Oberlin Blogs


August 24, 2009

Will Mason ’10

Lists of goals are great. The simple act of making the list renders a feeling of accomplishment, like I've already made progress merely by enumerating tasks. And, when my goal-fulfilling window draws to a close, my inevitable inability to cross even a handful of items off of my list will guarantee that low self-esteem and a feeling of perpetual failure are forever enshrined in my sense of self worth. But until that day, on with the list!

1) Only one jazz ensemble. For every semester I've been here I've participated in far more ensembles than I had time for, usually around four per semester. It's so easy to sign up for them during the first few weeks of the semester and so hard to give four different ensembles the time and energy they require. This year, I'm finally going to force myself to only play in one group, and I think I'll end up investing a lot more in it as a result.

2) Blog more. You wouldn't know it from my pathetic one-post-per-month record last year, but I actually think these blogs are critical for people to get the gist of what life at Oberlin is like. Having them around when I was applying to schools would have been an invaluable help in my making a decision about this place. I'm writing one post per week no matter what; even if I have to write about what it's like to vacuum my carpet, or chime in on health care reform (don't abandon the public option, you fools!), I'm posting once a week. (All of you out in the cyber-ether can, of course, make this a lot easier for me by suggesting topics you'd like to hear covered.)

3) Make The Grape great. This year, I'll be co-editor-in-chief of The Grape, Oberlin's alternative newspaper. There are very few people with a neutral opinion of The Grape on campus--it's a love it or hate it kind of publication. In addition to being a vehicle for long-form journalism and for in-depth coverage of the arts on and off campus--the two things that I find most redeeming about The Grape--we also are a forum for voices that may not fit within the staid confines of the Oberlin Review's editorial page. I think this is an important function for the campus community, but it does mean that we've occasionally published opinions which were, shall we say, unpopular or controversial. But, love it or hate it, The Grape exists, and I'm now at the helm. I'd like to see our long-form news articles expanded and their quality improved, which we're hoping to accomplish by working with the Rhetoric and Composition department to get students in those classes submitting to us. We're going to encourage more partnerships between section editors and staff writers, in hopes that coverage becomes more thorough. I also want more arts articles written about on-campus activities; the impulse in the past has been to avoid reviewing student works, because our feeling is that publishing strongly critical reviews of the works of our peers is in poor taste. But I think there's a difference between "reviewing" and "covering" something, and so if we can find a way to draw attention to the many cool arts offerings that happen on campus without also applying value judgments, we'd be doing the campus a great service and also probably help increase our readership a bit. We also need to start getting advertisements, as that revenue is becoming increasingly critical, and a layout overhaul would be nice as well. I think all of these goals are very feasible and I'm excited to see how The Grape does this year.

4) Get the most out of lessons with Jamey Haddad. Studying with Billy Hart, the principal professor of jazz drums here, has been phenomenally valuable, but this semester I'll be augmenting lessons with Billy by studying with Jamey Haddad. Whereas Billy is a walking encyclopedia of jazz history and music, Jamey Haddad is an ethnomusicological wunderkind, a master of Balkan and Indian music (two rhythmically rich musical cultures which greatly interest me), as well as a killer jazz drummer. There's so much information to mine from him, but it's going to require a lot of work on my end in order to make sure that each lesson counts. I've already had a few make-shift lessons from him: when he's around, he'll often poke his head into my practice room and offer a few pointers even though I'm not one of his students.

5) Compose more. I remain an amateur, but I love writing music for my different jazz groups. I've got a recital to be thinking about in the spring and I'd like for it to be mostly made up of my own compositions. Ultimately all this requires is lots of time for trial and error, as well as some forgiving musicians willing to play some of the pieces with me.

6) Gig more. The tour with Like Bells, a rock band I play in here, was great, and I want to do more of it. I would love to go on the road with a jazz act here, perhaps during Winter Term, and I'd also like to start looking into gigging around Cleveland with some jazz groups. It's not particularly hard to do and there's certainly a healthy precedent for Oberlin acts spreading out across the region. Maybe goal #1 will help facilitate this?

7) Continue to do well academically. I don't like to gloat, but I've been kicking all kinds of butt in my classes during my time here. Sure, maybe it's come at the cost of my social life, personal hygiene, and sanity, but I'm not about to split hairs here. Remember, kids: sometimes the ends do justify the means. (I kid, I kid.) My classes this semester are really exciting, and I've finally vanquished the required two years of theory and aural skills from my schedule, which frees up some space for some interesting upper-level endeavors. On the docket this semester: Macroeconomics, Social and Political Change in Eastern Europe, Indonesian Music, Elementary Physics (as in, elementary-school level physics, for humanities majors), and more.

8) Start really thinking about life after Oberlin. AHHHHH!!!!! AHHHH!!! NOO!!!!!! Errr, uhm. So it's still a ways off, but I'm three semesters away from being done with my undergraduate education. It's probably a good time to start examining my options post-Oberlin; right now, the most attractive option is graduate school, probably in something relevant to music. I enjoy teaching and the idea of becoming a professor seems very alluring, although my grandmother was a professor and she told me I should avoid it at all costs. And the GRE will make it awfully hard for me to fulfill a goal I set for myself back around the time of the SAT, which was: no more ****ing standardized tests, ever. There's also the political science route, of course. International development? Think tank? Future US Senator? Fry-o-later operator?

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