Category Archives: music

Give Tchaikovsky a Try

By Nikhita Datar

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

I’ve been surrounded by music for as long as I can remember. Whether it was in dance classes, family gatherings, or elementary school choral concerts, something about the infinite number of possibilities of different instruments and sounds that create music has always captivated me. By combining different fundamental frequencies and pitches from the music scale, you can create wildly different pieces of music, and I think that is amazing. 

Photo by Stefany Andrade on Unsplash

I began playing the violin at a really young age. I initially resented the idea of consistently practicing and standing still with good posture. Above all else, I was frustrated that I was unable to sound like Itzhak Perlman (a famous violinist) no matter how hard I tried. As I got older, I began playing in different orchestras and chamber groups, and the opportunity for me to engage with music in different formats and genres really helped me develop my love and passion for it. I was able to play some of the most iconic pieces of classical music from composers that I admire the most, and I was also able to build some of the most meaningful relationships of my life. During the school year, I would play in my school’s orchestra, play in chamber groups, take private lessons, and prepare for all kinds of concerts year-round. In the summers, I would attend different music programs such as Blue Lake Fine Arts or Interlochen Music Academy. What was originally an overwhelming task became a great passion of mine.

I think that I’ve always known since I picked up the violin for the first time that I wasn’t fully going to pursue a career in music. As much as I love classical music and the art of playing the violin, I knew that the pathway of being a violinist wasn’t the right fit for me. Even so, the notion of throwing away years of private lesson tuition and hard work wasn’t appealing to me. I knew I wanted to keep playing music for the rest of my life, even if this special hobby wasn’t necessarily monetarily profitable. I emphasize the notion of monetary benefits because playing an instrument does indeed have a number of other benefits. It can increase your cognitive abilities and decrease loss of memory. As you play music, there are a million things happening in your brain at once. You’re simultaneously checking your pitch and making sure to land on the right notes in the moment while also reading the key signature and time signature to play in the right key. You always have to read a few notes ahead to prepare yourself for upcoming wonky rhythms and accidentals (a note of a pitch that is not a member of the scale or mode dictated by the key signature, indicated by notation such as the sharp (♯), flat (♭), and natural (♮) symbols). 

Photo by Michel Catalisano on Unsplash

I don’t know if I would necessarily say that playing an instrument has made me smarter, but it certainly has improved my ability to think critically, and think fast. It’s also given me access to a greater community of people who share similar interests and have taught me a lot about the world we live in. Simply listening to classical music, rather than playing, can have so many benefits for your brain as well. I would highly recommend listening to or learning to play classical music to improve your cognitive function. And who knows, you might start to really like it! 

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The Start to an Adventure

By Michael Neufeld

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

On Sunday, August 13, 2017,  a great new adventure for me began. It was exciting, it was scary, and I couldn’t wait. I was about to begin my freshman year of college. My family and I drove down from Fresno, California the night before my move-in and stayed in a hotel. I was part of the Trojan Marching Band, and with the early move-in schedule, the time we would spend setting up my dorm, and the long four-to-five hour drive down, we were not willing to get up at 3:00 in the morning to finish packing and travel. My younger brother, Daniel, would have especially disliked that.

When we got to campus, my family helped me set up my room. Soon after, they went off to attend the first marching band parent meeting. We met up later, and after a meal, we said our goodbyes. It seemed my family was only there for a few minutes before it was time for them to leave.

Photo by rnaol on Unsplash

I spent the next week at band camp, getting up early each morning to walk to Cromwell Field to learn how to march. I noticed that marching in the University of Southern California band was much different than in my high school band; in high school we shuffled our straight-legged feet across the grass, whereas here we have to pick our feet up off the ground and plant them in steps in front of us at USC. Along with other physical, performance-related differences, I also noticed that this band had way more spirit than any high school band I had seen. Here, we played for the football team; if we weren’t spirited, how could the crowd be?

Along with my marching band experiences, I had so many new things to do, think about, and see as a freshman majoring in Jazz Studies. Traversing across campus from class to class felt a little bit intimidating at first. It was challenging to find all of my classes the first couple of days in territory with which I was unfamiliar. Additionally, there were so many people surrounding me; bikes, skateboards, and DPS cars flew around me as I traveled to and from buildings.

Photo by BP Miller on Unsplash

On this bizarre campus, I found so much to like. I enjoyed eating with my friends at the Parkside Dining Hall. I loved my music classes, and marching band rehearsals always gave me a rush of energy. I picked up a new pastime of zooming around the uncrowded campus late at night with my trusty scooter, something I wasn’t able to do much of in Fresno.

Along with these new, fun experiences, there were some not-so-positive “adventures” that I had to deal with as well. I dealt with some people that for the first time in my life I did not enjoy being around. My roommates and I occasionally rubbed shoulders, something bound to happen when you live with seven other people in a Parkside “suite-style” dorm. I got lost on the Metro once and had to run over a mile from one station to a concert hall.

Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash
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LA Experiences: Concert-Going and Live Performances

By Natalie Grace Sipula

[3.5 minute read]

The summer leading up to my first year at USC, I remember planning out all of the exciting things I would do once I arrived in Los Angeles. Alongside attending an amazing university, I was excited about getting to experience all of the exciting culture and character of LA as a USC student for the next four years. While some of my time in LA has unfortunately been spent during the Covid-19 pandemic, I am lucky to have gotten to see and do some pretty amazing things before the pandemic began or when LA county deemed it safe for certain attractions and activities to reopen. As an avid music lover, one of my favorite pastimes is going to live concerts. Luckily, there is always amazing talent performing in LA at any given time. Here are a few of my favorite concert-going experiences of the past couple years. 

My view of the stage at the Hollywood Bowl

My first real concert experience in LA was in October 2019, when I saved up money to see Lana Del Rey perform at the Hollywood Bowl around the time of my 19th birthday. Lana Del Rey is one of my absolute favorite artists who I’ve been listening to since I was in middle school, so when I found out she would be performing in LA the week of my birthday I knew I had to get a ticket. I took the Metro with a friend to Hollywood and we walked to the Hollywood Bowl from there. We found our seats and even though they were about 250 rows back, I was so excited to be there I didn’t care. Lana sang a few songs from her earlier records, but mostly performed songs from her latest album at the time, Norman F****** Rockwell. Her voice was just as effervescent and melodic in person as it is on her albums, and the venue added an especially awesome ambience as it was outdoors and the Hollywood sign was glowing in the background nestled amongst the Hollywood hills. Beyond that, another exciting aspect of seeing concerts in LA is that, because so many celebrities live here, artists will sometimes bring other musicians they have collaborated with on stage with them! At this concert, Lana Del Rey also sang with Jesse Rutherford of The Neighbourhood (one of my favorite bands!) and Zella Day.

Dave Bayley of Glass Animals singing “Heat Waves”

One of my favorite concerts I have been to is one I went to this past September—Glass Animals. Glass Animals is an indie rock band from the UK who has most recently been known for their single “Heat Waves” from their 2020 album Dreamland. I’ve been a fan of Glass Animals since high school, and particularly love their debut studio album Zaba, which has a sound I would describe as tropical-cool and mysterious. The band performed songs off of all of their albums during this concert, which was held outside at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which is definitely one of the more unique venues I’ve been to and added a great ambience. I got lucky for this concert as Glass Animals performed two concerts in LA that weekend and I attended the second one on a Sunday, so the crowd wasn’t quite as big and I was able to get only three rows back from the stage! Lead singer Dave Bayley was one of the best performers I’ve seen yet, interacting with the crowd and dancing to the music throughout the show. The live performance definitely added an element to the music that I hadn’t seen before.

Continue reading LA Experiences: Concert-Going and Live Performances