Facing the Music

By Khushi Patel

The world of music has been completely changed since COVID-19 surfaced. I interviewed Cathryn Wriska, a senior and drum major of the Marching Band at Wayne Memorial High School in Wayne, Michigan. Here I was, someone who has little to no experience with music about to interview someone who spends hours every day playing, listening, and even composing music. Cathryn talks about what music means to her with one simple, yet powerful sentence: “Music evokes emotion in a way that nothing else can.” In a world where we have quarantined for almost an entire year, people have to find their outlets. After hearing this sentence, I thought to myself, whether it’s writing, dancing, running, singing, everyone should take time to find their niche. 

I have known Cathryn for years and I know how brilliantly talented she is, but in order for everyone to understand her deep love for music, I asked her to explain to me her journey. Cathryn says music runs in the family; her Dad was once a competitive trumpet player. Both her Dad and Stepmom played for Detroit Symphony Music. It wasn’t until fifth grade that Cathryn began to understand the meaning of music, she talked about her Band and Symphony Orchestra teacher, Mr. Hartge, who integrated music and fun together. She believes her high school Band teacher, Mr. Diroff, forced his students to know the background story of every piece they created, so they could build a connection. Evidently, the mentors in one’s life have a huge impact on how someone views not just music, but any topic in the real-world. 

The pandemic did not stop Cathryn from continuing to pursue music. She had a very growth mindset outlook: “Staying home encourages me to appreciate newer artists and pieces, especially instrumental pieces. This free time allows for more creativity and lots of playlists. Music makes me feel things during a time where all my emotions have plateaued.” This captures what many of us have tried so hard to understand: comfort with change. In the near future, Cathryn hopes to join Wayne State University’s Marching Band program and take a few seasons in Drum Core. Most importantly, Cathryn says she just wants to “get back in the groove.” Don’t we all? 

At the end of the interview, I asked Cathryn if there was anything else she wanted me to specifically include in the interview. I anticipated she would share some words of wisdom or include a fun fact about herself, but that is not what she did. She humbly said: “There is no such thing as “bad music.” Making a song is hard and anyone who puts their time and effort into it, deserves credit and recognition. You can have preferences, but there is no such thing as bad music.” This rings true to the several years I have known Cathryn as a musician, she is not only a good one, but she is a virtuous one. 

Khushi Patel is a member of the CCC Editorial Team

Dance in the Covid World

by Khushi Patel

Amidst a pandemic, most Americans can agree that their day-to-day schedule has been altered in some way. Most events are postponed and some remarkable days have even been cancelled. Last week, I had the pleasure and opportunity to interview Phillip “Phil” Simmons, an Eastern Michigan University dance teacher, performer, actor, dancer, and many more established roles. I asked Phil a series of questions that relate to how his dance profession has become altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As talented as he is, COVID-19 did not stop him from finding unique ways to continue his passion for teaching dance. 

The only way that I was able to understand Simmons’ talent was by first asking him how he developed his passion and interest for dance. Simmons spent 15 years in New York City as a working actor, where he specialized in Musical Theatre. Since there was not an MFA in Musical Theatre, he decided to take dance classes to earn a degree while getting an MFA in Acting. During his schooling experience, he also was a former dance captain in numerous Broadway touring productions. Hearing his background story made me ponder where or not Simmons along with many other dancers across the world would be able to experience the same impact dance has on some. Simmons describes what dance means to him by confidently saying: “Dance is a way to tell a story and a way to physically express your personality or the character that you’re playing; the same way you could do with a monologue or a song.” This depicts how connected many different realms of the fine arts and entertainment are uniquely intertwined. 

During a time where most people are feeling unmotivated and exhausted from the work around them, I asked Simmons what he did to ensure that his students did not feel this way. Simmons excitedly expressed how he uses words of encouragement to empower his students to never give up and continue putting in the hard work. Simmons also shared a personal sentiment about what COVID-19 has taught him. First of all, he definitely went through the technology learning curve that he now feels better equipped to deal with. Simmons says “I am able to now critique my own alignment and technique” because on Zoom, he has to record himself. As most of us can say, COVID-19 has revealed unique things about ourselves. 

As our world is forever changed and continuously changing, we must remind ourselves that this too shall pass and we can still find safe ways to do the things we once enjoyed. Phil Simmons’ story and his care for his students is evident through this interview. Dance is not just an activity, it’s a passion. 

Khushi Patel is a member of the CCC Editorial Team

Mental Health in a Pandemic

By Nikita Bhangu

Mental health is a multifaceted concept that I have seen be approached in a diverse set of ways such as talk therapy, aromatherapy, journaling, etc. My mental health relies on either walking/running outside or visiting my temple and I have found that by using these outlets, I can physically get out of an environment that may be causing me stress or anxiousness like my school desk and go somewhere else that allows me to focus my thoughts elsewhere. I believe that having some type of separation between where you work and play can have positive effects on your mental health, although I also understand that this is not a luxury that every person can benefit from. So to combat this I have seen members of my community take up activities such as:

  • outdoor exercise
  • mindfulness meditation
  • talking  on the phone with loved ones about stressors or life events more frequently
  • building a daily routine that incorporates their hobbies or interests and adequate sleep and nutrition
  • simple distractions like solving a puzzle or reading a book

Building an awareness of when you feel overwhelmed and finding one or two outlets to combat it is a beneficial skill to learn now and can be used for the rest of your life as you encounter different situations.

Nikita Bhangu is a senior at Michigan State University majoring in neuroscience. Her interests include running, volunteering, and reading books. She aspires to be a primary care physician who will care for underserved communities while also being present outside of the clinical room to raise awareness about critical social disparities affecting her underserved community.

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by Nikita Bhangu

The most significant way COVID-19 has impacted me was by changing my traditional education setting and structure. Like most students in Michigan and the rest of the country, my learning experience was confined to a computer screen, and the structure of the classes became less engaging than before. Throughout one class period during a typical academic year, I would have interacted with my teacher through lectures and lively conversations and debate with my peers during group work and study sessions. Now, the majority of dialogue is one-way through pre-recorded lectures or virtual lecture times where I see all my peers as black screens. I do not think it is an overstatement that the social implications of this pandemic were felt and are still being felt by every single person, and it is particularly felt in the removal of the classroom environment for me. However, since I have the platform to do so now, I would like to stress the purpose of why this seemingly 180-degree turn of our lives happened, which is for the sake of putting the public health of our fellow students, family, friends, and neighbors first. Although many students’ educational experience has gone through withdrawals of some of its most chief elements, students have also gained skills such as a new degree of responsibility, resilience, creativity, and compassion. As young adults, we have lived through a time that has tested us mentally and educationally, but luckily not wholly to the pandemic’s avail.


by Khushi Patel

I cannot speak on behalf of the Black community, but I can continue to spread awareness about what is happening. The Black community needs everyone’s help right now during this time. The murder of George Floyd was the tipping point to hundreds of years of injustice and inequality that Black people face every day. Every day. The explicit discrimination that has embodied America for hundreds of years needs to come to an end. It cannot come to an end if everyone is butting heads against each other. We all have one common goal, and that is equity for all.

My social media pages are flooded with links attached on how to donate and sign petitions. I see negative comments like: “Get over it already” and “None of you cared up until now.” This fuels me with rage. Some are tired of seeing and hearing the same things over and over again, but imagine experiencing these things that you hear and see. That is much more exhausting. This is a time where the people need to be united, which is what the goal was supposed to be in the first place. Instead, America became a country where there is extreme division. This isn’t because of politics or culture. This is because we have systems in place that continue to discriminate and racially profile Black Americans. Our criminal justice system continues the oppression by perpetrating the racism that has existed for hundreds of years.

If you are posting on social media simply because it is a “trendy” topic, stop. Be an ally instead. Reach out to your Black friends, donate money, sign petitions, call state legislatures demanding justice, write letters, attend protests, make phone callsーthe list continues. Do something that is going to help bring justice to the community. During this time it is not enough to be not racist, it is time to be anti-racist. Help bring justice to the Black community that you have profited and benefited off of.

Below I will be attaching three links to numerous pages on books about how to be anti-racist, educational materials that teach you about the Black community, petitions, and donation links. These are not all the resources out there, but these were two that I found during my search to be the most helpful. However, there are many more resources out there that compile more information. We need change in this world. Let’s help ignite it.

Entry 1: “Dear Covid 19” by Khushi Patel

Dear COVID-19,

As I write this letter, I look outside my window and see no one, no commotion, no fighting. I see plain empty motel rooms and shiny windows. I can hear the morning birds chirp when I crack open my bedroom window just a little. I find myself baffled at the thought that I no longer wake up to noisy streets, or customers fighting early in the morning. This feeling is strange to me; it may be normal to some that live in a typical neighborhood, but for me it felt odd. Now questions rapidly flood through my mind every day: Is this peace? Is this solitude? Living and working at a local motel can feel unusually comfortable at times because I am never alone. Customers flow in and out of the hotel office connected to my home. I’ve always been surrounded by people, but at the expense of my privacy; if it wasn’t my parents or my brother, I had the last resort of the old woman that lives in room #19. I feel perplexed. It became an uncomfortable feeling because my environment became completely different. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? One underlying question continues to devour my mind: Is it okay if I sit down without the constant demands I’ve experienced in the past sixteen years to read a book, or should I be making phone calls to local politicians and legislators demanding that we do more?

Being able to sit down and write for a school blog feels like a guilty pleasure. I have the ability to make phone calls, to make connections in our school district, to reach out to those who can help, but writing this feels more meaningful to me instead. I wasn’t able to champion a project like this when school was in session. I wasn’t able to shut down the motel and have the chance to go for a stroll outside without the fear of customers glancing at me, so maybe you did something good. I suddenly have more leisure time to read, write, play games, and spend more time with family. I am able to have more time to do things that I enjoy. I realize I took the leisure activities for granted when school was in session, and always prioritized my academics. Now, you, Covid-19, made me see what life has to offer beyond schooling. A sense of freedom from my daily responsibility made my decision to sit down and read a book the clear, obvious option.

The world is learning to adapt to its new life, just like I am. The first week was challenging,
trying to get used to the new routine and balance that everyone in the world had to create for ourselves. It all felt like a dream when I entered the doors of my local supermarket, and saw people ravaging through shelves and fighting over the last gallon of milk. The initial shock of the first week was daunting, but now as week four is closely approaching the world has learned to better cope with itself from the hardship that you’ve caused.

Suddenly instead of worrying about the outside world, and all the commotion about politics,
economics, entertainment etc., the people are worrying about themselves. They are spending more time discovering who they are as individuals. Prior to this epidemic, people were deeply invested in the lives of others, such as celebrities and social media influencers. I am also guilty of dedicating more time to the lives of others than my own. I was interested in whether or not Sanders was surging in polls rather than worrying about my deteriorating mental health from our school shutdown. Now, people have the time to sit down and write about how they are feeling. People feel vulnerable and are trying to make sense of themselves because of you. Having the opportunity to write this helps me authentically express myself, and not be restricted by boundaries, such as school and work that takes up much of our time.

This experience has become a catalyst for people finding the best version of themselves. I thank you for giving us this opportunity to search for our unique identity. You have helped me discover who I am outside of my academic accomplishments. The best thing we can do collectively is to stay at home to keep those who are risking their lives, safe. During this quarantine, take some time to reflect your true self. This experience will continue to change who I am.

Yours truly, Khushi Patel