Soundpainting in Oxford

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Elena on a Pre-College Program in Europe.

Elena on a Pre-College Program in Europe.

We loved this essay from two time Putney Pre-College alumna Elena Conde. Elena, a junior at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City, traveled with us on our campus-based summer programs in Oxford and Tuscany in 2012 and on our summer Pre-College program in Spain in 2013. She wrote this essay on a “soundpainting” in Oxford. We love it!

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Light Blue

Swish…Swoosh. BOM BOM BOM BOM BOM. This is la vie en rose… 你好!我叫康海明。我是纽约人。Confused? This is soundpainting.

Imagine a concert where the show is equally an unknown thrill for the performers as it is for the audience. This is a concert where the traditional norms of music are transcended, where so many textures of genres, mediums, sounds, and rhythms are overlapped to create a feeling that can only be described as an overwhelming wave of culture and a combination of inexplicable emotions that cleanses your soul. You are left optimistic, excited and refreshed. If you can imagine this, you already have a sense of what soundpainting is.

I first tried soundpainting the summer after my freshman year, during the beginning of a student travel program. I was sitting in a circle in a light blue room on a class-free Saturday with about eight other students and two professors. The room was perfectly illuminated, thanks to the huge window that let in Oxford’s bright nine-o-clock light and the glimmers of excitement that came with the opportunity to finally realize our wanderlust. Nobody really talked before we began; nobody really knew how to respond to the overwhelming feeling underneath the jet lag and unfamiliarity that we were in a special place.

The professor briefly introduced us to soundpainting, explaining that it was essentially a performance in which the conductor uses various gestures to lead the types of sounds that the performers make. I realized that soundpainting is just that: painting with sound. In the same way the painter creates his masterpiece using distinct hues, the conductor combines unique sounds to create his. A canvas only painted one color would be considered boring; soundpainting is only truly effective when distinctive sounds are combined together to enhance the other, like gentle whispers that heighten the vivid intensity of a repeated bass note. In addition, neither the painter nor the conductor truly knows how his creation will turn out, as both involve an element of improvisation and reliance on raw material. Therefore, the painter and conductor simply act as leaders that guide the creation of art. Moreover, like the painter who has different brushes to create varied textures, the soundpainter has his own set of tools that create individualized sounds: his performers.

However, it’s not the final product itself that was so special about soundpainting, but the environment it created that made me feel perfectly content. Soundpainting is a completely collaborative work, because it relies on constant sparks of inspiration to keep a greater fire going. Soundpainting is based off of immediate improvisation, so each motion the conductor makes causes the individual performers to respond in distinctive, innovative ways. There’s simply no time for one to second-guess herself. This is creativity in its purest form.

When soundpainting, we aren’t afraid of what we don’t know; instead, it excites us. Nobody knows where the piece is going to end up, but we engage in a musical conversation to figure it out together. Impermanence is inevitable, because the feel of the piece is constantly changing with each new addition and layer. Instead of fearing change, one becomes an agent of it, willing to test if her core values and what she can offer to the group can truly survive new ideas.

I probably won’t spend the rest of my life soundpainting in a light blue room in Oxford with the same eight students and two professors, but luckily, I don’t have to. If this environment sounds familiar, it’s because it is. This is the environment of learning, and this is where I am perfectly content. My contentment is constantly moving and dynamic—it’s whispering eeriness followed by loud bass notes, a French-infused song overlapped with a Mandarin monologue reminding me who I am. It’s sudden silence that seems as if it will last forever, hanging onto the mercy of the conductor who decides when our anxious selves can be expressed again. It’s the harmonies of collaboration that break the threatening silence of stagnancy; it’s the co-creation of an everlasting song of learning greater than ourselves.

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Chris’s Songs from Rwanda Project

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Chris in Rwanda

Chris in Rwanda

Chris Zaro, a junior at Flintridge Preparatory School and an alum of our summer public health program in Rwanda, recently got back in touch with us to share an exciting project he’s been working on. Chris has written four songs inspired by his experiences with four different Rwandan children at the AVEH center for students with disabilities. Read on as he explains his project and shares his powerful lyrics.

While in Rwanda, we were told to develop personal projects in addition to the work and studying we were already participating in.  I visited AVEH, a center for disabled children and brought with me my guitar, a metal Dobro resonator.  When I played for the kids, their reaction was profound, so much so that I not only planned my project around the experience, but it also has deeply contributed to my work in child psychology.

For my project, I went to the three different schools, the Wisdom primary school, the Wisdom preschool, and the Wisdom deaf school in Musanze in Rwanda’s northern region.  I brought along my guitar and would play different chords and melodies for small groups of kids, some of the songs fast and aggressive and dark, others melodic and placid.  When a child gave me a particularly large reaction (they moved and swayed smiled and laughed, etc.) to a particular song, I would interview the child, their teacher, and their friends and family if possible.  Asking about their home life, their behavior in and out of the classroom, their personality and their childhood, I later wrote lyrics based on the interviews and paired them to the song the child reacted to.  What I looked to see was whether a child’s development had a resounding effect on the music they identified with.  The “data” is as follows:

Tiffany: Deaf and autistic, Tiffany is a quiet and shy girl, adverse to interaction with her peers.  As a child she was abused by her father who abandoned her, leaving her single mother no choice but to place her in a deaf school. Tiffany picked up on the vibrations and reacted to a fast, aggressive, and darkly rhythmic song.

I do not remember
Seeing your smile so tender
And I do not recall
Seeing you smile at all
The lines that you draw
I don’t know what I saw
You’ve got no way to show
All the beauty you know

Well can’t you just play for me?
Let vibrations fall from the beat
Pretend I have no mental state
Play something that will make me sway

Tiffany what happened
To finding a distraction
Finding a happy place
To forget that you’ve been plagued
It’s better that he’s gone
You don’t know that you’ve moved on
Get yourself some rest
Today I’ll be your friend

Well can’t you just play for me?
Let vibrations fall from the beat
Pretend I have no mental state
Play something that will make me sway

I do not remember
Seeing your smile so tender
And I do not recall
Seeing your mama at all
I wish that she could see
All the things that you dream
I’m giving you this chance
With me you can dance

Well can’t you just play for me?
Let vibrations fall from the beat
Pretend I have no mental state
Play something that will make me sway
And I can’t even say my name
How can I expect to be the same?
Please don’t ever stop this song
In real life they tell me that I’m wrong

David: Also deaf and somewhat mentally impaired, David is an overall cheerful and one of the most friendly and hospitable souls I have ever met.  Although David’s father is not around, he shares a healthy loving relationship with his mother and has strong friendships at school.  David reacted to a very soft, consistent melody.

I’ll greet you with my soul
A laugh that won’t grow old
A smile pure as gold
My friend, welcome home

I’ve never heard my mom’s song
But I am not build wrong
And she’s done me no harm
She’s held me on and on

Dad left here a while ago
But someday he’ll come home
So don’t you dare grow cold
I won’t ever let you feel alone

Guess who made me my star
It was God who saved my from dark
God who made you the bard
He made me the son of his heart

I wish you’d stay
We’d live forever and live each day
We could play
You could sing while I sit and sway

Just please don’t forget me
You’re my best friend I want to hear you sing
You will never be alone
Let my spirit come

I’ll shine just like the sun
Remember that this is your home
Remember that this is your home
Please, please do come home

Fidel: Fidel is a deaf child at the wisdom school, who although shy with strangers is an ultimately boisterous and playful kid.  His home life is sound and supportive and his cheerful and mischievous demeanor has catalyzed fabulous social relationships.  The song that he greatly resonated with was an alternately fast and mellow song that had an overall playful swing/rock and roll feel to it.

I find myself a little boy
Fifteen years old
I wake up inside a school
With a whole new set of rules

Got black hair got black eyes
But my ears don’t work
Got my mom and got my dad
But I ain’t got nobody to blame

Go to sleep and try to dream
That I ain’t so shy
I wake up everyday day and I
Try to remember how to read and write

Go to sleep and try to dream
But I am all right
I know that I can’t hear
But your words won’t interrupt my night

Benito Benito is a perfectly healthy adolescent at the Wisdom primary school.  During a free period I was playing guitar for the kids who made a whole circle to watch Benito dance (he was hilarious).  The song that he really moved to and got the most people to laugh at was a slow but driving blues song.  At home, Benito lives modestly with a very large number or siblings, often times receiving a minimal amount of attention.

Gimme some room
Gimme some room
How can I sleep
If I never ever move?

Mama can you see me now?
I am gonna dance my way out.

Can’t you just believe me?
I know who I want to be.

You give me the floor
And I’ll dance for you some more
I can make you laugh
Cause it’s play not a chore

If I dance all day
I might find a way

To finally get some room
Finally I will be removed

I got so many brothers
No one knows me from the others

But by dancing I will make a change
Make you laugh and make you learn my name

Learn my name

So gimme some room
Gimme room to move
Gimme room to show you
That Benito owns the room.

As I hopefully articulated, the study concluded that children with more dark and upsetting childhoods identified more with aggressive or melancholy songs, while on the opposite end of the spectrum children who grew up in sound happy homes resonated most with songs that embodied that same comfort and soft stability.  My plan is to soon record these songs and establish a system for which they can be downloaded for free to raise awareness of mental stigma and of how wonderful these kids are, with an option to donate financially to AVEH, the organization who inspired me to do this work.

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Foundations Staff for Summer Programs 2014!

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Our Foundations programs abroad for middle school students place a premium on structured, engaging travel that provides a basis for cross-cultural experiences, adventure, and team-building. Our leaders are carefully selected from a wide pool of applicants, and vetted for their ability to connect with young students in a group setting. We’re working hard to bring all of our leadership teams together, and thrilled to share a few bios of leaders who will be returning to our Foundations programs this summer. Click on their names to learn more!

Jonathan McCarthy – Costa Rica

Jonathan, left, with the 2012 Foundations Costa Rica staff.

Jonathan, right, with the 2012 Foundations Costa Rica staff.

Anthony Poullard – Spain

Anthony on our Peru program.

Anthony on our Peru program.

Mac Woods – Australia

Mac in Costa Rica.

Mac in Costa Rica.

Hannah Palmer – Australia

Hannah Palmer will lead our Australia program this summer.

Hannah Palmer will lead our Australia program this summer.

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Top 10 Australian Animals!

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Students on our middle school summer program in Australia will get the chance to encounter these amazing creatures Down Under.

1. Crocodile

Croc1

2.Cockatoo

Cockatoo

3. Kangaroo

Wallaby

4. Sea Turtle

Turtle1

5. Tasmanian Devil

TasmanianDevil

6. Nemo – Clownfish

Nemo_ClownFish

7. Maori Fish

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8. Koala

Koala1

9. Manatee

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10. Giant Clam

GiantClam

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Spain Summer Program Leader Announcement

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Buenas noticias! We’re thrilled to announce that we have two amazing returning leaders committed to lead our summer language program in Spain for 8th and 9th graders! Brock Schardin and Lucia Donatelli will be headed to Spain this summer.

Brock Schardin, Language Learning Spain veteran leader.

Brock Schardin, Language Learning Spain veteran leader.

Brock, a Fulbright scholar with a Master’s degree in Spanish Education from the University of South Dakota, lives year-round in Madrid. This will be his fourth consecutive language immersion program in Spain. Read his bio here.

Lucia with one of her Language Learning Spain students from our 2012 program.

Lucia with one of her Language Learning Spain students from our 2012 program.

Lucia, who holds a B.A. from Brown University and a Master’s in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Massachusetts, led this program two years ago and will be headed to Georgetown University in the fall to begin a PhD program in Spanish linguistics. You can read her bio here.

We’re very excited to have them back on staff for summer 2014, and can’t wait to hear all about their aventuras españolas. Click here to read leader bios from last summer.

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Community Service Costa Rica Video

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Check out this incredible footage from one of our community service programs in Costa Rica. The new video captures interviews with students and leaders, and features cooking classes, soccer games, service projects, rafting trips, and more! 

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Enrollment Update: Where Do Our Students Come From?

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As our enrollment period continues into the spring, it’s exciting for us to take a look at our groups so far and revel in just how expansive the Putney Student Travel family is. We have international students representing over 20 different countries! Take a look at this list of the international destinations from which we’re drawing students this year, and read this piece by a Pre-College at Amherst College alumna on the benefits of an internationally diverse group. We can’t wait to travel with all of you this summer!

Note: List in no particular order

France

France-Summer-Travel-Program-Soccer

Greece

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Spain

Spain-Europe-Summer-Travel-Soccer

Canada

Go on a bike tour of Old Montreal

Turkey

TurkeyProgramming_MaggieStrassman (47) (Medium)

Switzerland

CEEU_CelineHein (68)

Lebanon

lebanon

United Kingdom

England-Summer-Travel-Program-Soccer

Russia

PutneyArchives (263)

Mexico

Mexico1

Bahrain

bahrain-manama-city

Brazil

Brazil_Kettler_056

Germany

munich

China

LLCH_JenBrown (24)

Belgium

Brugge

Colombia

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, Bogota

Egypt

photo_15827_20091217

Puerto Rico (technically not a country, but we’re counting it!)

photo (14)

Costa Rica Arenal-Costa-Rica-Volcano-Teen-Travel

 

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Alum Reflects On Summer Program in Rwanda, East Africa

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High School Student in Rwanda, East Africa

Cole in Rwanda

We were thrilled when Cole Kantgias, a senior at Brother Rice High School in Bloomfield Hills, MI, sent us a copy of an article that he wrote for his high school newspaper. The article gives an overview of his experience on one of our high school summer programs in Africa. Cole participated in our Global Awareness in Action program in Rwanda.

It was around this time last year when I made a choice that has changed my life forever. In looking for things to do in the summer before my Senior year, I knew that I wanted to do something different; something that no one I know has ever done; something life changing. Looking back, my experience fulfilled all of those desires and many more.

Putney Student Travel, located in Vermont, is an organization that specializes in summer experiences for middleschoolers and highschoolers. They have a plethora of offerings, and it was the “Global Awareness in Action: Rwanda” program that I eventually chose. After meeting with the director of Putney, I ultimately chose the GAIA Rwanda program because the GAIA programs have a special emphasis on experiential educational learning. Each program immerses students into a controversial issue, educates the students on the issue, and then brings them back to Yale University to present their findings to other GAIA participants and their parents, as well as the public. My Rwanda program focused on post-genocidal issues as well as Public Health and education in the country.

I spent four and a half weeks with sixteen teenagers and two adult leaders from all over the country on the African continent in Rwanda. Our mission was simple: to explore a nation in the wake of a genocide that occurred almost twenty years before and see how they have adapted in its aftermath. We targeted Rwanda’s healthcare and educational systems first, but through our month long immersion process we saw all levels of the country and its effect on its citizens.

Whether it was witnessing a baby being born via c-section in a regional hospital, assisting in a surgery at said hospital, dancing in a nightclub in the capital of Kigali, delivering food aid to AIDs patients, playing with developmentally disabled children, exploring Kigali on foot, interacting with deaf students and learning sign language, or going on a gorilla hike, each moment spent in Rwanda was truly amazing.

Looking back, my decision to go on this trip was one of the best ones I have made in my life so far. Though I was initially afraid to leave my mom at LaGuardia airport, I’m so glad that I did. Through this experience, I have made sixteen incredibly close friends, and we have formed a family. I have discovered that I can truly make a difference in the world, even if it starts at the grassroots as I did in Rwanda. No matter what, we can do anything we set our minds to.

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Student Reflections from Summer Program in Costa Rica

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Mariana volunteering in Costa Rica

Mariana volunteering in Costa Rica

Check out these kind words from Mariana DeBare, a recent alumna of one of our summer language programs abroad. Mariana, a senior at The Wheeler School in RI, participated in our language immersion program in Costa Rica. She and her group focused on Spanish, community service, and cultural immersion in Costa Rica. We hope you enjoy the write-up she submitted about her summer experience to her high school newspaper!

I completed my service work over the summer. I traveled to Costa Rica for four weeks (three of them were dedicated to language learning and community service). I stayed in the village, San Jose De Rivas, with eleven other students from around the United States. The program I completed was called “Costa Rica: language learning,” however, on top of speaking Spanish the whole time, we participated in community service for the village every day (not including the weekends). We participated in projects like helping to build a new building in the village (that required a lot of manual labor like mixing cement by hand!), tiling the floor for the elementary school, helping to install a new septic tank for their common structure and building new bathrooms. In addition to helping in the village, I also lived with a family for a week (the first two weeks all of the kids and two group leaders stayed in a common building). I believe that the work that I completed had a large impact on the people in the village and they really appreciated it. Additionally, I believe I got a lot out of the experience for myself. It was an entirely new way of life: simpler, and not as progressive. The whole experience opened my eyes and gave me a new perspective on the way I live. It taught me to appreciate everything that I have, and realize that things like warm water, and clean, indoor bathrooms are privileges not rights. It also gave me a better cultural understanding of how other people around the world live. It was also REALLY FUN!

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16 Famous Putney Student Travel Alumni

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In the spirit of Sunday’s Academy Awards, we present to you the Putney Student Travel Red Carpet List. In our 63 years of high school summer programs abroad, we’ve been joined by innumerable students of incredible and diverse talent. We often feature alumni who have gone on to do important work in development, education, and literature, but thought we’d also take the time here to list 16 Putney alumni who have achieved fame and acclaim as actors, writers, news anchors, or musicians. Each of these public figures once slung a back-pack over their shoulders, took a deep breath, and set off to meet their Putney group at the airport on the first day of their summer program abroad. We’re proud to call them alumni and can’t help but wonder what 2014 students are destined for fame!

1. Jake Gyllenhaal

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, best known for starring roles in Donnie Darko, Jarhead, and Brokeback Mountain, traveled with us on our Language Learning France program.

Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, Oscar nominee best known for starring roles in films like The Day After Tomorrow, Jarhead, and Brokeback Mountain, traveled with us on our Language Learning France program.

Jake, left, in Paris with his Putney group.

Jake, left, in Paris with his Putney group.

2. Zosia Mamet

Zosia, one of the stars of the HBO show Girls, traveled with us on our Language Learning Spain program.

3. Dierks Bentley

Grammy award winning country singer Dierks Bentley spent a summer on our Australia, New Zealand, Fiji program.

4. Grace Gummer

Grace, who currently stars in HBO’s Newsroom, traveled with us on our Pre-College program in Cuba. Her sister, Mamie, is also a Putney alum and a renown actress.

Grace, who currently stars in HBO’s Newsroom, traveled with us on our Pre-College program in Cuba. Her younger sister Louisa, also an actress, traveled with us as a high school student, too.

Grace, left, in Cuba with instructor and now acclaimed writer Alden Jones.

Grace, left, in Cuba with instructor and now acclaimed writer Alden Jones.

5. Maggie Gyllenhall

Celebrated actress Maggie Gyllenhaal traveled with us on our Language Learning France program as a high school student.

6. Wallace Shawn

Wallace Shawn, famous for his role in The Princess Bride, is a Putney Student Travel alum.

Wallace Shawn, famous for his role in The Princess Bride, is a Putney Student Travel alum and traveled with us to France in the 1950s.

7. Allison Williams

Allison Williams, best known for her starring role in HBOs Girls, traveled with us on our Pre College program in Italy.

Allison Williams, best known for her starring role in HBOs Girls, traveled with us in 2002.

8. Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler is the best-selling author of 12 books, including The Council of Dads. He traveled to Europe on a program led by Co-Director Jeff Shumlin. Bruce and Jeff are good friends to this day and Bruce sits on the board of the Putney Open Door Fund.

Bruce Feiler is the best-selling author of 12 books, including Walking the Bible and The Council of Dads. He traveled to Europe on a program led by Co-Director Jeff Shumlin in 1983. Bruce and Jeff are good friends to this day and Bruce sits on the board of the Putney Open Door Fund.

Bruce Feiler, right, on the cover of a Putney Student Travel brochure in 1985.

Bruce Feiler, right, on the cover of a Putney Student Travel brochure in 1985.

9. Marcy Klein

Marci Klein, who traveled with us on our Language Learning Spain program as a high school student, is a four-time Emmy Award Winning television producer. She's best known for her work producing Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

Marci Klein, who traveled with us on our Europe program as a high school student in 1982, is a four-time Emmy Award Winning television producer. She’s best known for her work producing Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

10. Breck Eisner

Breck Eisner, who traveled with us to Costa Rica as a student, is a film director best known for films like Manhunt and Sahara.

Breck Eisner, who traveled with us to France, Holland, and England in 1985, is a film director best known for films like Manhunt and Sahara. He currently sits on the Putney Open Door Fund board, providing scholarships to students for whom a summer program abroad wouldn’t be otherwise affordable.

11. Jonathan Dokuchitz

Jonathan Dokuchitz

Johnathan Dokuchitz is a Broadway actor and singer. He has also been the voice of characters in the animated movies Pocahontas, Anastasia, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He traveled with us on our Cultural Exploration Europe program in 1982.

12. John Lithgow

John Lithgow, award winning film, television, and theatre actor, as well as children’s book author, traveled with us on our Cultural Exploration Europe program as a high school student.

John Lithgow, award winning film, television, and theatre actor, as well as children’s book author, best known for his role in Third Rock from the Sun, traveled with us on our Cultural Exploration Europe program as a high school student.

13. Meghan McCain

McCain

Meghan McCain traveled with us to Spain as a high schooler. She is now an author and political columnist who currently contributes to MSNBC.

14. Will Dana

Will Dana is the Managing Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Will Dana, a Putney Student Travel alum, is the Managing Editor of Rolling Stone Magazine.

15. Gideon Jacobs

Best known for playing Molly Shannon's support system in the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer, Gideon traveled on a Putney Student Travel program three years after the film hit theaters.

Best known for playing Molly Shannon’s support system in the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer, Gideon traveled on a Putney Student Travel program three years after the film hit theaters.

16. Peter Shumlin

In addition to Co-Directing Putney Student Travel and leading trips after college, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin traveled with Putney Student Travel when he was in high school!

In addition to Co-Directing Putney Student Travel and leading trips after college, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin traveled with Putney Student Travel when he was in high school!

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