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  • Student Blogger: Balancing Work and Play

    By Bentic Sebastian

    Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”

    Thomas Merton

    College life has sometimes been tough for me. At times, I frequently spent a large fraction of my time struggling to focus on my assignments and readings. In high school, after a tiring day in class, I would come back home, sit down at my upright piano, and play my favorite songs. Looking back, when I felt frustrated or stuck, I would use that negative energy to create new music at the piano. Things changed in college.

    At college, I couldn’t find a way to to play the piano regularly, because the opportunity to find an unoccupied piano was limited. There was a piano or two in the student halls, but I was always wary of playing so loudly that other residents would feel irritated. I couldn’t play anything I wanted, and I felt less inclined to make mistakes while I was playing with people in the room. As a result, I couldn’t truly enjoy my piano sessions. But my desire to make music continued within me.

    I heard about acappella when I was invited to attend an acapella show in college. I watched a South Asian acappella group called Illini Awaaz perform at the Illini Union. I was intrigued by how a group of singers could perform a  complete song without using any musical instruments. I was also amazed that students about my age had succeeded in creating a masterpiece. I wanted to meet and get to know some accapella singers.

    And that opportunity presented itself when my friend told me that he was auditioning for a prominent accapella team. I decided to try out, even I never really considered myself especially gifted at singing. I had to prepare a 30 second rendition of my favorite song, and that was pretty much all they asked for. I went over to the the venue of the auditions with my friend. When it was my turn, he wished me the best of luck as I entered the room. I found myself in front of some sophomores, juniors, and seniors. I introduced myself, and in turn each member told me their name, their year, and their major. They were very friendly, and gave me time to relax before they asked me some musical questions, asked me to identify and sing back some notes, and finally perform my song. As I left the room, I remember feeling fulfilled because I finally got to meet the people who performed accapella music. Although I did not get selected for the group that year,  I felt that I didn’t lose anything by trying out.

    The next semester, I decided to try once again! After college,it would be quite difficult to pursue my passion of music, so I didn’t want to let the opportunity pass by me here . Illini Awaaz, the acapella team that introduced me to this type of music, was holding auditions. I decided to give it a shot!

    Illini Awaaz had a similiar routine. I prepared my favorite song, and hoped for the best. I walked in, and saw two of the singers that I had seen during the show. They tested my range, my sensitivity to pitch, and finally recorded my rendition of a song. That night, the president called me up and said that the members wanted me to join the team! I had a good night’s rest that night, because I felt satisfied that I had succeeded in my pursuit!

    Before I accepted the offer the next morning, I wondered whether I would be able to balance the six hour practise sessions with my 16 credit hour course load. I decided to try it out for a few weeks, and if I didn’t have a problem I would continue with it. A practise session was about two to three hours long, with about three five-minute breaks. Our group were working towards being selected by a national accapella competition. Although it was intense at times, I enjoyed the company of the team members. They were just like me; accapella was a way for them to escape from the hectic college work, and enjoy being with like-minded individuals who shared a love for music. It was special for me to contribute my voice to an amalgamation of other beautiful voices, to create harmonious and cohesive music!

    The fun part of being in an acapella team was definitely performances! We performed at several venues around the university, and it was exciting to be on stage, and see people enjoying our music! That semester, our hard work paid off as we got selected to be one of nine accapella teams to participate in our first national accapella competition in California!

    This hobby forced me to live a disciplined life, since it took six hours away from the 168 hours I had every week. Accapella, in my opinion, only helped me to do better in college. The practise sessions revived my positive energy, and left me more clear-minded. I learned to make the most of every minute, by planning my study times to have shorter and more fruitful study sessions.

    I think that it was indeed possible for me to balance my workload with pursuing my passions at university. In fact, pursuing music made me enjoy my college experience, which had a very positive impact on my academic performance too. No matter what I do in the future, my experience as part of an acapella team will continue to form one of the best memories of my life!