Higher Learning: STNYC’s Hunter College Talk and Tour

CUNY Service Corp student Michelle Tibois and Sound Thinking NYC Project Director Ah-Keisha McCants sat down via phone-chat to speak with ‘sound thinker’ Sharon A. about her thoughts on the Hunter College talk and tour experience. The special event took place on Monday, October 15th and was hosted by Hunter College’s Deputy Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment, Joseph Fantozzi Jr.

A number of our Sound Thinking cohort-members and CAT Youth Theatre members toured Hunter’s campus and experienced a curated information session on the nuts and bolts of applying to the prestigious yet affordable undergraduate program. The students learned about Hunter’s music and arts programs and more. Student Ambassadors and current college juniors, Becky and Brooke, shared the ins and outs of applying for scholarships, internships, and lunch plans. They shared advice on making friends on campus (hint, it’s really easy), the amazing music courses available (they’re super hands-on and include special music concerts) as well as the perks of Hunter’s state-of-the-art library (students not only can borrow books, but iPads and laptops!). All in all, it was a great night of higher learning!

Michelle, who is a current senior at John Jay College kicked off the conversation. Read the interview below:

Michelle: Hi Sharon. It’s nice to meet you over the phone. My name is Michelle Tibois, […] I am working alongside Ah-Keisha and Paola for Sound Thinking. I’m a CUNY Service Corps member. I just kind of want to interview you in regards to the Hunter College experience that you had, would you mind answering some questions for me, if you have time?

Sharon: Yeah, I have time.

M: Awesome! I wanna know about you Sharon. Tell me about you. Your grade, what you do?

S: Well, I’m Sharon. I’m 17, I’m a junior. I play instruments. I like soccer. There isn’t much to that after that.

M: What do you play? What instruments?

S: Guitar, piano, ukulele.

M: Oh my goodness, that’s amazing.

Ah-Keisha McCants: She plays all these instruments, wait say them again, Sharon!

S: Guitar, piano, ukulele and a little bit of the banjo.

M: Awesome, thank you. That’s great. What did you learn about Hunter College while you were there?

S: I learned that they were a liberal arts college and I didn’t know that it was a public college and that it was part of CUNY. I learned that they had programs for music and that the tuition was under 7 thousand dollars.

M: Where on the campus did you visit?

S: We visited all of the buildings, the north, west and east buildings. We were able to see the big auditorium that I think, seats about 2,000 people.

M: What did you think about the campus? what was your impression when you got there?

S: It’s big, I mean, it’s just 3 buildings but it’s big and each building has it’s own environment. I know that there’s like different types of people in each building and everyone’s there for something different.

M: Anything that you picked up on or saw on the campus, like the life of the students or even anything that was visually appealing or the setting around you?

S: All the buildings are connected by bridges so you can just go to one building by like crossing the bridges instead of going outside in the street and crossing the street to get to the other side.

M: I like that about their school, so what are your thoughts on their music program? Especially for someone as talented as you are! What do you think?

S: I think they have music education and they have classes for history of music, like rock n roll and things like that…

M: Did you learn anything about the college admissions process that surprised you?

S: Not really.

M: So you kind of knew what the process was like?

S: Yes, in my school we talk about it so much. We’ve been talking about it since middle school.

M: What are your thoughts about going to school in NY?

S: Well, I want to.

M: What is it about NYC? Is it the environment? Are the schools good, to you?

S: Yes and I love the city and I want to study in the city. But I feel like if I was able to get an opportunity to study outside of NY, I think I would take it.

M: What did you think about the student Ambassadors, Becky and Brooke?

S: I think they were nice, I can relate to them. They talked about things I think would be important to teenagers, like me. Maybe if the ambassadors were older they wouldn’t understand what I would be asking. Like when it comes to like a food plan or jibs or internships nearby.

M: What other programs did you learn about?

S: I know they have programs for Pre-Med and Pre-Law as well.

M: What do you think you want to major in while in college?

S: I know it’s gonna be in Music Technology, most likely sound engineering or audio engineering. But it would definitely be music related. Just not music education.

M: Why were you interested in visiting Hunter?

S: I’ve been to one other college in the city, visiting, but I wanted to see my options. I knew that if I looked online I would be able to find information but I wanted to actually see the school and see how the student life is.

M: Are there any other colleges or universities you’d like to visit? Has there been any on your mind?

S: NYU. I have to do more research.

AM- I have one … question, what advice would you give to other young people who are considering whether they should go to college or not?

S: I think college is always a good option, it’s not for everybody but you should always have some kind of education in college because it can always back you up no matter what you do. At least in any job that you choose it may be easier for you to find something than just having a high-school diploma. College education is important and it will actually take you places.

AM: Any other schools in NY you’d like to visit?

S: Maybe Julliard, but I don’t know about that one.

AM: Michelle, did you ever have a situation where you had to realize, let me just take a chance?

M: Oh yeah. 100 percent. When I first I got into to John Jay I wasn’t sure how I was going to pay for school because even though I had my parent’s financial support, they weren’t able to support me fully, with all my tuition. I remember senior year of high school, a company had offered this opportunity for us to create a creative portfolio and also a creative writing piece. I remember having all these creative people around me and I was feeling very discouraged but when I applied I got support from my teachers. They reminded me of the worst that could happen, but at least I would put my best foot forward and I got both scholarships. I got through two years of college without having to need support from my parents. Then the next two years, it worked out and because I took that chance and I didn’t let that discouragement be my reality, it actually propelled me forward. It’s all about putting your foot in the door and taking that step because you never know what’s behind it..

AM: That’s what Sound Thinking is all about, promoting positive risk-taking. Well, thank you so much Sharon.

M: Thank you!

S: Thank you for calling.

Thank you to Joseph Fantozzi and Hunter College student ambassadors, Becky and Brooke, for making our visit to Hunter a memorable one! We cannot wait for our next tour and talk!

 

Sound Thinkers Say ‘YES’ to AES!

by Ah-Keisha McCants

Last Friday and Saturday, October 19th and 20th, our Sound Thinking cohort attended the Audio Engineering Society (AES) 145th International Pro Audio Convention at the Jacob Javits Center!

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AES is the premier event for Broadcast and Streaming, Audio for Virtual and Augmented Reality, Live Sound, Studio Recording, Home Recording, Music Production, Game Audio, Sound for Picture or Product Development, and much more. It’s like an audio-engineering playground, with hands-on technology at your fingertips, and icons in engineering and music at your disposal! We’re talking the best of the best—the legendary Stevie Wonder even made a guest appearance!

Thanks to the folks at AES, and particularly Lori Jackson, their Membership Director, Sound Thinking NYC was gifted with free Exhibits-Plus badges! The group participated in a number of special exhibits at AES, including the: Broadway Sound Expo, Project Studio Expo, and Live Sound Expo! They explored informational panels: Know It Before You Track It – Guitar Literacy for Recording Engineers; The Special Sauce for Mixing a Hit Record; Mix-Masters: The Art of Mastering, as well as Platinum Mastering – Past, Present Future: Changes in Audio Mastering Technology/Aesthetics, to name a few.

Sound Thinking also had a table in the Education and Career Fair at AES on the Friday of the convention. We shared our Sound Thinking mission as part of their initiative to connect learning institutions from around the world with a massive audio, sound and music community of students, enthusiasts and professionals!

Check out a few of our cohort-member highlights from the AES convention!

“I really like the microphone section because I got to hear and experience different sounds they have and they’re each made for a specific time.” – Joanna S.

“I just liked having conversations with different kinds of people… Because it’s cool to see different peoples’ perspectives. And this is an audio convention, but they’re all coming with so many different backgrounds in audio. I think that’s cool. – Taysia F.

“Bianca likes… The networking as well, as Taysia said. Being 17 right now, a senior in high school, and having so many connections through Sound Thinking and all the things I was able to do outside because of Sound Thinking, makes me feel in a secure place. But also going out of my comfort zone is a really great thing.” – Bianca P.

“I liked walking around and exploring… The whole new experience of being around people that have the common theme of loving music.” – Annalise J.

“I liked the soundboards and just playing with them. I was getting a feel of how it was.” – Simone F.

“I liked that I was able to get a hands-on experience with the Cloudlifter Zi… And then I won the Cloudlifter Zi.” – Sharon A.

“What I really enjoyed from this convention is, first of all, the mixing boards. I never really knew there were different types. I knew there was for live sound, studio, but I never knew it was for TV shows and all. It really mesmerized me just walking through the exhibition, looking at all the different mixing boards. And having the experience from the Platinum Sound studio, and gaining a hands-on experience of being the audio engineer… That just really puts my interest in learning more about it, at a higher level…” – Angie R.

“I think I really enjoyed the aspect of just being able to hear people’s backgrounds. We met a really nice man. I don’t remember his name. I didn’t catch it. But he was at the Soundable booth. He was so inspired by women all his life, and so he was really appreciative that we were here and that we were actually taking charge to network and get out of our comfort zones, and being so young. And he really encouraged me and inspired me to continue.” – Celines H.

Ah-Keisha McCants
Project Director
Sound Thinking NYC

STNYC Tours: Hunter College

by Uma R.

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It was very surreal to walk into the doors of Hunter College. Growing up in the city, I always thought that I would be leaving home to go to college, saying goodbye to the concrete jungle. However, taking the tour gave me a weird perspective on what college life in New York City would be like. In the West building, where we started our tour of the over a century year old institution, there was not one corner of the floors that was not occupied by students either studying, working, or hanging out with friends. It was strange to think that this student body population of 23,000 leaks out into the city that I live in. College life to me has never been acquainted with New York or Manhattan, because I’ve never imagined one of the biggest cities in the world being used as a college town; seeing how huge the student body population is made me realize how many opportunities there are for college students in New York City.

Our tour guides took us through different parts of the West building. We got to walk through multiple floors of the huge library that the college houses, similar to the libraries that I’ve seen in other colleges outside of the city, but what was different about Hunter to me, were the huge bridges that connected its different buildings together. Via the bridges, you could see amazing views of the city as the sun set. As we crossed the bridge that went from the West building into the library, we could see the different buildings where Hunter classes were held. Even though the campus is extremely spread out, the college still felt like a community because the student life is literally connected by bridges.

Speaking more about the community, it genuinely felt like home because there were kids from all over the country studying in the halls. It was like a small version of New York City. The diversity was comforting, especially when we walked into the music department and saw that nothing about the variety of the student body changed. Walking through an older building to get to the practice rooms of the music department was really cool, because you could see kids walking in and out of the doors carrying their instruments, while in the actual practice rooms, we could see students collaborating and playing music together. It was inspiring and uplifting to see what it looks like first hand to study and create music in higher education.

All in all, I was very grateful to have been able to tour Hunter College, because it showed me an opportunity for college that I was reluctant to take at first. Staying in the city to study for some reason seems daunting, but seeing Hunter helped me to recognize the potential that studying in a city rich with the arts could hold in my college career.

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IN SOUND THINKING: Mrs. Butcher

by Keith Johnston 

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young Keith

I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY to Cuban-Jamaican parents. We were exposed to a broad range of music during the 60s and 70s. The radio was always playing in our house. We listened and danced to everything from mambo, reggae and calypso to rock, R&B and Jazz. My mother played organ and sang in church. My siblings and I would sing in the youth choir, as I would hide behind choir members during performances. As an introverted visual artist, I spent most of my time drawing on everything. At nine years old my parents enrolled my two sisters and I in Mrs. Ray’s School for Music and Culture in Bedford Stuyvesant. Mrs. Ray was an extremely conservative dark-skinned woman. Her hair would always be in a tight bun and she dressed in navy blue and white old English attire. Her high-pitched operatic voice would really intimidate me as she taught us how to read and play music on the piano. She used a wooden ruler to smack our hands or to tap us on different areas of our back to develop effective posture and technique. It was a traumatizing experience for me. Every week I pleaded with my mother not to go but she insisted on raising “well rounded children”. After about six weeks of lessons every Saturday, and daily practice, I refused, cried and begged not to go anymore. As a way to get out of it I told my father I didn’t like the piano and wanted to play the guitar, so he released me from piano lessons.

For months I listened to my sisters practice and perform recitals playing “Moonlight Sonata” and other classics, as my father would take me to work with him. I couldn’t decide which was worse, Mrs. Ray or cleaning and mopping down a four story brownstone every Saturday. That Christmas my parents gave me a sunburst colored TeleStar electric guitar and amplifier. I was so elated, strumming the out-of-tune strings. Eventually the excitement deflated by the horrible sound and I went back to drawing in my sketchbook. My mother asked my father “How is he going to learn to play that thing?” My father said he found a teacher on Snyder Ave. The following Saturday, my father grabbed the guitar and we drove to East Flatbush. I was so excited, thinking about all those cool guitar players I’ve seen on TV or on my father’s albums, like Jimi Hendricks, Chuck Berry and Wes Montgomery. We pulled up in front of an apartment building with four rough looking teenagers, with headbands and Afros sitting on the stoop. In the window of the first floor apartment was a crooked written sign that read “Mrs. Butchers School of Music”.  The joy of my father taking me for guitar lessons faded into anxiety as we exited the car. Between the neighborhood and the trauma from Mrs. Ray I started to retreat. My father became annoyed, “Come on Boy! Don’t start! Carry this”. He handed me the guitar in a black plastic, vinyl-ish case.

As we moved toward the apartment building the teens moved out of our way. My father rang the bell and a woman with a big smile and round glasses looked out the window. She unlocked and opened the front door wearing a floral housecoat. I remember thinking “she plays the guitar?” She warmly greeted me, much different from Mrs. Ray who was very stern. “Good afternoon young man. I am your teacher Mrs. Butcher. What kind of guitar do you have there?” I proudly said “a TeleStar”. “Oh” she said, obviously not knowing what that was. Knowing my father it was probably the cheapest guitar he could find.

We entered her eclectic living room with shiny wooden floors, dim lamps and floral wallpaper. Her dusty old chandelier, much different than Mrs. Ray’s shiny elaborate one, provided a homey comfort. I was enthralled by the messy artistry; all the instruments around the room. Hanging on the wall was a big 36 inch saw with wooden handles on each end of it. The only furniture in the room was an antique couch with a plastic cover, a glass coffee table, wooden nightstand and two plastic covered dining chairs with a music stand in front of it. My father paid Mrs. Butcher for the lesson and book and said he would be back by 2pm.

After my father left I stood in the midst of the room amazed. Mrs. Butcher asked me to sit in one of the chairs. I sat staring at the different brass and woodwinds on the bookshelf and thinking, “Does she collect all these instruments or does she play them?”  In the right corner was an upright piano, in the left corner an organ; behind me was a series of string instruments, cello, violin, upright bass and a banjo in a corner next to a vacuum cleaner. “Are you ready?” she asked. I asked if she played all these instruments. She said yes, noticing how I stared at the saw on the wall. She asked if I wanted to hear it. I signaled “yes”, not really knowing what she meant by playing it. Noticing my distraction she removed the saw from the wall, sat on the couch, placed it between her thighs, grabbed a bow and began to play. It was the most remarkable thing I had ever heard. The saw sounded like a human voice. She made it sing. In that very moment I fell in love with the infinite possibilities of music. As a result, for the rest of my life, I never stopped studying and digging for the music inside me, living the musician’s endless journey of exploration and discovery through collaborating in this universal love language. From playing in bands at school, jam sessions, block parties and local clubs to recording studios, tours, recording artists and performing at Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, and in front of thousands in venues and stadiums around the world.

Thank you Mrs. Butcher for those inspirational Saturdays of patient instruction, spontaneous jam sessions and a skillset that set me on a musical pathway to self-discovery and creativity.

Keith Johnston
Director, College & Adult Program
CUNY Creative Arts Team

Reflection: Blue Man Group

by Kailee-Jade Berrios

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STNYC & CAT Youth Theatre members, with CAT staff, post-Blue Man Group experience

First of I just want to say thank you to Ania Grzesik for inviting us to see The Blue Man Group. Ania was a panelist during our inaugural summer intensive Mentoring Friday’s event. I don’t have any words for this show; I was speechless. I’ve always wanted to see this show. Now that I finally saw it, it was definitely worth it. The thing that stood out most about this show was their use of sound. It felt like having our own jam session. The production used different types of instruments to create their sound. They used different colored paints with their drums — the drums had such a loud bass, I could feel it in my chest! When they used the paint on the drums, the paint bounced back when they played. The paint looked like little tiny colorful spots; it looked like something you would see at a fountain– they were really beautiful. 

They also used pipes to create sound. They used the pipes to make the sound louder — like when you roll up a piece of paper and speak into it, your voice gets more bass and volume. That’s what it reminded me of and when they connected the pipes; the sound was sooo amazing. I’m telling you it was like their own jam session on that stage, not only did they do sound but they used comedy. That show was HILARIOUS and every skit they did made me laugh. They even brought people from the audience onto the stage! My favorite part of the show was when the Blue Men went all the way to the back of the Astor Place Theatre and grabbed paper rolls and threw them at us to keep it rolling. Plus, their lighting design was amazing; it felt like I was at an underground club. It was the best experience and I recommend people to see the Blue Man Group for themselves. I would definitely see that show again in a heartbeat.

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STNYC Staff & Students

The Artistic Life of Chris T.

In honor of National Arts Education Week, we asked our Senior Leadership Team to talk about their artistic lives, aside from their work here at CAT – and here’s what Chris Tokar, our Director of Resource Development, had to say…

Chris-Tokar


I serve as the Director of Resource Development here at CAT.

My job is all about bringing resources – typically money – into the agency, via fundraising and winning and managing contracts for our services.

But the personal resources I use to get the job done grew out of my personal development in the arts.

I was always an artsy kid, and my first job at age 12 was trading my labor as an assistant for art classes at a local museum.  Helping the younger students get their paints and watching the magic of red and yellow making orange never got old.  Then I could pick up my own brush in the afternoon and dig into trying, once again, to get the still life right.  I loved the cool ground floor studios, the smell of old paint and the shelves full of plaster models.  I felt like an important part of the professional art world!

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Chris, working on a painting in high school

High school and college ceramics taught me that the process is as important as the product.  If you only pay attention to the final product, you miss out on a lot of the benefits of practicing the craft: the mesmerizing spinning of the wheel; the enjoyment of literally getting your hands dirty; the blurring of the lines between the creator and the creation.  Plus, if you are only thinking about that mug you want to make for Christmas, and ignore the opportunity to be deeply invested in each step of the process, your final product will probably be flawed. Paying attention to how you do something and being fully engaged in it makes life richer, and makes for better work. It also gives you the freedom to be proud of what you produce, because you have invested your best intentions and efforts into making it.

But perhaps the most important thing that all of these muddy, friendly, communal art spaces taught me is resilience. When your pieces blow up in the kiln, when the shape and color aren’t quite right, when you know that you haven’t really put the spout on a teapot correctly so you throw your masterpiece into the slip bucket and start again: these are all difficult things to face, but easier in a supportive community. To try again and again builds tremendous skill and ultimately teaches you how to get consistent, desired results in almost anything. And the act of trying again and again, with a bit of a ruthless standard, can also give you unexpected gifts. You know – and you act on it – that you can do better. You understand that mistakes are more common than successes. You make mistakes that are more beautiful than your initial idea, and you learn to use these mutations and errors on purpose to build your repertoire of skills and outcomes. Nothing beats that kind of educational experience. Especially when you don’t even realize it is an educational experience.

When I talk about these experiences with my colleagues, they are mirrored in every discipline – drama, music, and dance. There is a wealth of resources that children can tap into when they are given the opportunity to engage in the arts. I love the fact that my work at CAT helps provide opportunities for thousands of NYC students each year to open the door to their potential, to develop their abilities, and to start building their own resources.

IN SOUND THINKING: On Listening / We Are Music

by Keith Johnston 

I believe we are all born with gifts, talents and abilities.  On our journey, we engage in the great unifier, “music”, but the question is, are we listening to the ebb and flow of what this life is offering? Regardless of race, gender, culture or nationality, music is central to the human condition. We are sound personified, vibrating at specific frequencies that define who we are as living breathing instruments.

Music is all about listening, affecting and being affected, feeling and experiencing the power of orchestrated sound. Whether we are aware of it or not, we listen with all five senses and then some. At the heart of all music is listening. Whether we are playing music, or even unconsciously exposed, we are transformed by the sound in some way. It doesn’t matter how good of a musician we are as much as how well we listen and respond.

Life is all about making music. In our everyday activities, walking, talking, eating or dancing, we exercise the three elements of music; rhythm, melody and harmony. Take notice of how nature has its own orchestration with a plethora of instrumentation through all life forms. Even when listening to people speak—the tone, rhythm and melodies of their native language create a unique musical exchange, a conversation grounded in rituals that are foundational to their identity.

The power of listening is evident in the most remarkable displays of music; an African drummer’s ability to calculate a dancer’s next move in a split second, a jazz musician’s telepathy or the ability to spontaneously spit rhymes in complex rhythms and melodies is an example of this high science from the cosmos. If we are fearless enough to study, practice and observe we can reach new heights through the sound of music. This universal language is essential to our health and unifies people as nothing else can. It is also an effective way to enhance our academic facilities; math, science, literacy, etc.

Anything that breathes is music, shifting the atmosphere, making a statement or raising a question. Sound is the source of all life. As we venture on our personal path, interacting in various ways, we are making music. Our individual journey is orchestrated by choices, circumstance and relationships composing an original piece.

Music is sacred in whatever way each individual might define that term. So, as we create, let us strive to harmonize or at least find relevance in the dissonance in this improvisational jazzathon called life.