The Pillow Family came back in Rochester for my second Meliora Weekend as a student. (Here’s a recap of my first year.) It was quite the adventure. Highlights from this year’s weekend were the huge white letters spelling “MELIORA” on the quad and all the perfectly circular blue and yellow balloons.
Presidential Symposium with Ken Burns
Our first activity for Meliora Weekend was a talk by Ken Burns and Paul Burgett about race in America. I have never felt more honored to be in the presence of such intellectual people. Every word out of Burns’ mouth was spoken with grace and purpose. The symposium featured a few clips from Burns’ documentaries about jazz and the Civil War with photographs of Frederick Douglass, references to Huckleberry Finn, and voice-overs by Morgan Freeman (whom my brother and I greatly appreciate). I was thoroughly impressed with Burns when an audience member inquired about the few African-American audience members in the room. Burns replied, “There isn’t a thing that I can say to African-Americans about race that they do not already know,” and I found that response to be very powerful and well-spoken.
Mbira Ensemble Performance
After we left the symposium, we headed to the Meliora Village tents just in time for a performance by the Mbira Ensemble. The mbira is an instrument from Zimbabwe with metal keys attached to a wooden board. The sound is amplified when the mbira is placed inside a large shell, as it was for the performance we witnessed on Friday. I had seen a performance by the ensemble during Orientation and I was just as in awe this time. It has such a delicate and whimsical sound and the piece that the musicians performed was very uplifting and beautiful. It made the audience want to dance. One musician from Zimbabwe sang along and the result was stunning.
My day started out with free hats on the Fraternity Quad. Each class year gets a different prize. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one collectible item for each of your years as an undergraduate student. The first 500 students in line received a prize. Needless to say, my friends and I got in line a half-hour early to ensure that we got our hats!
If you like falafel, you need to eat here. It is a little piece of heaven. I ate at this restaurant the first time I visited Rochester with my mom. We stuffed ourselves here and then explored an adorable little boutique a few doors down. There were African drums, tapestries, wanderlust-esque dresses, and gemstones. It was a very cool assortment!
I am taking DAN 385 this semester, which is a dance class that functions as a performance workshop course. We created a piece for Meliora Weekend and performed it in the windows of the Warner School of Education LeChase building. The building was perfect because of its smooth, white walls. Our media director, Michelle Harris from RIT, created incredible projections and lights to make this piece truly stunning and eye-catching. It was a really neat experience to dance in a window pane instead of on a stage. I felt disconnected from the audience but it gave me a totally new relationship with my fellow dancers. We also each contributed to the choreography of the piece titled “Window Dressings,” which was another awesome and collaborative experience.
An Evening with Tony Bennett
Charming as ever, Tony Bennett wowed us on the stage of Kodak Theatre at the Eastman School of Music. Bennett performed with energy, smiles, and many thumbs-up. He even danced a bit! All of his selections were heartwarming and romantic. The most impactful part of his performance was his final song. He complimented the incredible acoustics of the theater and mentioned that the theater should never be altered. To prove his point, he placed his microphone down and began “Fly Me To The Moon” with only guitar accompaniment. The audience was absolutely floored.
Again, it was a fantastic weekend. I am so appreciative that our University goes all out for our parent and alumni weekend. Thanks Mom and Evan for driving all the way up to Rochester again. You two are the best!