The Mercenary Guild Uniform

 

Hey all, here’s to acknowledging the start of a new semester. Personally, it’s been a bit hectic for me; I’ve been facing questions on what I want to do with my life and which classes I should choose or swap. But I still love what I do here. I still love working on my story.

This is my uniform design process for the antagonists of my story. They come from a guild of mercenaries from a different world based on Norse myths and they want to cause trouble for the protagonists. I wanted this futuristic viking sort of look to them. The uniforms took inspiration from the KNY uniforms in that I wanted to make them simple yet customizable.

Looking Forward: Mentality Magazine

Happy Saturday!

We are rapidly approaching the end of the semester which means I only have a couple of posts left. This week I’m posting a day late because my organization, MUSIC Matters, held our biggest event of the year. If you attended SpringFest day festival or the night concert featuring Hippo Campus – I just want to say thank you. We all appreciate it so much and hope that you enjoyed it. 

Moving on, this week we are talking about Mentality Magazine! I had the opportunity to speak to Liz Hoornstra, the current editor-in-chief of the publication. She explained that the magazine aims to do two main things: 1. Create a sense of community for its members and 2. Destigmatize mental health through writing. As someone who has been focusing on taking control of my mental health for the past year, I was really excited to learn more about how the magazine has done this and how others can support their mission!

Mentality Magazine typically publishes digital issues, with a printed copy done once a semester. This semester marks an exciting milestone for the organization: 10 printed publications (and 5 years of being an org on campus!). Some of the topics they’ve been focusing on most recently deals with the impact that the pandemic and racial injustice towards the BIPOC and AAPI communities have had on peoples’ mental health. This follows in their larger commitment to diversifying the magazine’s staff and writing focuses, including highlighting marginalized voices in mental health discussions. I was excited to hear that they’re taking on these topics so directly, as they have affected us all in different ways over the past year and are, in many ways, directly tied to some of the most widespread mental struggles on campus. 

Mentality Magazine has also recently partnered with steps wellness, “the mental wellness platform for college students”. The platform helps connect students to licensed therapists, provides safe, private spaces for them to have therapy sessions in person or through video call, and allows them to share and read about their peers’ experiences with mental health. This is something that I found incredibly important. Especially in college living situations with many roommates and with most therapy sessions being virtual right now, it can be hard to find a space where you can talk about your struggles without worrying if others will overhear or barge in. This partnership shows that Mentality Magazine is really committed to helping students at every level of their mental wellness journey.

Liz also explained to me that COVID has sparked some important conversations regarding mental health equity and accessibility, things that people were sometimes skittish to talk about before.

“We welcome any and all members to Mentality, but we also are very open that mental health is not a topic that you can be apolitical about and we have to recognize that, holding a space in the mental health community here at Michigan means that there are certain times when we cannot stay silent. I hope that going forward, that is something that we are prioritizing.”

If you’re interested in getting involved in Mentality Magazine, you are welcome to join at any point! They look for writers all through the year, so you don’t have to join at the beginning of the year or semester. You can visit mentalitymagazine.org and fill out the contact form and a member of their exec team will get back to you about the next steps. If you don’t have enough time to be a writer, or that’s not your personal skill set, you can still do other things to help support the magazine and its important mission on campus! Reading and sharing articles is so important – de-stigmatization can’t happen without conversation. 

That’s all from me this week! Thank you so much for reading and I will be back next week with my last post of the semester featuring a capella group 58 Greene!

Stay safe & stay well,

Lucy

Looking Forward: Thus Spoke Ann Arbor

Happy Friday, arts, ink!

This week I had the pleasure of talking to Feiran Li, President of Thus Spoke Ann Arbor and Director of their upcoming show. 

Thus Spoke is a Chinese drama group that typically hosts two shows per year. The winter show is bigger than the fall, usually involving 20-25 people compared to the 10 or so earlier in the year. This year, however, Thus Spoke has opted to perform only one show due to COVID. This show has a staff that is mixed remote and in-person, with weekly testing and masking/distancing policies on the Ann Arbor campus. This testing regimen is something that Feiran is quite proud of, explaining that they asked their members to participate in weekly testing a bit earlier than the university did. The show has also moved from being an in-person event in Mendelssohn to being completely virtual. 

Although they have found a successful model to publish the show despite the pandemic, Feiran told me that he misses the in-person audience interaction. This has been a theme across student organizations that I’ve spoken to this year. Just being able to perform together in-person is not quite enough; the audience participation and reaction is half of the performance. The energy of the performers buildsoff of the audiences’ cheers, and comments on Zoom or YouTube are just not the same, especially when the performance has to be recorded prior to the premiere. 

Next year, Thus Spoke is looking forward to returning to in-person meetings and performances, hoping that the distance of this year will help them appreciate the benefits of being together even more than before. If you’re interested in getting involved in Thus Spoke, there are many opportunities! They tend to recruit in the Fall and Winter semesters, and you can keep updated with what they’re doing by subscribing to their YouTube channel, liking their Facebook page, or reaching out via their Maize Page. They also incorporate new members into their productions, so you could have the opportunity to be a part of one of their shows your first year in the organization!

That’s all from me this week! Thanks so much for reading. 

Stay safe,

Lucy

Looking Forward: MEMCO

Happy Friday, everyone!

This week I had the opportunity to chat with Akshay Chacko, Co-President of Michigan Electronic Music Collective (MEMCO). He gave me some insight into what MEMCO does on campus, how they’ve adjusted to COVID, and how students can get involved with the organization. Let’s dive right in!

The first thing to know about MEMCO is that they’re a multifaceted organization focusing on various pillars to get people involved in electronic music on campus. They have two main areas of their mission: 1) break down entry barriers and teach people how to DJ/produce music, and 2) Give students a platform to share their skills. 

Electronic music can be a difficult space to break into due to the expensive equipment and limited availability of teachers when compared to learning to play the guitar or another instrument. MEMCO addresses these areas by providing equipment for their members to learn and practice on – from their full-scale, state-of-the-art setup to more portable DJ controllers that are able to be individually borrowed during COVID (and which they were able to get thanks to an Arts at Michigan grant!). They also host a series of speaker panels and educational events which cover topics like the history of electronic music, insights from talent bookers or graphic designers, and understanding the intersectionality that techno music was built upon – including its connections to Detroit. Many of their educational programs have been able to be moved online fairly seamlessly, allowing their members to grow their passion and knowledge of music even in quarantine.

MEMCO’s performance programming has been a little more challenging to move into the virtual space. Akshay explained to me what the event process in previous years has looked like: 

“Our biggest event [pre-COVID] would be, like, every month we would throw these events at Club Above on main street called Impulse Events, and these events were basically hosted, organized, executed, promoted, all by the club. We curate the lineup, which it’s usually just members of our club but sometimes we would book, like, bigger artists from Detroit and stuff. We handle the booking, we handle, like, the graphic design, the promotion, and we meet up and then go, you know, poster around campus and downtown and stuff, and then we handle the production of this event from start to finish.”

Obviously, those tasks are all incredible learning opportunities for someone looking to continue in the music industry, or, really, any industry. The process of putting on the event might be as beneficial as actually being able to perform at the event. So, while they can’t perform in clubs and bars as they would normally, they’ve found creative ways to make the best of this year.

“We’ve just had to switch to a live stream format for [Impulse Events]. And that is, I’m sure you’ve seen, like most electronic events or, like, DJ, or anything, that have switched to the live stream format and we have kind of just had to do the same. [It’s a] totally different experience and definitely way harder to, like, get new members or any members at all. You know, instead of beingat the club on a Friday night, you’re, like, sitting in front of a computer… We do like a simultaneous zoom call too but, you know, you have to be realistic that it’s not the same experience… We still promote the event from start to finish. [We] handle booking and all these things and, like, for an upcoming event we have booked some DJ and stuff…  I’d say we have a professional setup that is, like, up to par with, you know, any big DJ and what they’re doing, so it’s as good as we could be. I’m honestly, like, really proud of the setup that we have to do our live streaming.”

As expected, some things translate better to the Zoom format than others. Speaker series work well, for instance,, while trying to teach someone to DJ for the first time might be a little more challenging. Setting up a DJ Livestream may be straightforward, but how do you get back some of the energy that you’d have in a club or bar setting? These are questions that MEMCO has grappled with this semester, and it seems like they are doing a wonderful job to make the best experience possible for their members.

If you’re interested in getting involved with MEMCO, you can email Akshay at achacko@umich.edu and he will get you set up with the Slack channel and make sure you’re in the loop for future events. One of the nice things about MEMCO is that being a member is super flexible – you can be as involved as much or as little as works best for you. If you’re only interested in one side of their programming, want to be on the backend of event production, only want to attend social events and performances, or want to do all the above, you are welcome no matter what. Also, be sure to follow their Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud pages. 

If you want to get your feet wet, MEMCO is hosting a music production workshop series tomorrow (March 27) from 1-6 PM. More information can be found on the Facebook event or the event graphic below. 

 

 

That’s all from me this week!

Stay safe & stay well,

Lucy

Looking Forward: Sirens A Capella

Happy Friday, arts, ink!

It’s a good day to be a Wolverine. With the news of vaccine eligibility increasing in Michigan sooner than many anticipated and President Schissel’s announcement of a closer-to-normal looking Fall semester plan (let’s not forget the exciting win of our basketball team, either!), things are looking up for the campus. Of course, until we get a larger portion of our community vaccinated and further recommendations from the CDC + state officials, we all need to continue doing our part to socially distance, gather in small groups and preferably outdoors, and wear masks. Hopefully, though, we will be able to create together again in the near-ish future. My fingers are crossed!

For this week’s spotlight, I chatted with Hannah deSilvia, Business Manager for Sirens A Capella. She told me a little bit about how the Sirens have adjusted to COVID restrictions while still building strong relationships between members and creating amazing music. Let’s dive in!

“We’re just a really tight-knit group of girls that likes to sing and we work collaboratively all semester to put our repertoire together and have our concert at the end of the semester normally. We really emphasize, like, building friendships and having fun, especially now because that’s something that we don’t get to do and we often miss each other, so we try and make the most of our time together.”

This year the group has moved their rehearsals to being completely virtual, a transition they started to plan for over the summer. Although Zoom doesn’t effectively allow the group to sing synchronously together, they’ve found ways to still make this time productive by allowing individuals to sing their part alone while others mute their sound and sing along. Hannah also explained that they’ve made their rehearsals a little more of a relaxed and flexible space – spending a little more time than they normally would to catch up and talk about things. It helps them feel more connected despite not having some of those more casual conversations as you walk into the building or get settled in. 

Rather than performing a concert like usual, the group decided to focus their energy on recording music – something that they could do remotely, and individually. The group has recorded music before (you can check out their song “Talia” on Spotify) but they typically did so in a physical studio. Although it was a little bit of a learning curve, the girls made the best of it and the recordings are being mixed now. 

April 20th will be Siren A Capella’s 10th anniversary, a special milestone for the group. No spoilers, but I would definitely recommend you keep an eye on their Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube pages in case they drop some fun content to celebrate. The group will also be holding auditions in the Fall – so if you’re a singer, warm up those pipes and stay tuned for more details in the first few weeks of the semester. 

That’s all from me this week! I hope you all have a fun and safe Saint Patrick’s Day. Come back next week for a spotlight on the Korean Student Association.

Lucy

Looking Forward: BlueNote Vocal Jazz Ensemble

Happy Friday, everyone!

It’s another sunny day here in Ann Arbor. I don’t know about you, but that automatically boosts my mood – plus it’s practically the weekend already!

This week I had the opportunity to chat with Cinderella Ksebati, Co-Founder and Music Director of BlueNote Vocal Jazz Ensemble. As another fairly new organization on campus, I was excited to learn more about how they have adapted this year and what their upcoming plans for performances were like. Let’s dive right in!

Founded in 2019, BlueNote Vocal Jazz Ensemble aimed to help fill the void of limited opportunities for students to participate in vocal jazz on campus. The group consists of both undergraduate and graduate students, including a mix of SMTD and other schools. They were able to perform on campus at the SMTD’s “Collage” event, as well as a few off-campus opportunities before campus shut down in early 2020 due to COVID-19. This hasn’t stopped Cinderella and her team, though. They are still working just as hard to “revitalize the attending-a-jazz-concert experience and in 2020-2021”.

“We are thinking, okay, how do we present this using technology, using what we have at our disposal, and continuing to make art, create jazz music, and start to get people engaged with this genre. And bring it back to the forefront of the arts as is such an American tradition, we want to bring it back and take bits and pieces of those traditions honoring and paying homage to all the vocal jazz greats. Of the groups like, for example, Take Six, New York Voices, so some of our program for the upcoming project that we’re working on, “Let’s Go to the Movies”, encompasses a couple of those things. We are mixing the media, we’re doing a 30-minute jazz film and we’re using all vocal jazz repertoire.”

To prepare for that project, BlueNote has been meeting via Zoom 2-3 times a week and using an online audio workstation that allows them to hear a little bit of the “blend” that vocal groups work so hard to achieve in performances. They have also incorporated a few individual, in-person rehearsals, following county and university guidelines. 

Though Cinderella does miss in-person performances, she notes that there have been some interesting developments in vocal jazz, at least in BlueNote, that she hopes will continue after COVID. Specifically, adding more storytelling into their performances is something she has really enjoyed. 

“It won’t necessarily be a film next year, who knows, but I certainly think that that is going to be changing some things and just in terms of our passions of the group members.”

Check out their most recent YouTube video above, performing “Walkin My Baby Back Home”.

BlueNote’s newest project, a short jazz film titled “Let’s Go to the Movies”, will premiere in April. You can stay up to date on their upcoming events by following their Instagram and subscribing to their YouTube channel. Lastly, keep in mind that the group holds auditions every semester, so definitely keep an eye out this Fall if you’re interested in singing!

That’s all from me this week! 

 

Stay safe,

Lucy