A Good Time for a Road Trip

Richard Paige — Teachers always say they’ll go to the ends of the earth for their students. Oscar Santos did just that for one of his.

Santos, a 10th-grade geometry teacher, volunteered to drive Jonathan Alcala the roughly 1,200 miles from Pharr, Texas, to the Wabash campus to make sure that Alcala could attend today’s Top 10 Visit Day.

Alcala wasn’t sure he’d be able to make the trip due to some issues with his visa, but those cleared up Friday afternoon, a little too late to purchase a plane ticket, so Santos stepped up.

“It was kind of a last minute thing,” said Santos. “He found out Friday afternoon that he could make it, so he needed someone to drive him. I said ‘sure, I’ll do it.’ I knew it was important to him.”

Oscar Santos covered 1,200 miles in 22 hours to deliver a student to Top 10 Visit Day.

Santos, a first-year teacher and former social worker, is the coach of the math club of which Alcala is a member, and he freely admits that he didn’t know Alcala all that well. That changed dramatically over the previous 22 hours.

“I got to know him really well on this trip,” Santos laughed. “He’s a great kid.”

They pulled out of the Rio Grande Valley at 9:30 p.m. CST and arrived in Crawfordsville just after 8 p.m. Sunday. Aside from the two speeding tickets he received in Texas – “I was worried about getting him here on time,” he said – there were a number of stops including a few cat naps along the way.

It was the first trip to Indiana for both driver and passenger.

All in all, it’s been a memorable experience.  “I never imagined I’d have that kind of road trip where you do the whole trip in one day,” Santos explained. I didn’t think I could do it, but it was a good experience.”

Like any high school senior making his college choice, Alcala had his own share of questions and reservations during the trip north. Santos did his best to allay those fears.

“We live in a very small town in the Rio Grande Valley,” he explained. “It’s a different culture. I warned him about some of the things he might see and emphasized not to get frightened by the snow or the cultural differences.

“I don’t know quite how he feels about campus and things because I haven’t talked to him yet,” Santos said after the alumni panels, “but I loved the presentations this morning.”

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The Big World of James Makubuya

James Makubuya performing on the ndingidi at Carnegie Hall.
Photo by Shay Atkinson ’05

Wabash folks on campus know James Makubuya as an associate professor of music and artistic director of WAMIDAN, the College’s world music ensemble.

But long before he arrived at Wabash he was an internationally known world music performer—”world” writ large—and that reputation has only increased during his tenure here.

A musicologist who makes frequent trips back to his native Uganda to do fieldwork, James has studied with master musicians from various East African musical traditions. Though the endongo (bowl lyre) is his primary musical instrument, he is also proficient on the adungu (harp), akogo (thumb piano), ndingidi (tube fiddle), madinda (log xylophone), and in various East African dance drum styles. He has performed nationally and internationally with the New York-based African Troubadours, the Kayaga of Africa and the Kiyira Ensemble, and he has arranged traditional music for the Kronos Quartet, with which he performed in concert on the endongo.

Before coming to the U.S. he was the artistic director of CACEMCHO, Uganda’s 150-voice national choir, which he led in several successful international tours, including a concert and mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Makubuya performed on the soundtrack to the movie Mississippi Masala and several television movies and documentaries, and he has released three CDs, including The Uganda Tropical Beat I, Taata Wange and Watik, Watik: Music from Uganda.

But his most recent collaboration may be the most interesting. In 2005 he recorded Wu Man and Friends with Wu Man, the premier virtuoso on the pipa, a Chinese lute-like instrument with a 2,000-year history. His playing, singing and compositions were highlights of the CD. Joining them were masters the Appalachian-style five-string banjo and the Ukrainian bandura, and the mix was so compelling and successful that the group continues to perform from time to time.

James tries to keep a low-profile on the Wabash campus about these international collaborations and accomplishments, but you’ll have a chance to enjoy his mastery of these instruments this Friday in Salter Hall during the 7:30 concert at Wally Tunes: A Symposium on Music and the Liberal Arts.  His extraordinary skills and the joy he experiences and expresses are not to be missed.

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“The Most Lyrical Guitarist”

Amos Garrett ’64

Can you name the Wabash alumnus who is one of the world’s most influential electric guitarists and has recorded with more than 150 artists, including Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, and Jerry Garcia?

Who has won two Juno Awards, the Canadian version of the Grammys?

Whose one-take guitar break on Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis” (the solo Stevie Wonder calls  “the second best recorded solo of any instrument”) made that song a hit?

That’s Amos Garrett ’64.

We couldn’t convince him to attend the Wally Tunes Symposium February 21 (extensive damage to his home on Alberta’s High River during one of the worst floods in Canadian history is keeping him close to home), but his original song “Bert’s Boogie” is one of the tracks on the commemorative CD we’ll be giving away to those attending the symposium.

Page Stephens ’65, who helped found the Wabash Folksong Club—which brought to campus some of the leading folk and guitar acts of the 1960s, including the powerful Delta blues man Son House and folk music legend Doc Watson—calls Garrett his guitar hero.

In a story in the Summer 2002 issue of Wabash Magazine, Page recalls the first time he heard Garrett play: “Amos and I were both Kappa Sigs, and the first time I heard him play his guitar—an old Goya flat top which he probably has forgotten he ever owned—I learned that there was much more to playing the guitar than I ever realized.”

A writer for Scene Magazine wrote in 2002 that “the reason that Garrett’s name floats along the periphery of pop music instead of the front lines is because Garrett eschewed mainstream rock to make consistently interesting music.” That sounds like a Wabash man.

Guitar Player calls Garrett “one of the most lyrical and original guitarists playing today.”

You can hear Amos’s music all over the Web, but start with his site at Stony Plain Records. And here’s a youtube link to “Midnight at the Oasis” and that famous instrumental bridge. Amos’s solo starts at about 1:21 in.

Wally Tunes: Music and the Liberal Arts is February 21 in the Fine Arts Center.

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Wabash Pulse: Winter Olympics

Richard Paige — Just because the Winter Olympics are a half a world away in Sochi doesn’t mean that the glow of the Olympic flame can’t be felt here on our campus.

Most of the North American viewing audience may have to brush up on the differences between skeleton and luge, pairs and dance, and the confluence that gives us the Nordic combined. Bonus points will also be awarded for knowing the difference between classic and free technique.

I took a very brief Wabash pulse on these Games to see what interests these Little Giants about the XXII Olympic Winter Games.

Location matters in the Olympics, as nothing casts a longer shadow as the vibe displayed by a host city. Looking back at the host cities in the last 20 years, the most mentioned hosts were Vancouver (2010) and Lillehammer (1994).

It’s interesting to see the weight that Lillehammer’s well-earned reputation for delivering a transcendent Games resonates with a group that, at best, were mere toddlers two decades ago.

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games opened Friday, Feb. 7, at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia.

When it comes to favorite sports, the answers ran the gamut, as skiing (“the body control they have is insane”), hockey (“I’m from Wisconsin where hockey is huge”), figure skating (“it’s very interesting because of the precision”, ski jumping (“they defy gravity while effortlessly flying through the air”), and superpipe (“all the biggest stars are there”) all received mentions.

Prompted for a favorite athlete or moment, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” trumped individuals like Bode Miller, Peter Forsberg, and Apolo Anton Ohno, and my anticipated winner Shaun White.

While the Miracle on Ice still might be the greatest upset in sporting history, the geopolitical implications still bubble up. When explaining why it’s so memorable, Ben Cook ’14 said, “I love capitalism and freedom.”

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Bonham ’80 and the Hoosier Blues

Gordon Bonham ’80

Steve Charles—In 1995 I’d been working at Wabash only for a few months when I was startled to see a name in the alumni directory: Amos Garrett ’64. Canada’s master of the Telecaster, whose groundbreaking solo on Maria Muldaur’s “Midnight at the Oasis” made that song a hit in 1974, was a Wabash man?

Later that year I interviewed Larry Bennett, the Grammy-nominated tenor the College hired to rebuild the music department. In 2000, James Makubuya arrived, making Wabash the only College in the country where you could learn to play East African instruments from a virtuoso who had performed in Carnegie Hall.

A year later we featured a story about Gordon Bonham ’80—a biology/philosophy major, student of Bill Placher ’70, and one of the top blues players in the country. And these days we’re writing about Nashville singer-songwriter Dan Couch ’89, whose songs co-written with Kip Moore were #1 Country Hits in 2012 and 2013.

You get the idea: Wabash may be a small College, but our musicians are Little Giants.

This year on February 21, the Wabash campus will host Wally Tunes: Music and the Liberal Arts, the 5th Annual Alumni/Faculty and Staff Symposium. As a gift for those attending and participating in the event, 13 Wabash musicians generously contributed tracks to Scarlet Hues, a commemorative CD (a limited run of 250) that Wabash Media Services Specialist Adam Bowen is producing.

With the event less than two weeks away, I’d like to tell you a little each day about the musicians on the CD, and Gordon Bonham is a great person to start with. Not only is his work included on Scarlet Hues, but he’ll be presenting and performing at the symposium.

Gordon brings together a mix of blues styles from the Mississippi Delta to the back alleys of Chicago, from big Texas shuffles to jumpin’ West Coast swing. He performed with the legendary Pinetop Perkins at the grand opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has opened for such greats as John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and B.B. King. In 2011 he released his most recent CD, Soon in the Morning, featuring original tracks performed by some of the region’s leading blues musicians.

Lately he has been accompanying former Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf in a series of poetry and blues performances. In 2011 he released his most recent CD, Soon in the Morning, (check out “Get Back, Jezebel”) featuring original tracks performed by some of the region’s leading blues musicians. His solo acoustic album, Get Back Home, includes a collection of original country blues and Delta blues played on National steel guitar.

The host of Blues Jam at the Slippery Noodle Inn in Indianapolis, Bonham recently received a grant from the Indiana Arts Council to study and incorporate the five-string banjo into his blues arrangements. He’s traveled the country learning from other banjo players and developing his own style for the blues. He’ll be talking about that (and, we hope, playing some of those 5-string banjo blues—he’s come up with a version of Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man” that brings out the essence of the song in a new/old way) during his presentation at the symposium. He will also be a featured artist during the performances beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Check out his web page and links to his CDs, where you can hear a sampling of his work

And here’s the story Howard Hewitt wrote about Gordon in Wabash Magazine: “Those Good Time, Hard Drivin’, Philosophical Blues.”

Tomorrow: Amos Garrett ’64

 

 

 

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Students Gather for State of Union Discussion

Scott Morrison ’14 – The frigid temperatures did not stop roughly 50 enthusiastic Wabash students from attending a flash discussion on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Tuesday night.

The event co-sponsored by the College Republicans and Democrats as well as the Political Science and Rhetoric Departments, provided students with a unique opportunity to view the address while having a little fun.

Nathan Manning ’14 joins the post-speech discussion.

“I think it’s a great experience,” Derek Andre ’16 said. “I would feel pretty silly if I was clapping while watching sitting in my dorm room by myself, but it’s just good to be able to come and be with your buddies and those who both agree with you and disagree with you on this sort of thing. It was just neat to be able to watch it together to get at each other and also figure out why people think like they do.”

The flash discussion featured two screens for those in attendance. One featured the President’s address, and the other featured a constantly refreshing Twitter feed started by the sponsors with the hashtag #WabashFD.

The Twitter feed was a unique twist to the discussion which had never been used before at such an event. “The great thing obviously by going through Twitter we had some alumni comments,” BKT Assistant Professor of Rhetoric Sara Drury said. “They weren’t here with us, but they were able to be part of the conversation happening on campus which is cool.”

Many of the students in attendance enjoyed the ability to communicate with the world via Twitter as well. “I liked the fact that we had the tweets going at the same time because you had people giving their concerns like ‘well the President really addressed this’ or maybe he addressed foreign policy a little bit more than people thought,” Fabian House ’16 said. “I wasn’t surprised by any means by the speech itself, but I did appreciate the interaction of the people to give me a little bit more information.”

Professor of Art Stephanie Rossi and Chemistry Professor Laura Wysocki joined the evening’s discussion.

Individual political science and rhetoric classes have had flash discussions before, but this was the first time that such an event was College-wide. “I think that there is something to be said for bringing people together to watch and respond to the issues of the day,” Drury said. “I think that event of bringing people together and watching it together and having conversation as it’s happening and afterwards is the beginning. I am confident that those conversations then continue beyond the event. I think that is really the benefit of having it as a central event on campus. That’s part of the reason that those of us in the Political Science and Rhetoric Departments wanted to team up and meet to keep doing these flash discussions for relevant contemporary political events, because it brings people together to talk about the things that are happening in the world around them.”

Overall, the atmosphere of the event was fairly lively. Pounding of desks for approval and hisses of disapproval were common with a bit of occasional laughter at the Twitter feed. See more student reaction below:

“The reason why I came is not only just to watch it in a group of people while live tweeting it, but also the discussion afterwards. It gives you a deeper understanding and more perspectives on the different issues and everything that he was talking about in his speech.” - Carter Adams ’15

“I could have just as easily sat in my room and watched it, but being able to have the environment is a good idea. The State of the Union is a give and take I suppose. It’s not going to be exactly what you want to hear, but it’s also not going to be a total insult. It’s been better than in some years. He seemed to have toned it down a little bit on who he was trying to make upset. There are some things that can be worked on, but there are other things that pretty much are dead on the water. Time will tell.” – Nick Freeman ’15

“The people who stay behind are able to get a lot of insight on what other students have to say especially with the conversation we have. It really allows for a lot of bipartisan consideration and deeper discussion of the issues. There weren’t a whole lot of surprises. Like Dr. Drury said, you can lay a lot of these State of the Union speeches on top of each other and they would make up pretty well. With that being said, there were a couple of surprises that are pretty significant. There were a lot of omissions in certain areas that are highly contentious including the ACA and work force and unemployment rates that misled some Americans, and he didn’t do a great job of providing some of the proper statistics and information that he should have.” –Nate Manning ’14

 

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GM’s Davlin ’85 Talks Pricing with Econ Students

Howard W. Hewitt – Jim Davlin ’85 told a large group of Wabash students Friday that pricing any consumer product has many variables, some obvious and some less so.

Davlin ’85 talking with students after his lecture.

Davlin, a Wabash Economics major, is now General Motors Vice President Finance/Treasure. The Wabash Trustee used the stops of his career to illustrate the differences. Before joining GM, Davlin had worked at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble, Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals, and John Deere.

Even though he is at a corporate level now, he has had “a lot of line development for products.” He used the example of dish soap or laundry detergent to start his talk. The components of cost, competition, are relatively simple, he suggested, but packaging can also have a huge impact with consumer goods.

While at Lilly, he learned pricing of drugs is very different. “The insurance market clouds the cost of health care,” he said. “The raw materials cost very little to make one pill. What’s expensive is all the cost that went into the drug (research) to make it successful. One in 10,000 compounds will be a successful drug.”

The market is fickle. Drugs can greatly aid one healthcare affliction while causing other patients side effects. The customer, Davlin said, must weigh price against result in unique ways no at all like buying dish soap.

Davlin ’85 talking about GM finance.

Davlin’s time at John Deere gave him a new-found respect for agriculture. “Farmers are dramatically underestimated for their financial savvy,” he said. He explained farmers will weigh the benefit and gain of buying new equipment, its impact on harvest, prices, and labor in determining what they will pay for a new tractor.

He jokingly noted that most of the young men probably wanted to hear more about selling Cadillacs than tractors so he used Cadillac’s 2013 introduction of its new ATS as an example. He explained how the company tried to position the vehicle in comparison to a similar BMW.

But the other factor for pricing in the auto industry isn’t just market demand, raw materials cost, and the other components.   Auto manufacturers also must consider how a vehicle price-wise fits in its own lineup.

Students peppered the GM executive with questions for the remainder of the hour. He talked about targeted advertising, GM’s downsizing, and the company’s substantial financial turnaround since 2008.

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