On most of our trips back to Washington, we always make sure to stop by our old college campus. I’ve talked often of my Cooper Union years and a lot about my Northwest years, but not so much about what I actually did at Evergreen. Coming from a school as traditional as Cooper, where reputation, legacy and excellence was pounded into your head as soon as you entered classes on your first day of freshmen year, Evergreen was like a being able to breathe again. You had the freedom to play, to experiment and be creative and silly without the fear and pressure of failing. And if you did fail, you had the support of teachers and classmates around you. It was exactly what I needed after 3 years at Cooper where everything was just so serious and competitive. I didn’t go into Evergreen thinking I was going to write music, but that’s what Mark and I did at school. I used to reserve practice time in one of the 4 piano practice rooms 5 times a week in 3 hour chunk blocks. I didn’t always play though. Sometimes I curled up underneath the baby grand and took naps, especially if I had writer’s block.
I remember I once made a fellow classmate tear up after playing a composition on the piano in class (super awesome, I never made anyone cry with my artwork before!). It was a weekly critique class where we were performing works in progress. While my parents struggled to understand why I left Cooper (free tuition! World class reputation!) to go to a relatively unknown school (not free tuition! No one from the East Coast has ever heard of it!), I knew from the first week of classes that this was the right place for me to feel creative again. Despite having aspirations to be an artist for most of my childhood, I never did have any passion for it once I left high school. I sucked as an artist. As a result, my art had no real soul or emotional content. I can say this because I feel it to be true. I did find it, however, in music. There were no expectations, no pressures, no baggage. Being up on stage playing a composition on the piano that I wrote was terrifying, but there was never anything to prove because unlike art where I worked hard for years to win college scholarships, music was just a hobby up until that point.
I didn’t realize how lucky we were as music students at Evergreen until I later went to grad school at NYU and compared notes with other music and audio engineering students who came over from the NYU undergrad music department. For being a small state school, we had the luxury of long blocks of (almost unlimited) studio time in all the recording studios, the electronic music studios, access to the best audio equipment, musical instruments and a black box theater for performances. Even as well equipped as it seemed back then, the school has even more impressive stuff now.
Our old teacher, Peter, gave us a tour of the new television studios and the old, familiar music rooms. Aside from being a total audio geek (that was his house the girls played drums at), Peter’s a total kid magnet and super goofy and fun. Even with all the new stuff, it’s nice to see that some things at Evergreen haven’t changed. It’s been about 16 years since I stepped inside the 16 track studio and it was just as I remembered it: the 2488 console, rolls of 2″ Ampex tape (analog, yes!). And then there is the buchla, one of Mark’s favorite toys while he was at school. It was fun to see Mia getting a little lesson from Peter, making little patches and messing around with the vintage analog synth. She was all over that thing while Claudine gravitated towards the drums as she always seems to do whenever there is a drum kit in the room. We watched her play and agreed that the kid has a knack for it. Seems as if the art genes have passed down to the kids, but maybe some of these music genes have passed on too.