Author: Wed Al-Nod

Taiko club drums up Japanese culture appreciation

Taiko drumming is one of the cultural activities the St. Olaf community proudly practices. Traditionally, the term Taiko refers to any drum instrument in Japan. However, used outside Japan, it usually refers to the powerful drum performance that includes Japanese songs, graceful poses and rich culture. Historically, Taiko drumming was used during military, religious or theater events. The St. Olaf Taiko Drumming Club took this ancient art form and put it on display for their concert on Sunday, Nov. 16.

Taiko Drumming Club was established at St. Olaf College in 2004 with the help of Minneapolis-based taiko artist Iris Shiraishi. She still visits campus annually to hold workshops with the club. In gratitude to Shiraishi’s efforts, taiko drummer Olivia James ’13 wrote a Taiko drumming song entitled “Ayame,” which is Japanese for iris.

Other songs the Taiko Club performed were also written by members of the group, in addition to some more traditional Japanese songs. The club focuses on incorporating Japanese culture into an enjoyable music endeavor.

“I initially decided to join Taiko because I thought it would be fun. I was right, taiko is extremely fun. I guess you could say that banging on large drums with wooden sticks is a pretty amazing stress reliever,” Emily Gronli ’19 said.

The powerful songs were seamlessly performed in sync and were accompanied by occasional shouts of Japanese words and phrases.

“I also love the experience because it is somehow stress relieving. I think about stressful things and let go of them as I play those big drums,” Yu Zin Htoon ’17 said. “It is important for me not only as a socializing opportunity but also an activity that helps me balance psychologically.”

The Taiko Drumming Club’s concert beautifully showcased their skill and passion. In addition to their brilliant performance, which included synchronized moves, they also explored Japanese culture by engaging the audience using different activities such as a “Guess the Pokémon” game and storytelling by the members themselves. Needless to say, the evening proved very enjoyable for the captivated audience.

alnod1@stolaf.edu

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SGA an outlet for campus voices

President of the Student Government Association John Bruer ’16 and Vice President William Seabrook ’16 have shown dedication and enthusiasm in their roles this year. They hope to benefit the student body by enhancing communication between SGA and students, encouraging students to get involved in SGA and organizing entertaining events that will, according to Bruer, “enhance your St. Olaf experience.” Some of the important issues that Bruer and Seabrook aim to discuss are the new hazing policy, mental health awareness, sexual assault prevention and creating a supportive community.

“[We want to] emphasize to the students that sexual assault is not tolerated at St. Olaf and [that] we have a culture of support and prevention,” Bruer said.

According to Seabrook, SGA will be implementing campus conversation programs designed to collect feedback from the students to benefit the St. Olaf community.

“The way we are going to [collect feedback] is through campus conversation programs and through town halls. So, we’re going to have a town hall once a month down in the Pause or any other campus space so that students can come together and talk about issues that are about everyone.”

The biggest change SGA hopes to implement this year is an increase in communication between students and student government. Both Bruer and Seabrook are working to understand what students want to get out of their government.

“[We are] focusing a lot more of our efforts on collecting information from students,” Bruer said. “We want to make sure that what we are doing is actually relevant… and that goes from the issues we address to programs and activities that we put on.”

SGA is a body designed to serve students and give them a voice. Both Bruer and Seabrook are concerned that there are issues close to students that are not being brought to SGA.

“A lot of what we are trying to do is, in this coming year, is kick up as many conversations as possible around different issues around campus that may not be receiving conversations they deserve,” Bruer said.

SGA has had conversations about strategies to increase the campus voice and reach as many students as possible. It is willing to add new senators and create new subcommittees. It is also hoping to increase the student voice within the LGBTQ community and to continue to find ways to decrease sexual assault.

“We are willing to tackle anything,” Seabrook said.

Bruer and Seabrook encourage students to stop by the SGA office, located in Buntrock Commons 107, with any suggestions or questions. As an extra incentive, Seabrook added that there is a “90 percent chance of [receiving] free stuff” if you decide to swing by.

Bruer encourages students to take a risk and branch out a bit by getting in- volved in SGA, attending events and discovering the resources it has to offer.

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New honor houses debut on campus

Houses offer a safe space and a place to explore new perspectives

By Wed al-Nod and Becca Carcaterra

Contributing Writer and News Editor

St. Olaf students are often encouraged to engage meaningfully with their community. This year’s new honor houses provide several opportunities to do just that, introducing topics that challenge social stigmas and raise awareness about issues facing the student body.

As the LGBTQ community becomes increasingly prominent on campus, the OUThouse strives to provide a 24- hour safe space for LGBTQ students and their allies. The house has already hosted an ice cream social in collaboration with GLOW (Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever), inviting the whole St. Olaf community to get to know one another regardless of their sexuality and get involved with upcoming events that strive to further the rights of the LGBTQ community.

The One Degree house also strives to welcome students and foster candid discussion, but its focus is on the many students whose lives have been somehow stricken by cancer.

“We are called the One Degree house because we are all one degree away from cancer, meaning we all know someone who has been affected by cancer, physically or emotionally,” house president Mary DuRocher ’16 said.

The house has already hosted a bonfire and has more events in the works, such as a partnership with the charity Kyle’s Shooting Stars, which provides assistance to children facing life- threatening illnesses. It is also planning a Halloween 5K Monster Dash in October in an attempt to make the topic of cancer less taboo within our community.

“We will be having a safe place conversation and support group, informative events, preventative efforts, as well as large group social events just to get us thinking and comfortable with talking about cancer,” DuRocher said.

An additional group striving to break social stigmas is the Muslim House.

“Many people here in this community and its surroundings are not fully knowledgeable about what is Islam,” Essam Bubaker ’18 said. “As a house in this community, we want to build a better understanding, provide more sources and allow our activities to be integrated in the community, which grants a greater participation, thus al- lowing a better perception and acceptance of [Islam] on campus.”

The Muslim house is organizing events and intiatives such as the “Ask a Muslim Anything” radio show and a panel where students can ask questions about Islam anonymously. The house emphasizes that Islam, regardless of biased media and the narrowminded- ness of some people, is a peaceful re- ligion and is not responsible for many of the horrendous acts that have been committed in its name.

“I feel that I have this moral obligation to correct what has been perceived wrong and display Islam in the right way, which is through peace, humbleness and kind heartedness,” Bukater said.

Other new honor houses this year include the Thinking Globally Acting Locally house, which serves as a resource for students thinking about

or returning from study abroad programs. “We strive to connect with stu- dents who have studied abroad and desire continued discussion about their abroad experience,” Helen Kyle ’16 said. “In an increasingly global- ized world, some of the most valuable lessons to be learned are simply from people and places that are different than you.”

The Women Inspiring STEM House encourages women and girls to get in- volved in scientific and mathematical disciplines, in which they are tradi- tionally underrepresented. The members of the house are each studying a different STEM field, and they host a Saturday science club for young girls in Northfield. “We will be focusing on encouraging young girls to explore STEM subjects and develop the confidence necessary to pursue education in these areas later on in life,” Emma Schnuckle ’16 said. “We will use the community of STEM women at St. Olaf as role models to foster these ideas and counteract the stereotype that STEM is for boys.”

This year’s honor houses provide many opportunities for students to hear new perspectives that broaden their understanding of each other and the world. Whether through a focus on international experience, inclusive academics or the sensitive topics of re- ligion, health and sexual orientation, the new St. Olaf honor houses exemplify the St. Olaf spirit of service and community engagement.

alnod1@stolaf.edu carcater@stolaf.edu

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Pedro de Alcantara inspires musicians

As the audience arrived to Christiansen Hall last Thursday evening, Sept. 17, the soft, peaceful sound of a violin floated from the orchestra hall to greet them. Pedro de Alcantara, an Artist in Residence, instruct- ed a student playing on the violin as a part of his master class.

De Alcantara visited St. Olaf from Paris, France, his current home. He attended State University of New York at Purchase, focusing on cello playing, before entering Yale School of Music to earn his master’s degree. De Alcantara received additional training in London before settling in Paris. Today, de Alcantara makes his career as a teacher, coach, writer and performer. He aims to help clients and audiences improve not only their music, but also their lives and health.

“Life is full of choices,” de Alcantara said. With that, he kicked off his class and transitioned into discussing the com- plex aspects of choosing movements and poses when we play an instrument. He also explained the importance of constant movement awareness to musicians.

Much of de Alcantara’s work centers around the Alexander Technique, which is a method designed to help people relax, relieve stress, move in a more natural way and feel more comfortable in their bod- ies. He applies this to playing different instruments and has instructed musicians ranging from cellists in top orchestras to concert pianists to singers and guitarists. The universal relevance of his work allows de Alcantara to teach a great variety of stu- dents all over the world.

The St. Olaf violinist that de Alcantara guided displayed great skill and focus dur- ing the class. The beautiful music enter- tained and soothed the audience, making for an enjoyable class. De Alcantara also worked with an a capella singer as well as a few pianists.

During their performances, de Alcantara

made adjustments to the rhythm, tune and posture of the students. He focused on the whole body and the importance of mindful music performing while using simple lan- guage that was easy for all to understand, regardless of music knowledge or experi- ence.

Overall, de Alcantara’s master class pro- vided an excellent opportunity for audi- ences to learn something new in a calming setting. Sophia Wang ’19 said, “I really enjoyed the masterclass. I like going to [master classes] better than concerts most times. De Alcantara helped students forget the nerves that come with performing in front of people. This is really difficult to do! When the difference in sound is as startling as it was after de Alcantara spoke with the players you know he is a good teacher.”

alnod1@stolaf.edu

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