new course, I wondered how topics such as integrals or derivatives could apply to real-life situations. I knew that all small businesses used basic math for buying, selling, and pricing products or services; most jobs need some type of math. My father always mentioned how finance and math were heavily linked, especially statistics and calculus. The fact that there are numerous ways to find the same solution to a problem fascinates me. I wondered how companies choose methods to achieve their goals. Does everyone in a company approach their equations in the same way, or is there room for creativity at that high level?

My unyielding interest in mathematics paired with my newfound interest for history, taking me through different avenues of cultures, lifestyles and religions, but they seemed so unrelated. During senior year, I realized that economics was the perfect discipline to combine both my interests of history and mathematics. On the first day of Macroeconomics, my teacher gave a lecture comparing and contrasting the Great Depression and the Great Recession of 2008. As she talked more about the economic circumstances and actions taken during the Depression, I began to think about what economists in 2008 had suggested to do about the recession. How much did economists learn from the Depression and how did they apply it? That first day of economics showed me an application of history in a modern day scenario. As the course progressed, my teacher warned the class of complicated calculations, but that didn’t matter to me. I had found an application of mathematics that would tie into my interest in history.

Cornell’s College of Arts and Science will be the perfect environment for me to further my studies in economics. Being personally affected by the Great Recession, I want to help companies and banks make decisions that are less likely to negatively impact the country. Cornell’s extensive range of economics courses can provide me with what I need to gain a broader understanding of the discipline, with courses that are specified to tackle different economic fields as they relate to various historical contexts. Cornell will provide me with numerous challenges to further my studies in courses like Topics in 20th Century Economics History, International Finance, and Macroeconomics. I am drawn to Cornell for the prime opportunities it offers to further my exploration of math, economics, history, and other disciplines.

Calvin Ng, a graduate of Stuyvesant High School, is a freshman at Cornell University.

Saving the Tempo

Saving the Tempo

by Kyndall Ashe

 

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“We’re leaving.”

“Leaving?”

“Leaving.”

His voice struck me like a bullet through a wall of glass, shattering the peace I felt in the beginning of my junior year.  George was the musical arranger and de-facto leader of Tempo Tantrum, the student-led a cappella group to which we both belonged.  Now he was taking two of our strongest members away to start another group. These three were the “glue” of the group. Without them, everyone expected Tempo to collapse. But I would not let this happen on my watch.

I was determined to save Tempo, fighting what seemed to be the inevitable end of our group. My attitude in this situation mirrored my determination to take the most demanding courses available at my school in lieu of taking the easy route through high school. My love for math and Latin kept me on the advanced academic track in school. Now my passion for music drove me to take a leadership role in keeping Tempo alive.

I trace this passion to moment in fifth grade when I nervously stepped up to the microphone at my school’s weekly Chapel service to sing the Star Spangled Banner. The rush I felt mid-verse was a incomparable feeling. In that magical moment, I felt confident yet serene, powerful and at peace, and I knew music would mean the world to me forever.

However, I needed more than my passion for music to save my group, so I drew on my leadership skills and thought outside of the box. The group would be losing members, so I decided to consider the potential of freshmen–a group of students traditionally excluded from Sidwell’s a cappella groups– in the audition process, which I organized. Initially no one thought Tempo could compete in the world of a cappella at Sidwell with a large number freshmen members. However these words of discouragement sounded shockingly familiar. When I was new to the school as a 9th grader, I decided to run for Student Government representative despite being told that my class–comprised of mostly returning students–had a deeply rooted dynamic that would prove to be difficult to decipher in one year. I defied the advice, delivering a speech before all of my new classmates about the power a fresh voice and a new perspective could have when it came to representing the class. Winning that election was an extremely eye-opening moment.

This experience showed me that even unseasoned freshmen could be assets to keeping Tempo alive. When our three most important members left, we also lost several of our remaining junior members. The most talented upperclassmen were already taken by other groups, and we didn’t have an arranger. So I quickly organized auditions open to freshmen, discovering great untapped talent, and took on the role of arranger.

I arranged the music for our first concert, but the performance was not indicative of  the potential I saw in our group. As the year continued the group improved, and though we struggled at times to keep the rowdy freshmen focused at rehearsals, it was certainly a learning experience for my co-head and me, and in the end our group was able to survive.

Now, in my senior year, not only does Tempo survive, but it also thrives. For our first concert of the year I discovered an arrangement by Pentatonix, a group whose sound Tempo has always desired to model. Using an already-made arrangement made it so that I was able to teach my fellow members their parts in a much more timely manner, and I was able to devote more of my time to directing. Our performances are now revered for recreating the sounds of popular music with just the voices of twelve high schoolers. After our Winter concert this year, I was actually approached by George with words of praise. I even detected a hint of regret in his voice.

Tempo is now considered one of the top performing groups in our school and region. Tempo’s survival and success came from the same tenacity and self-determination that have defined me throughout my school career. I drew on my identity as a leader unafraid of a challenge, and followed my passion to truly make a difference in my school community. I certainly plan to do it again!

 

Kyndall Ashe, a freshman at Amherst is a graduate of the Sidwell Friends School.

 

Wrestling with Collaboration and Individualism

Wrestling with Collaboration and Individualism

By Anton Kliot

UntitledI struggle against a murder of crows flying around in my belly. They grow with the calm confidence of my opponent, Alex. I can’t stop staring at him. He jumps around cooly, warming up. His smooth movements resemble the slow, calculated grace of an apex predator stalking his prey.

Well, I can jump too. I nervously hop and throw on a tough face, subconsciously (or maybe not) imitating him. However, I lack that little secret he seems to hold which bolsters his confidence. Welcome to my first high school wrestling match.

Butterflies are not new to me. I’ve played guitar in a band for years, but any stage fright I feel dissipates with a joke from my bandmates who are also close friends. When I glanced at my wrestling teammates on the bench, no one smiled. I could not rely on them to outline the match and let me fill in the gaps, as my bandmates could do with a song; the other wrestlers had their own opponents to face.

On the mat, Alex took charge; I reacted and was not aggressive enough. Alex wrote that song, and I lost that match. But that loss ignited a spark, pushing me to take command of my own life.

For years, community had been ingrained in my intellect; from the progressive schools I attended to the band I was a member of, collaboration had been key. I played in a five-member band with three guitarists. I wasn’t Alden, our lead guitarist who played like a young Chuck Berry, with psychedelic melodies and wicked solos. Nor was I Jack, overlaying chords with his golden voice. With a song’s outline in place, I added my sound. Years of playing this way taught me to value silences; to add harmonies which augmented our sound, creating a whole greater than its parts, rather than just a din. I did not have to take charge or create an entirely new song; I just had to fill the space left for me.

When thrown onto a wrestling mat, I realized my collaborative skills would not save me; I had to face challenges individually. Yet I found this individualistic focus did not have to clash with my collaborative habits. Instead, I transformed my life by integrating these collaborative skills with the confidence and individuality wrestling demanded.

I pursued other interests, from film and military history to running and vaulting without being defined by any one. I worked hard, becoming a straight A student, but no one would call me a nerd. A three-sport athlete, I could not be labeled a jock. I refused to let anyone else define me as Alex had that day.

I became more proactive with my teachers. Not only did my grades improve but my interests deepened. In my junior year history class, I delved into the subject as my professor, also an advisor and a friend, helped me target my studies towards my areas of interest. Assigned China for a year-long nation project, my meetings with my teacher helped focus my study on censorship of film in China. The sophistication of these censors shattered my preconceptions of this oppressive system, with my research taking me beyond the Western media’s simplistic portrayal.

By junior year, I had lost and won many matches, and gradually the crippling nerves had disappeared. Instead of sitting alone before matches, I was free to laugh and joke with teammates, mimicking my mood before a show. In last year’s tournament, I cooly began warming up, moving and stretching in ways that have become second nature for me. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed someone staring at me. I realized it was my next opponent. I recognized his fearful gaze as the one I had once directed at Alex. With this realization I smiled, and appreciated the changes that loss two years ago had produced.

Anton Kliot, a 2014 graduate of the Dalton School, will be a freshman at Amherst in the Fall.

A Lasting Friendship with Music

A Lasting Friendship with Music

By Brandon Lloyd

unnamedI saw clouds of rosin dust rising in front of my violin. We played as if there was no tomorrow and, in a way, there wasn’t, since this was Mr. Eckfeld’s last concert as conductor. The songs were an understated culmination of his tenure at White Plains High School. His years of teaching dissipated into me as I played the uptempo selections such as, Allegro, Aus Holbergs Zeit, and Walzer, conveying the merry, high points in his career. The slow, melancholy, and somber songs such as  Xyklus 3  sent another message:  “Goodbye, my dear old friends.”

Yes he was saying goodbye to us, but not to music. Neither his retirement nor aging would sever him from his love and prevent him from a pleasurable moment with his own violin. This powerful reflection came with the transformative roles of the violin and guitar in my life. They became my models of optimism—instruments of the idea that good things can evolve from tragic moments.

It started when I faced the biggest milestone in my other passion: Martial Arts. JT Torres and Pablo Popovitch, two of the world’s best Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, were coming to my martial arts school.  I have always idolized them in the way I revere Mr. Eckfeld, and I was thrilled to step on the mat with them.  Before I knew it, I was in the mix, practicing takedowns and drills with Torres and Popovitch. It was surreal.  I was getting up after showing my partner a submission, when I felt a sudden twinge and loud pop in my knee. I crumpled to the ground writhing in pain. I couldn’t get up with excruciating pain shooting up into my leg and knee.  I have encountered gruesome injuries before, but nothing like this.

In the following days, the onslaught of bad news crippled my emotional state. My MRI showed that I had torn my left meniscus, which required surgery.  I couldn’t return to Martial Arts for at least six months. For ten years, I had never gone a week without martial arts. Six months seemed unbearable!

Music lifted me from my despair. After surgery, I had copious amounts of time for my guitar and violin. Previously, I practiced music outside of school about twice a week. After the injury, I practiced every day. I began to see the notes differently as music offered what physical therapy didn’t: a way to express myself. The instruments became extensions of myself as I got lost in the music I played. The slow, downbeat pieces laced with somber and melancholy notes perfectly reflected and described my emotional state in the first weeks after therapy.

Yet, one small moment profoundly changed my outlook on music: the words of a physician’s assistant teaching me to care for my leg. “When you’re young you should make sure not to rush recovery and remember you won’t be able to do some of the things you can do now when you’re much older.”  The words hit me while I was practicing guitar. I won’t be able to perform some of the martial arts techniques that require substantial skill when I’m older. Yet I could play my violin and guitar for years beyond retirement, just as Mr. Eckfeld can. His talent grew with age, as I hope mine will. However, my limitations in martial arts may grow as I age.  Had the injury not happened, I may not have fully appreciated my future with music or the true meaning of Mr. Eckfeld’s last night conducting my orchestra.  It was a moment emphasizing the potential for a long future with my instruments on my own terms. I may not have a career as a musician but the instruments will always be there for me to pick up and will offer a mode of expression.

Brandon Lloyd, a graduate of White Plains High School, will be a freshman at George Washington University in September.

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.