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“We Are Family”: Performing in the CMU Opera | Guest blogger: Katy Unruh

City Workers in Love snuck up on me. I had no idea what I was getting into when I auditioned for this little comic opera by Neil Weisensel. With a concentration in Vocal Performance, I knew I needed the credits, but I had no idea the hours I put in to earn them would be some of the best, the most fun, most rewarding of my years at CMU so far.

If you’ve never been involved with the production of an opera, I’m not sure I can truly communicate the massive effort it takes. As both a cast member and a production assistant on this show, I got to know it from every angle. I learned my music, and by osmosis, almost everyone else’s. I memorized how to move and when, painted set pieces, made props, took notes in rehearsal, put together costumes, and the list goes on.

But what a list of tasks and projects doesn’t show is all the relationships which were built and shaped through the work on this show.

Katy performs in City Workers in Love
Katy (third from left) performs in City Workers in Love

First, there was my character. I had to discover who she was: her past, her mind, her relationships, even her physicality. She is still in my head—even now I find myself listening for Mavis’ reactions to the things I encounter in my daily goings-about. Mavis taught me new ways of seeing people with grace and to take myself less seriously sometimes.

Then there’s our director. Without David Klassen this show would never have happened! He brought light and warmth and patience into our rehearsals. He expertly saw potential in each cast member, a set design in a poster and an empty stage, and movement in stillness. He made the Laudamus Auditorium on Friday afternoons a safe space, giving us permission to feel and move and make mistakes as we learned about ourselves, our abilities, and each other.

And where would I be without my fellow cast members? One of the recurring lines in City Workers in Love, the mantra of the street crew, is, “We are family.” Over the course of the year this became truer and truer. In our small yet hardy cast, each voice mattered greatly and each distinct personality coloured the atmosphere. The more we learned to blend our voices and our natures, the closer we became. To sing is so deeply personal in the first place—your instrument is your body, your self—and to share that personal work in such intense circumstances speedily forges a bond that’s not easily broken.

In the last two weeks of preparation I hit my stride.  Every moment I could spare was spent on opera, either in a determined rush to put together the final details or contentedly dwelling in the joy of the process. This show left its mark on me. Even as I write this I still find bits of paint stuck in my hair, and I feel almost like a proud mother, changed and affirmed by a product of my effort which took on a life of its own.

Katy Unruh is a 4th year Bachelor of Music student focusing on Vocal Performance and Music Education

The Breakfast Club – CMU Edition

Remember that final scene in The Breakfast Club? The one where Mr. Vernon finds the essay the kids wrote about who they thought they were?

“You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…and an athlete… and a basketcase… a princess… and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

And then Judd Nelson raises his fingerless-gloved fist as he marches across the football field to the tune of Don’t You (Forget About Me). Iconic.

If I’m being honest, I played the character of Mr. Vernon for a long time. I wanted so badly to have that one word, that simple definition that would tell others who I was. Sincerely yours, the Volleyball Player. Sincerely yours, the Artist. Sincerely yours, the Student. I was Mr. Vernon, asking myself “who do you think you are?” and expecting a convenient definition.

But obviously, Mr. Vernon is the antagonist of the film.

CMU was my Breakfast Club. The group of quirky oddballs in detention dancing in the library and scurrying down hallways who taught me that I am so much more than a simple term.

breakfastAt CMU I feel utterly undefined. I’m not just a volleyball player, or just an artist, or just a student. Those terms just scratch the surface of who I am. Here at CMU, I’m encouraged to explore and celebrate my passions and quirks that make me extraordinary.

CMU helped me write that essay to the Mr. Vernon I once was. I saw myself as I wanted to see myself. In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what I found out was that I cannot be defined by a simple word or phrase. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, So Much More.

(Now do yourself a favour and play Don’t You (Forget About Me), don some fingerless gloves, and march yourself to a nearby football field with your fist in the air. Or just imagine it, that works too…)

– Chloe Friesen, 2nd year Communications and Media student

So you want to write a winning scholarship essay…

Everyone wants free money, am I right? But the idea of writing an essay can seem rather daunting! We realize the sacrifice and determination it takes to sit down on a free weekend to write an essay between other high school assignments, so we thought we would save you some time and effort by helping you write an essay that is a cut above the rest!

1. Have a point!

We have given you questions to guide your thoughts and we do want you to answer all the questions posed, but we are expecting you to incorporate those questions into a larger narrative. Make sure your essay has a unified statement, thesis, or argument behind it. For example, the leadership award asks you to engage three questions, all which should link back to your main point. Not only will this help you to stay on task, it helps us to read and understand your writing. The last thing you want us to be asking ourselves when reading your essay is “now what point is s/he trying to get at, again?”

2. Uniqueness is key

Support your argument with examples from your own life, and tell us why it matters. We aren’t looking for journal entries but we are looking to see that you have thoughtfully engaged the topics in your own life. These are the kinds of essays that stand out above the rest. For example, if you’re applying for the Academic Merit Award and the essay is asking you to write about the importance of diversity and dialogue, make sure you know what those words mean on a personal level, and you have a story or a strong researched argument to back up your opinion. 

3. Show some excitement

Readers know when there is emotional investment in the essay and when there isn’t. Don’t write about what you think you should write about; write about what interests you!

4. Proofread!

Always have someone else read your essay before submitting. Another eye may catch an embarrassing spelling or grammatical error you missed. Don’t let spelling and grammar mistakes be the reason your essay is tossed aside.

5. Cite reputable sources

Make sure you opinions can be backed up by other knowledgeable sources (NOT buzzfeed or Wikipedia). Choose an academic style like APA or Chicago and stick with this style the whole way through.

Remember, you are brilliant and you can do this! If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to your Admissions Counsellor.

Writing suggestions courtesy of the CMU Admissions Team

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Practicum | Guest blogger: Christina Waldner

I had always thought of myself as responsible and all that entails: hard-working, self-motivated, and self-disciplined. My conscientiousness was even seen in the way I limited myself to two Friends episodes in a row to avoid the embarrassment when Netflix condescendingly asks, “Are you still watching Netflix?” (For all of you binge-watchers out there, you’ll be happy to hear I am now a reformed limiter and have been asked this question on several occasions.)

However, I was recently taken aback by the realization that I had fallen victim to the tricky tactics of procrastination. I really did not see it coming, but there it was. How did this happen?

Cristina WaldnerTo better understand my surprise, let me add some context. I have been a student at CMU off and on for the past 12 years. Because of my physical disability, I have only been able to take one or two courses at a time, slowly chipping away at my BA. I struggle a lot with fatigue but have poured myself into every assignment, partly due to pesky perfectionist tendencies and partly for the sheer joy of learning. I have loved my time at CMU, feeling nothing but support and encouragement from faculty and staff. But when it came to my practicum, I felt panicked.

I have actually dreaded the practicum requirement since Day 1 of attending CMU. I have never had a traditional job before and practicum would be my first real taste of what adulthood will look like. For me, there were so many tedious, and sometimes scary, details to consider:

  • Full-time or part-time? Definitely part-time.
  • Work outside the home or from home? Hopefully from home.
  • If that doesn’t work out, is the workplace accessible? Like, totally accessible?
  • Would my attendant come to work with me? Possibly but would it be weird to have an attendant with me in a cubicle?

Hustle picI won’t bore you with more details but this really was just the tip of the logistical iceberg. These thoughts swirled in my mind for about a decade. It wasn’t until my transcript read,  “111 credit hours completed“ that I knew I had run out of time to procrastinate. (I even chose to participate in graduation this past April before I did my practicum!)

When I met with my practicum adviser last year to start planning my practicum, I came to the meeting with a glimmer of hope and a bundle of anxiety. I was so nervous to start the process of finding a work placement with how little physical abilities I had to offer.

Well, to my absolute amazement the meeting went remarkably well! In a short amount of time, huge progress was made in terms of figuring out the logistics of my placement.

So, what for 10 years had been holding me captive had now been set free. I was dreading this process for so long, feeling that the stakes were too high and my abilities too low to have success. But now that I’m here, it’s not as hopeless as I thought.

On September 23, 2018 I officially started my practicum at Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) and I am thrilled with how it’s going so far. My supervisor has been wonderful and it has been exciting to have an opportunity to explore my passions for disability services, writing, and advocacy. Now that I am in my second term, it is amazing to me how manageable life can seem when you have people around you who want you to succeed.

This is not to say that I am magically problem-free. There are still harsh realities I face every single day being a person with a disability. However, I have learned three valuable lessons during this process that make these realities a little less daunting:

  1. People are kinder and more gracious than I thought. They are more willing to accommodate my unique needs and even find a way to make me feel like I have something to offer.
  2. God is more in control than I thought. He is kinder and more loving than I gave Him credit. He only wants the best for me, so I don’t know why I put His abilities in a box by thinking my circumstances were too much of an obstacle for Him. My Jesus has got this.
  3. Procrastination might seem cool on the surface but it is really just fear masquerading in skinny jeans. Putting responsibilities off and avoiding the inevitable only feeds the voice inside of you that tells you the cost of showing up and trying is too high. Don’t believe the lies!

If I would’ve known these truths 10 years ago, I would not have let the fear of practicum rule my thoughts and actions.

textbookSo, what is something in your life you have been dreading that gives you that pit-in-the-stomach feeling of anxiety at the mere thought? Maybe you are wanting to apply to university but feel intimidated by the work load or maybe you are planning your own practicum but don’t know where to begin. Or maybe you are going to be graduating from CMU soon but feel you have no idea where to go from here.

Well, I am here to tell you that it might not be as insurmountable as you are expecting.
________________

*Adapted for #myCMUlife from “Breathe In, Breathe Out” originally posted on Beautiful, Complicated Life.

Cristina Waldner is completing her practicum requirement after finishing her studies with a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Counselling Studies, and a 3-year Bachelor of Arts in English.

“Boy Talk” – A Focus on Male Friendship | Guest blogger: Isaac Schlegel

Male friendship has variously felt irrelevant, desirable, disappointing, and simply confusing to me through my life. In the lonelier years of grade school, it was something I wanted on paper, but in practice talking with boys was marked more by aggressive posturing or thick layers of irony than a sense of connection. Girls were by far preferable, though spending too much time with them would result in shouts of “Wheels!” from any boys in the vicinity. (Needless to say, this was before I would have even considered coming out as bisexual.)

At CMU, I have had many fruitful and boy talk 2beautiful friendships. The vast majority of these at first were again with women, though the context here is much more hospitable to relationships across gender. Despite living in the residence among other men, however, I still found I rarely formed good connections with them. A few other guys were feeling similarly, and so we decided to get together and do something about that. Enter: the Boy Talk.

“Boy Talk,” a willfully ridiculous name that has proven unshakeable, formed nearly a year ago. At the time of writing, it has stabilized as a closed group of 11 male CMU students who gather on a semi-monthly basis to hang out and discuss their lives confidentially. So far, it has been a space for ridiculous photoshoots, board game playing, deepening trust, and giving voice to the accumulated joys and hardships of our lives.

I always worry the idea of a gender-segregated discussion group may give the impression of some anti-feminist or exclusionary stance, as though there is some lack of male-dominated spaces that needed to be filled. In truth, the residence where most of our members live has a degree of gender segregation built into its geography, and our intent is not isolationist. I did not join this group to privilege my male friendships, but rather to bring them up to the standard I have experienced in friendships across gender, which by and large had to that point been far more genuine and trusting.

boy talk 3Boy Talk is not a place where I go to run from the complexity of gender. Rather, it is a place where I plunge headfirst into the work of finding my place in its complexity, not in some abstract intellectual way, but through the practical effort of literally putting myself in the presence of other men and opening ourselves up to each other. Even though our conversation is only sometimes about masculinity directly, the very exercise of talking in a context of safety and trust has allowed me to reflect on how I present myself as male, and how I relate to others doing the same thing. At its very best, Boy Talk has been a communal sandbox for discovering smarter, healthier masculinities.

Recently, Boy Talk was asked to be interviewed in the Canadian Mennonite. This idea surprised us initially—Boy Talk is a small, private group with small, private goals. It didn’t seem to necessarily merit the attention of a broader audience (though we may have admittedly courted such attention by changing our public profile pictures to a matching group photo.) We ultimately went through with it, though, in the hopes that we might serve an anecdotal purpose—one example of how men might deal with loneliness and a lack of connection. Fighting unhealthy masculinity requires men to not only re-evaluate their relationships with women, but also consider what they want from themselves and each other. Male friendship continues to confuse me, but working through that confusion has brought me a better understanding of both my friendships and myself.

Isaac Schlegel is a third-year student double majoring in Philosophy and Biblical and Theological Studies.

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