Big, Sweeping Sound
Air Date: November 3, 2020
Nov. 2, 2020
0:00 Samantha McGregor interviews Youth and Children’s Studies student Heather Duff
11:53 Jonnica Hill interviews Digital Media and Journalism student Maeva Lago
18:57 Ethan Mills interviews Game Development and Design student Tilak Vyas
Thank you to Serena Austin, One Market Research Assistant, Melissa Weaver for graphics, and Nicole Morgan for campus promotion. Music by Scott Holmes.
Bruce Gillespie 0:03
Welcome to One Market, keeping the Laurier Brantford community connected. I’m Bruce Gillespie. This week we’re excited to share another bonus episode with you. This is the second in our series of episodes produced by fourth-year students in my Digital Media and Journalism Capstone course. On the show, we hear about how Laurier Students for Literacy has expanded their usual book and homework clubs for local children online. Then, we hear from a third-year Laurier student about what it’s been like not to be able to return home to Ivory Coast, in West Africa, since the beginning of the pandemic. And finally, we hear from a student who’s composing songs about people he meets in Brantford. All that and more coming up on this episode of One Market.
Our first guest is Heather Duff, a fourth-year Youth and Children’s Studies student who is also president of Laurier Students for Literacy. Her group has had to adapt a lot of their usual programming because of the pandemic but they are as active as ever. Before Heather tells us about their plans, DMJ student Samantha McGregor asks her to explain what the group does.
Heather Duff 1:12
Laurier Students for Literacy, or LSFL as we are usually referred to, is a group that’s run through Laurier Brantford in partnership with the Brantford Public Library. It’s comprised of university student volunteers who were very, like, passionate about working with children and promoting literacy. And our goal is to really just provide access to children in the community with some free resources to improve their literacy skills. We offer three different programs. One of them is brand new this year, which is really exciting. The first one is Homework Help, which is a drop in homework help and tutoring program for children in grades, like, two to six, or eight. Basically, we have university volunteers sitting and waiting for students to drop by the Homework Help room, this year is going to be online. And they can just bring any homework that they’re struggling with, and our volunteers can help them get through it. The second program we have is one of our most popular programs, which is called Book Buddies. And it’s basically, like, a one on one reading tutor for children in grades one to six. Our university volunteers have one day a week where they meet for 45 minutes with a student in the community completely free of charge. And they work through reading a book together and doing some literacy based activities. And then finally, our new club this year is Reading Club, which is for those grades six to eight range, because we found that they weren’t given as many opportunities in the program as other students. So, it’s basically like a book club every other week, they join in our call. And we, like, talk about a book that we’re reading all together, do some activities, and it’s kind of to help them get that further understanding of the book.
Samantha McGregor 2:59
I love that, that sounds amazing, and the fact that you’re getting these university students to help these kids is just such a cool program, I think.
Heather Duff 3:07
Thank you. Yeah, I think so too. It’s a program, like, everyone’s very passionate about, which is awesome.
Samantha McGregor 3:13
That’s amazing. And so, how did you first get started in this program?
Heather Duff 3:17
So, I started in this program when I was in my first-year and I’m in my fourth-year now. So, I’ve been involved for quite some time. One of my, like, Dons, actually, she was just like, “Hey, I think you should join this program.” And so, you know, I just sent them an email, I had no idea existed before that. So, I just found out from her. And then, I joined and I was initially on the Homework Help program, and I just loved it. I loved, like, seeing all the kids we had, like, a couple kids that were, like, regulars that would come, like, every single day. So, it was nice to, like, get to know them. I just really became passionate about the program and, like, literacy and learning is something that I’m very passionate about. And I want to be a teacher someday, so this program was just the perfect fit.
Samantha McGregor 4:01
Awesome. And so, you guys alluded to the fact that it is virtual this year. And so, how is the program typically run when it’s done in person?
Heather Duff 4:11
So, in person, we are run out of the Branford Public Library, we’re lucky enough to have, like, a partnership with them. We have our own room at the library that we get to use every day. So, basically, we go to our space, we have a whole cabinet full of, like, learning resources that have been accumulated over the years, and students can just drop in. Our volunteers know that that’s their spot to go, and yeah. The book buddies, they can come in, they can use all the resources that are in the library. So, sometimes they like to just grab a couple books off the shelves, read through those. We provide some, like, worksheets and those kind of resources in our room as well. And then, reading club is brand new this year. So, it’s going to be, the first year is going to be completely online for that one. So, that’s pretty exciting.
Samantha McGregor 4:57
Cool. And so, it sounds like you guys have a really good foundation in person, and so how have you been able to switch that to an online format?
Heather Duff 5:05
At first, we were a little bit, like, “Should we run it? Should we not run it?” But, I think we realized the importance of the program in the community, especially for all the children who have had quite the year at school. So, we’ve created a website, which is something we never had before. And on our website is where parents and students can access the homework help link, which is just a Zoom call that we have set up, and then all of our volunteers can sign into the Zoom call as well, and then be there. We’re really using, like, the whiteboard functions, and all of those, like, annotate and screenshare. Things that are on Zoom, which is some new things that we learned, but I think it works pretty well. And then, for book buddies, it’s just going to be an a one on one Zoom call that the book buddy volunteer has set up. And they just log in at the same time as the child, and then they do reading and activities online. We found a lot of online, like, book resources, which is pretty awesome. Through the library, there are some ebooks that you can, like, borrow, and you can, like, share your screen and have the child read right off the screen, which I think will be helpful. And then, for reading club, we are still using some of those same, like, online resources, which is awesome. It’s really, like, opened up, kind of, who we can access because they don’t actually have to come to the library. We can talk with them in their homes, which is great. And for volunteers that communte I I know that’s been a struggle in the past. So, I think it is going to be pretty beneficial to our program and something that we want to look into offering beyond this year as well.
Samantha McGregor 6:42
Yeah, from everything you said, it sounds almost like this online format is something that can hopefully continue. Do you guys hope that if it all goes well this year, you’ll offer both in person and online support?
Heather Duff 6:55
Yeah, I think that’s something that we should definitely look into, I guess we’ll kind of see, like, how it goes. We have a good amount of kids already signed up for Book Buddies, we just, like, reached out to all the kids that did it in the past. So, they’ve already signed up. I think Book Buddies, the transition will be pretty easy. Homework Help, we are a little bit, like, unsure how it’s gonna work, just because usually kids can come in whenever they please, and we’re trying to maintain that same idea. That they don’t need to register beforehand, because you might have a last minute question that pops up, but at least we have a place for them to go. So, hopefully this is something that, like, works out for us. And then, we can continue offering it, if not, like, half online, or just a few times online each week beyond this.
Samantha McGregor 7:40
What do you think are going to be the biggest challenges in running this online versus in person?
Heather Duff 7:46
That’s a great question, yeah. So, online is very, you lose that, like, personal aspect, which getting to know your child online is something that we’ve never had to do. And that sounds kind of creepy. So, I think our volunteers are going to have to try really hard to be very engaging and planning fun activities, which is something that’s going to be a little bit difficult, but I know that they’ll be able to figure it out. And then, yeah, like I was saying before, Homework Help program, we’re not totally sure how students are going to be, like, sharing their information or how, like, well received it’s going to be on an online platform. And then, I think just, kind of, getting the word out there is a little bit trickier too. We’ve been trying super hard to, like, post in Facebook groups, or emailing, like, all of the schools in Brantford telling them about us, which I guess is something that we really didn’t do before. Because everyone that, like, comes to the library, it’s a place that you go, and you just kind of see, oh, this is happening. But, we don’t have that in the online format. So, we’ve been trying really hard to, like, get the word out there. But, it’s a bit trickier, and people are a little bit more hesitant to do things online, I’m finding. So, I think there’s a few small challenges, but I know be able to overcome them.
Samantha McGregor 9:04
I think you guys will have great success. And you, kind of, mentioned this before that, having it online opens it up to so many other students who might not have access to the library at all times. And so, I think that’s a great part of it as well.
Heather Duff 9:18
Yeah, I think so too. And especially, like, the population is so different. And there’s some people that are living so close and some people that are far and aren’t able to, yeah, get to the library. So, I really think it’s important to be able to offer it, kind of, to a wider audience, which is something we definitely wouldn’t have been able to do if we weren’t online
Samantha McGregor 9:38
Yeah. So, what is the typical task of Laurier students when they join your program?
Heather Duff 9:44
So, the volunteers that are on a shift have to attend their one hour shift each week, we have pretty much all of the resources that they need in the library. Or this year, we have, like, a Google Doc folder that kind of has everything laid out, kind of, the schedule of what they should be doing. Book Buddies is the one that requires a little bit more effort because they have to plan activities that would be beneficial for their child, they have to kind of think about how they want the 45 minutes to go. Homework Help is a little bit more laid back, we kind of let the volunteers work on their own homework until students come. And then, you know, students are coming in and they see our volunteers working on homework, and it’s really encouraging for them. So, they would have to, kind of, sit with the child and go through, we get a lot of like math questions, science questions, they have to go through, kind of, the steps to solving the problem. We have lots of, like, online resources like videos and websites that we can direct them to if they need help, because we don’t expect them to know absolutely everything, especially when those math questions come in.
Samantha McGregor 10:53
That’s awesome. And so, if any students hearing this have become inspired to join, how can they do that?
Heather Duff 11:00
So, the best way to do that would be to contact our email, which is LSFL email@example.com. If they just send us a quick email, we can look at getting them registered for volunteering. We usually send out the link to students, we send it out to a bunch of, like, classes more so, like, those YC and Social Work classes. But, we send that out and you fill in a shift selection form. And then, once we, kind of, know our numbers of students and children registered in the program, then we, kind of like, make matches and let you know your shift after that.
Samantha McGregor 11:36
Amazing. Well, thank you so much, Heather, for talking to me today. I have learned so much, and I even want to join and help now. And so, yeah, thanks for coming today.
Heather Duff 11:47
Oh, thank you so much for having me. I love talking about the program.
Bruce Gillespie 11:51
And our next guest is Maeva Lago, a third-year Digital Media and Journalism student. In this conversation with Jonnica. Hill, she talks about her experience as an international student who hasn’t been able to visit her family in West Africa for the past year
Maeva Lago 12:07
So, when the pandemic first started I lived in res, and as soon as, like, the university closed they asked us to leave residence. So, I had nowhere to go, it was pretty overwhelming, because, like, we got the message on Monday that we have to move out by Wednesday. So, I was like, “Oh, what’s going to happen?” I called my family every day, texting them to figure out what we’re going to do. My family currently lives in West Africa, more precisely, a country called Ivory Coast. But, I was lucky enough a friend of mine was like, “Oh, you can come stay at my place, like until you find somewhere to stay.”
Jonnica Hill 12:46
After all that happened did you continue to try to make plans to go home?
Maeva Lago 12:51
My plane ticket to go back home was scheduled for August 1. So, I thought, “Oh, maybe I’ll be able to go home in August,” because you never know. And as the time got closer, I was like, “Well, doesn’t look like it.” My plane ticket got canceled. And I was talking with my dad, and he was like, “Oh, maybe in September,” because the borders were going to open in September, he was like, “You can come.” I was like, “That would be a little hard,” knowing that, like, school was online. And if I had in person classes with the time difference, that wouldn’t be the best thing to do. So, it’s like, I haven’t spent Christmas with them since I moved here. So, two years ago. Maybe I can come and spend Christmas, because it’s been a while since we spent Christmas together.
Jonnica Hill 13:35
I think for you and for, really, everyone during this, everything has just seemed so unsure. And it’s really hard to make plans around that, or know what’s going to happen. Was that something that was kind of stressing you out a lot? Or, how are you, kind of, feeling about not knowing for sure what was going to happen?
Maeva Lago 13:56
Not as stressed as I thought I would be, because I went, I talked about it with my dad, we were like, “If it can’t happen, then we will do September.” So, we kind of had a solution on the side. So, I wasn’t as stressed as I thought I would be.
Jonnica Hill 14:10
Yeah, for sure. I think the fact that you’re able to talk to them still and all that is probably helping you a lot. But, I’m wondering, overall, what has sort of been your biggest impact from all of this, and from not being able to go home?
Maeva Lago 14:24
I think it was because all of my friends and roommate were going home, I guess. And it’s like, “Oh, I’m not going home.” I knew I was going to go home, like, at that time. And everyone’s like, going to see their family and, like, I would like to do that too. Like, not being able to see them as much as I would like even though I’ve messaged them every day, and try to call them at least once a week, talk with them, FaceTime them if I can. It’s not the same obviously.
Jonnica Hill 14:53
Were there things you were doing throughout the summer that were helping you to not feel as upset about not being able to go home?
Maeva Lago 15:01
Last summer, I went back home, and that was nice because obviously the first year, kind of, changed me. Like, living alone and stuff like that changes what kind of person you are because you have to take care of things you didn’t have to do when you were at home. When I was leaving, my dad was like, “Oh, you’re going to stay in Canada a little longer next summer, so you can, like, work.” Because it’s easier to find a job here than it is to do back home, so I stayed here. I worked most of the summers from June until even now. And also, I am very lucky to have very good friends. And I have this one friend who would come almost once every week for the summer, with her family, to hang out with me. She slept over, sometimes I slept over at her house with her family. And we hung out a lot. So, I guess that helped me a lot to, like, work, and seeing my friends, or talking with them.
Jonnica Hill 15:57
So, I’m wondering what it’s been like for your family back in Ivory Coast during the pandemic?
Maeva Lago 16:03
I think it started kind of like us, but a little bit later. Like, they were not in quarantine until, like, I think a week or two after us. And then, the border closed. From what I know, my siblings and cousins finished school online, like, some of my cousin’s did online. And my little brother, he did from a distance. Because they don’t have the resources to do them online. Now, I know that they go to school, but not every day, and not for as long as they usually do. And I know my dad is not working. He’s working from home now. Like, he’s been working from home since March, and he hasn’t gone back to the office. And it’s mainly, like, the same, like, wear mask everywhere you go. And I know that in Togo, where my mom comes from, so I have family there. They had a curfew for a while, it was 7pm, I think, the curfew.
Jonnica Hill 17:05
So, I guess looking forward to the possibility of getting to go home, how are you feeling about that?
Maeva Lago 17:12
Two things, I’m excited because I haven’t seen my family in a while, and I miss the food too. And like, having a home cooked meal, and like, being with other people, it’s very nice. But also, I’m a little anxious because the cases have been rising, like, here in Ontario. And there’s, like, more and more regulation. So, I’m scared that I’m not going to be able to come back when I go home. Even though, like, I like being with my family, I think being with them for a long time would be very stressful, especially if I have classes and stuff like that. So, it’s, like, a mix of like, being excited to see them, and, kind of, being anxious because we really, like, we love each other. But like, sometimes it’s a lot to be with them for like a long time.
Jonnica Hill 17:55
Yeah, for sure. I think, you know, obviously you’re missing them right now. But also, I think a lot of people are kind of struggling with that having to be with their families all the time now, at home. I guess I’m just wondering, what do you, kind of, do to stay on top of the situation, both here and there, and kind of prepare for when you will be able to go home?
Maeva Lago 18:16
I think it’s just observing what’s happening day by day. Like, what the government is saying here. Because I think, and also because when I travel, I stop in France. And what’s happening in France too, because their cases are rising too. So, if they go into another lockdown then I can’t travel there either. So, it’s just, and if I can go home well, I can’t really do anything about it. So, obviously I’ll be sad, but I don’t think it’ll be too mad because well, there’s other occasions to go, and if I can, because school is online, so I would be able to go earlier for the summer and things like that.
Bruce Gillespie 18:55
Our final guest is Tilak Vyas. Tilak is a second-year Game Design and Development student. But, in his spare time, he’s a composer. As he tells DMJ student, Ethan Mills, he’s at work on a project called the Sounds of Brantford, which takes its inspiration from the sounds of the city and the people he’s met here. Here’s their conversation.
Tilak Vyas 19:14
Right, so originally, it started kind of as a pet project where I had my friends fill out a survey, and I would try my best to write a piece of music that would relate to them in some way. So, whether it’d be, like, fast and energetic for individuals who were, like, very extroverted and very involved, or whether it was slow and subtle for some of those more introverted and more, kind of, closed off. And over a couple of months and some time, as I started working on these pieces and really worked towards refining my project, I kind of fell in love with the idea of expanding it to include as many people as possible who live in the town of Brantford. Just because I thought that’d be a cool, kind of, reflection of what it feels like to be in town and to study at the school.
Ethan Mills 19:59
I’m curious, the process of creation, you say that you take people’s own, kind of, backgrounds and interests and their personalities, and turn that into sound? What does the process look like of creating sound out of something like an idea?
Tilak Vyas 20:18
Honestly, it’s one of those things that makes music so interesting is there’s no right way to answer that question. It’s, kind of, I’ll sit down and I’ll think about what that person either means to me, if we have a personal form of relationship, or I think about what they’ve put into the survey. So, whether it’s their favorite movie, what does that movie mean? What is, like, the core value or message of that movie. I think about what their favorite song is, and what the emotion of that song is, whether it’s, kind of, happy, or whether it’s sad and melancholic. I, kind of, want to dissect what that person means at their core. And then, what I do is I try to find a melody, or a tune, or a pattern that resembles that core. So, I did one for one of my good friends, Mackenzie. And for her she’s a very, kind of, high octane, very exciting person. So, I wanted her energetic melody and the the essence of that piece to resemble that with this sweeping brass slide, heavy percussion, to represent that she’s this big and, kind of, larger than life person.
Ethan Mills 21:27
Do you ever take what the person sounds like into consideration when creating a piece for them?
Tilak Vyas 21:34
To a degree. What I want this, kind of, project to resemble is, I wanted to represent the choices people make, and the choices they’ve made to make them the people they are. Because, to me, it’s very easy to record yourself and hear yourself back and know that that’s what you sound like, right? But, I want it to be like, if you were a piece of music, what would that music be? Regardless of whether you can hear yourself in it or not? And by that, I mean, it’s kind of this expression of who are you as a person? Not, what type of person are you?
Ethan Mills 22:10
For the listeners, is this all instrumental? Is this vocal? Is it a mixture of the two? Or, kind of, what processes do you use to create this music?
Tilak Vyas 22:21
So, I have my background in classical music, so I was classically trained. I took music all through high school, I took music all through elementary school, I was in as many bands as possible, I took composition as a class outside of school privately. So, that’s kind of where my background lies. However, I never really, kind of, fell in love with the classical sound. It just, it really didn’t speak to me as much as it spoke to a lot of my teachers. So, I tried my best to blend that into something that could, kind of, get behind more, which was what nowadays is referred to as cinematic music, or a lot of people see it as like, trailer music or the music in like, video games and movies. And it’s generally characterized by this like, big, sweeping sound and like, really wide dynamic ranges. And sometimes it’ll be just instrumental if that’s what I feel like complements the idea of the most. I really love working with a female voice, I think it’s just, there’s no other instrument that could replicate the intimate acuity of human voice. So, I try my absolute best to incorporate that as much as possible. But, I’m not the greatest choir composer. So, sometimes I don’t do it the justice I have in my head. So, to answer the question more directly, it really depends on what I feel like at the time, I’ve written rock music, I’ve written pop music. My general inclination is towards writing these really like, intimate vocal pieces that don’t necessarily have words, but are just emotional in their core.
Ethan Mills 23:52
In your, kind of, everyday life, do you hear music, and concepts and thoughts around music when you’re just out and about?
Tilak Vyas 24:02
Whenever I think about art, and this is really strange, and whenever I like, try to explain my process to people, they think it’s a very strange quote to call. But, I think of Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. And there’s this one scene in the third movie where he’s like, “The world’s the same, there’s just less in it.” And to me, the artist is someone who can see the world as being the same, but having so much more, so much that’s untapped. And for me that takes the form of music, for some people it takes a form of like, painting and drawing and being able to sketch a line that no one’s seen. Currently, I’m sitting in my bedroom, in a cottage in Thunder Bay, and looking out onto Lake Superior and it’s not that I see like, treble clefs like, bouncing across the waves. But, I look at that and I think, what would that, what was that feeling for me? What does that feel like for me? And what do I want others to feel when they look at this, or when they when they imagine this view? I like to feel and sound. I like to, kind of, hear my feelings. And so, writing a piece of music that represents the view, that represents what’s in the world, or represents these places that don’t exist, but should, or I want to believe they do.
Ethan Mills 25:13
What does the future hold for you? And where can people follow your progress and find some of your music?
Tilak Vyas 25:21
So, as of right now, I’m not quite sure what to expect, because I’m studying game design, and I’m definitely in love with my program. And I definitely find like, creating games and interactive experiences to be the primary course of my future. However, I don’t want to let go of my compositional, kind of, background. I really want to pursue it to some degree. So, I’m really not sure if I’ll ever release like, a standalone single or an EP, or something like that. As of right now, I’m putting all of that, kind of, that want to create music into by Sounds of Brantford project, which as soon as I release will be my first, kind of, publicly accessible work. It’s going to be the piece that I want to, kind of, debut with, essentially. Before now I’ve worked only privately, so I’ve, kind of, been on commission, or I’ve sold pieces to use in like, YouTube videos like. So, I’m excited for this to be kind of the way that people can get to know my music and get to know what the types of things I like to create.
Ethan Mills 26:21
Thank you so much, Tilak. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to speak to me.
Bruce Gillespie 26:29
And that’s a wrap. Thanks for joining us. We hope it’s helped you feel a little more connected to the Laurier Brantford community. If you liked what you heard, tell your friends and colleagues. You can subscribe on Apple, Google, Stitcher, or wherever you find your podcasts. Worried about missing an episode? Sign up for our newsletter. You can find a link on Twitter and Facebook @onemarketlb. One Market was created and produced by Bruce Gillespie and Tarah Brookfield. Special thanks to this week’s guest hosts Samantha McGregor, Jonnica Hill, and Ethan Mills. Our music is by Scott Holmes, graphics by Melissa Weaver. Our research assistant and intern is Serena Austin. Thanks for listening. Keep in touch.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai