While going through my files . . .
November 8, 2003
Dear Graduate Advising,
I have been coming to Hunter College since 1994. My current GPA is 3.857; by the end of this semester I will have accumulated 144 credits and I am expecting to graduate. I hope that THEA 161 will count toward my “Humanities and the Arts” credits as I was told it would two years ago. I would be dismayed if I could not graduate because I did not fulfill my “Humanities and the Arts” credits.
If my education at Hunter is not enough to prove that I have a well-rounded background in Humanities and the Arts, I hope to show that my life experience would more than fill the requirement.
First, I was classically trained to play the flute for six years. I played in school orchestras, first flute first chair, until 10th grade. I also play hammered dulcimer, guitar, Native American flute, and various percussion instruments. For the past seventeen years I have been songwriting and performing as a vocalist in bands that play in clubs and festivals in NYC and the East Coast. I have trained with vocal coaches Don Lawrence, Donna Jewel, and Ann Rutgert.
Over the years, I have made several recordings and have had my work released on various compilation CD’s put out by record companies throughout the world. For many of these recordings, I made the artwork and designed the covers myself. I prepared and sent press releases to the media and have had my work played on radio and reviewed in magazines. For the majority of the time that I have played music, recorded and promoted my work, I have been in college and maintaining a very high GPA.
I also have an extensive knowledge of rock-n-roll, blues, country and folk music. I have studied the music, its history and its important figures such as Hank Williams, Pete Seeger, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell. I learned about the music by listening, seeing live performances, watching films of various artists, reading books about artist’s lives and about the different movements they were involved in, and by trial and error in my own performances.
By being a performing musician, I have learned about and have at least a basic understanding of and appreciation for MUSIC, THEATER and MEDIA.
I have also been actively involved in taking part in Lakota ceremonies since 1991. I am part Cherokee and Blackfeet and have found that information in colleges about Native American history is slim. (However, I have taken some courses here at Hunter College that included Native American stories and history. The classes were enjoyable and informative; I am glad to see that more courses are being offered here every year). I have read dozens of books on Native history and biographies as well as fiction and poetry by Native writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Mamaday, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and John Trudell; but the real learning has come from ritual and talking with Native people.
I have learned and am learning the Lakota language, which is sung and spoken in ceremonies, and also by Lakota elders. I have gone to Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota to do ceremony with elders. I have learned more about life on a reservation by living there and talking to people who live there. I have learned about politics on the reservation, poverty on the reservation, the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), how outsiders view Indians on the reservations, and how some of the people view themselves. I have learned and have respect for the philosophy of honoring the earth and all the things that live on it. I continue to learn and am grateful for my experiences, even painful ones. Many of the elders who were willing to talk to outsiders are passing away. I am grateful to have learned from them.
From an academic point of view, I have a basic understanding and education in Lakota culture, RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY, LANGUAGE and a SOCIOLOGICAL perspective on the Native presence in America.
Lastly, in 1996, I trained to be a yoga instructor at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Woodbourne, New York. I took the fall semester off from Hunter to train. I had already been practicing yoga for four years. My training included 120 hours of asana practice and teaching technique, 30 hours of Vedic philosophy, 30 hours of physiology, 30 hours of chanting in Sanskrit, 30 hours of Bhagavad-Gita study, 60 hours of meditation and 60 hours of singing. I lived on an ashram and trained every day, as well as watched performances and participated in rituals with Hindu priests. Trainees were also required to do homework, write papers and take a final exam.
I had firsthand experience of life on an ashram, as well as an immersion in ashram and Vedic PHILOSOPHIES, an exposure to eastern MUSIC and Sanskrit LANGUAGE.
I have worked long and hard to get my degree from Hunter College. I have over-tallied by 24 credits. I love to learn and I love school, but now, I need to work at a steady job. I can no longer live on a piece meal income; being in school is plunging me deeper into debt. I simply cannot afford to go to school anymore. I have put in the work; I deserve my diploma.