University is mainly seen as a fount of academic and professional growth. However, some also see it as a vibrant space for artistic exploration and expression. In the spirit of amplifying the latter point of view, we bring you “The Student Artist Perspective (SAP):” a series of interviews with student artists here at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Here’s the breakdown: each individual receives four questions pertaining to their perceptions and experience of being a student artist, and the conversation flows freely from there.
This week’s SAP stems from English junior and music minor Olivia Andrade, the lead singer of local Indie alt-rock band 7blu, who spoke about how time commitments, artistic passion and an affinity for Billy Joel’s “Vienna” characterize her experience as a student artist.
Q: How do you view your identities as a student and an artist (or a student-artist, if you will) at Cal Poly?
A: Well, I think I view myself as a student and an artist as independent aspects of my identity. I don’t really think of myself as a student artist — I think of myself as a student who is an artist or an artist who is a student.
Although I am in the music program through my music minor, I am not really involved in a lot of that kind of stuff. At the academic setting, my band did do some ASI events, but we recently haven’t done too many. And I feel like our best and most successful gigs are outside of the student sphere.
Our success is greater in more professional settings for that, for a band — like a bar, or a brewery, or even in the back of somebody’s house where we can get paid and we can spread our name, spread our message and our music.
Q: What is the relationship between your college lifestyle (i.e. academic pursuits, social activities) and your creative process as an artist?
A: Well, I would say both my major and my minor facilitate creativity in such a great way. I am a creative writing emphasis in my English major and I love writing. I love writing music and writing prose and poetry, and I am just so in love with creating and I’m so grateful that I get to go to school to create.
I guess in that sense there is a connection between being a student and being a musician. But I think that all just weaves into my existence as a human and not necessarily what I would label myself as.
In school, I am constantly doing creative things, constantly making things. I’m constantly putting my emotions down on paper, expressing myself in ways that I would like to do as a career. Ways in which I would like to do it, you know what I mean?
I have always dreamed of being a lyricist, actually. I want to write music. I want to be a part of the constructive process of making even little things. I would be totally happy making a jingle for some company. I just want to be in the creative field of some sort.
I definitely would be interested in being a storyboard artist or a composer for anything. I just know that I want to create for the rest of my life. There’s a reason why I’m not a STEM major, even though there’s a ton of money in it. I want to do what I love.[Creation is] one of the things in my life that brings me the most joy, and I love it so deeply. I tell stories of what I love and what I do to people, and I feel like nine times out of ten, they’ll respond with: “Wow, you seem like you love them so much.” And I do.
We were just talking in class — it’s like the erotic feeling as if the world stops. And you’re just so overwhelmed by emotion. And that is how I feel when I am on stage. That is how I feel when I am creating music, when I am singing, when I am playing an instrument, when I am listening to other people create and perform those creations. That is why I am alive. That is just the meaning of life to me.
Q: What are the single-most frustrating and rewarding aspects of pursuing art in this time and place in your life here at Cal Poly?
A: Time. It’s definitely time. It’s a lot of work to make music and be in a band, and I think some people wouldn’t think of how much work it is to organize an entire house show. First of all, there are usually multiple bands to connect the bands with each other, with the people that are at the house, with figuring out how much money we’re going to spend, how much money we’re going to charge, what we’re going to sell, where we’re going to set things up, what time we’re going to do it, what would be the best day to throw it. It’s a lot of getting together, and there’s just a lot of who’s bringing what equipment, what equipment are we going to bring, what do we need to leave home? It’s a very laborious process. There’s also this set list, like what are we going to play? Practicing on top of everything.
It’s so worth it. But it is a lot of work, and it does take a lot of time. That’s not even to mention composing our music and our songs and learning everything and singing it — but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. And on top of being a student, it is difficult. We’re all full-time students, my band members and I. Some of us have jobs and internships and things to stay on top of.
Q: POV: You’re a music professor, and you’re assigning your students a meaningful project or song to listen to. Make your case.
A: If I was a professor, I’d be like “‘Vienna’ by Billy Joel” or “‘Imagine’ by John Lennon.” Those are some of my favorite songs. It’s the lyrics. For me, the chord changes are incredible, especially in “Imagine,” but “slow down you crazy child” just says so much.
The message of the song is you’ve got to do everything that you can to make your life worthwhile. (Singing) it goes like “But you know, that when the truth is told, that you can get what you want or you can just get old.” So profound.
Then “Imagine” — Imagine all the people living in peace. Imagine a world that is not full of hate, that is not full of prejudice. Just sit down and just imagine that.
Music means things; music can tell you things that other forms of art can’t. Music can make you feel feelings differently — lyrics on paper are not going to give you the same feeling as the music itself.
It is an experience that’s worth analyzing. And I think if we are in school going to look at poems and we’re going to look at novels and we’re going to analyze paintings in our classes, we need to look at music. It is such an important aspect of our lives. It has been for millions of years. And there’s a reason why it’s still so alive and vibrant today and it’s so worth your time.