The end of the semester is always a busy time for me, and, as I’ve previously written, one of the highlights of this period are the various music department end-of-semester concerts and recitals that I participate in. No matter how intense it gets, the end of semester orchestra concert is still a great highlight and culmination of my hard work. This past semester’s performance was particularly special for me as it presented an impromptu opportunity to play with some of the best musicians in the country—three members of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy Band’s trombone section led by Sean Nelson, who is the music department’s trombone professor, in addition to Connecticut College’s own Gary Buttery on tuba, who served as the Band’s principal tubist from 1976-1998. The group constituted our orchestra’s low brass section for our performance of Antonin Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony.
Sitting on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport, I was frustrated, tired and jetlagged. I had been traveling for nearly 27 hours and plane food has never cheered me up. I was heading back to Conn after one month of winter break and my plane had been diverted to Philadelphia because of the winter storm. I was supposed to land at JFK by 8:30 a.m. and catch the Flying Camel (the College bus between JFK International Airport and Conn) at 1 p.m. It was now 11 a.m. Would I even make it?
This October, President Katherine Bergeron had members of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) over to her house for dinner. The MSA at Conn aims to build a warm and comforting environment for Muslim students and to educate the wider Conn community about the nuances of the culture. Established in 2015 by a Bangladeshi Conn alum (just like me!), the MSA has introduced me to new friends and given me a wider exposure to how Islam is practiced in different regions of the world.
One of my biggest fears going from a high school class of 45 students to a college of about 1,900 was how I would leave all of the clubs and activities I was involved in and somehow restart in a different, much larger place. It’s hard to imagine having to transition while also trying to find places, groups and clubs on campus that you want to get involved in. When I arrived at Conn for my first year it was important to me that I joined clubs and took on other responsibilities outside of academics because I wanted to meet new people that I had shared interests with.
I came from a high school with a lot of amazing students. Among them were some extremely talented artists who, in my opinion, were ahead of their time. Many of these artists were actors from our theater department, a department I called home and which encouraged my passion for acting. However, I also found myself pulling away from its competitive nature. I’ve never been a competitive person, and have never cared to only audition for principal roles or pursued a show just to say I was a part of it. I’m also a person who likes to learn from other people, grow, and at some point be in a position to teach or mentor others. I felt there wasn’t much space for me or many others to do that, and I knew it wasn’t quite the place for me. I’ll admit that one of the main reasons I didn’t think I would major in theater or be involved in the department in any way when I arrived at Conn was because of my assumption that all theater departments are competitive or unwelcoming. I was worried that I wouldn’t have a shot at being in a show and that those active in the department wouldn’t concern themselves with encouraging or recruiting others to join the department.
When I graduated from high school in New York two years ago (yikes!), it never occurred to me just how far my closest friends would be traveling for their respective undergraduate educations. Some of my friends committed to schools as far as California, while others (like myself) decided to stay a bit more local to the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
My heart stopped when I looked at my friend, Julia Horowitz, and realized it was our time. “Oh God, here we go,” her expression seemed to say. She grabbed my hands as we turned to face our audience, full of our friends and friends of friends, to explain our next game. “Jarvis Can’t Rap is a game where we do a scene based on your suggestions,” she said, mildly laughing. “We start to rap whenever a beat is dropped by Mark [McPhillips] until it stops and exposes our lack of musical talents.”
As I write this post, I’m sitting in my room, listening to the Broadway recording of the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on YouTube. Just over 24 hours ago Connecticut College’s student theater community, Wig & Candle, closed their production of that play in Palmer 202, a black box theater and classroom space that is often used for student productions. The production was so popular that we had to add an additional late night performance. Although I have regularly attended Wig and Candle’s performances, this was my first time actually participating in one; I played clarinet in a reduced pit band of two.
As I sat with my feet shoulder-width apart, Rabbi Susan Schein led our Hillel group in meditation. As Jews, we are in the midst the month of Elul. Elul is the month leading up to the High Holy Days, of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is also during this time that I am drawn to exploring meditations and thinking about the year ahead of me even as I reflect on the past year. At our most recent home-cooked Shabbat dinner, I took a liking to a unique part of the Shabbat service. After all, the Shabbat meal is the beginning of the day of rest and I wanted to explore my spirituality within Judaism. This meditative exercise came from Psalm 27 in which, the kingdom of G-d is proposed and challenged.
It was yet another bright and sunny Friday afternoon at Conn, and the annual club fair was in full force on Library Green. I was running the Ski Club booth given my new position as president for this academic year. Along with the other club members, I had been recruiting new members for about an hour before I took a break to say hi to my friends at other booths. My friend and fellow blogger, Dani Maney ‘20, was running a booth at the fair for her improv group N20.
One Thursday morning this semester, the stars finally aligned for us to hold a sectional rehearsal for the orchestra’s clarinetists. No other wind instruments and definitely no strings present! It was just Scott, the other clarinetist, our professor, Kelli O’Connor, and me running through orchestral music together. One of the pieces we played in orchestra this semester is the impressionist composer Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” As is typical of his works, it features complex, mystifying and beautiful harmonies. Part of our job in a sectional is to learn to get these harmonies in tune, which helps the orchestra sound better.
One recent Thursday morning, the stars finally aligned for us to hold a sectional rehearsal for the orchestra’s clarinetists. No other wind instruments and definitely no strings present! It was just Scott, the other clarinetist, our professor, Kelli O’Connor, and me running through orchestral music together. One of the pieces we’re playing in orchestra this semester is the impressionist composer Maurice Ravel’s “Mother Goose Suite.” As is typical of his works, it features complex, mystifying and beautiful harmonies. Part of our job in a sectional is to learn to get these harmonies in tune, which helps the orchestra sound better.
This past month, one of the most driven members of our student body, Shameesha Pryor ’17, organized the second Black Women’s Conference hosted at Conn with the assistance of the Africana Studies Student Advisory Board. Although the first conference was held in 1969, the need for this event has not diminished, just as the injustices and double standards black women face daily certainly have not. It goes without saying that the Earth is fortunate to be graced with the melanin of black women, but this is also a group often pushed into archetypal roles not representative of their humanity and actual experiences. Instead, they are viewed as the angry, strong, or sassy black woman. This conference shattered those narrow perceptions and stereotypes of black womanhood, and provided a space for people to discuss the complexities that come with being a black woman in today's world.
Despite my enthusiastic participation in it, I will never hesitate to say that a cappella is probably the weirdest extracurricular I have done in my life, excluding my scarring musical theater days. The universal love of singing attracts unlikely groups of people, and although it’s not quite as dramatic as the movie “Pitch Perfect,” a cappella culture is fascinating. I got an in-depth look at this phenomenon during spring break when I visited Williams College and Brown University with my group, Vox Cameli, during our “Premiere Tour.” While we graced these campuses with our lovely voices, I realized my favorite part of a cappella occurs once the performances are over; a cappella after dark. I’ve found that the only thing that can be expected to occur after a performance is a sing-off, the result of two singing groups realizing they’re too awkward to socialize.
In the beginning of my first semester at Conn, I joined the club Ultimate Frisbee team, and even though the spring tournaments Riptide and High Tide were months away, returning team members talked constantly about how great spring break was going to be. So I knew I was in for a fun time when I set out to spend my spring break with 40 of my friends.
There are moments when I look back with amazement at the many performances and lectures I have been to in my short time at Conn. Recently, I saw three powerful performances on campus all in one week: on Monday the Ammerman Center sponsored a visit by famed performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Peña. On Friday, I saw the theater department’s production of Mark Blitzstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock,” and on Saturday I went to the Women’s Empowerment Initiative performance of their 2017 show “She is a Tempest.” These three performances dealt with difficult themes, such as dividedness, inequality and oppression, and inspiring ones, such as effecting change, empowerment and living life to the fullest.
Since coming to Conn, I have become a professional novice, frequently trying out new experiences to find my place within the community. My first semester here I joined the Ultimate Frisbee team and tried out for the improv comedy group N2O. Second semester I tried out for “She is a Tempest,” the Women’s Empowerment (WE) Initiative’s annual show.
“You must be the change you wish to see.” – M. K. Ghandi
I live my life by this quote because it challenges me to take action to make the world a better place. Its philosophy is also a driving force behind Green Dot training here on campus, which I recently completed. Green Dot is a national organization that works to prevent power-based personal violence, such as sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking, in communities throughout the country. I’m glad that Connecticut College has a robust Green Dot chapter, with about a quarter of students who have undergone training. My friends who completed the training encouraged me to do it for months, so when I got an email about a session that worked with my schedule, I signed up for it.
Before I arrived at Connecticut College, I had never really been interested in hearing the sound of my own singing voice, perhaps because my older sisters never hesitated to tell me it was similar to a cat in heat. Even so, I decided to audition for an a cappella group last year, just for fun. I must say that I was EXTREMELY surprised when I was accepted into the amazing group that is Vox Cameli. I didn’t realize that a cappella is sort of a hot commodity on the East Coast, with groups frequently being the entertainment at Conn’s events. While I’m quite confident that only one-third of the notes I sing are ever right, that hasn’t stopped me from getting on a stage yet, and our performance for Green Dot Week was no exception.
It’s my theory that growing up in an urban environment causes people to have an inherent connection to music and dance, although not everyone is blessed with the rhythm to match. As a result, while I may walk and run with stiff, questionable posture, I can bust quite a few unexpected moves on a dance floor. It could also happen to be in my room, kitchen, a hallway, while running on the treadmill; anywhere I can listen to music doubles as my shameless stage. Generally, I avoid doing so in front of large groups of people, but last weekend I had to power through my anxiety to audition for Eclipse, the largest student-run dance show, for my final year at Conn