Tag 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). 

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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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Depicting Race Without Racism: The Disconnect Between My Home Country and Disney’s “Encanto”

By Glenda Palacios Quejada

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[5 minute read]

As a Black woman from Colombia who recently moved to the United States, I was excited when I first heard that Disney would be releasing Encanto, a movie taking place in Colombia. Studying in the U.S., so far from of my country and my language has produced a strong sense of loneliness in me, not only because I cannot frequent the usual places and people I am accustomed to, but also because I feel that I am losing my voice and identity as I try to become immersed in a white-English predominant place. So, to me, Encanto seemed to be the perfect way to reconnect with my country, and to remind myself of home even if just through a screen. Additionally, this movie gave me the opportunity to share this experience with other Latinx students, as I went to the movie theater with a group of women who I have befriended in graduate school.

Photo by Krists Luhaers on Unsplash

The film began by introducing the hostile imagery of a Colombian family who became victim of armed conflict. Through this you could see the painful representations that are repeated throughout Colombian political history, such as images of women with children in their arms who see their spouses killed as a consequence of the war, or images of entire families who carry their most valuable belongings on their shoulders as they walk the long journey from their home territory to a safe place. Right away, I was impressed that Disney chose to confront this subject matter in a direct way.

Only ten minutes had elapsed before the film began to confuse different geographical, cultural, and historical aspects of Colombian tradition. Among the mountains with coffee plants, tall and leafy palm trees loomed which normally would not be found in these mountainous regions. At community festivals, in a place that seemed to be located in the Andean part of the country, Salsa music prevailed instead of carranga and guasca[1] music; and in exchange for the guitar, a White man played the marimba[2]. The rural people of the Andean zone, instead of wearing a ruanacarriel, and machete, wore summer clothes and sombrero vueltiao. The most shocking inaccuracy was the multiculturalism that the film tried to portray. There was a harmonious multicultural coexistence among the characters in the movie that erased the systemic racial violence that Black people who grew up in the Colombian Andean region, a white-predominant place, are used to. Consequently, I felt frustrated that Disney tried to portray a world with race without racism; it misrepresented and erased tangible and visible racial tensions that constantly subjected Black people to traumatic and painful experiences. Particularly, that magical world denied and hid more than 200 years of slavery and its permanent effects on the modern Colombian society.

Photo by Niels van Altena on Unsplash

The film had three opportunities to accurately represent situations related to racism in the mountainous areas of Colombia, especially with their three main characters–Matrona Madrigal, Maribel, and Bruno. Firstly, it described the dysfunction that the Madrigal family experienced as the female head of household was deemed as an authoritarian presence. She reminded me of the paisa women I used to see every morning on my way to school. They gathered in the main park drinking coffee after leaving church to lament and criticize the students who got pregnant, the wives who separated from their “brilliant husbands”, or those women who were seen participating in “immoral” sexual acts. Matrona Madrigal also reminded me of those paisa grandmothers who reject their darkest skin grandchildren. These women silence them, deny them gifts, and subject them to accusations and punishments in front of their lighter skin cousins ​​or siblings. Right there, the film had the possibility of enunciating how in white-rural contexts, girls with magic like Mirabel lose their strength due to the internalization of racism and their darker skin tones. This rhetoric makes children like Mirabel believe negative stories about their body, hair, color, and ancestry. Secondly, the film could problematize the role of the uncle who lived hidden. He reminded me of the homosexual rural men who are expelled from their homes because they do not follow the heteronormative and imposed ways of feeling for and loving others. The men like Mirabel’s uncle, despite being excluded, stay in these spaces because the paisa culture, religion and customs comprise a fundamental part of their lives that they are not willing to give up. Thirdly, in the representation of magic, the movie did not highlight how Black and Indigenous communities are stereotyped as witches, sorcerers, and children of the devil in these Andean geographies. The movie had no conflicts with these racist ways of classifying spiritual and ancient ways that are not seen as the norm. 

I left the film feeling extremely uncomfortable because I realized that this successful film inaccurately decontextualized race to play into the politically correct idealized world which Disney wishes to portray. This not only ignored long-standing and tangible problems but also recreated them as positive. Another dangerous aspect of these animated films is that they superficially make us believe that they have no impact on the construction of stereotypes, racial prejudices, or other types of bias. But it is quite the opposite. From my experience, this type of film contributes to the discourse of hiding and covering up the existence of racism and racial discrimination, which leads to null or ineffective measures against this structural problem.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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