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At the start of my freshman year, I picked up a pamphlet at Festifall that called for new arts, ink. and [art] seen bloggers. I didn’t really know what Arts at Michigan was at the time, but based on the pamphlet, writing for arts, ink. sounded like a cool thing to do. I was in search of ways to maintain my connection with the arts while simultaneously looking for opportunities to write for fun. I went ahead and submitted my application along with a few writing samples. Not long after, I received the email that I had been selected to become an arts, ink. columnist. In October, I met Joe—the Arts at Michigan Program Director—for an orientation meeting and have been writing for arts, ink. ever since.
A lot has changed since then. If I ever need a reminder, I simply take a walk around campus, as there’s always some new building under construction in Ann Arbor. During my first week of school in 2018, I opened a bank account and got a debit card at the PNC bank on the corner of South U and East U. The branch has relocated, its old building torn down to make room for yet another skyrise. As another example, I previously wrote an arts, ink. post about a boba place that has since been replaced by another one. In fact, the majority of bubble tea shops in Ann Arbor—Unitea, Quickly, Tea Ninja—didn’t exist then. The opening of Chatime and Coco’s was a big deal my freshmen year, whereas now it seems like there’s a new boba place every few months (that’s a big of an exaggeration, but you get the point).
My friends and I went to the grand reopenings of the U-M Museum of Natural History, the Union, and more. I stood in line for a slice of Joe’s Pizza a few weeks after it opened, watched Espresso Royale switch to a different coffee place, and mourned the close of China Gate after its thirty-two-year run in Ann Arbor. Last year, while on a walk around a quiet campus due to a year of online learning, I found the sidewalk in front of the School of Kinesiology Building free from the fencing that had closed it off throughout my undergraduate career up until that point.
A lot of things have changed about me, too. The clubs I participate in, the types of classes I’ve taken, and the people I’m friends with have all changed over time. My part-time job has changed each year as a result of what new opportunities arose. Even what my average weekend looks like has undergone changes. All these things were undeniably affected by an unprecedented pandemic, but what I want to do and who I want to be have been influenced by what I’ve learned and experienced throughout college.
As I think about how quickly graduation is approaching, arts, ink. has been a unique way to document little moments in time. I look at my writing—most of which makes me cringe—and it makes me think about everything I’ve experienced over the past few years. I can look back on the time I braved the polar vortex or the semester I took an acting class. I can reflect on my experiences in RC Singers, Women’s Glee Club, and RC Players. The arts have given me a way to reflect upon my identity as well as topics such as race and class, and arts, ink. enables me to put such reflections into words. This year, I’ll enjoy documenting more artsy activities and memories, like my adventures with novella writing or learning how to play the carillon.
In the meantime, I’d like to say thank you to those who have been with me on this arts, ink. journey, and thank you, arts, ink.
The wind whipped through Kendra’s thin excuse of a raincoat, and harsh droplets stung her cheeks and speckled her glasses. Her arms were drawn into her sides as she stood, shivering, her feet planted in a 45-degree angle and the tips of her fingers red and numb. Locked in her left hand was her cell phone with its shattered screen protector and worn case, opened on an intricate display of symbols and letters across a coordinate plane. She squinted at the screen now, at the highlighted dot at the head of a thin lime line, the opposite end of which marked where she currently stood.
The wind picked up, flung a punch directly into her slight form. Behind her, someone let out a curse he thought nobody else would hear. He must have nearly shouted, since she could hear him well enough despite the thick foam plugs wedged into her ear canals. Not that she blamed him. She was biting back her own gripe, but she was saving her lips and breath for playing, and she did not have much air left.
A command made faint by the plugs in her ears prompted her to travel to her next dot. Another backwards move–seriously?–in sixteen counts, and diagonally to boot. Still, she scurried to the next spot on the field with haste, if only to warm herself for five seconds.
The hand holding her horn was frigid. Even with the grease-stained, formerly white glove on, the low temperature, drizzle, and gusts brutalized her extremities, and it wasn’t like these gloves were meant for insulation. They were meant for playing this damn instrument, a rental from the band hall with a sticking valve and perpetually flat tone, that she played outside of practice, oh, maybe once or twice a week if she felt like it. If she thought she stood a chance, she’d practice harder, almost every day, but things had tapered off once she’d realized she wasn’t as good as the other kids in her section. She’d tried to get her motivation back several times, but it just wasn’t there anymore, like she’d somehow given up.
Another direction issued from the tower compelled her to run back to her previous dot, phone in one hand and rain-slicked brass instrument in another, her ears stinging and the hood of her jacket flopping back, dodge a random cymbal player, and stand at attention, all while shoving her phone back into its pocket on the inside of her jacket. They’re just marching for now, sixteen steps back with their respective instruments held aloft, yet Kendra found herself doubting her step size, her ability to march in time to the metronome.
This was for the homecoming game; everyone was in the show, regardless of how good they were. Kendra was thrilled to be out on the field marching actual drill and learning music for a show she would perform, yet she could not shake the nagging notion, the mantra that sometimes kept her awake at night:
You’ll never be good enough for this.
Ah, I see you’ve stumbled upon my humble abode. Welcome to the column of all things marching band, or, should I say, the column of all things marching band according to Alias. Here, you shall find short fiction and poetry centered around the theme of marching band, though for today I begin by introducing some common band terminology:
Band Director (n.) — The Fearless Leader.
Band Geek (n.) — A member of the marching band; a super cool person who may be sitting next to you in your creative writing class.
Brass (n.) — A category of instruments constituting the alto horns, euphoniums, sousaphones/tubas, trombones, and trumpets. Trumpets think they’re the heart of the band, but we all know it’s the drumline* (see below).
Drill (n.) — The set of movements constituting the actual marching part of marching band; something you should already have memorized.
Dot (n.) — The specific spot on the field you’re supposed to reach, or “make,” within a set number of counts (ie, 16 counts means you take 16 steps to get from one dot to another ); someone is said to be “on their dot” when they make said spot. It happens once in a while.
Drumline (n.) — God’s gift to marching band.
Drum Major (n.) — A rad person, usually an upperclassman, who leads and represents the marching band. Ironically, the DM is almost never a percussionist.
Flags (n.) — The section of people who dance using flags and enhance the visual effects of performances. They make it look easy, but it’s highly technical and difficult.
Field (n.) — What’s the football team doing on the band field?
Fight Song (n.) — A song, typically a march, played at sporting events to celebrate victories and generate hype. The Victors (see below) is objectively the best of these.
Marching Band (n.) — A sport that involves playing fully memorized music whilst marching around the field in perfect time while in uniform (see below); definitely not a cult.
Michigan Marching Band (MMB) (n.) — The greatest marching band in all of human history.
Michigan Stadium/The Big House (n.) — The place where over 100,000 fans gather on Saturdays to see the marching band.
Practice (v.) — What you should be doing instead of reading this glossary.
Rank (n.) — Subdivisions into twelve or so performers, each with its own leader or two; in drumline, each individual instrument is considered a rank.
Reserves (n.) — The people who did not make the performance for this week’s show; in drumline, the people who don’t play in halftime at all for the whole season.
Section (n.) — A group of people who all play the same instrument; the group of people who constitute the holy order known colloquially as the drumline. Each section has a section leader.
Shako (n.) — The epic hats band kids wear.
Show (n.) — The sweet medley of songs performed at halftime during home games.
Social Life (n.) — Never heard of it.
Temptation & War Chant (T & W) (n.) — Two glorious songs always played consecutively because, as we all know, you can’t have one without the other.
The Victors (n.) — The divinely inspired fight song wrought by Louis Elbel in 1898; the best college fight song ever written; God’s theme song. Comes in several flavors, including “As Written” and “Parking Lot Victors.”
Twirlers (n.) — A small section of cool people who twirl batons that can be attached to LED lights or even set on fire.
Uniform (n.) — The awesome getup the band wears on game days.
Woodwinds (n.) — The piccolos (pics), clarinets (sticks), and saxophones are all considered woodwinds, and often play the melody or sixteenth notes. These instruments will be damaged by the evil entity commonly known as rain.
*This information was derived from a reliable MMB trumpet alumnus the author holds in high regard.**
**The author respects the trumpet section and loves the trumpet part of “The Victors” (see above).
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,
[To read an introduction to this column, please see the first paragraph of the initial post here]
This week I would like to feature a poem I found recently that I think is powerful and important to read. It is from the accomplished poet R. Erica Doyle, and her words about the poem are given at the end.