Friend Friday: Chris Freedman

As a freshman at a relatively large university, my deepest wish was to find friends who liked and cared about the same things as me. This resulted in me being rather vocal about my interests, literally and in the form of constantly wearing band t-shirts. One day as I was walking down from my dorm in Brewster to Brockway Dining Hall with my roommate, I heard someone compliment the Brand New sweatshirt I was wearing. It was the first time someone had commented on any of my music-related apparel, and I was doubly elated because Brand New was (well, is) my favorite band.

The friend I made that day was Chris Freedman. He’s a current junior in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracus13912453_10208589575330186_8191643786029153595_ne University, and he came all the way out to the tundra of Syracuse, New York from sunny Los Angeles. Before living in Los Angeles he spent the first 10 years of his life in Connecticut.

I think moving from a small town in Connecticut to L.A. when I was young had a lot to do with who I am today.” Chris is, not surprisingly, incredibly passionate about music. The music he grew up with shaped the person he is in a huge way as well.

I grew up listening to a lot of southern rock, specifically the Allman Brothers. I also loved radio rap from the time like Chingy. Then once I got into middle school and started listening to the Ramones and Iggy Pop, it was game over.”

Chris is someone who’s constantly talking about cool music and bands I’ve never even heard of. Back in freshman year he introduced me to Touché Amoré, and it seems like I’m always hearing about more bands from him. His love for music is what led him to apply to the Bandier Program at Syracuse, and what pushed him to start his own tape label, Ghoul Tapes.

The label is home to a number of local/semi-local bands like Blasteroid of Brooklyn and two of Syracuse’s own: minnoe and Super Defense.

“Ghoul Tapes is the thing I’m most proud of. It’s been so great being able to help my friends out this way. I was heavily inspired by going to shows at The Smell in L.A. and seeing labels like Danger Collective and Burger Records start out by putting out their friends music. It was really inspiring to see kids around my age making it happen instead of waiting till they we12768327_10206686413773711_2827404516330727120_ore older or had more money. It was very clear that they were in it for the love.”

Since its inception, Ghoul Tapes has gotten tapes distributed at places like Rough Trade NYC and participated in Burger Records’ Beach Bash this summer.

Chris’s interests don’t stop at music, though he admits some of them go hand in hand with music anyway. He used to skateboard rather often (and wishes he did more today). Back in Los Angeles Chris volunteered with The A.Skate Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers skate lessons to kids with Autism “in an environment that is appropriate to their sensory needs in order to learn.” Back in freshman year, Chris let me try his skateboard once and I’ll just say I was not a quicker learner in that area.

While Chris spends a lot of time supporting his friends and their creative endeavors, his biggest support system is back in New York City in the form of his family and dog, Riley.

However, Chris’s parents weren’t super pleased when he got his first tattoo – but the significance behind the ink may have mitigated it a bit.

On Chris’s bicep is the black sheep that appears on the artwork of Minor Threat’s 1983 record, “Out of Step.” Punk music is another piece of Chris’s life that played a large part in shaping him.

img_4475“Punk music had a massive effect on me. I really admire bands like Minor Threat and their entrepreneurial attitude. The movement they created felt attainable and homegrown. Their music feels really authentic to me and that is something i really value. I saw this cross over with the bands I used to see at The Smell, like Peter Pants and Palm Reader.”

Ultimately, Chris is a DIY kind of guy. Nothing can cloud the passion he has for the things he loves. He says he tries not to agonize over the future too much, but I think it’s because he doesn’t have to – it’s gonna be a pretty bright one.



Friend Friday: Katie Canete

It’s a small world, and New Jersey is perhaps the smallest as it’s the most densely populated state in America. There are about 2,000 people per square mile in the state, and it also happens to have the largest number of students traveling out of state for college compared to any other state. I knew upon leaving for freshman year at Syracuse University that I was about to enter what may as well be another small New Jersey in and of itself, but it never explicitly occurred to me that I would meet someone who would become one of my best friends after spending my entire life less than a 10 minute drive from her.

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Katie Canete (pronounced ken-yet-ay) is a junior in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracuse University. In her New Jersey high school she was actively involved in marching band, which she’s continued through college. In marching band she plays flute, but she’s skilled in a number of instruments – it’s no secret that music is very, very important to Katie.

“I started pretty young, when I was 4, and discovered the upright piano in my family home. I would spend hours banging on the keys. Not long after, I was enrolled in piano lessons at my town’s music shop. In 4th grade, I signed up for my school’s concert band and learned flute. From there, I took guitar and voice lessons. Somewhere along the way I learned more instruments. I was always doing music growing up, and it came quite naturally to me. I’ve played in more ensembles than I can count, and I just love the feeling when everyone is in sync and creating aural art. Music can express any kind of emotion, and it is often more powerful than words alone.”

Her confidence in herself and her passion for music has allowed her to go after the things she wants for no reason more than that she wants them. She’s been publisher of 20 Watts magazine since spring 2015. She landed an internship at Sony ATV/Music Publishing in New York City this past summer – followed by a stint as a tour manager on CaIMG_1761mplified. She manages to juggle schoolwork, a job, marching band, extracurriculars, friendships, a relationship and a social life, all while maintaining her sanity and a joy for life. In my eyes, she’s nothing short of superhuman.

Katie possesses an innate drive and focus that many struggle to uncover for much of their lives. Her passion revealed itself to her before she even entered kindergarten, and she’s followed it without question ever since.

“I knew in middle school that I had to keep music in my life in some capacity. There was no way it could remain solely a hobby, thus it had to be part of my career. I knew I couldn’t make it as a rock star Katy Perry pt. 2, so I thought the next option would be to work behind the scenes handling the business. I didn’t know too much about publishing before college, but I learned quickly. Because the music business is powered by songwriters and artists, they should be the ones compensated handsomely to sustain their work and keep the creative content alive. I want to be part of the sect that advocates for songwriters and sees the lucrative potential of publishing.”

She’s already got her sights set on law school after graduating from ‘Cuse, and after that she hopes to be living in a major city finally pursuing her dreams of working in the music business.

For now though, she’s perfectly content living and learning as a student at SU. She’s at the halfway point of college – two years down, two to go – and with so much having happened in the first half there’s no way to imagine all of the wonderful that will come out of the second half of her time here.

“Syracuse has helped me see that there is so much about the world I don’t know – and that’s a great thing. ‘Cuse has exposed me to different types of people and backgrounds which is a big change from New Providence. It’s given me another place I can call home.”

Surely one of her favorite parts of living in Orange Nation has been the Syracuse University Marching Band. This year she’s a section leader, and she seems just as excited about it as she was when she first stepped on the Carrier Dome turf.

“Marching band is one of the coolest things to do on campus. I made some of my first friends in band. It’s one of those things that’s hard to understand unless you’re in it. It’s just energy and fun all the time. It’s like a second family.”

12183772_10206090233229570_4247593132498301092_oKatie is someone who can make anyone feel like family. She is one of the single most likable people I’ve ever known, and (at the risk of sounding cheesy) she simply oozes good vibes. For Katie life is just adventure after adventure waiting to be had, and her attitude is contagious.

If more people were like her we’d live in a much more functional, much happier world. She gets sh*t done and has a smile on her face the whole time, eager to move forward on her path to unavoidable success. It’s pretty spectacular to know someone like Katie, and pretty wild that it took 18 years of living 10 minutes apart to find such a fantastic friend.

Friend Friday: Allison Carr

Every year, I come up with a truly ridiculous list of Halloween costumes and more often than not, I end up scraping together a costume the night of that was never on my radar to begin with. College generally stretches Halloween over an entire weekend, so last Halloween I found myself with one planned costume and another two nights to figure out.

As luck would have it, the work was done for me when Allison Carr asked me to be the Garth to her Wayne for Scarier Dome’s Halloween special. Despite our partner costume and long list of mutual good friends, it wasn’t until this summer that our friendship truly came to fruition, which was long overdue. Life Hack: A drive through Connecticut’s insufferable, in13248594_10206425826390635_128439078716949405_oevitable traffic en route to New England can do wonders for getting to know someone.

Allison Carr is a rising junior in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracuse University. She spent her summer interning for 23/7 Global, an artist services company, doing things like working for Justin Bieber’s VIP team. Her love for music wasn’t always rooted in the industry, though. Both of her parents attended Syracuse University, and that, combined with growing up singing and doing theatre lead her toward ‘Cuse’s musical theatre program – but then something else clicked.

“Music is something I kind of stumbled into. I’ve always loved it and have been interested in keeping it as an essential part of my life but I didn’t realize it would be something that I could feasibly pursue as my career. Being classically vocally trained for literally my whole upbringing made it seem like there was no choice there, I just had to perform. When I realized there was a way to pursue music as a career and still actually, potentially make money, that seemed like a better fit for me. I had always been passionate about music and the creation of it, so getting a behind-the-scenes kind of job was just really appealing. I was – and am sort of – a musician, and I felt it would be good to have that background while having so many talented people surrounding me.

During her time as a student so far she’s been able to experience things like unspecified-3the CMJ festival in New York City (where she nearly fainted upon seeing Sky Ferreira in the crowd with her watching DIIV), become the General Manager of the student run radio station WERW and has ultimately flourished as a person.

College radio ended up as a sort of heaven for curation-crazed Allison.

“Something that I’ve realized that I’m passionate about recently is curation. Playlists obviously are one thing that I curate, but also all of my items. I like everything to be cohesive and go together and I spend a lot of time thinking about things like that. That’s why radio is something I fell into so well. I love making a playlist for the hour that flows well from one song into another. I feel like it’s a waste of energy to care as much as I do, but it gives me a migraine if things don’t complement each other.” (Spoken like a true Virgo. Don’t forget to wish Allison a happy birthday tomorrow!)

Friendship is another area where Allison finds complements to be absolutely necessary. She’s someone who is there for her friends without fail; her heart seems bottomless and her loyalty boundless. Sometimes, though, her giving nature ends up being exploited. So, she’s made a point now to nurture relationships with those who give back and meet her halfway.

“I feel like I have a really rocky past with so many people and I struggle to understand why, but I think I just attract people who don’t treat me well. Being taken advantage of is kind of a recurring theme in my life, and I’ve been working really hard for the past year or so to not let myself be taken advantage of anymore. It’s lost me a lot of important people, but I guess it was for the best because they weren’t treating me how I deserved to be treated and in the end, I am better off without them.”

At Syracuse she’s been lucky enough to find a number of wonderful humans who make her need to take care of people all worth while and who share and foster her passions. The environment of the university, combined with the people who’ve made their way into Allison’s corner of it, have changed her for the better.

“I think Syracuse has made me come into myself, and I think I’ve grown so much. It’s kind of hard to articulate how I’ve grown, but I think I’m more adventurous and say ‘yes’ instead of ‘no’ so much more. I hope that I can continue that this year and I can be more able to branch out as I enter my 20’s.”

It’s a beautiful thing that such a work-oriented young woman has gained a level of adventurousness. Her work ethic is impressive and something that she’s proud of, but she too often forgets to take a moment to breathe.

At the same time, Allison does her best to focus on what’s happening now instead of stressing about the future.

“I try to not think about it [the future] too much because it makes me anxious. I’m just here now and have a ton of things to do in the next month, and then when that month is over I’ll take on the next. If you constantly plan your life out too much then you get trapped in the idea that you’re not living up to something you’re supposed to do.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 4.55.32 PM.pngAllison, regardless of her need for cohesiveness and organization, is a true embodiment of rolling with the punches. No matter what life tosses, throws or viciously catapults her way, she finds a way to tackle it while remaining the fun and dependable person that she is. In the words of Willy Wonka (whom she portrayed masterfully in a 5th grade musical) “there’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going,” and that seems perfectly fine with her. As long as she’s got her passions, her pals, her playlists and her wise head on her shoulders I’m confident she’ll find herself somewhere incredible.




Friend Friday: Tommy Kane

Dílseacht is a Gaelic word meaning pride or loyalty. Tommy Kane has this lexeme inked on his wrist, and there is nothing I can think of that is more fitting for him (except perhaps the Blind Justice tattoo he has on his thigh, but that one is fitting for other reasons.) A young man of Irish decent as one can tell by his freckles, fair skin and ebony hair, he is unfalteringly loyal to and in everything he does.

12438958_10205761586895779_8079104670678996212_nTommy is a rising junior studying English at Skidmore College. His major and athletics have defined his time at the small liberal arts college nestled in Saratoga Springs, NY, and he’s loved his college experience thus far. Though he grew up and played in a lacrosse-crazed New Jersey suburb, he wasn’t recruited to play collegiately so he took his immense love for the sport to walk on to the Division III team at Skidmore and has been playing since stepping foot on campus as a freshman.

“I’ll endorse playing a college sport to anyone who asks, it’s so sick. You get to campus your first day and you automatically have all these friends, and you’ll always at least be friendly with everyone on the team. Also, it truly does help with school work; keeping you on track struggling through the workload and athletic schedule with all of your best friends.”

The stereotypical image of a lax dudebro might include an array of pastel garments from Vineyard Vines, a trust fund and a Spotify library full of EDM and rap, but Tommy strays from the path. With an affinity for the genre of hardcore, his passions seem to be worlds apart but they meet seamlessly in Tommy. If you dug through his t-shirt drawer and his Spotify library, you’d likely find bands such as Heavy Chains, Losin’ It, Get Real, Regulate, Blind Justice and many more.

Back in senior year of high school, Tommy got his first taste of hardcore at The Stone Pony where we had gone to see pop-punk giants The Story So Far. Rotting Out, a now-defunct band from LA, was support on their fall 2013 US tour and Tommy was immediately drawn to the gritty, aggressive sound that was hardcore music.

“The first hardcore band I listened to was Rotting Out. It was mad cool to me because it was so radically different from the pop punk I had been listening to, but I could still dig it. So angry and raw – that dude Walter, their lead singer, had the nastiest voice.”

Just this month Tommy trekked to music festival “This Is Hardcore” in Philadelphia to spend a weekend in mosh pits (and likely bleeding and bruising as a result) and mingling with other members of the scene: musicians and fans alike. A genre so niche means that many of the bands are pretty small scale and thus easy to access.  It’s a lot easier for fans like Tommy to connect with the favorite artists when the genre is essentially underground.

13923621_1091953570891383_3281161445707595166_oTommy fronts a hardcore band by the name of Here To Stay, in which he plays with his little brother Danny (bass) and friends Anthony (drums) and Tom (guitar). The group has released two demos so far and has new music on its way. By the nature of the hardcore community, they’ve been able to form relationships with other bands and musicians, but not without a struggle.

Hardcore is a funny thing, man. To say it briefly, my friends and I are kinda rejects in the hardcore community around here. The few homies I have, we’ve all gotten amazing experiences from hardcore. I would have liked to make some more friends by now, but it doesn’t keep me up at night. If you go into hardcore looking for anything other than feeling amazing listening to a record or pitting at a show, you’ve come to the wrong genre.”

Music has always been important to Tommy, ranging from pop-punk bands like The Wonder Years to classics like his all-time favorite Bruce Springsteen and Red Hot Chili Peppers whose bassist, Flea, was Tommy’s initial inspiration to play music.

Despite how difficult it can sometimes be to get on the lineup for a show, Tommy finds the magic that makes it worthwhile when he performs.

screen-shot-2016-08-19-at-4-10-24-pm“It [Here To Stay] is such a low-key thing at this point, so we sort of have to scrounge for shows but there are still times when I play shows that I look up for a second and realize how distinct and temporary this opportunity is. So, that’s something I value from the experience.”

While hardcore and lacrosse both occupy large portions of Tommy’s heart, the rest of it is reserved for his family, his girlfriend Natalie and “the few who tolerate me as a friend: Tom, Josh, Will and Ian.” At the end of the day, he’s a person who loves fiercely and with reckless abandon. Pride and loyalty are the sharpest parts of Tommy Kane’s personality; he exudes both in everything he loves and it shows. He is loyal to his passions, but at the root of it all he’s loyal to himself, and that’s pretty punk rock.

Featured/2nd photo by Michelle Rose Photography

Friend Friday: Mikey Light

Entering Freshman year at Syracuse all I knew was that I wanted to work in the music industry, and that I liked to write. At the activities fair I stumbled across the table for 20 Watts, the premier student run music publication on campus, and my lightbulb went off. On the editorial staff that year was only one other freshman: a lanky, opinionated, talented Newhouse kid with a distinct voice and a name you can’t forget: Mikey Light. Since Fall 2014 we’ve worked together and become friends, and it’s been a privilege to watch him grow as a writer, music lover and human.

10995466_10205915305149072_1957436437387705162_nMikey is a New York City transplant from Connecticut entering his junior year at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He majors in Magazine Journalism, will be serving as Editor in Chief of 20 Watts this year and spent this summer interning at Rolling Stone. At just 20 years old, he appears accomplished and driven – and he is. With half of his college career at Syracuse University finished, he’s able to reflect on the difference between how he expected college to go and how it actually went (so far).

I’ve had a good time, very few complaints about the college experience thus far. As far as things that I’ve gained or learned that I didn’t expect, I would say patience. I came here expecting to be able to fuck shit up in all capacities as soon as I got here, but that simply wasn’t the case. Sometimes you have to serve your time before you get what you want. I traded in my boyish good looks for slightly-less-than-boyish good looks. I’ve become less overtly mean-spirited and far less competitive, too. I really don’t have any interest in competing with my peers here at school or otherwise. Believe it or not, I’m pretty collaborative.

Being the collaborator that he is makes him a great leader. He’s the kind of person who’s able to – and will – take charge in any fitting situation, but not in a steal-the-spotlight kind of way. More in a he-almost-always-sounds-like-he-knows-what-he’s-talking-about kind of way. This, combined with his opinionated nature, can sometimes make for an argument or two, but it’s an ultimately a strong quality that is hard to come by.

He’s become more down to earth since beginning at ‘Cuse and despite the confident exterior he unintentionally projects, he struggles with himself just as all of us do. Dare I say, this seems to be a problem especially for the creatives of the world.

“I don’t behave as well as I should and my brain is all over the place. I kind of coast through life most of the time so I have a lot of trouble putting in real effort. I would love to be the kind of person who could sit for hours working on something or studying, but my creativity hits me almost exclusively when it’s time to be doing something else.”

The exception to that, of course, is at 2o Watts meetings. I don’t live inside Mikey’s brain (for which I am very thankful) so I can’t say I know when his best creativity comes out, but I can say – as I’ve borne witness to it many times before – that much of his creativity peeks out for this magazine that means so much to him. He regards his time working on the publication as the single best and biggest accomplishment of his life thus far.  While he claims it’s difficult for him to put effort into things, it’s abundantly clear where most of that energy goes, and it’s into that magazine.


20 Watts has taken very good care of me, and that’s in no small part to the people I’ve met through it. People like Sam Henken, Lyndsey Jimenez, Joey Cosco, Jim Coleman…the list goes on…Adam Gendler…Then there’s people like you, Kyle Driscoll, Big J, Sarno, Jackie. Some of these people I consider to be on the short list of my closest friends at school or otherwise. 20 Watts gave me a chance as an unproven freshman and then a barely-proven sophomore to do whatever I wanted, and that’s worked out. Actually. if I had to pinpoint something in particular that was important, it was definitely my working relationship with Jim Coleman last year when I was Managing Editor. Jim knew what had to be done from a business point of view, and gave me a huge amount of editorial control. Together we masterminded what was without a doubt the biggest year 20 Watts ever had, and I’m very thankful for everything he’s done for me.”

There’s an enormous amount of love poured into the mag by every staff member, and Mikey is a true example of it.

What’s interesting is that he’s admittedly new-ish to the writing and journalism world. If you’ve read anything he’s written for 2o Watts or anything else, though it may not be a conscious thought it would be easy to assume he’s a young pro. For someone with such a strong and unique style of writing and sense of love for the thing, it’s hard to believe that he really only got his start just before college.

13040950_10207148479085055_7106701558314883988_o“Writing is relatively new to me. I started with two short plays that I wrote and directed my senior year of high school and since then I’ve been into it. As far as voice goes, it wasn’t something that I really developed. I write the way I talk, probably because nobody ever ‘taught me’ how to write for publication. To sum it up, I avoid rhetoric and don’t account for people’s sensitivities. I write stuff that I want to read, and if that means I end up with some esoteric garbage then so be it.” If nothing else, Mikey is candid and thusly unapologetic. That candidness isn’t just projected outward though – he knows he’s still a young kid with a lot to learn, and what’s better is that he’s ready to keep learning and absorbing.

The nature of this piece may lead one to believe that Mikey’s constantly flexing his journalistic and literary muscles, but when he’s not writing he may be found playing some self-proclaimed mediocre guitar, watching game shows or simply reflecting.

“I spend a lot of time quietly brooding in a dark room, recounting my past transgressions and planning my next move in my bid for world domination.” 

In all actuality, he’s probably just listening to some Vulfpeck or show tunes in his bedroom (though I’m not convinced the whole bid-for-world-domination thing is a joke).

Mikey Light is a communications student, a frat member, a friend, a fantastic writer and a pretty bad texter. He’s one of the very few people who’ve been a part of my college experience in its entirety; I see no signs of that changing as we army crawl towards graduation in 2018 – and I’m so glad for that. There are big things in his future, of that I’m sure, so don’t forget his name (not that you could).

Friend Friday: Joy Scull

February of my freshman year I sat outside Strong Hearts, a vegan café near Syracuse University’s campus, sipping on a chocolate, peanut butter smoothie as I waited for a new friend to arrive. By chance, she ordered the same smoothie and that was the first in a long list of similarities that we discovered during that meeting. Natives to New Jersey, we discussed our mutual insistence on the term “Taylor Ham” and disgust for the term “Pork Roll.” We gushed over our favorite bagel shops from home and she told me all about her major and creative passions. And I learned that she is her name: Joy.

Joy Scull is a rising senior studying Communications Design at the School of Visual and Performing Arts at Syracuse University. For those of you who may not know what communications design is: The first time I went to hang out with Joy at her dorm, she was executing a concept she’d created for a new type of hair conditioner – but the conditioner wasn’t the main idea. She had constructed an actual, physical display, created labels for the little pots of fake conditioner and made up a description like you’d read on the back of a real bottle of conditioner. It seemed tedious and time consuming (okay it didn’t just seem time consuming, it absolutely was), but at the same time very, very cool.

11222077_10206201908399123_1785698857075177048_n“I wanted to go to a school that had the best of both worlds: amazing design / art school but also a campus that offered a lot of different majors where I would meet different people since most of my friends from high school were not art nerds like me. When I decided I wanted to go into graphic design, I specifically wanted to be a package designer. Communications Design at Syracuse really focuses on that along with art direction so that’s what really hooked me. When I was in high school I really did love to draw and paint, but I knew that I wanted to be in a creative field that would also have some business aspect to it which is exactly what design is – especially for branding, marketing and advertising.

Joy is a creative in that she creates on her own and possesses a deep appreciation for other art forms spanning from fine art to music to comedy – and she’s always been this way. Her father, a photo editor for the New York Times, kept all of the drawings and stories she made as a kid, and in high school she became absorbed by drawing and painting. In college, she frequents off-campus house shows at venues like the late Goon Lagoon and Scarier Dome, and art shows at venues like Spark Contemporary Art Space.

Art wiggles itself into every facet of her life whether it’s intentional or not.

Last summer Joy was a multimedia intern at the Clinton Global Initiative for the Clinton Foundation – the following Halloween she dressed up as Hillary Clinton. Her sense of humor is quirky and lovable and she never misses a chance to share a funny post with someone she thinks will appreciate it. On a more serious note, her design talents have brought her to other internships, including Smith Design and Ralph Applebaum Associates. While at Syracuse, she spends her time designing for WAER and the student publication, Student Voice. Joy spreads herself pretty thin, but she enjoys every last second of it.

“I really am so thankful to love what I do so much. I get a high off of coming up with a really good idea for a new project or being really successful in something for my jobs or classes. Design is such a powerful tool to change and influence the decisions that people make, and being able to be a part of that to make a positive change, or make people see things in a new way is exactly what I want to do.”

Syracuse has played a huge part in Joy’s growth as a designer – and person – and it’s given her many opportunities to indulge all aspects of her creative self.

13439012_10153885319219862_4838011329880596943_n“I feel like Syracuse has really helped me become the person that I have always been, but maybe did not start out as coming from the town that I grew up in. I love my friends from home and I wouldn’t change anything about myself, who I was, or the kinds of decisions I made before I went to college, but I will say that so many of my experiences in central NY have changed me and really helped shape who I am. Some of the most impactful moments that come to mind are just going away to school: the transition into college was not an easy one. I had no idea how nervous I would be not knowing anyone around me, and forcing myself to try to put myself out there. You constantly hear only about the “fun” aspects of college, but nothing really prepares you for the initial start. This new start really made it clear to me the kinds of friends that I would want to have, which has been huge for me.”

Joy’s choice to come to Syracuse University where she would have the opportunity to mingle with students of all different interests is totally apparent in the people she surrounds herself with. She’s found friends in Greek life, friends through design, music, writing and many more areas of expertise – and she is always open to learning from all of her different friends.

While her first love is design, she cares deeply for people and life itself. Her ability to look at situations objectively helps her in design and in her relationships, and she is one of the people I can actually count on to give me unbiased advice and tell me what I need to hear rather than what I might want to hear in a given situation.

“I’m really good at seeing different perspectives. I try to dissect everything from all angles, which can be exhausting, and really ask myself what was right or wrong in that situation. I would describe myself as someone who really looks for substance and meaning in life, whether that be in my relationships with people, passions or experiences. I really care about people, and I want everything that I do or every relationship that I have with someone to be meaningful.”

12194784_10206085891401027_7657338410415036986_oIt is an indescribable joy to know Joy. She is lighthearted enough not to take herself too seriously but passionate enough to know that her work is serious and meaningful. She’s a girl who loves cats and never misses a chance to send a Snapchat of eggs benedict yolk breaking; a girl who has absolutely no problem defying the status quo. Joy does things that make her happy for that reason alone, which is a skill many of us still need to learn. Her capacity to be silly yet well-composed is impressive and it’s quite remarkable the focus she already has for the path she’s following. She’s a young woman worth knowing and learning from, and I can’t wait to see where her future takes her because I know I’ll be right there cheering on my best friend from the sidelines.

Friend Friday: Evan Pacheco

People often take for granted the constants in our lives because, by definition, they’re always there. Sometimes it takes their absence for us to recognize them; other times, if we’re lucky, they make themselves known to us. Evan Pacheco is someone who has proved constant in my recent life.  He has unintentionally made cameos in at least 3 pieces of writing that I’ve published since last semester; the reason being his consistent, warm friendship and quirky presence for which I am genuinely grateful.

12339122_1083479468352337_9173149831294591120_oIf you read the Spring 2016 issue of 20 Watts Magazine, you know that Evan was the reason I first attended a Scarier Dome show in October of 2015.  We had vaguely known each other prior to that, but from then on our friendship grew stronger and allowed for the birth of my friendships with the other boys of Super Defense and so on.  All roads lead to Rome, or in my case, Evan.

Evan is a rising junior in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracuse University. Musically, he does it all and he does it all really, really well: guitar, bass, and his primary instrument, drums. Growing up in tiny Rhode Island the music scene wasn’t as big or accessible as it seems to be in other places, but he says that his mom, Brenda, was always a propeller behind his musical passions.

My mom has pretty much been the driving force behind my entire life. She was always there for me in school, music, and pretty much anything else I had an interest in, laughing and being supportive along the way. As a singer, my mom definitely acted as a musical role model for me to continue my passion throughout my life. We also used to sing in the car a lot, which really means a lot to me the more I think about those times.”

Throughout Evan’s life, music was always a fixation but it wasn’t until college that he realized exactly how centric it was to his being. Back in high school when Evan was still a self-proclaimed mall goth, ever-clad in 80’s band shirts and impossibly baggy jeans, he played in his first band.

“My first semi serious band was a three piece metalcore band called Traveler that never even played a first show, which basically meant tuning our guitars down as low as possible and chugging till our little fingers couldn’t handle it anymore.”

still from “New Brubeck” video shoot by Amy Holsten

Since beginning school at Syracuse, he’s played in three bands. First was the now defunct Ride Bikes with Andy Horvath and Kyle Beam. After the release of an EP the band split into two projects: Andy began Super Defense (in which Evan plays guitar) and Kyle started Kvlt Ddy (in which Evan plays drums). Finding his way to this community of musicians and music lovers has made the relatively massive school feel much smaller and more like home for Evan.

“I go back and forth every day between really hating and really enjoying [Syracuse]. The school itself, being as big as it is, definitely did not seem like my place to be but I’ve found that throughout my life the places that I feel the least comfortable in have propelled me to move out of my comfort zone the most. So, I feel as if I ended up at ‘Cuse for the right reasons. I’m lucky enough to have met the people I have so far and that they’ve opened up their arms to me so fervently even after being as quiet and bizarre as I am.”

It is interesting to hear Evan describe himself, because he is truly one of the most universally well-liked people I know. I can’t count how many people, unprompted, have expressed their adoration for Evan’s good nature, quirks, humor and all of the other parts of him that make him so unique and likable – bizarre as he may think he is. He is a self-described odd ball, and that one I’d have to agree with, but it’s exactly what people love about him.

There is a quietness about Evan, but inside rages a passion for keeping music alive, accessible and all-inclusive. The Syracuse music scene is all of those things, and it’s populated with driven, talented people who’ve helped to form some of Evan’s proudest moments.

img_5678I’m mostly just proud of my friends for being such solid musicians and working to make really great music. I’ve loved opening for Matt & Kim and PWR BTTM but those shows wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of Andy, Ping, Allison, Nate, Andrew, and countless others. 

Life, however, is not constantly full of proud moments and joy.  When challenges have knocked on Evan’s door, his drums, his family, his friends and, of course, his dogs have kept him afloat.

“Back in high school I would always play drums, practically every day, because it would always relieve any kind of stress or tension I had. I still do in college on occasion, but have found going on walks usually helps. There have been a few instances with drug issues and mental illness within certain members of our family but my Mom and I have overcome all odds. My family members have always been there for my Mom and me whenever anything remotely serious went down. My immediate family means the world to me but my close circle of friends back in Rhode Island and my new circle of Syracuse friends have really kept me stable throughout these past 2 years. I also love my dogs very much.

Evan walks on his toes, mumbles a lot and has an affinity for alliteration and also assonance. He’ll absolutely melt your face off with the power of rock ‘n’ roll and make you laugh till your belly hurts even from miles away via Snapchat. Need someone to send cute or funny dog pics to? Evan’s your man. He definitely doesn’t give himself enough credit for how extraordinarily awesome he is, and it’s an understatement to call it a privilege to be his friend.

Friend Friday: Erin Williams

It was on the way home from watching the 2013 high school state championship football game that I received my admission letter from Syracuse University.  I sat on my best friend’s lap in the overcrowded car, hands and voice trembling as I said, “Guys, I think I just got my decision letter from Syracuse.” I opened the email, read the word ‘congratulations,” and broke down into a full-on Ugly Sob. It took me no time at all to join a Facebook group for other admitted Early Decision students, and in our enthusiasm we scheduled a meet up at a Buffalo Wild Wings in New York City. It was there that I met a girl with nearly Rapunzel-length dark brown hair who seemed to unintentionally take the role of leader of our mimg_3848eet up once we got to Penn Station. I would later come to realize, as Erin Williams became my roommate and then best friend, that leadership was something that came naturally to her in any situation.

Erin is a rising junior majoring in Public Relations with a minor in marketing in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She is an active member of the Alpha Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta sorority, and works as the sole campus representative for University Tees.

“I’m super self-motivated. I’m definitely goal-oriented, and I like to move forward and have something to achieve,” she says. Erin has been an easily motivated person her whole life, a quality that is not at all difficult to pick up on.

“I saved up to buy my first car,” she says of her accomplishments with a genuine, doting smile as she tells me that her little sister had just done the same, “And I like to do well in school.  I’ve gotten Dean’s List all semesters.” Another one of her many accomplishments is her summer internship at Discovery Communications – yes, as in MythBusters, Naked and Afraid and Shark Week Discovery. As a Public Relations major she was a perfect fit for the internal communications position, where she gets to combine her two loves: writing and working with people.

“I started out in high school wanting to write. I have a copy of this story I wrote when I was in third grade that I had typed up and made a bunch of copies of. I always just really loved to write, and I keep journals and stuff. I have a “one line a day” journal that I write in every night as well as other journals that I write in periodically. I like to keep track of my life. I’m a pretty nostalgic person, so looking back on my own writing is really cool. It’s always been a really important part of my routine. I have journals dating back to fifth grade – not that there’s any relevant content in them, but they’re funny to skim through every once in a while. So I was looking into writing, but I realized that it wasn’t super sensible. I started looking at communications schools in general because I could put people skills with writing. After my first semester at Newhouse, I was kind of like, ‘this [Public Relations] is the only thing that makes sense.'”

img_2509Erin is a practical yet passionate person.  She is the kind of person who actually makes sure she has all of her homework done before a weekend of going out, and when she does finally hoist herself up onto the Elevated Surface of whatever frat basement she’s in that evening, she’s having just as much fun as she did the first time. She’s passionate about success, she passionate about dancing. She’s passionate about learning, she’s passionate about puppies. If she likes something, no matter what it may be, she invests her heart.

“When I like something, I normally like it a lot. I’ve had Kanye West’s album on repeat for, like, four and a half weeks. It’s sort of similar to how I have a good work ethic; I just get devoted to things. I’m passionate about living, if that makes sense. I want to find happiness whether that’s in music or dancing or reading.”

Erin is sort of like a cool mom that doesn’t actually have any children (thank god). Living with her freshman year, she was my pharmacist (it took me a while to acquire band-aids and stuff), therapist, dancing partner, sister, mother and best friend all rolled into one incredible human being. Her work ethic motivated me (okay, maybe only first semester) and I knew I always had the Jerry to my Tom (a Halloween costume we later ended up scrapping). Her constant forward sailing was, and is, impressive in the face of the hardships life has thrown her way.

When Erin was just 10, her parents divorced and she and her sisters, Paige and Hannah, were thrust into 2 separate lives: one with their father and one with their mother. While Erin feels she adjusts quickly and well, a much darker cloud was cast when her mother, Alyse, fell ill and passed away in November 2015.

“She had been battling cancer for two and a half years, which was an ongoing time of hardship for my entire family. I had a really hard time getting back into the swing of my everyday life after such a traumatic event, but I still work towards it all the time. My closest friends and my family keep me afloat like no other.”

In the face of these events, Erin has found peace in places that relate directly to them.

12003005_10206203360577842_4513915497959329520_n“I love the ocean and the feeling of the sun on my skin. I also feel very connected to my mom at the beach, because she always loved going there and took every opportunity she had to spend the day reading a book in the sand. I am also at peace at my best friend Rebecca’s house. I have lived in five different houses throughout my life, and with frequent scenery changes comes some long adjustment periods. I love my home, and I have loved all of the places I’ve lived, but Rebecca’s house is my true constant (as is she). She has been my best friend since third grade – her family is truly my own as well.”

Erin’s strength is nothing short of, frankly, unbelievable. Not a day goes by that I’m not reminded of how proud I am of her and how lucky I feel to have her as one of my best friends. She is constantly, steadily climbing the ladder of success – even when there’s a broken rung or five missing she finds a way to make it smoothly to the next closest one to continue her journey.

Friend Friday: Katherine Sotelo

If you’re a current Syracuse student or recent grad, you are likely well acquainted with the famed “Baton Girl” who twirls at ‘Cuse sports games, donning a sparkly orange and blue costume and twice-as-dazzling smile.  What you may not know is that off the Syracuse field, court, turf, or whathaveyou is another baton-wielding girl.  She hails from San Antonio, Texas where she once sang Avril Lavigne’s “Sk8r Boi” at a competition outside a WalMart and where her grandfather taught her to maneuver a baton and a slingshot. Baton twirling, singing and slingshot usage – you could call her a triple threat, but there’s much, much more to Katherine Sotelo than just these three of her many talents.

Katherine is a Television, Radio and Film major at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Yes, really, she left sunny, warm Texas for what may as well be the North Pole.

I would describe it as comparable to moving to a new country, one you’ve never visited and could have never prepared for. Moving to the northeast was like spiraling into the Twilight Zone, where everything was different but supposed to be the same,” she continues, “Also, the food sucks in Syracuse.” (I think aside from Funk ‘n’ Waffles and maybe some other select establishments, we can all pretty much agree on the latter.)

You’d never know how much an adjustment moving from San Antonio to Syracuse was without asking. Kath13227191_1299694710044261_2774033367090191940_nerine seems perpetually well-composed, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that she possesses an inherent intellectual curiosity that just won’t quit. Rather than shy away from the challenge of this monumental move she embraced it, and in that embrace found cross-country friends and, ultimately, herself.

“If I gained anything, it would be cultural understanding, and learning to look at people as people, and knowing that people, well, they’re always going to surprise you. I’ve grown and am making strides to be comfortable with who I’ve always been. I think being placed in a school where no one knows anyone like you or anyone from where you’re from made me realize, you know what, I could be whatever I want and the best thing to be is me.”

Katherine is a natural-born creative and has been a writer all her life. Instead of absent-minded doodling she most often finds herself scribbling words on notebooks and scraps of papers, sometimes for hours on end until she’s unintentionally ended up with numerous full stories.

“Home is a pen in my hand,” she says, and this home has been a source of invaluable therapy for her in the darkest of hours. Living with depression has been the root of many of her personal struggles for quite some time, but when she started writing again – writing for herself, most importantly – she claims it aided her more than she could have anticipated. She began a blog titled The Whitest Brown Girl where she publishes personal pieces that are beautifully, eloquently written.

“When I started writing, suddenly everything changed. I found my therapy, and its helped me more than an antidepressant or drug ever could. It’s opened doors to creativity I didn’t even know was possible, and now I’m getting back into art and singing. I didn’t realize how deep into the sadness I was until I started digging myself out of it, and with that, writing became my comfort.

Writing is both a medicine and a passion for Katherine, but her curious mind has led her to be passionate about a myriad of topics, ranging from other art forms to the science of mental illness to the cosmos.  Though she doesn’t say it outright, it’s clear that high on her list of passions sits her home city and state as well as its people and culture. Telling people in the Northeast that she’s from Texas has been a struggle in and of itself, as the statement alone is often met by immediate and unwelcoming judgment.

I’m proud of where I’m from and people in the North really don’t know anything about my state or my city. San Antonio is fueled by and thrives off the Mexican culture, and the city itself is not only beautiful, but the people are caring, friendly and kind. There’s a lot of heartache in my hometown, and a lot of hard work just the same, and the combination of those two makes for some really great people, people that those up north hscreen-shot-2016-07-08-at-9-28-46-amave never seen. It’s a story that’s never been told, a story no one up North could know if all they know about Texas is what’s in the newspapers.” Her love for her home is so great that she plans to return after graduating, and hopes to start a media production company in South Texas.

In all honestly I, myself, was once ignorant in my views of the South in that, I sheepishly admit, I felt a disdain for the region because I equated the South with racism and homophobia (which is not all that uncommon for the average Northerner). After meeting Katherine and actually listening to her, my eyes and mind have been opened to the Southern world if only a little bit more.

If you believe in this sort of thing, or even if you don’t you’ll understand: it’s nearly inarguable that Katherine is an old soul. The head on her shoulders is filled to the brim with wisdom supplemented by intelligence and an insatiable hunger for dissecting ideas and problem solving. She is aware of herself and the world and people around her, and above all she is grateful for what, and who, she has.

When I ask questions for Friend Friday, there are a few that I ask each Friend. Katherine’s answer for what she’s proud of was the most unique of the seven features I’ve done for this series so far, and showcases what a genuinely selfless and grateful person s
he is.

13558986_1321824224497976_9018738169899596967_o“My mom. She’s not a what, but she’s is who I am most proud of. Without her I wouldn’t be here, without her I wouldn’t have grown up in such a beautiful and safe neighborhood. Without her, I wouldn’t feel comfortable to think outside the box and be creative. She’s been through a lot, and I’d like to think I carry her pain with me, which she may not realize but that’s just because she’s so strong emotionally,”she adds: “Syracuse isn’t just an opportunity for myself. It’s opportunity for her, my grandpa, and the rest of my family.”

She may prefer sunlight to snow, but Syracuse is her station for now and there’s no doubting that Katherine will squeeze all the (Orange) juice she can out of these next two years and I’m excited to be witness to it all. It’s not every lifetime you encounter a person as special as Katherine Sotelo.





Friend Friday: Andrew Idarraga


Here is a list of things I can’t do: play the piano, play the drums, eat 100 chicken nuggets in a single sitting, skateboard, write cow-themed music, etc.

Here is a list of things that Andrew Idarraga can do: play the piano, play the drums, eat 100 chicken nuggets in a single sitting, skateboard, write good cow-themed music, etc.

img_1339-copyA few weeks ago, a “fully clothed Bandier freshman” was mentioned as having been playing drums in my running shower, and as you may have guessed that person was none other than Andrew Idarraga. Andrew is a rising sophomore in the Bandier Program for Recording and Allied Entertainment Industries at Syracuse University.  He is spending his summer as a mover in his home of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; don’t be fooled – his interests lie not in moving other people’s furniture, but in music.

He begrudgingly took piano lessons until age 14, when his father brought home a drum set and his musical world was forever changed. Drums are his primary instrument, and he plays alongside Andy Horvath , Evan Pacheco and Nate Currie in Super Defense.  The band recently released two new tracks, titled “Sinking” and “Anything” which they recorded at Converse RubberTracks this past May. Andrew cites this as one of his accomplishments, humbly adding, “Just Super Defense in general. More so the fact that Andy and the guys are so talented and they think I’m good enough to jam with them.”

He’s also the creator of The Wisconaut, deriving the project’s title from his home state.

In his own words, “It’s a little musical project. A great creative release. I just write about the stuff that I’m thinking about. I always get so surprised that people enjoy the music. It’s so cool.” Live he’s joined by friends Gavin, Scott and Terrin, and has released 4
13076820_10204864924263256_4207029253772595600_nsingles on SoundCloud and Bandcamp.

Andrew is a lively, ardent young man with a magnetic personality – the kind of dude who seems to be friends with every single person at a party, and greets them all with the same level of excitement.  His friendships span all grade levels and sub-groups because he is so gregarious and easy to connect with.  While his first passion is music, he’s ultimately a person who loves people.

“I’m passionate about a ton of stuff, but if you boil all the fat off of it, it comes down to music and people. I’m inspired by my friends, teachers, industry pioneers and really good music. Especially the stuff made by my friends, The Lab, Pizza Party, Super Defense and of course Petite League.” 

All of these bands have at least one thing in common, which is their origin: Syracuse.

“I think I’m a lot more comfortable in my own skin after 1 year at Syracuse. Syracuse unlocked a creativity that I had inside of me that I guess I never knew about. It also gave me some incredible friends and amazing opportunities, especially with the Ghoul Tapes gang.”

In just his first year as a student 768 miles from home, Andrew has forged relationships with a slew of talented musicians and has had the opportunity to play with a number of them at venues like Scarier Dome and Spark Contemporary Art Space.  The Wisconaut’s first show was in January, at Spark opening for Pizza Party, and you have to trust me when I say it’s a huge loss to you if you have yet to see The Wisconaut live.  Andrew’s stage presence is larger than life and, in the simplest of terms, so much GD fun. There’s nothing about everyday Andrew that’s dull or lackluster; his naturally animated and energetic personality explodes with extra intensity when he takes the stage.

As a Bandier student his musical passions are taken in the direction of industry rather than performance, but his vision for his post-grad future includes both.

“In 5 years I hope to be either managing some dope acts or playing some dope music. I really just want to be happy.”

12698149_10201237757263852_8197016920175213597_oFor now, Andrew seems to be on a steady incline of bliss with great friends and family to support him and his musical endeavors – wherever they may take him – talented musicians never more than arm’s length away and a curious place like Syracuse, New York to
keep him inspired. Boasting an underwhelming average of 163 days of sunshine per year in this wintery pocket of Central New York, often it’s a ‘Cuse-ian’s task to make their own sunshine. Barring the first time Andrew put his foot to a bass pedal and his drumstick to a snare, the most defining and sunniest parts of his life are tied to this meteorologically unforgiving city.

“Getting my Syracuse acceptance letter, accidentally walking into Andy’s room at a little party at his apartment and then him asking me if I played drums and wanted to play with him. Then definitely the first and last Scarier Dome shows, and every Wisconaut show has been so awesome.”

Andrew has been called a “ham,” which is basically a silly goofball.  He may be the biggest ham of them all, but more importantly he’s a talented, humble guy who’s just excited to be here. If the world had more people as pure-hearted as Andrew Idarraga, I think we’d be in good shape no matter how many days of sunshine we get.

Check out Andrew’s music!

featured/first photo by Gabby Jones