The first semester on a college campus can easily get overstimulating, and at Wesleyan, doubly so. Forget about classes and homework: trying to choose which concert to go to is enough to make a first year student’s head spin. We asked some of our new writers, almost done with their first semester here, to tell us about their experiences with the diverse and vibrant Wesleyan arts scene, and what events and moments stuck out in particular. We expect they’ll be back for more next semester.
By Sonya Bessalel
At beginning of orientation, I remember sitting outside of Usdan as new classmates performed. I remember being overwhelmed with the amount of talent and bravery displayed by singer-songwriters, poets, and comedians alike. Every time I go to WestCo’s open mic nights, I am as spellbound as I was that first day. My first semester here has been filled with music, dance, and performances. During the One Day Plays, I worked with three sophomores to memorize and perform an absurdist show written just hours before. For Terpsichore, I donned a painted mask and danced to Björk to illustrate the life and death of sunflowers. And after auditioning for five a cappella groups, I landed in Notably Sharp, which quickly became my on-campus family.
It’s difficult to keep up with all the talent on campus. Every weekend is another Second Stage show, another foray to Earth House or Eclectic or the WestCo Café to hear student bands and outside groups perform. In a single night, I saw four a cappella groups, the Indian cultural show Samsara, a dance show entitled FX, and student band Chef.
The beauty of this community comes from the spontaneous collaborations that occur as creative people converge. It surfaced when my friend played a favorite choral song, “Shenandoah,” on Foss Hill, and we improvised harmonies, my soprano complimenting his tenor. I find beauty in the spontaneous jam sessions that spring up in Clark, 200 Church, WestCo, and the Butts. To me, the arts are a refuge from the day-to-day craziness of life. Not only is the arts scene here thriving, but students care enough to see each other perform. When Notably Sharp sight-read a choral piece, my chest filled with the familiar swell that aligning harmonies always brings. And as we made music together, I finally felt like this place could be home.
Seeing Classmates—and Alumni—Showcased
By Danielle Cohen
Over the course of this semester, I’ve witnessed an eclectic (no pun intended) mix of events on campus. My top two moments are closely related: first is watching Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 as he blessed the CFA Hall with brand-new original music, details about his journey since his time at Wesleyan, and enlightened advice. Secondly, Wesleyan’s own production of the musical that Miranda wrote as a sophomore here, “In the Heights,” was just the type of exuberant celebration I needed before a Sunday night of studying and essay-writing. Behind the belted notes and dramatic tension, the “In the Heights’” set struck me the most, a structure that seemed to be completely made out of white plastic containers yet somehow held a strikingly simplistic beauty.
Another aspect of campus that I am just starting to discover is the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, which frequently welcomes visiting authors or holds writing workshops that are open to all students on campus. After liking their Facebook page, I’ve been able to keep tabs on all the happenings at the Writing Center such as table talks, visiting authors, and poetry slams, as well as attend some of these events.
Finally, the biweekly Westco Open Mic nights have shown me how talented all the people around me on campus are. Here, I can see a quiet girl in my French class or a guy I’ve bumped into in my hall showcase a talent that I never would have known they had. As cheesy as it sounds, these nights often remind me of what makes Wesleyan great: a group of students welcoming any kind of interest or talent with open arms.
Mixing With Music Lovers
By Aaron Stagoff-Belfort
One of the first parties of my freshman year was the much-hyped “Bend It At Beckham.” Amidst an array of cross-dressing students, I was mesmerized by a crew of upperclassmen dancing and DJ-ing on stage. Ron Jacobs ’16 had the club going up on a Friday and as he manned the 1s and 2s effortlessly, and I realized that supplying music at parties through my clunky iPod was so high school. DJing blends music, performance, crowd control, and improvisation in a manner that allows the vocally challenged among us to have some artistic presence. At the club fair, I joined the DJs and Producers Club and have begun to learn to DJ digitally as well as on a turntable. While it’s a process that will probably take a couple months to master, I am enticed by the prospect of one day performing a live set before a show at Psi U or Alpha Delt.
The club regularly books artists to perform at Wesleyan. While the Gold Link concert sponsored by the club didn’t go exactly as planned (thanks, fire alarms), I am excited by the opportunity to recruit talented but lesser-known acts to perform at Wes. In addition, with the opening of the student-run Red Feather Studios on High Street, our club now has a state-of-the-art space to record and DJ. While I wasn’t present for most of the renovation process, it was thrilling to observe the result of a community of music lovers, many of whom are members of the DJs and Producers Club, working together to create a facility that will allow us to hone our skills and inspire creativity. While I hope to DJ events such as the gender bender in a couple of years, discovering a community of music lovers has been sufficiently rewarding.