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,


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,


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,


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,


Looking Forward: The Plush Project

Happy Friday, arts, ink readers!

I hope that you’ve all been able to get out and enjoy the sunshine that we’ve had the past few days (at least if you’re in the Ann Arbor area). It’s been giving me just enough of a “light at the end of the tunnel” that Spring may be coming soon after all. 

So far on Looking Forward, I’ve spoken with a lot of organizations that have had to pivot their typical operations due to the pandemic, with many moving traditions, rehearsals, and exhibitions online or finding ways to do them while socially distancing, pre-recording content to share with their members, getting creative with multi-media approaches to projects, and collaborating with other student organizations. But what if you don’t have any “typical operations” yet? How does a new organization pave its way through this overwhelming and complicated time? 

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with Amira Rabbah, President of a new organization on campus called The Plush Project. Over the course of quarantine, Amira found herself looking for new ways to keep herself busy and learn new things — enter: crocheting. She had always loved to knit, and crocheting seemed like a fun, new challenge that was also a continuation of her passion for yarn arts. She was particularly interested in the style of crocheting called amigurumi, which involves crocheting and stuffing different characters, toys, and plushes.

After she had gotten a handle on the technique, she found herself building up quite the collection of handmade toys. Rather than leave them to collect dust on a shelf, she wanted to donate these toys to children who are going through difficult times. This was the beginning of The Plush Project. Soon, Amira realized that yarn arts lovers across campus could contribute to this group, building a sense of community and practicing the hobby while giving children who are in the foster care system or who are sick a sense of comfort. 

After figuring out the administrative hoops of how to form a Voluntary Student Organization (VSO) on campus, Amira applied for a grant through Arts at Michigan to help provide materials to members. This way, she explained, the organization could be as inclusive as possible and not present barriers to potential members who would like to get involved but cannot afford to purchase yarn or needles, etc.

Since forming in the Fall semester, the organization has grown to about 15 members from a variety of experience levels. 

“Mostly, we have some seasoned crochet there’s a couple of new crocheters, but they’ve all, like, been introduced to some sort of yarn or fabric art, at least one of them, so either they sew or knit, all those are good avenues for making plush toys, so it doesn’t have to be crochet but that has happened to be the supplies that we have to give out.”

Although growing and running the organization has perhaps been more difficult than it would be if in-person meetings were possible, Amira has done great work and already set up donation relationships with Orchard Children Services, with the hopes of expanding to other places like Motts hospital in the future. And they’re still growing! Amria welcomes anyone who is interested in crocheting or yarn arts to get in touch:

“We’d love to obviously have more regular members, so if you’re interested in coming to our Zoom, but hopefully later in-person, sessions to crochet, get materials, whatever, the best way would be to email me or find us on one Maize Pages… they’ll both give me an email notification, so both are great ways to, like, reach out. I’ll give you a whole spiel about our organization up the zoom links to our meetings and everything!”

You can reach Amira and learn more about the Plush Project by emailing her at arabbah@umich.edu, or by visiting the Plush Project Maize Page and clicking on the “Contact” button.

I loved learning more about how a new organization has navigated this complicated year, and hearing how dedicated Amira is to this project was really inspiring. Definitely check them out!

That’s all from me today. Remember to take some time for yourself this weekend and decompress – students would typically be enjoying Spring Break right about now and I think a lot of us could use a break.

Take care and stay safe, 


Looking Forward: This Week at the UMMA + New Interviews Soon

Happy Friday, Arts, Ink readers!

After a brief intermission, we will be back in action next week. I’ve spent this week reaching out to many exciting and diverse student organizations to learn more about how they’re handling the semester, and I’m excited to share what I’ve learned so far. 

In the meantime, I thought I would spend this week highlighting some events the UMMA is putting on this week that I found especially exciting.

If you’re a fan of spotify collaborative playlists and/or how art and music intersect, check out UMMA’s jukebox. Through that link you can fill out a form to suggest songs that pair with two of the museum’s newest art pieces. As someone who has always enjoyed interdisciplinary work, I found this project very interesting and I’m excited to see the results!

The UMMA is also putting together a virtual event called “The Adjacent Possible” on Feb. 18th at 8PM. They describe it as “[mixing] music performance, storytelling, and technology that converts the audience into an orchestra. The project culminates in the recording of an orchestral piece – the first and last ever to be performed.” If you need to transport yourself for a little while from the stress of schoolwork or job searches, definitely check it out – it seems like a really unique event. Pre-registration is required, so make sure you confirm ahead of time!

That’s all from me today. Check back next week for an interview with the co-presidents of Relevé – they had some really interesting points to make about the creative process and COVID!

Stay safe!