How Musical Theatre Shaped Who I Am

I started theatre at the age of nine and continued with it until the age of 18. I always felt happiest up on stage in front of an audience. Theatre forced me to become comfortable in front of large amounts of people very early on which boosted my confidence more than I ever knew.

I never really had dreams of being on Broadway, my goal for each show was to do my personal best. I love going back and watching old DVD’s because my stage presence gets significantly better every show. Theatre is an amazing way to boost self confidence because the audience gives so much reassurance about what you are doing. It is not easy as a nine-year-old to remember choreography, song lyrics, and lines, but I have seen so many young kids perfect their performance in the end. It’s impossible to tell what you’re capable of before your first performance but once you leave it all on the stage you feel an instant wave of relief and accomplishment.

The Spring after my freshman year of high school I was nominated for EMACT’S (Eastern Massachusetts Association of Community Theatres) Best Young Actress award which was a high point of my theatre career. It was for my role as the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. The nomination came as quite a surprise to me and I felt elated to attend the award gala and see many other talented actors. 13-year-old Hannah did not exactly feel at place in a room surrounded by much older actors  who had been performing longer than I had been alive. Looking around me and realizing that I was being recognized side by side with so many other amazing people made me hold my head up a little higher and smile a little brighter. Although I did not win the award, being recognized for doing what you love is always an achievement in itself. The nomination showed me that what I was doing was meaningful not only to myself, but to others. I had always felt a little different being a theatre kid and never getting involved with sports so this source of validation made a big difference in my social development in high school.

Through the Easton Children’s Theatre I was able to perform for nine years as well as become an assistant director for about five years. I helped out with two musicals during the year and over the summer I was a counselor for a four week camp that resulted in a completed musical. This opportunity allowed me to choreograph many shows and help young actors between the ages of 9 and 15 sharpen their acting skills and gain confidence on stage. It is amazing how much a young actor can change between their audition and opening night. The amount of joy I feel watching a completed show has brought me to tears multiple times because I feel so much pride in the actors. I wouldn’t trade my theatre experience for anything in the world and I would do anything to relive every show I directed one more time.

Flash forward to my senior year of high school, I knew that my theatre career was coming to a close. My major was declared at Emerson and I wasn’t too sad about my final curtain call at my high school musical. Theatre was the right choice for me throughout high school and I did not regret any of the late night choreography sessions or stressful dress rehearsals. To all of the theatre kids out there, you are making the best decision by sticking with it and performing on a stage. You will carry the skills and confidence with you for the rest of your life and it will bring you many, many opportunities (theatre related or not) in the future.

Because of musical theatre, I am now able to speak in front of crowds, hold myself with poise, and watch young actors grow  with my guidance. When I start to reminisce on my theatre experience I miss it more and more. There is absolutely nothing else like live theatre which makes the feeling irreplaceable in my heart. I hope one day I will step foot on a stage because I really do still hear it calling my name.

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Being a Non-Music-Major Pianist

I’ve been playing music for as long as I can remember. My childhood was more so a series of staffs, black notes and complex finger patterns than it was words or steps. I learned music as a third language (after English and Tamil), and it brought me a type of simultaneous joy and frustration that nothing else in the world brings me. It’s the fire that lights my every move.

I was 5 years old was when my parents drove me to my first piano lesson. I’d be lying if I said I remembered it like it was yesterday because I don’t recall it at all. I prefer it that way; it wasn’t some huge moment in my life. Instead, it was just what was meant to happen, simple as that. I’ve had 3 piano teachers in my life, each one growing in difficulty and sternness as I, too, grew. Although I don’t remember these first few piano lessons, I will never forget that rush when I’d struggle through a piece and make it through without a single false note. That rush started in my belly and glowed all the way up my esophagus. It was a pride like none other.

After those many years of youth piano books, I finally got into the good stuff. Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, and, my favorite of all, Tchaikovsky. I wasn’t anywhere near being a perfect pianist. Every piece I learned was tough, and I suffered through misplaced fingers, misread notes and misunderstood key signatures. I was so beyond frustrated. All I wanted was to be a piano maestro, taking one look at a page and playing it as fluently as I can speak a passage of the English language. All my friends were playing pop music in their lessons, and I craved the ease of Adele’s chords under my fingertips. I lost sight of the treasure that was classical piano.

What had always discouraged me from being the best pianist I could be was the fact that I knew deep down I didn’t need to be, even if I wanted to. I wasn’t planning on majoring or minoring in any music-related fields. Music was my past and present, but it was sadly not my future. So the hours when I should’ve been practicing my concertos and sonatas, I was instead grabbing iced coffee with my best friends, scribbling out my Calculus homework or researching about and applying to colleges. I had lost my innate passion for music and, rather, treated it like an annoying chore. I instead focused my energies on playing simple chords to my favorite radio songs and singing along to them with my friends. I spent most of my high school career partaking in open mic nights and talent shows, always accompanying myself and my friends on those trusty keys.

It had been a long time since I had played my classical pieces, and I mean really play them. I quit piano lessons by the end of my senior year of high school, preparing for the inevitable move to Boston. My beautiful, rich piano books began collecting dust in the corner of my living room at home, aching for their pages to be turned and set up against the piano stand. But I was a Marketing Communications major, now, and I had no business playing piano.

It was a few weeks ago when I came home for a weekend and went over to my living room (a.k.a. The music room). I play piano often when I come home, but typically Ingrid Michaelson or Ed Sheeran sheet music that I pull up on my laptop. This time, however, I picked up my favorite piano book, Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons. It’s a collection of twelve pieces for every month of the year. I set open the book to January: At The Fireside and began stumbling through the notes. That rush from my belly to my esophagus returned instantaneously. I felt alive.

The point is that music should never have a life sentence. Music lessons are not for children and young adults, until they frolic away to college. Music is not just for the Music majors. There is something so soothing and electrifying about really playing music and forcing yourself through those tricky pieces. I feel the best musician when my eyes glaze over staring at the measures of black notes, sharps, and flats and when I have to keep restarting a measure. It’s when I am the most determined, confident, and focused. It has shaped every aspect of my life, making me a more attuned person. Even though I am no professional maestro, I know I am still a pianist.

Songs To Add To Your Summer Playlist

Whether you’re cruising down the highway with your windows down, relaxing on the beach with your friends, going on wild adventures or just chilling in your room, a summer playlist is always a must. The radio is a good fallback but what about when you’re not in the car (or when you get tired of hearing the same few songs over and over again?) I recommend that for the moments when you don’t want to leave the soundtrack of your summer up to chance, you add these songs to your playlist:

Replica – The xx
Genre: Indie

After years of hiatus, The xx’s I See You marked their highly anticipated return to music. I’ll be the first to admit my unpopular opinion, which is that I couldn’t seem to fall in love with this album as much as everybody else. This song stood out to me, though, and will definitely be my first choice for a chill song.

Drive (Los Angeles) – Lolawolf
Genre: Electronic

The first time I heard this song was in the movie 6 Years (which made me ugly cry way more than I’d want to admit.) But, after separating my (probably over the top) emotions from this soundtrack, I realized I needed to hear it again. What I like most about it is that you can sit back and relax to this song without falling asleep, making it the perfect late night driving song.

Don’t Leave ft. MØ – Snakehips
Genre: Electropop

Last year, Snakehips gave us “All My Friends” featuring Tinashe and Chance the Rapper. Now, the duo is blessing us again with “Don’t Leave.” Basically, this song is a foolproof way of bringing the life to any party and MØ’s voice is no joke.

In Cold Blood – Alt-J
Genre: Alternative

Few people are more excited about Alt-J’s upcoming album RELAXER than me. This will be their first album release since 2014, and I’ve been patiently waiting. “In Cold Blood” is just one of the few singles they’ve released early, and it definitely will help pass the time until the June release.

Glazin’ – Jacuzzi Boys
Genre: Indie

When this song came up on my Spotify Discover playlist a few weeks ago, I knew I had heard it somewhere (I was guessing it was in one of the ~cool movies I had watched recently). After scouring the internet, I realized that I had actually heard it in an episode 90210. Take that as you will. But regardless of how you feel about early 2000s teen dramas, definitely give this song a chance this summer.

Cut Your Bangs – Radiator Hospital
Genre: Rock

I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve jammed out to this song with my sister in the car. It’s short, sweet, and to the point with catchy lyrics and an even catchier guitar riff. This song was released in 2014 and still hasn’t gotten old, so that probably means it never will. It’s officially time for everyone to jump on the bandwagon and add this song to their summer playlists.

I’m The One ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, & Chance the Rapper – DJ Khaled
Genre: Hip Hop

Okay, I know I said I’m tired of Top 40, but just let me have this one. “I’m The One” is an infectious mix of different voices and sounds, and even the biggest hipster has to admit it’s the song of the summer.

BTS at the Billboards

Was I screaming in joy Sunday night when K-Pop group BTS won their first American Award at the Billboard Music Awards? Yes. Yes I was. Loud enough to frighten my dog actually. Not only was this a major win for BTS but this marks the first time a K-Pop group has even been nominated for anything at the Billboards.

So here are some basics on the new K-Pop sensation; there are seven members, Jin, Yoongi, J-Hope, Rap Monster, Jimin, V and Jungkook. They’ve been active since 2013 in BigHit Entertainment, one of the smaller and lesser known music companies in South Korea. BTS’ widespread fame really picked up within the past year with songs like “Fire,” “Blood, Sweat & Tears” and “Not Today”. While their lyrics are stunning, their music videos are equally impressive.

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Challenging the Literary Canon

After years of being assigned books to read for school, have you ever wondered why the same authors find their way onto every English teacher’s syllabus? I can still remember most of the books I was assigned in high school, throughout my years of Honors and AP English classes. As a freshman, I can recall reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. My sophomore English syllabus emphasized Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Victor Hugo. Junior year was my AP Language course, which consisted primarily of analyzing speeches from great men of times past, such as John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.

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Adventures in Creating New & Differentiated Identities

We all know that every company in existence has a certain brand – a look, a message, a name, a logo which are components of the brand’s identity. However, brands can go even further than companies: almost every music artist has created their own specific brand identity that coincides with their musical identity.

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Is Music Therapeutic?

Are you happy? If you are, find a song that will reflect all of those positive emotions. For me, my song choice would be Shut Up and Dance by WALK THE MOON.

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Surviving Festival Season: Concerts, Tours and All

You’ve waited for months, ever since you saw the lineup and qued up your computer in class to be the first to buy tickets. Congratulations, you’ve finally made it! The summer concert season is in full swing.

A huge gathering of artists sharing their craft for appreciative audiences, what is more beautiful than that? Reaching for your wallet to purchase that CD or band tee to find it missing from bag, is that beautiful too?

Here are some tips and tricks to surviving the concerts and tours with more than you showed up with.

  1. The Perfect Bag

I wish I could tell you all to wear a fanny pack with little locks on them, but even I refuse to do that. I know all of my belongings would be safer, but my pride would be ruined. There’s a certain appearance for each concert and festival one tries to create and attain and we’re not going to just ruin that for fanny packs.

People argue constantly on which is better, a purse or a backpack? When in all reality, if you choose wisely and use smartly, both are very effective and safe.

The first rule in choosing a bag: nothing open. I know you can get things easily, but so can others. Secondly, nothing loose. If your backpack is longer than your back, you’re not going to feel anything going on back there. The same goes for purses, tight straps across your body or smothered into your side. It’s like being your own doorman to your gear, you’ll know exactly who is going in and out of the realm of your possessions. And third and lastly to conquering your safety bag when swaying with hundreds of others to the beat, never keep your wallet easily accessible. At the bottom of your bag is best. If it’s not easy for you, it won’t be easy for anyone else. It’s not like you can’t get it, but you’re being smart about it.

  1. What to Bring?

Let’s think about this for a moment, truly consider the situations and scenarios you most definitely will be faced with and the one’s that could potentially happen. You’re going to get thirsty, fact. You’re going to want money, fact. It will be loud and bright, fact. So a bottle of water is needed, your wallet without a doubt, some ibuprofen would be smart, and sunglasses as well.

You could fall or spend the concert being kicked by overly-enthusiastic audience members so a small first aid kit with cleansing wipes and band-aids is smart. Did you check the forecast the day before? Is rain in your future or wind or shine? Plan accordingly.

The two final things to remember, make sure you have room for basic items you’ll also have to carry around as well. This includes house keys, car keys, back-up phone chargers and some memory cards. And under it all, you should find your wallet.

  1. What to Wear

I understand there is a fashion of tours and concerts, but weather is still a factor. Especially if it’s all day long, if you’re standing, and outside in the sun all day and night. Light and comfortable is best, even better if worn right from the start. If not, have options available. Wearing heels on grass for 8 hours isn’t practical, I don’t care what Sex & The City says. You start out in heels; you better bring flats with you.

Layers are great for winter, during testing seasons and for summer as well. Light layers, like a bandeau, a tank top and sweater are recommended. When it’s scorching and you’re boiling, you’re set until the wind comes flying your way and even then you’re set.

Make-up however, I know you don’t want to go out without it, it’s such a perfect photo opportunity, but if you’re smart, you shouldn’t have a problem. Wearing light coverage concealer, loose powder and sure long lasting products on your eyes will be best. Make sure not to touch your face often, especially if you’re sweating. Otherwise instead of being miraculous with the band, you could be smeared or breaking out from the sweaty make-up being re-absorbed into your pores. And even if all of that didn’t persuade you, how about the fact that the less you wear on your face, the easier it will be to breathe and, as a result, keep yourself cool.

Now go out and enjoy the music!

Beating the Rainy-Day Blues

Waking up to the serene pitter-patter of rainfall on the window, or the somehow even more calming deep rumbles of a powerful storm can make it difficult to get up for the day ahead. So we stay in bed for 5 more minutes, checking Instagram or Facebook, until it turns into a whole day of movies and snacking (which isn’t always a bad thing.) For some, the rain might be what gets you going, but if not – when there are errands, and emails, and the to-do list is beginning to run into your line of vision, there needs to be a way to dump the rainy-day blues.

Listen to Music

One of the most motivating factors I’ve found to help in any situation is music. Music is a versatile force, and there’s a track for any feeling, mood, purpose or function. It’s easy to be tempted to let Bon Iver’s peaceful sound set the mood for the day. What a day like this needs is a completely energy-packed playlist. A playlist that’ll make you want to get up and dance, or sing your heart out is what’ll get the day moving, even if you do have to cool it down later in order to focus.

Get Motivated

A lot of the challenge is getting yourself into the mental state of working. In order to be productive it’s important to truly want the outcome that each task is working towards. Give yourself a reason to get up and be productive, instead of playing candy crush for three hours. Think about the brownie points you’ll score with your boss if you get that bit of extra work done. Envision yourself in a Nike commercial, running, lifting, and doing your best work. Feel yourself getting smarter before you even start studying for that big test. Anytime you feel as if you could stay for just a few more minutes in your comfy bed, think about how pleasant it will be when you’re creating your best self.

Remain Healthy

Of course a lot of the struggle is being physically prepared for the day as well. If you haven’t gotten yourself a good night’s sleep, and a belly full of nutrients, then it’ll be a little harder to pull the covers off. So always make sure that you’re taking care of your body above all else! You need it healthy to be successful, and nothing should come before that.

Be Physically Engaged

Physical engagement at the beginning of the day can also help to get your brain in focus! That doesn’t mean you have to drag yourself to the gym and run a 5k before you start your day. Simple getting up and stretching out, maybe doing a bit of yoga, or some quick push ups could be wildly beneficial to your physical and mental well-being. You’ll not only feel energized, but proud of yourself for actually going through with it. If you do decide to go a little harder and work up a sweat, a shower will also help you get mentally prepared for the day ahead!

So throw on pump-up tunes, do some jumping jacks, and envision the outcome! If all else fails, our good ol’ friend coffee will be there to pick you right up.

12 Not-to-Be-Missed Music Remixes

In honor of our “Remix Issue” launching in just a couple of weeks, our co editor-in-chief, Marlo Jappen, shares her top 12 favorite music remixes! 

Releasing a cover takes guts. It sets the artist up for comparisons, criticism and the oft-repeated phrase: “Nothing beats the original.” But, music hits us all in different ways and remixes capture that. In anticipation of Atlas’ “Remix Issue, ” I rounded up 12 of my favorites.

1) Kiesza, “What is Love?” (Haddaway)

Kiesza’s powerful vocals give the song a sense of depth and emotion that’s lacking from the bland 90s original.

 2) The Weekend, “Drunk in Love”(Beyoncé)

Queen Bey should never be covered.  The Weekend, however, proves you should never say “never.”

3) A Day to Remember, “Over My Head” (The Fray)

What happens when a metal band covers The Fray? Excellence.  Pure, head banging excellence.

4) The White Stripes, “Jolene” (Dolly Parton)

Jack White’s passionate, haunting rendition lends a rock-and-rock edge to the country anthem.

5) Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee” (Kris Kristofferson)

A few days before her death, Joplin recorded this single and it became her only one to hit number 1. Her raw talent is on full display here, but I can’t help but wonder how she only topped the charts once.

 6) Lorde, “Don’t Tell ‘Em” (Jeremih)

I can’t listen to this song just once. Lorde’s hypnotic singing—and awkward dance moves— will lure you into pressing “Replay.”

 7) Yo Preston and Kelly Kiara “Love Yourself” (Justin Bieber)

I hate to admit it, but I’ve jammed to Bieber’s version. But, Preston and Kiara’s take is unique because it shows how there are two sides to every story. Bonus: You can listen to it in public without being judged.

 8) Johnny Cash, “Hurt” (Nine Inch Nails)

I was under the impression that this was a Cash original. If that’s not a sign of an effective cover, I don’t know what is.

 9) Bayside, “Movin’ Out” (Billy Joel)

Both artists hail from New York and they won’t let you forget it. That’s about the only similarity this punky garage band shares with legend Billy Joel.

 10) JoJo, “Marvin’s Room” (Drake)

“Marvin’s Room” reminds us how music is an ongoing conversation. Whatever happened to JoJo? She’s releasing her latest album, “Mad Love,” sometime this year. In the meantime, I revisit her oldies-but-still-goodies.

11) Keri Hilson,”Turn My Swag On” (Soulja Boy)

Hilson’s killer confidence stands out in this empowering song. Her version brings a touch of girl power that makes it her own.

12) Blake Shelton, “Footloose,” (Kenny Loggins)

“Country” is the yellow Starburst of the music world. So many people are adamant about disliking it, which is why it fosters a vibrant, tight-knit community. When a country artist breaks the wall by covering a mainstream song—even if it’s a tune from a delightfully cheesy 80s flick— the result is distinct and memorable.