Today we feature Austin Kurbansade, a sophomore Vocal Music Education major from Roxbury Township, NJ (Morris County). He is an on-campus resident and is involved in the National Association of Music Education, American Choral Directors Association and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. He tells us today about his student experience and how connected he has felt at Rowan.
Tell us about one club, organization or group of friends that make you feel like Rowan is home.
The group of people that has made me feel the most at home here at Rowan is our Concert Choir. Under the direction of Dr. Christopher Thomas, this group is like one big family who love to make music together. I have a very serious passion for singing choral music, and it quickly became clear to me that everyone else in Concert Choir does as well. In just my first couple weeks with this ensemble, I was introduced to so many kind and caring people. I felt so welcomed into the group and I really felt like I belonged. No matter how hard some of my other classes may be, I can always look forward to making beautiful music with these people.
Singing in choir is my perfect escape from all the stressful and difficult things going on in my life. When I’m with Concert Choir, I forget about all the negative things in life. It brings me so much joy to be able to have fun, smile and laugh while making excellent choral music with these people. While our collective home has moved from room 153 in Wilson Hall to a giant tent outside the building due to COVID-19, I will always emotionally feel at home with this amazing group of singers, no matter where we are physically.
Could you share a moment you’ve experienced in which you have felt that Rowan is a welcoming environment for you?
All students who study music at Rowan take a class called “Student Recitals.” For this class there’s a “departmental recital” held once a month in Boyd Recital Hall. This is a recital in which students across the whole music department perform pieces from their repertoire, whether it be a solo, duet, or group number, and the whole music department attends the recital! Every week that a departmental recital is not held, the vocal music majors have our own little “divisional,” in which the vocal division meets in Wilson Hall room 153 and students get a chance to perform a piece from their solo repertoire.
In my first few weeks I was given a taste of what this was like as I watched so many talented people perform music that they had been learning and working on, and it was amazing to see every student give such loud praise to the performer once they had finished their song. About a month after school started, I got up and performed for the first time in front of everyone in the vocal division. Although I was nervous, I was also excited and felt happy with my performance. I felt even happier when I was immediately welcomed with applause and cheers.
It was the first moment where I had felt such an overwhelming feeling of support and welcoming from my fellow vocal students here at Rowan, and from that point on I was even more thrilled to be studying alongside these wonderful people.
What’s your favorite thing about one typical day at Rowan for you?
My favorite thing about a typical day at Rowan is the fact that you never know which one of your friends or classmates you’ll run into while grabbing some food or going somewhere to study. You may be heading to the Student Center thinking you’ll be eating Jersey Mike’s alone before class, but then you see one of your pals and you have an unexpected little hangout with someone, which personally makes that part of my day a little nicer and more fun than it most likely would have been.
You might also think you’re about to have a boring study session by yourself in one of the lounging and/or study areas in one of the academic buildings, until you are greeted by a friendly face and now have an unexpected study buddy! Walking around or doing simple everyday activities on campus can turn out into a much more fun event than you had planned for.
What is one thing about Rowan that was a happy surprise for you?
After only visiting Rowan about three times before attending the university, I did not exactly know my way around campus, and I barely even remembered what the campus and community even looked like. I was so pleasantly surprised right away at Rowan with how much I enjoyed the beautiful campus. This made my long walks to Wilson Hall for my 8 a.m. Music Theory class much nicer.
I think one of the most beautiful parts of Rowan’s community lies directly off campus: Rowan Boulevard. Having this street truly makes me feel like Rowan is its own little town where I can have a perfect day filled with walking around with my friends, having some delicious food from Chickie and Pete’s, buying something fun at the Barnes and Noble bookstore, having a picnic or playing some frisbee on the beautiful grass near the Glassblower Statue, and grabbing some Cookie Munchers for dessert on the way back. This one little street makes me so happy and can often be the perfect place to spend your whole afternoon!
Describe for us an experience you’ve shared with a professor or staff member in which you felt like they truly cared about your wellbeing.
Dr. Christopher Thomas, conductor of Rowan’s Concert Choir, has always shown how much he cares about his students. He makes it very clear that he values the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of each and every one of us. He never fails to make me feel like my emotional and mental health matters. I will never forget how many times in just my first semester here that he asked us, “How are your hearts today?” Dr. Thomas always takes time before we begin rehearsing to talk to us and ask us how we are feeling. Our mental health and overall happiness is so much more important to him than our skill level or the work we do as musicians.
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Story and photos by:
Stephanie Batista, sophomore music industry major