Oglethorpe Alumnus Releases Solo Piano Album

John Burke, a 2011 Oglethorpe University graduate, released his first solo piano album this past fall. The OU Blog recently caught up with him to see how he managed to reach such a milestone so early in his career.

OU Blog: Congratulations on your new album!  Tell us about it.

John: The album came out in October. It’s called “Synesthesia” and my goal was to provoke a sense of colors through music. All songs are named after colors and the album has a psychological edge to it that tests your mind while you’re enjoying the music.

It’s an instrumental album and I wrote and composed all the tracks. It took me about a year and a half to complete it. I actually found my inspiration during a study abroad trip to Spain I took while at OU.

OU Blog: So, Oglethorpe helped your development as an artist?

John: Yes. I chose OU because of its size and tight knit community. Looking back, I do not see myself being anywhere else but OU. I majored in Spanish and minored in Music. I also sang in the choir. Oglethorpe made it easy for me to balance between full academic load and music practice by providing access to the piano room on campus. I was able to steal little increments of time between classes to practice. It is a great place to thrive.

OU Blog: How did your love for music begin?

John: It started during my senior year in high school. My friends and I started a rock-and-roll/blues band named “Vinyl”. I had no formal schooling in music before OU. I just listened to music and tried to apply it by ear.

OU Blog: Impressive! What was the first tune you learned on piano?

John: The first tune I learned must have been “Imagine” by John Lennon. My favorite thing to play now is George Winston, whom I consider to be the most influential pianist in my life.

OU Blog: What’s your dream stage to perform on? Dream duet?

John: I would love to perform at Carnegie Hall. And a dream duet would be with Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors—piano and organ.  And I would also love to compose an album for a blockbuster movie. I dream big. The sky is the limit.

OU Blog: You are obviously very talented. Do you have musical genes in your family?

John: My father is a musician; he currently leads and directs a band at church.  He is my role model and motivation, and I can honestly say that if it were not for him I would not be where I am today.

OU Blog: How often and for how long do you practice? What advice would you give beginner musicians?

John: I practice every day, on a good day between 2-4 hours. Beginners, and even those with experience, should not stop practicing and always try new things and different styles. Practice and variety help you grow as an artist.

OU Blog: Music is a big part of your life. Do you have any other musical initiatives?

John: Yes, I am a choir director at a church in Brookhaven, and I have also taught music theory, reading music and also piano. I would like to spend more time teaching music and sharing my passion for it. It is very rewarding to reveal the beauty of music to someone else.

The album is available at www.johnburkemusic.com. John’s music also airs on Best Smooth Jazz and Best Smooth Grooves, two radio stations in the United Kingdom. 

History In the Making: Oglethorpe Visits Cuba

Dr. Mario Chandler and Dr. Viviana Plotnik, together with President Schall, led a group of OU students on an educational trip to Cuba over winter break as part of a course focusing on Cuban history, politics and culture.  This is the first Oglethorpe University educational trip to this country.

The course, taken for academic credit, included extensive lectures, readings, films, homework, and other requirements. The trip focused on hands-on exploration of Havana’s extensive Asian heritage, the historical and contemporary importance of Cuba’s tobacco industry as well as the island’s economic importance.  After the trip, each student had to turn in a journal and each are required to write a reserach paper due later in the semester.

The trip coincided with Delta Airlines’ adding direct flights from Atlanta to Cuba in December 2011. The decision allows  for flights for passengers with close relatives in Cuba, for those who are involved in the medical or agricultural business sectors, or for education or religious activities. OU’s group was on one of the first  flights to Cuba, just a few days after Christmas. Dr. Chandler shared his thoughts on the trip with the OU Blog.

OU Blog: How did the trip to Cuba come to fruition?

Dr. Chandler: The idea for the OU trip to Cuba was inspired, in fact, by President Schall, who has great interest in the Spanish language and Latin American issues.  The President approached me and my colleague in Spanish, Dr. Viviana Plotnik, and shared with us his desire to see such an opportunity come to fruition for our students.  Dr. Plotnik and I designed the itinerary and course, which received an enthusiastic and immediate response from the campus community.  We were able to put all of the organization pieces together during the Fall 2011 semester.

OU Blog: Why was this trip important?

Dr. Chandler:  For me the trip to Cuba symbolized one important, but all-encompassing notion: opportunity.  This trip constituted an opportunity for Oglethorpe students to engage Cuban culture, history, and society on that country’s terms rather than through a five-decade long filter of misunderstanding and distrust between Cuba and our country.  Unfortunately, the average American students’ views about Cuba are often imbued with misunderstanding, so an opportunity to challenge popular opinion by allowing students to meet Cubans and engage issues from an internal perspective is a powerful and potentially transformative educational experience.  As Spanish professors, Dr. Plotnik and I couldn’t be more proud than to have had the chance to shepherd our students in their navigation of this wonderful opportunity, an exercise that takes place, ideally, in the people’s language…Spanish.

OU Blog: How was the Oglethorpe group received by the local people?

Dr. Chandler: Our OU group members were consummate ambassadors throughout our Cuban journey.  We were proud to see our students using the Spanish language for engaging in daily contact with Cubans, for holding conversations and maintaining discussions, and for cultivating acquaintances that extended beyond the typical tourist demarcations.  Frequently, throughout our Cuban travels, we used public transportation alongside Cubans going about their daily tasks or ate peanuts while strolling the country’s prados and malecons, in small but significant ways bringing us closer to our Cuban hosts and erasing barriers on both sides whether real or invented.

If you would like to learn more about this trip, Dr. Chandler, Dr. Plotnik, and Oglethorpe students will give a presentation about their experiences as part of tomorrow’s OU Day celebrations. Join the conversation, “OU Student Reflections on Cuban Culture–What Happens in Cuba Doesn’t Stay in Cuba,” on Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 12:10 p.m. in the Conant Performing Arts Center. For more photos from the Cuba trip, check out Flickr. For more information about Oglethorpe’s study abroad program, check out OUSA’s page.

OU Psychology Students Achieve 100% Acceptance Rate at Professional Conference

Brittany Weiner '12 (left) celebrates her award-winning research with Ashleigh Brizzle '10 at last year's SEPA Conference

Earlier this fall, five Oglethorpe University psychology majors submitted research projects for presentation at the 58th annual meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association (SEPA) in New Orleans in spring 2012. 

All submissions to this professional conference are peer-reviewed by faculty experts in their respective fields.  As is always the case with Oglethorpe psychology majors, they did not self-identify as “students” and submit to an undergraduate student conference.  Instead, they submitted their work alongside that of professors and graduate students to a professional research conference. 

All five students recently were informed that their projects were accepted for presentation.  Their accomplishments continue the strong record of performance by OU psychology majors on state, regional, and national levels.

The five students and their respective projects are listed below.

Cassie Hendrix ’12“The Effects of Media Exposure on Infants’ Ability to Learn”

Balbir Khalsa ’12 -“Detecting Subtle-microexpressions: Can we see them?”

Marie King ’12How People Perceive Profanity Users”

Justin Sabree ’12Versatility of psychophysiological paradigms for assessing post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms”

Brittany Weiner ’12“Whose Fault is it Anyway? Perfectionists’ Experience of Test Anxiety”

Congratulations and have fun in New Orleans this spring!

Oglethorpe Students Help With Campus Clean-up

Last week Michelle Hall, OU’s Vice President for Campus Life, was preparing for students’ arrival for the new semester and noticed a few areas around campus that could use a little sprucing up before the incoming class was the first to arrive on Saturday.  She challenged Oglethorpe RAs and orientation leaders who were already on campus, to beautify their home-away-from-home in just over 24 hours.  The students then challenged each other to see which group could collect the most trash.

With that, they got to work.  The crews completely filled 40 heavy duty trash bags with their finds, and discovered a number of (rather peculiar) items in the process, including tiki torches, old furniture, traffic cones, and even a car tire. 

“I honestly did not think we’d need as many trash bags as we did,” said Dona Kiosef ’14, a rising sophomore at OU. “We found some weird stuff, too. The coolest thing I found was the face of a CPR dummy. I was proud of it [and] showed it off during the pick up…Who doesn’t like sprucing up the place where we all live? It was tons of fun in the end and even served as a bonding experience between us all.”

Even after sorting through piles of trash and proudly sporting numerous mosquito bites, it’s safe to say that these Petrels clean up well.

“[They] really went above and beyond the call of duty to ready our campus for the newest Petrels,” said Dean Hall.  ”Their teamwork and willingness to help truly reflects the spirit of Oglethorpe.”

Photos:  (1) Two teams of OU Residence Assistants and Orientation Leaders take a break from beautifying their campus. (2) Part of the campus clean up included bamboo removal near the Emerson Student Center—now the Conant Performing Arts Center and a small creek are visible from Emerson.