The SENSES project offers SU students an outlet to produce music, podcasts

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Gustavo Eumana always knew he wanted to get into music. A graduate of Syracuse University, Eumana has an ear for rhythms and musical compositions, but has never had access to production equipment.

“I hadn’t done it before, because I didn’t have the equipment,” Eumana said, “I would just be in my room or like…on the train or something listening to music. I was typing just my fingers on my (knee) and I was trying to listen to the beat – I would pretty much try to deconstruct the song in my head.

Since getting involved in the SENSES project, which stands for Studying an environment that nurtures self-exploration in students, Eumana has been able to produce his own rhythms, and others too. The SENSES Project, housed in SU’s Office of Support Services, is an initiative dedicated to providing students who are part of SU’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) and Student Support Services (SSS) with a access to high-quality equipment and lessons for music production. and podcasting.

“It’s nice to just be able to come here and do what I love to do,” said Caleb Aguirre-Leon, a freshman at SU. “I love making music and being able to not have to… be aware of every single thing you’re doing. Because here, it’s as if I could make mistakes.

The SENSES project space has dedicated facilities for students to produce, perform and mix music as well as a separate office for podcasting. Students are free to use the audio lab equipment during SENSES opening hours on Mondays 1-5pm, Thursdays 4-5pm and Fridays 12-5pm.

Nick Piato, a graduate student in music education and teaching assistant for the SENSES project, occupied the audio laboratory at this time. Piato focuses on integrating student interests in modern music into the work he does in the audio lab.

“It’s less of a classroom environment… (and) more open lab hours,” Piato said. “It’s more of project-based learning. So I’m just here to love and facilitate the technology and help guide those goals, but it’s often pretty hands-off.

The project places great importance on the modernization of music education, encouraging students to create works that they are proud of and that interest them. Eumana likes to use samples to create R&B-inspired beats, while Aguirre-Leon prefers to use his guitar to create lo-fi tunes. .

For the two students, the Audio Lab served as a space for unbridled creativity, which Eumana took advantage of to create an EP. Aguirre-Leon has already released a Track on the SoundCloud of the SENSES project.

SoundCloud also hosts another SENSES-based project, SongShare. Hosted by a rotating cast of HEOP and SSS students and staff, the podcast is dedicated to open conversations on a selection of four songs.

The first episode features a breakdown of Kendrick Lamar’s “Prayer”, Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name”, Doja Cat’s “Woman” and Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ Bout a Revolution”, selected by Piato and Amy Messersmith , who hosted the first episode. Messersmith, in addition to hosting the inaugural episode of SongShare, is also Associate Director of SSS and founder of the SENSES project.

Messersmith got the idea for creating SENSES after attending a public webinar hosted by Texas State University in December 2020. During the seminar, Messersmith heard about the work being done by Raphael Travis, associate professor at the School of Social Work from TXST, which has researched the mental health impacts of college students who create music.

Messersmith, inspired by Travis’ findings, realized she could implement a similar program at Syracuse specifically for HEOP and SSS students.

“What we’re doing is really powerful and it works,” Messersmith said. “One of the things we are most proud of with the SENSES project is the speed at which it happened. So from conception in December (2020) to, you know, funding in May (2021) and then going live in July (2021), it’s really exciting.

From its quick start until today, the SENSES project has helped countless students on their musical journeys. By offering guitar lessons and teaching the basics of programs like SoundTrap, the project’s mission to provide HEOP and SSS students with a creative outlet is in full swing.

In addition to collaborating with other organizations on campus, Messersmith said she looks forward to implementing summer opportunities for HEOP and SSS students.

Piato, too, said he was eager to expand the SENSES project. He sees the value of music production and podcasting as going beyond a creative outlet.

“Being able to create has just… so many rewards,” Piato said. “Not just musical goals, but linguistic possibilities, therapeutic possibilities. So a lot of students come here and take the mic and just let it out, the free way; it’s not for musical purposes. … There are so many ways to look at this kind of program.


About Ethel Nester

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