Monday, October 31, 2011

Musings of my past - College and beyond...

I attended Case Western Reserve University in the late 70s, and found it to be a very demanding school, with course loads that ate up a lot of my time, but it was all well worth it. It was rated very highly at that time in Chemistry due to Dr. Olan who had a whole floor designated for him. I heard he left afterwards and took all his people with him to California. Anyway, due to several reasons I mentioned in an earlier post, I switched from a Chemistry Major to a Biology Major my second year. I found Biology a more suitable match for me. Studying about life was more interesting than studying chemicals.

I also minored in music (played viola since 3rd grade) and theater, and performed with the Reading Orchestra on campus. The purpose of the small group was to play music we had never seen before and broaden our exposure of different compositions. In addition, I took modern dance classes while working towards my minor in theater. This made for a more balanced curriculum than the strictly science/technical orientation of chemistry and biology and thus allowed my creative side to be nurtured.

While at CWRU, I met another Greek student. She was very friendly and we talked about forming a Greek club together on campus. We met a couple of times and our plan finally materialized. We reserved a room for the meeting and put up flyers around the campus, baked some cookies, and had the meeting. About thirty Greek (mostly from Greece) students showed up. Some were Greek but did not speak Greek. Shortly after, we had elections and I was voted President of the group and my friend was vice-president. We also had a secretary and treasurer. We met several times to design the bylaws.

The Hellenic Association was recognized as a student organization after we supplied the appropriate forms and bylaws to the university. When we wanted to meet on campus, we were able to reserve rooms through a certain process. The group consisted of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, specializing in many fields, including: nursing, dental, engineering (civil, chemical, biomedical, etc.), medicine, and biology. Our group evolved and we had more meetings, and interesting events, like a picnic off the campus, Greek professors giving lectures, visits to restaurants, and other Greek events in the community (dances, dinners). etc. As a result, I was very busy with not only schoolwork, but the Hellenic group, and loving it. I would write up newsletters and provide them to the members. Another highlight of this group was that I was able to sign us up for the radio program on campus. They allotted our group a half hour radio time every Tuesday as a community service. I had to learn the technique of engineering the show, and after a few painstaking hours of training, planned each show carefully, including an opening theme, a Greek quote of the day, and which songs to play. I tried to arrange the music with slow and fast songs using a variety of singers. Most of the music came from records provided by the university, which we were grateful for. We also supplied some of our own records. We would tape the music and submit the recording before the show and they would play it for us. A couple of times I interviewed a professor or two as part of the show. Sometimes friends from our Hellenic club would also speak. Eventually, I learned that the Greek community was listening to our radio program and I was very pleased. However, because college is a temporary situation, when I graduated, I was sad to see the radio show end. No one else picked up the torch to continue it.

After graduation, I joined the Cleveland Women's Orchestra, an all-women's orchestra conducted by Hyman Schandler. I audtioned and was accepted. I enjoyed playing viola with them, and was a member of the orchestra for many, many years. We played annually at Severance Hall as well as at benefit concerts. The pieces were complex and long, mostly symphonies that would last 30-40 minutes each. We would work on these pieces for months at a time before the concert. We also performed at nursing homes on a weekly basis. Schandler would start the program by saying something about the compositions we would be playing and he always threw in some humor to make the residents laugh. The music was usually popular waltz pieces. These outreach performances were my favorite, for the audience was so receptive and appreciative. They would come up to us after the performance and thank us profusely. There would inevitably be a reception also, with drinks and food. One concert, Mr. Schandler's baton flew off the stage and there was commotion for a moment before he could get another one. Another time, a violinist went to sit down on a chair on stage and the chair broke. No lie. One other reason I loved the orchestra were the ladies in it. Sabina Berman, an old timer who played the viola was my best friend. She always greeted me with a bright smile. Rehearsals were weekly and at a boys' school in East Cleveland. We didn't leave rehearsals until close to ten, and and often we would have refreshments afterwards. The orchestra was composed of women from a variety of backgrounds...there were twins who played the cello and viola. We also had a nun who played the bass. There was a blind trumpet player who played from braille music using her hand to read. We also had a famous journalist from the local newspaper who went on assignment in Kosovo. Those were very pleasant times.

Until next time...

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