Native Plants in Northeast Ohio: A Springtime Guide

Caroline Ward, S&E Editor

As the days lengthen and the winter snows melt, the soil of Wooster, Ohio begins to warm, stimulating the growth of a number of indigenous plants and wildflowers. Take a walk around town and you may begin to notice the soft green shoots and pastels of budding flowers signaling springtime in Northeast Ohio. Our campus is home to a diverse congregation of native plants, hundreds of which are currently flourishing in the milder weather and warm soil. April in Ohio is Ohio Native Plant month, and to celebrate, this brief guide will explore just a few common flora that students are likely to encounter as they make their way around campus.

Bluejacket (Tradescantia ohiensis)

This is one of several native flowers that can be found in larger of the College’s Pollinator Plots. The branched, erect stems of Bluejacket or Ohio Spiderwort are tinged purple and bear grass-like leaves from up to eight nodes. Showy clusters of blue to rose, three-petaled flowers top the stems. Flowers tend to open in the morning.

Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia)

Perennial, sends up a leafless scape to two feet in height, terminated by many-flowered umbels of drooping flowers, these with five long white or rose petals. Yellowish stamens and anthers form a beaklike structure. Numerous basal leaves form large tufts.

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Showy, elongate clusters of purple, pea-like flowers top the 1-2 ft. stems of this perennial lupine. Blue, pea-like flowers are in an upright, elongated, terminal cluster on an erect stem with palmately compound leaves. Its leaves are divided into seven to 11 leaflets. Occasionally flowers range from pink to white.

Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans)

The attractive, pinnately compound leaves and the loose flower clusters of this perennial arise on separate stalks. The stalks are slender and somewhat weak, rising 10-20 in. A smooth, weak-stemmed plant with light blue to purple, bell-shaped flowers in loose clusters.

Spring-beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Small, delicate perennial from deeply buried tuber from which two or more stems arise. Leaves two, opposite, straplike and somewhat succulent. Flowers whitish to more commonly tinged heavily with pink due to prominent colored nectar guides on petals.

Marsh-marigold (Caltha palustris)

Colonial perennial, large glossy dark-green kidney-shaped leaves held erect on succulent stems, up to a foot or so in height. Shiny yellow sepals form showy flowers with a thick brush of stamens.

Violet Wood-sorrel (Oxalis violacea)

The long-stemmed leaves of this delicate plant grow from the base and at first are longer than the flowering stem. They are divided into three leaflets, gray-green to bluish-gray above and green to reddish-purple below. Like those of all wood sorrels the leaves fold downward, together, at night and in cloudy weather. There are between four and 19 flowers at the end of each stem, lavender to pinkish-purple, the eye of the flower usually a deeper purple.

Wild flower descriptions provided by and

Viewpoint: Better Understanding the C-Store

The C-store has always been a student’s crutch. I remember it was in the old Lowry building on the first floor with a room so small and compact, you might think you’re in an urban bodega. And like a real convenience store, it had all the basic hygiene products, snacks, drinks and an array of coffee flavors waiting for a customer to purchase. Back then, I took a lot of this for granted. The cake bites and the cider were always a fun delectable treat to indulge in right before locking in for the nightly homework session on the second floor of Andrews Library. The microwave macaroni was the perfect rebound from long weekend nights with old friends who have long graduated or pursued other interests. It was great for the two years, even with COVID-19 and renovations getting in the way of some of these memories the older students had. 

Nevertheless, she persisted. The C-store would remain intact as a staple part of the student life experience even when other college spots like Mom’s did not. The C-store’s iteration at Kittredge was a foretelling of a different future. Given its makeshift nature in an open dining area next to the tables where students could eat during the day for Oma Gourd or later for the late-night dining options they felt like serving at the time, the intimacy of the bodega-like atmosphere was gone and replaced with open air and superficial boundaries for its consumers. As a senior today, I speculate this is when shoplifting started to take its modern roots, but veteran staff would argue it’s always been the case.

And then came modernism in full fledged minimalist glory. The new permanent C-store finally came into fruition this year, despite certain pathways and features not being operable until some time later. But it was great to see it again I suppose. Consumerism in academia has continued to flourish, and now I’ve been able to see that perspective from the other side of the registrar. I have heard complaints of some employees being at odds with the students. However, I certainly now get why we are rude too. The staff certainly do more work under the covers than even I see during my weekly shifts. This is why the rising numbers of shoplifting make staff-student relations all more interesting. You’ve probably read a news article about it from earlier this semester. First with barriers, then with corner mirrors, later random campus safety patrols and now the walking pathways; the tone has certainly changed. So yeah, sorry I have to keep reminding you all to go right after I bagged your chips and ice cream on top of your niche latte order. It’s certainly been interesting to see these changes occur for a small business within a larger academic business and inherit some of the measures you might hear from the stores of your local city, not your college convenience store. But that is Wooster. Things will continue to change long after I write this.

On a campus where the dining hall menu is scrutinized, the STEM majors have colonized the tables of Old Main and the Knowlton line just might be longer than my senior thesis, the C-store has always been there to give the average Wooster student the getter-upper to keep carrying on during these four undergraduate years…if they have the flex money of course.

Five Fascinating Plants of the World

The Giant Water Lily (Photo courtesy of Fauna and Flora International).
Zoë Jurkowski, S&E Editor

With the sporadically warm and rainy weather that is Ohio spring, many beautiful blossoms and budding leaves can be spotted on campus grounds. As recent groundwork has left the oh-so familiar scent of mulch in the air, we can expect to see only more sprouting plants and flowers in the remaining weeks of the semester. In honor of the greenery that has begun to surround us, here is a list of some fascinating plants found around the world: 

The Baobab Tree, or Adansonia, is a unique and iconic tree that can be found in Africa, Madagascar and Australia. It is known for its massive size and unique appearance, with a thick trunk and branches that resemble roots. The Baobab Tree can live for up to 3,000 years and is an important source of food and water for animals and people in the areas where it grows.

The Dracaena cinnabari, also known as the Socotra Dragon Tree, is native to the Socotra archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The tree is known for its unique appearance, with a broad trunk that divides into multiple branches that resemble an umbrella. The tree’s resin, known as “dragon’s blood,” has been used for Yemeni folk medicine.

The Giant Water Lily, or Victoria amazonica, is native to the Amazon River Basin, and known for its enormous size. The lily pads can reach up to 10 feet in diameter and are strong enough to support the weight of a small child. The flowers of the Giant Water Lily are also massive, with a diameter of up to three feet.

The Blue Jacaranda: This tree, native to South America, is also known as Jacaranda mimosifolia. Noted for its stunning blue-violet flowers that bloom in the spring, the Blue Jacaranda is a popular ornamental tree in many parts of the world, and its wood is often used for furniture and other decorative items.

The Bleeding Heart, also known as Dicentra spectabilis, is native to Asia and North America and is known for its heart-shaped petals that appear to “bleed” from the bottom. The Bleeding Heart is often used in gardens and as a decorative plant.

These are just a few examples of the amazing and diverse plant life that can be found all around the world. From towering trees to fragrant flowers and unique desert species, there is no shortage of cool plants to discover and admire. Make sure to keep an eye out for the many beautiful plants that are or will soon be on campus! 

Meeting for Student Feedback on Conduct Process Canceled

Julia Garrison, Contributing Writer

On April 12, 2023 Dean of Students and Director of Student Rights and Responsibility Dr. Amy Franklin-Craft issued an email to the Wooster student body that announced a meeting in which the Office of Students Rights and Responsibilities would be meeting with students to review the Scot’s Key and receive feedback on the conduct process. This meeting was meant to take place on April 17, 2023 at 8 p.m. but was canceled due to unknown reasons and without notifying the student body. 

The Voice has been reporting on the recent news that the conduct process has been put under review. As cited in the article published on Friday, April 7, 2023, members of Scot Council, led by Grace Braver ’23, carried out a project where they researched other conduct processes at other liberal arts schools in the area, including Denison University and Kenyon College. Denison was included on the list for their inclusion of an in-house attorney and their precedence for education over punishment within their conduct process. Kenyon’s inclusion was due to their conduct layout and handbook. Students’ rights are easily accessible and are clearly outlined within their handbook. 

As stated in the article published April 7, Scot Council pointed out these differences from other liberal arts schools to show where the College could improve in its conduct process, specifically by making the conduct process “educative in nature, not purely punitive,” as stated in the Missions and Outcomes Conduct Presentation. Scot Council’s presentation also included the need for students’ rights to be included within the correspondence regarding a conduct violation from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. 

Scot Council outlines their goals in these changes for conduct by stressing the need for collaboration between “students, faculty and other key members of the university community to improve awareness of value-based behaviors” and “enforcing university policies and procedures fairly and consistently.” 

This is not the first time the conduct process has been under review. The conduct process has shifted for years on how it is written, who writes it and who can put it under review. Former contributors and editors for The Voice have been covering these issues as they arise, specifically with the Sept. 24, 2021 news article by Editor-in-Chief Aspen Rush that detailed the concern from the student body about consistency within the conduct process. 

At this time, there has been no public statement released on why the meeting was canceled, and no follow-up or make-up meeting has been announced. While no official communication has transpired about the cancellation of the meeting or the possibility of a new meeting, on the bookings schedule for Lowry room 201, there is a make-up meeting scheduled to take place Monday, April 24 at 8 p.m. Dr. Franklin-Craft and Dean of Students Ashley Reid, who is also serving as Interim Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, could not be reached for comment by The Voice.

John Stuart Mill Forum Hosts Debate on Abortion

Audrey Pantaz, Contributing Writer

On Thursday, April 13, the John Stuart Mill Forum (JSMF), in conjunction with the Braver Angels and FIRE foundations, hosted a formal debate on abortion, specifically in the context of the United States. Braver Angels is a foundation working towards the goal of depolarizing American politics. They began in South Lebanon, OH, in 2016 and have since grown to a nationwide movement staffed mainly by volunteers. FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, also supported the debate. FIRE began on college campuses with the agenda of protecting fundamental rights. Starting in 2022, FIRE expanded from college campuses to work on a broader sphere. On its website, FIRE shares its mission statement, “To defend and sustain the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty.”

JSMF is a civil discourse club made up of College of Wooster students. The forum promotes “assisting the College towards becoming a more ideologically tolerant campus which actively celebrates the plurality of opinions as well as lively, yet civil, discourse.” The club meets once a week to discuss social and political topics with members who offer a wide range of opinions. Co-President of the club David Dunn expressed, “The purpose of the JSMF is to provide a space to discuss a variety of topics, whether they be contentious, topically or socially relevant, or simply just interesting to talk about.”

The debate followed “an amended style of parliamentary procedure,” said Sadie Webb, the moderator of the discussion and a representative of Braver Angels. As described by Webb, the forum was designed to reduce the role of personal confrontation and emotionally charged arguing “by introducing an element of formality by requiring participants to address the chair, the format implements a small amount of distance between speakers and questioners, ultimately diffusing some of the emotional tensions which can arise.” The procedure involved only addressing speakers in the third person and through a moderator dubbed “Madam Chair.” Once the boundaries and regulations were set, the debate began with speeches from four members of JSMF, two on the supporting side and two on the opposing side.

Speakers responded to the debate’s central question: “Do the rights of an adult capable of pregnancy take precedence over the rights of a fetus?” Each speaker was then subjected to audience questions. Following the planned speakers, audience members came to the front and delivered statements for either side of the question and then responded to audience queries. The debate lasted over two hours and was concluded by a lengthy amount of informal reflection responding to the question, “What did you like, what did you learn, what would you share with someone who has never experienced a Braver Angels debate?” The reflection period contained some debate of its own, as the gathered students reflected on the ideas shared and the purpose of civil discourse.

One JSMF member reflected on his understanding of the purpose of civil discourse. John Daoud ’25, one of the four opening speakers, stated that “civil discourse allows for the respectful exchange of ideas in a safe environment.” Daoud, who argued for the opposition, thought that on the campus, “diversity is present in all aspects, except for diversity in thought. Those of differing political ideologies, namely conservatives, often feel unheard and are subsequently misrepresented or misunderstood.” Alex Daoud ’25 argued for the opposition as well, advocating that the debate was about understanding rather than dispute. “People on average agree on things,” he shared, “We need to lean into those mutual understandings because even when we disagree, at the end of the day, we all want these issues solved, but have different ways of how to get there.” Artemis Swanson, a speaker for the affirmative side and a co-president of the JSMF, shared her impressions of the debate, saying “I feel like all the speakers delivered their remarks well, there were generally good questions, and I was happy to get some pushback from the community on the format.”

Conversely, some campus community members felt the debaters could have argued their positions more strongly and convincingly. One student observer shared, “I think the idea of civil discourse is nice, but I don’t think that was civil discourse.” The student continued, “I think people just watered down what they actually thought to not provoke a conversation.” Professor Terry Reeder, an associate professor of religious studies and the professor of the course “Abortion, Religion, and Law,” shared her thoughts on the debate. “I don’t think debate is the best methodology,” Reeder said, “It creates a binary, and I question the outcomes of a debate.” Reeder acknowledged that “the group did a fabulous job.” However, she believed that “there did not appear to be enough people with uteruses talking about things that happen in a uterus.”

When asked how we have discourse in situations where formal debate is ineffective, Professor Reeder shared, “You have to have people of goodwill…that are willing to listen to each other.” Ultimately, Professor Reeder emphasized that conversations about abortion are “not a binary, and we need to create multiple positions that are not binarily opposed to one another.”

JSMF co-president, David Dunn, shared his thoughts on the day’s event, stating, “The way I view it, engaging in dialogue will either strengthen my beliefs as it gives me the chance to think critically and defend them, or it will cause me to change my beliefs, thus making me a better, more knowledgeable individual.” Whichever way The College of Wooster campus educates and converses about current issues, most members of the COW community agreed: discourse is more impactful than silence. 

Appreciating Appreciation: Music is for All, No Matter Your Knowledge

Colin Schrein, A&E Editor

Who is able to appreciate music the most? Is it your classic rock-obsessed dad or the highest educated conservatory professor? Who feels music in a deeper way? The fan that can’t keep a simple beat or the virtuoso concert pianist? All people relate to music differently, regardless of their knowledge or comprehension of what they’re hearing. Appreciation of music should not be something to put on a pedestal; you do not need to be conscious of music’s intricacies to absorb its features and enjoy it.

I believe that to appreciate music is to feel something from it. Whether it be a fleeting thought of nostalgia, or a confusing question of self, everyone has the ability to appreciate music. Let’s take our classic rock-obsessed dad from above. Maybe he’s got a Mötley Crüe t-shirt. Maybe he’s got a picture with the Led Zeppelin tribute band that played at the local Fourth of July music tent last year. He may not know what a “chord” is and might butcher the chorus of “Come On Eileen,” but he loves the music nonetheless. One does not need to know a lick of how music is made, what music is made of or what it means to appreciate it. Just as some of the biggest baseball fans don’t know how to swing a bat, some of the biggest music fans might only know a keyboard as what they type on in their cubicles all day.

If you’re reading this, you are most likely a college student. We’ve all had that professor that seems to hold their degree over our heads as a badge of scholarly omniscience. Does it mean they appreciate reading more just because they have a fancy PhD in English? Not at all. The same can be applied to music. Any whizz-kid who claims that their encyclopedic infatuation with bebop jazz outshines your supposedly anti-intellectual admiration of Taylor Swift has it all wrong. There shouldn’t be shame in enjoying music. All people relate to music in unique ways and listen to it differently. Some may appreciate heavy trap beats to get them through their cardio workout and some may appreciate Phoebe Bridgers’ somber lyricism as they “fell on hard times a year ago.”

All in all, music is for everyone and there is no correct way to listen to it, nor is there a wrong way. Emotional responses and appreciation of all things are personal matters that differ from person to person. So go wear that Nirvana shirt, even if you can’t name three songs.

Murderous Melodies: A History of the American Murder Ballad in Folk Music

The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” is a modern murder ballad (Photo courtesy of Country Fancast).
Haley Huett, A&E Editor

Somewhere along the Ohio River, a man invites his love to take a walk with him. They stroll along the banks, and he finds the perfect spot for a proposal. He opens his heart to his love and sinks down to one knee. “Will you marry me?” he says. She replies, “No.” In the face of such immeasurable heartbreak, what does he do? Murder her, of course.

“The Banks of the Ohio,” is one example of the corpus of folk songs called murder ballads, which detailed crimes, both real and imaginary, that took place across early America. In the song, the singer confesses to stabbing his beloved and dumping her body in the river as revenge for rejecting him, but the range of deeds can vary across the many themes that are found in these traditional ballads. Together, these songs of murder create one foundational form of American tradition and music making. 

Despite being a staple of American folk music, the murder ballad began as a European tradition that was built upon and shaped in the States. English, Irish, and Scottish immigrants brought the murder ballad to America when they immigrated to the Appalachian region in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Many classic American murder ballads trace their roots back to European tunes with similar themes, adding unique details, instruments, and motifs. 

Ballads are a form of narrative storytelling, and murder ballads focus on the details of violent crimes. In many cases, these songs served to communicate facts about real cases, such as in “Tom Dooley,” or fictitious ones, such as “Lily of the West.” They tell tales across the spectrum of experience. Men murder their beloved because they cheat, reject them, or become pregnant. In other songs, a murder is committed and the perpetrator is captured and executed. Sometimes they are guilty, such as in “John Hardy,” other times, they are innocent and executed anyway, such as in “Long Black Veil.” 

These ballads are enriched by their variety. Often, these tales are told from different perspectives. Some ballads are ‘sung’ by the murderer, but other times, they give a unique voice to the victims of violent crimes. These victims sing to their murderers or appear as supernatural entities to exact their revenge, like in “The Twa Sisters.” 

In the modern era, we listen to true crime podcasts and watch TV shows about police investigations. In the nineteenth century, as these ballads took shape and adapted to the American landscape, they began to be used as a means of transporting information about true crimes across regions. Before mass communication became readily available, murder ballads were a source of information about the violence that spread through their communities. Later, these songs would become a source of entertainment much like how we today consume true crime media.

Today, this form of storytelling persists through covers of the classics and through new, inventive stories. The Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl,” telling the story of two women who murder an abusive partner, adheres to this tradition of song-writing. Similarly, “The Hanging Tree” from Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” is another example. 

The murder ballad is a cornerstone of the American musical canon. They represent a number of experiences and beliefs unique to a specific time and place that continue to be popular today. As more singers continue to reproduce these haunting melodies, they bring modern takes to these old themes. The Chicks, for example, or Dolly Parton, give new voices to women whose victimhood has been repeated throughout these folk songs. There is a long history of women adapting the genre as a means of expressing empowerment and freedom in the face of oppression and violence. 

No matter the theme or topic, murder ballads occupy an essential place in the history of American music. Throughout the genres folk and country, it has been a source of information, inspiration, and entertainment for many singers and their audiences. Whether you’re listening to The Carter Family, Johnny Cash, or The Chicks recount chilling tales of murder, their source is likely the rich history of songwriting founded in the mountains and valleys of the States. 

House Parties Across Campus Spark Increased Law Enforcement Presence

Campus Safety cites “an uptick” in complaints from nearby neighborhoods as reason for increased surveillance
A group of college students look on as officers from Wooster PD and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department make their rounds on Beall Avenue (Photo: Samuel Boudreau ’23).
Samuel Boudreau, Editor in Chief

Shortly before 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 16, 2023 on the north side of The College of Wooster’s campus, upwards of five Wooster City Police officers and a Wayne County Sheriff’s Department Deputy responded to a complaint from a Wooster resident of an “out of control party” at Bryan House, according to Campus Safety records. According to an incident report from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, the party had upwards of 100 students outside of the house. A Sheriff’s Deputy was called in to assist members of the Wooster Police Department in breaking up the party.

  Bryan House was not alone in Wooster residents’ calls to local and college law enforcement, as Campus Safety received complaints regarding Keiffer House, located on College Avenue, at 1:28 a.m. on Sunday morning. According to The College of Wooster’s “College Policies: Functioning and Property of The College,” quiet hours on College grounds are from 11:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. Wooster’s city ordinances’ quiet hours run from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. 

  Joe Kirk, Director of Campus Safety, said that dispatch called Campus Safety regarding reports of vandalism from the party at Bryan House. “My understanding is that we got a call from [dispatch] that there were individuals urinating outside and throwing beer bottles at houses,” said Kirk. The Voice’s attempts to contact members of Bryan House were unsuccessful. Kirk said that Wooster PD and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department normally let the College’s Campus Safety Department handle incidents on campus. “They try to see if we can resolve the situation without them, because if they get involved, they’re likely to make an arrest,” said Kirk, “so if they can reach us and get this matter resolved, they don’t need to do a report.” 

  Campus Safety officers initially reported to Bryan House but were met immediately with four Wooster police and Wayne County Sheriff Department units that were on the scene by 12:55 a.m., according to eyewitnesses on the scene. Ann Venditti ’24, a resident of Iceman House, attended the party and said that immediately after Campus Safety arrived on the scene, and began asking students to leave, four units from Wooster City Police and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the house. Vendetti said that the arrival of the sheriff and police departments seemed to catch everyone, including Campus Safety, by surprise. “People were starting to really leave at that point,” said Venditti. 

  Despite the police presence, Wooster PD did not write an incident report on the party at Bryan House. According to Kirk, no arrests were made at the party. After clearing out the party, multiple officers patrolled campus from the north to south end of campus, stopping students along the way. Eli Kuzma ’26 was walking home down Beall Avenue and said that he saw officers flagging down students. “I saw the officers make a girl pour out a drink,” he said. Lauren Ganson ’23 was walking home from the party with friends when two Wooster Police officers stopped the group and questioned them about having open containers of alcohol. “Then, not even a minute later, they stopped us again for the same thing so we walked the long way home to avoid them,” said Ganson. 

  According to the Ohio Revised Code, Section 4301.62, it is illegal for a person to be in possession of an open container of beer or intoxicating liquor in a public space. According to Luftman, Heck & Associates, a law firm in Columbus, “An open container charge is a minor misdemeanor punishable by up to a $150 fine.” Additionally, the firm states that the “charge of alleged beer or intoxicating liquor consumption may lead to larger open container fines as well as the potential for imprisonment.”

  Kirk said that there has been an “uptick” in neighborhood complaints this year, partly due to COVID-19 and more people working from home. “The more complaints they get from community members causes them to come more to our campus to see what is going on,” said Kirk, “so there are a number of community members who are getting frustrated with the process or the way things are happening or not happening or feel like they need outside help to deal with the unruliness of our students sometime.” According to Kirk, the Dean’s office and Campus Safety received complaints from community members regarding I.S. Monday.

  The majority of complaints received by Campus Safety are noise complaints but also vandalism concerns. “They were complaining about one house that was hitting golf balls across the street and were landing in their yard.” Kirk told The Voice that an effective way to restore relations with Wooster residents is to openly communicate with neighbors about a planned party beforehand. Additionally, the College’s Residence Life department holds required meetings that cover campus policies pertaining to students living in houses at the beginning of the semester. 

  If one is stopped by the police, Ohio law requires an individual to state their name, address and date of birth, if the individual is suspected of committing a crime. Refusal to reveal said information may result in a misdemeanor in Ohio. Outside of said personal information, one has a right to remain silent if stopped by the police in public, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Additionally, the ACLU states that individuals have the right to reject a police officers’ search of you or your belongings, unless the officer has a warrant or suspects you have a weapon. An individual also does not need to reveal their U.S. citizenship or birthplace, if asked by a police officer. The ACLU also recommends remaining calm, keeping your hands up, and telling the truth to help reduce risks when confronted by an officer. 

  If you are arrested or detained by the police, the ACLU advises an individual to say that you wish to remain silent, ask for a lawyer, and not make any decisions without the advice of one’s lawyer. If arrested or detained, one has the right to make a local phone call. Police are not allowed to listen to phone calls with a lawyer. If you believe your rights are violated, the ACLU recommends recording these interactions, either through our phone or written notes to the best of your ability. Police officers do not have the right to confiscate your phone without a warrant (ACLU). 

Scotlight: Jeff Gershman

Features Editor Alex Nathanson ’24 sits down with new Director of Bands at Wooster, Jeff Gershman. Parts of this interview were cut due to space.

Tell me a little about yourself!

I’m Jeff Gershman and this is my first year of being Director of Bands here at the College of Wooster. For the last eight years I was in Columbus at Capitol University as the Director of Wind Ensembles down there, and before that I was at Indiana University.

How did you find Wooster?

My wife, Lisa Wong, is the Director of Choruses here and has been for 14 years, so I’ve been Wooster-adjacent since my Indiana days. I always knew about the campus and students, and have always really loved hanging out with the bright and insightful students here. My move to Capitol got me a little closer to Dr. Wong, but at some point, I decided it would be cool to live with my wife because we had never done that before in our 11 years of marriage. So, even though I was really happy at Capitol, I said “Ok, if the Wooster job opens, I’ll apply because it would be nice to be there,” and so I did. It’s been great – I get the chance to work with students and I get to see Lisa when I go home every night.

Now that your first year at Wooster is wrapping up, are there any moments that you think will stick with you?

Whenever you take a new job, you kind of know that for a couple of years everyone’s going to feel you out a little bit and it will take a while for people to invest, but this is the first time in 26 years and four positions where I’ve had students be welcoming so quickly. Normally it takes a little while to kind of give your heart away to a place, but because the students have been so welcoming to me, it’s been so much easier to open up and connect with them. I’ve never taught a senior class that I’ve gotten closer to than this one in such a quick amount of time, and I think that’s a testament to the kind of community that we have here. The other thing that’s really interesting is that, of the four schools I’ve taught at, I’ve never taught this many non-music majors. Most of the places I’ve worked at have been large music schools, so I wasn’t sure if my approach would work with people who were in band mostly for fun – not for a career. I was really tentative about how that was going to go, but I’ve had success in the past, so I was like “alright we’re gonna do this the way it’s been done and see if this is a good fit.” I think people have been pretty wonderful and open to it. So, lots of individual moments closing the first year, but that’s what I think I’ll take away the most – just how welcoming the community has been in a really authentic way. I’m really happy with the progress our band has made this year and much of that is thanks to how open the students have been.

What do you wake up for each morning?

You’re gonna hate it because it sounds super trite and cliché, but it’s the opportunity to teach you guys. What Wooster has taught me is – well, at my last job I was able to do much more difficult music because, again, lots of music majors – and when I got here I wasn’t sure if my love for teaching music was tied to the level of difficulty or if it was tied to teaching the students. What this place has taught me is that it has nothing to do with the music and it has everything to do with the people in front of me. So, what gets me up is that I get the opportunity after all these years to teach these remarkable Wooster students and get to know them while they are getting to know me. It’s never “Ugh I have to go to school today.” I authentically love the opportunity to teach, whether it be symphonic band or marching band, or even the academic classes, because people are so receptive and appreciative. Cliché-ism abounds: it never really feels like a job. I’m really lucky that my vocation is also my passion and that now extends to Wooster. We should all be this lucky to have a place of work that doesn’t feel like work.

What do you think your primary instrument says about you?

My tuba, yeah…I think it taught me how to lead a little bit when I was a player because even though we never have melody, we largely are the foundation, so I always tried to embrace that leadership, but it also gave me a lot of time to do nothing because tuba parts are terrible and so it was either like whole notes or a boring accompaniment or counting rests. So, what it allowed me to do was watch the conductor and see what they were doing and then I got excited trying to guess what the conductor was going to say and that got me excited about maybe being that person one day. The tuba gave me the opportunity to listen critically. I was never a great tuba player – I think I was a solid tuba player – but most people would not guess that I’m a tuba player. It’s funny, every time I do an honor band it comes up. I just did one in PA and the students were like, “What instrument do you play?” and no one ever says tuba first. Ever. It’s always like horn, maybe trumpet, sometimes percussion or maybe clarinet, but no one ever ever says tuba.

Anything you would like to say to students during this time of year?

In what is probably the most stressful time of the entire year, try (and I’ll do this myself) amongst all of the work and deadlines to appreciate the community around you and how special this place is because the seniors won’t have that again – they scatter to the world – and everyone who returns will lose it for a summer and has the chance to come back, but will eventually scatter as well. With all the deadlines and the stress, all the “oh my God I need to do this,” just take a deep breath and realize just how fortunate we all are to be a part of this and to not take that for granted. That’s what I would say at the end of the year. And come to our band concerts! If you’ve played any instruments in the past, it’s never too late to join us and find a cool community here, so even if you’ve taken a year or two off, come on back and we would love to have you.