School, Music, Reading, Weather, Big Data, Yik Yak, and All Sorts of Non-Sequiturs

Coming to you live from the “HOW TO CONNECT WITH STUDENTS” side of a college campus. My friends, over here in my end of the world at City College of San Francisco in the Broadcast Electronic Media Arts department, we work together in a wonderful mesh of students, faculty, and staff who make a huge difference in the lives of the population of the college who seek a “something else” in the world of career choices. Interesting and inspirational, it’s a brave mix of students with a 4-year degree from somewhere else mixed with those who hail from a barely-existent early childhood education who have luckily found us through several awesome programs  on our campus such as our nationally renown Veterans Services Program, Equal Opportunity Programs and Services –  Second-Chance Program,  Guardian Scholars Program, the  Disabled Students Programs and Services, International Students program, Transitional Studies.  We are also filled tech-sector burn-outs who wish to fulfill a lifelong dream beyond the money they made ruining their hands and wrists that have turned into metastasized mittens from a 5-year overload of 18-hour-day coding. And there are those who seek something more in their classes with instructors who work directly with them as opposed to the aloof university structure of professor-lecture-at-you-then-split, publish-or-perish erudite.  These students all sit next and get to know one another and tell their stories through the audio and video medium. City College of San Francisco opens our arms wide to the entire community.

{insert the sound of a stylus on a record being bumped – sccccrrrrrttttch}

Reading Rosanne Cash: Composed – The introduction touched me multiple times as the music and lyrics drive my life as they have hers.  My relating to her awesome book introduction–MUSIC makes someone’s life a memory and a real moment in time. And I’m not just referring to the Western world of pop music, but also globally with tribes creating beautiful rhythms and various cultures where music-making is the center of family and village life. The quotidian reality of making a living can be droll. But if one listens to the lyrics in the music, one finds connection that can drive our lives.

With that: I gave my students in the live sound class a competency this past week that had them arriving in our classroom space one at a time in 15-min increments to assemble a sound system in a dark space as one must do in any music venue where a problem must be discovered, sussed out, and fixed. There were 5-points given merely for showing up with a flashlight because that is a MAJOR tool in the world of live sound music events. Your next best friend is your mind: knowing how things are supposed to be routed through the sound system, the speakers, and everything else in the audio chain to make the music from the stage delivered to the audience who paid anywhere from $5 (small venue) to $300 (the modern major music tour prices at any venue in any major city around the world.)

So, I had each student enter their normally well-lit classroom into a low-light setting with music playing as would happen at ANY event they work in the future. (Remember: this is a Career Technical Education course.) I played one of my iPod playlists that I lovingly titled “RAWK” many moons ago. I know this resonates when I see the students come in and rock their heads back and forth to the beat while they await their “fear factor” moment of “can I put this PA system together?” So, I choose songs that are akin to what they would hear in an urban setting: rock, hip-hop, and old-school R&B, but ones that also have a positive message. One particular song that resonated this past week with my 25+ segment of the class that I could tell that they hadn’t heard in many years is the song “Drive” by the band Incubus. {Lyrics inserted here with a YouTube video to listen to the melodic feel of the song. } Note to educators: if you want to understand your 20-something students: watch this video:)

Incubus – Drive (2001)

Verse 1:   Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear, and I can’t help but ask myself how much I let the fear take the wheel and steer.

It’s driven me before, and it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal But lately I am beginning to find that I should be the one behind the wheel

CHORUS:   Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there, I’ll be there

Verse 2:  So if I decide to waiver my chance to be one of the hive will I choose water over wine and hold my own and drive?

It’s driven me before, and it seems to be the way that everyone else gets around But lately I am beginning to find that when I drive myself my light is found

Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there, I’ll be there

Would you choose water over wine? Hold the wheel and drive

Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there, I’ll be there

Take that in and sing it every night and then every afternoon of the day before.  It helps. As I sit writing this, the most beautiful day of the year awaits outside. Measured in outcome only from the next best day of the year [yesterday], to the next best day of the year [the day before that].

Oh, the weather!  Northern California has turned into Southern Cali climes. How lucky am I to live in this? {Shut up about the drought already, I know, I know! Naysayer! Rid thyself from my mind!}  Check this out for the warmest winter in history, if you dare!

{insert the sound of a stylus on a record being bumped – sccccrrrrrttttch}

Big Data consumes us everywhere in the western world. Oh, to be a shaman in the Andes of Peru smoking a pipe and playing one too.  The western world eats us alive with the now obsolete hard drive given way to the soft one in the cloud to the point where we have to hold conferences about it and what to do with it:  Structure Data 2015. Speaking of college, these two Georgia-based young men have designed an app called Yik Yak that was funded by Sequoia Capital to the tune of $62M, and they have JOBS!  Go check their job page. I have no idea of the longevity of the work being that they are foundling founders, but I applaud their moxie. Wouldn’t we all like to come up with an idea that nets our company even $1M, let alone 62 of them, and have a long lifetime to spend it.  Ah, today’s youth…

So, off to play in the sunny drought…

image captured from the Incubus "Drive" video

image captured from the Incubus “Drive” video

About danaj33

writer * department chair of Broadcast Electronic Media Arts and audio faculty at City College of San Francisco * music composer and producer * always in discovery mode, learning, living, loving, and laughing.
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