You may have heard this WesCeleb on the radio investigating the inner workings of your favorite song or have had a taste of their delicious food at their weekly dinner parties. Hailing from Singapore, Shiva Ramkumar ’22 has surely taken every opportunity to express themself creatively at the University. Recently, The Argus sat down with Ramkumar to talk about their time at the University and where they see themself going next.
The Argus: Do you want to start off by introducing yourself?
Shiva Ramkumar: Yeah! I’m Shiva. I use they/he/she pronouns and I am a senior music major. I am [also] doing the South Asian Studies minor and the [Certificate in Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory].
A: Why do you think you were nominated for WesCeleb?
SR: I honestly have no idea. That was a surprise. I don’t know. I feel like I have friends in different places, which is a weird way to say it.
A: What are you passionate about on campus?
SR: I’m in the Mixolydians, which is Wesleyan’s chamber choir a capella group. We’re great. That’s been a super fun space for me to be in, and I’ve been in it since sophomore fall, I believe. The other thing I’m doing this year is called Wit’s End, which is a dinner party and event series with my friends Laia Comas ’22 and Ellis Collier ’23. We make, if I do say so myself, good food and cool events—it’s a great space to be in. Those are my fun creative pursuits this year.
A: Do you want to talk more about the planning behind Wit’s End and where the idea came from?
SR: Wit’s End is Laia and Ellis’s brainchild, their brain baby, and I sort of came on board right before the start of this year because the three of us were in a class together. I’d also developed a more recent interest in food because I was doing a food writing internship during COVID. So I was like, damn, I do love food.
The process for planning is extremely chaotic. We usually decide on things pretty late, pretty off the cuff, and just go with it. We also have fun themes sometimes. I think the last event we did, everything started with “P.” That was very fun, and I think we’re doing one that’s like a Playmobil “build your future dinner party” thing.
A: Do you feel like you’ve had the chance to meet some cool people through Wit’s End?
SR: For sure. I think since starting, I walk around campus and definitely I can recognize a few more faces than I used to be able to.
A: Your WesCeleb nomination [also] mentioned that you also have a podcast on WESU 88.1 FM?
SR: Yeah. I had a radio show on WESU 88.1 FM during my freshman and then junior spring. It was a weird gap. I had a couple of radio shows, and that was another creative pursuit where I just got to fuck around—pardon my language—and just have fun. So that was also a great space to just talk about stuff.
A: Do you think you’re interested in pursuing that further?
SR: Yeah, weirdly now that you mentioned it, a lot of the jobs I’m applying for are in digital and public media. So I definitely see that being relevant to what I’m trying to do now. I didn’t think it would be at the time. I just sort of did it for fun. And even if I don’t see myself specifically in radio, I think just making stories is where I’m at.
A: What did you like to talk about on your radio show?
SR: I had two different shows, but they were both about music because I’m pretty predictable like that. The first one was called “What’s in a song?” And I would just pick a different song every episode and get into it and be like, “What is this about?” My second show was called “Hidden Histories” and it was about lesser-told stories in music about artists or composers who didn’t really get their due in terms of recognition, or music that was censored for political reasons.
A: It sounds like your music major played into that a lot. Are you writing a senior thesis or a senior essay?
SR: I am writing my senior thesis. Woo-hoo! No, I’m really enjoying it. I feel like I stress myself out about it a lot because we’re [close] to the deadline now, but I’m actually making good progress, and I like what I’m writing. The elevator pitch for my thesis is that it is about Indian music in Singapore, which is where I’m from, and essentially how that music is regulated by the state based on its priorities of multiculturalism and modernity.
A: You said you were from Singapore. What made you choose Wes?
SR: I always joke that they gave me money, which is a big part of it, for sure. I’m a Freeman Scholar on campus. But I think the bigger thing was I was pretty interested in ethnomusicology coming out of high school because one of my teachers at the time was an ethnomusicologist and I was like, “This is so cool. I don’t want to learn about dead white men music theory anymore.” Wes is one of the few undergrad programs in the country that doesn’t really hinge its major on Western classical music or Western art music. I think the flexibility of the major here and the open curriculum were very appealing to me.
A: What was it like adjusting from Singapore to the Wesleyan community?
SR: I guess the biggest change was cultural, in a lot of ways, because American people and environments are very different from Singapore and Wesleyan especially is such a particular kind of culture as far as the larger country is concerned. So definitely just learning how to interact with people—that aspect of it was probably the biggest challenge for me.
A: If you could give your first-year self any piece of advice, what would it be?
SR: Hmm. I think I would say calm down. I think I did a lot [during] my freshman and sophomore years in terms of classes and extracurriculars, which, looking back, I’m kind of grateful for, because I’m cruising this year, class-wise. I really don’t need any more credits, which is great. But also I think if I had stopped to smell the roses a little bit more, that would have made for potentially a more fruitful first couple of years. But also I don’t really have any regrets with my time at Wesleyan.
A: What’s your favorite memory from Wes?
SR: I don’t know about memory per se, but a specific category of emotional moment that I cherish in my time here is the moment before going onstage for a production. I didn’t do much in the way of productions before coming here. I did music in high school, but it was a lot of music concerts. I sort of got into musical theater here in terms of music directing and vocal directing stuff. I feel like the camaraderie in a theater environment is really different and beautiful. The emotional high of before you go into a production after a semester. I did a production where our prep time was a semester and a half. You’ve spent so much time with these people, working on something to show others, and it’s so exciting and so scary and so exhilarating. It’s like a roller coaster. I just cherish those moments that I have shared with the people here.
A: As someone that’s not very into theater, that sounds amazing.
SR: Yeah. I think it’s a great thing to try at least once in your life, if you have the opportunity. Not that I’ve really gone into the acting side of it, but I think that’s the fun thing about theater—there’s so many different things. You could just build the sets, and that would be fun.
A: Do you know what you are doing yet, after Wes? Do you think your interest in music will play a role in your life after you graduate?
SR: Right now I am interested in exploring a career in the arts. I don’t know if that’ll be my entire future, but that’s what I’m looking into right now. I do plan on remaining in the U.S. for another year, but after that I am willing to let the tides take me, so we’ll see.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Jo Harkless can be reached at email@example.com.