‘Fun’ classes aren’t always fun — and that’s great
The modern college student is almost expected to take some wacky classes during their college career. From Exploration of the Solar System to Beginning Sculpture to Scuba, there is something for practically every student who wants to pick up some skills that they might never use in their career but will have a great time learning. After all, that’s what fun classes are for.
This semester, I registered for THEA 309, Musical Theater Studio. As a lifelong lover of theater, it seemed like the perfect fun class to take before I graduated. I knew I wasn’t a great singer, but I had danced and acted on stage plenty before, and I figured that this wouldn’t be much different.
Boy, was I wrong. The first thing we learned was how to listen for the details and style in vocal performances. Sitting in class listening to recordings of Broadway starlets, rock icons and opera prima donnas belting at the tops of their ranges, I realized that I had never really considered the colossal amount of dedication and practice professional singers put into their craft. As the professor explained the details of how the vocal anatomy flexes and shifts to create different sounds, I shuddered at the impossibility of training muscles I hadn’t even known existed. When the class sang our first warm ups, my ears burnt at the sound of every crackle and out-of-tune note that came out of my mouth. Singing even decently felt like an unattainable ambition. For the first time in my life, I was paralyzed by stage fright.
Just like that, my “just for fun” course turned into the most stressful thing on my calendar. I cried before, during or after nearly every class. The only thing that kept me from dropping it during that first month was the unconditional support of my professor and my classmates — not to mention the knowledge that I would probably never again get the opportunity to study under a teacher as incredible as Jack Beetle.
As Rice students, we hold ourselves to high expectations. We strive to be good at everything we do. But by definition, any time we take a class in a new field, we have to start out again at a beginner’s level. Every introductory class, whether it is in literature, science, arts or sports, is a small window into a subject to which people dedicate their entire lives. Of course it’s going to be challenging sometimes!
As we head into spring course registration, I encourage you to adopt a new mindset toward these classes. Go in with the expectation that you’ll be, at best, mediocre. Slap on a pass/fail designation and revel in the freedom of being a complete noob at something. Take advantage of the world-class professors we have here at Rice, and be willing to both work hard and, more importantly, fail in front of them. At the end of the day, give yourself credit for the emotional work it takes to be okay with sucking at something.
So where am I now with musical theater? Well, I am still not a good singer by anyone’s standards. But I’m learning. I finally understand my own voice well enough to be able to apply the professor’s feedback. Even more importantly, I know the skills I would have to practice to continue improving after the class ends. And last week, I stood in front of the class and sang “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana — a song I previously would have dismissed as completely outside my vocal range — with not a single tear shed.
More from The Rice Thresher
Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.
This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.
In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.