Blog post provided by Jay Weinberg
Photo credits to Ryan Russell & Allison Skiff
As I enter the final weeks of my sixth semester at Stevens, I’ve been thinking about the past several years, and how important they’ve been – academically, professionally, and personally. Since 2008, I’ve been working on a list of extracurricular activities that require a lot of attention outside of the classroom. School has always been an important part of my life, and, through my experiences at Stevens, it has helped me focus on these interests that are far removed from my studies.
I fell in love with music at an early age. It has always been my strongest passion. I began playing drums when I was 14 years old, and quickly developed an interest in the collaborative process of creating and performing. From the personal expression, to the then-fantastical concept of touring, I was infatuated with everything that the music world had to offer.
When I was 17, I began taking classes at Stevens. A few months into my first semester, I began performing on a much larger scale than I was used to, with Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band. I went straight from playing once-a-month local punk rock shows (which I still love), to playing several shows a week, across the United States and Europe. It was a serious shock, to interrupt a comfortable routine of taking courses and establishing
relationships with classmates, in such a dramatic way. Still, I knew it was the right thing for me to do.
However, I did not want to drop out of school entirely. It was just getting exciting, I was meeting new people, and I was enjoying my classes – I didn’t want to just stop because I had this opportunity. I asked my professors and deans if there were ways to make my touring schedule coexist with my academic obligations. Instead of giving me binary “either attend class and receive credit, or don’t” options, they wanted to work with me, to find ways of doing both. At that moment, I knew that Stevens was a unique place – a school that truly understood my passion for music, and dedication to my studies. They expressed genuine interest in allowing me to make the most of this period of my life. It probably didn’t hurt that I was touring with a band that was bigger than something I had started in my garage.
Ever since, I’ve spent the majority of my time away from campus, playing music. Whether it was with one group or another, I’ve kept a steady schedule of almost constant touring, for the past four years. With the exception of one semester during which I took a break (since I knew I’d be touring overseas for a few months), I’ve been writing essays, submitting homework, reading Wall Street Journals (hopefully Dr. Calhoun is reading this), and taking exams from a van or bus on the road.
I tell people about my experiences at Stevens quite often. In the groups with which I typically travel, it’s uncommon to find people that are in the same boat – taking classes, and playing in full-time bands. You come across it once in a while, but, on a whole, it’s unusual. I’ve always enjoyed the juxtaposition of a supposed “normal” school life against an “abnormal” touring life. I enjoy learning lessons in classrooms, but I also love receiving the education that one can only get by traveling with bands. How else would I know where my favorite coffee shop in Trier, Germany is? Or that eggs in Australia are called “bum nuts?” Or that Rancid is really good at wiffle ball? OK, there are far better examples of things that I’ve learned on the road, but as I’ve heard from Henry Rollins, “books are cool, but knowledge without mileage doesn’t mean anything.” To me, it’s so important to combine what I’ve learned in school with what I learn on tour. I believe that the best things one can walk away from school with aren’t specific lectures, or how to balance chemistry equations, but the thought processes he or she collects during that period of time.
Stevens’ professors teach these to their students, in spades. That’s one of my favorite things about this school. They don’t preach lectures and build walls between themselves and their pupils, but rather encourage undergraduates to think outside the box, and to approach solving problems in unconventional ways. These thought processes train students to find solutions that aren’t right under their noses. With faculty members who are completely open to conversation, Stevens has created an environment that thrives off of collaboration. How can that not positively affect one’s post-college work life? I’ve found that, no matter where you want to end up, Stevens will help you find the tools to create the life that you want. We can all be winners, guys!
Balancing my schoolwork with my interests in the arts has not come easy. But, with the help of the Stevens community, my professors, and especially Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Ann Murphy, I’ve been able to seamlessly integrate everything I’ve ever wanted to do into one project. And, my case is just one of many. I’m confident that Stevens is the only institution that could dedicate so much to help one student pursue his or her dreams. No one gets lost in the shuffle, and it’s truly inspiring.
Jay Weinberg is a Stevens Undergraduate student, a visual artist, and currently plays drums in rock band Against Me!
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