Guest Blog: Music and Mayhem by Jess ‘12 by Yan Z. '12
Minus the mayhem. Also features running commentary by Yan. p.s.: Jess, your italics didn't show up when you sent this to me.
Hi, I’m Jess L. ’12.
I met Yan during our freshman year (she even unwittingly snapped a picture of me in Diff Eq. around Valentine’s Day http://www.mitadmissions.org/topics/life/student_life_culture/valentines_day_special_1.shtml) and continued to run into her with increasing frequency until we were living under the same roof this summer at pika*. You might recall we journeyed to New York City at the end of July and survived a gastronomical bildungsroman**.
*In all prepositional honesty, at least half of the living at pika happens on the roof instead of under it. Pika’s homemade, impeccably sanded (by Yan & Co.) roofdeck is a full-service pit stop on the road to cozy summer skylines, breezy sunsets, and barely-interpolated constellations swimming in celestial gutters cluttered with light pollution. As I shiver in the dregs of December and qwertily exercise fingers unwarmed by penurious radiators, I can’t help but rhapsodize my midsummer memories of coarse-grained films splattered onto a makeshift screen on the roofdeck, froth-tipped banana-sweet smoothies on the roofdeck, impromptu rope-climbing on the roofdeck, reading books in eye-frazzling noon sunlight on the roofdeck, listening to Jess discover the 2934829th normal mode of her violin on the roofdeck, absorbing plenty of delightful UV radiation on the roofdeck . . . anyway, I digress.
**Way to steal my polysyllabic descriptors, Jess.
For kicks, I asked to borrow five minutes of her fame, and she gave me a guest blog entry. Yan’s pretty generous.*
*Jess, I could use a little more specificity here. Remember the time you gave me two entire packs of gum because I mentioned that the kind you had in your backpack was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten instead of breakfast while trying to catch a bus? And remember how I was so Oprah-gasmically grateful that I gave you one of my granola bars from Trader Joe’s? Anyway, I think that would have made a fine anecdote about the value of friendship and generosity, etc.
I’m Course 6-2 (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and live on Conner 4 of Burton-Conner. Basically, I’ve got a run-of-the-mill major and live in a dorm populated by a glut of bloggers, past and present.
There are a few unusual things I can share about my experience at MIT, though. For one, I have a UROP (a research job) that’s in a field totally outside my major and so non-technical that it’s slightly blasphemous—it’s in Course 21W: Writing and Humanistic Studies.*
*What in the world is a writing UROP, Jess?
“What in the world is a writing UROP?” you ask.*
*Way ahead of you, Jess.
I’m working as an editorial assistant for Angles (http://web.mit.edu/angles/), a magazine of exemplary work written by students in MIT’s introductory writing classes. The authors here aren’t the most polished, professional writers—these are the voices of regular MIT students who take the introductory classes to improve their writing, or out of interest in a particular class’s topic, or even because they are required to by the results of the Freshman Essay Evaluation. Regardless, the essays students produce in these classes are thought-provoking and even intensely personal at times. In the course titled “Writing and Experience,” people have written on topics ranging from coming to terms with their racial identity, to the death of a brother, to ethical vacillations about vegetarianism.*
*Jess, alliteration with the letter V is so passe. Ever since that movie came out that began with the letter V and ended with the letters “for Vendetta,” you can’t say phrases like “vacillations about vegetarianism” anymore unless you wear a plastic halloween mask.
So, there you go, UROPs don’t have to be in your major, or even technical.
I also do quite a bit of music in what time I can squeeze out of my life during the school year. And here’s a not-so-big-secret—the music department at MIT is a gem.*
*Mohs def, Jess. (Mineralogy puns are hard.)
I started piano in kindergarten, violin in third grade, and played in the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras from middle through high school. When it came time to choose a college, music was an important factor in my decision.
What initially drew me in about the MIT Music Department was the Emerson Scholarship Program, which funds half to all of students’ private instrumental or voice lessons if they pass an audition.
MIT has a variety of musical ensembles, from the standard to the exotic: the MIT Symphony Orchestra; Chamber Music Society; Wind Ensemble; Concert Choir; Festival Jazz Ensemble; Rambax, a Senegalese drumming ensemble; and Galak Tika, a Balinese gamelan.
There are many fine musicians* here (especially pianists). Some people here go to Aspen Music Festival and other competitive music programs over the summer.
*Did you know that Feynman played the bongos?
This term I took two and a half music classes—Musical Improvisation, Harmony and Counterpoint I, and Chamber Music—which combined with last year’s classes finished up my humanities concentration in music. My favorite class was Musical Improvisation, which was taught by a visiting professor, Donal Fox. As a classically-trained musician, I had always played the notes on the page. The professor asked us to keep a journal through the class, so I started a blog for it. The last entry pretty much sums up what I want to tell you about that class. I would just copy/paste.
Although HASS classes are considered by some to be exercises in irritation*, there’s a benefit people don’t talk about much—you make friends through these classes. At least in freshman and sophomore years, when the courses you take tend to be large lectures in which you’re one in a relatively faceless crowd, HASS classes are a good way to meet new people. By virtue of being HASS, they tend to involve more discussion and interaction. All the ones I’ve taken have had fewer than twenty people, and I’ve met a range of students from different backgrounds**—from different majors, living groups, and graduating classes.
*No kidding. Nothing quite jerks your stomach into your lungs like spending two hours fleshing out the harmonic nuances of a Bach chorale in Harmony and Counterpoint II only to discover that you missed the key signature that Bach intended by an angle of pi/2 on the Circle of Fifths. Trignometry hurts.
**Speaking of diversity, I met someone in one of my HASSes who didn’t like any sauces with tomatoes.
And hey, chances are I’ll meet none of you reading this, unless we take the same HASS*.
*Jess is being humble here. Other ways of meeting Jess include but are not limited to: living at pika over the summer, working for the Tech, playing in MITSO, joining the Sport Taekwondo team, spending all your time in Course 6-2 classes, letting me have your gum, writing a guest blog for MITadmissions, spending a happy new year (hopefully) with your family in Massachusetts, and visiting me over IAP because we didn’t spend nearly enough time together this term, right, Jess?