We don’t take kindly to strangers…

I was watching a great documentary on the First World War recently (“The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century”) and began to think about the relationship between the larger world powers at play and their various commonwealths and colonies that were essentially drafted into the war.  As a lighthearted jest, I suggested that the University of Rochester could in some ways be seen as a foreign imperial power, and the Eastman School as a smaller commonwealth full of national pride (say, turn-of-the-century Australia.) For instance, when someone asks, “Where do you go to school?” our response is typically “The Eastman School of Music,” not “The Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.”  Of course this answer comes from pride in our accomplishments as an accredited music school, not as a simple statement of fact (and not just because we’re in to the whole brevity thing.)  Yet, one feels a dash in pride when seeing The Eastman School of Music/University of Rochester as the “hottest” music school in the country.

I then began to equate this thought process to the ambivalence discussed in Honig.  There are both images of the good U of R as well as the bad.  Our affiliation with the University of Rochester offers us free and unrestricted use of their facilities, access to various classes and professors, a sort of escape from the day-to-day torment and routine that Eastman sometimes poses, and degree opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable.  Yet, there is also an element of “taking” to accompany their “giving.”  They change our school’s colors, offer money to send the Yellow Jackets to various locales and decline other ensembles the same luxury (my trumpet ensemble had to fight tooth and nail to get so much as a reimbursement for our gas expenses when we went to the National Trumpet Competition last year,) and among their most “egregious” acts against us, they took Hank (perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to the Dining Center) away to work in the kitchen at Panda Express.  The Hank incident hit us the hardest…

I have also encountered some second-hand information postulating that the River Campus only started pushing for more integration with Eastman after the aforementioned “hottest school for music” affair.  Despite our attempts to satisfy this appeal (e.g. Eastman performances at the River Campus) it seems that the benefits of our Kaplan/Newsweek ranking go more one way than the other.  While our ambivalence to the University as a whole may be clear, I am more interested in how it effects our opinions towards the River Campus students themselves.

When a group of Eastman students travels to the River Campus, we can usually blend in amongst a large and relatively diverse population (that is, until we start arguing about theory…) Those who acknowledge our foreignness typically offer no more than a passing glance and imperceptible shrug.  Quite the contrary though, when U of R students are seen at Eastman, their foreignness is known to all who see them.  We are a small, tight knit, and basically closed community.  I for one rarely leave the campus for anything other than food and gigs (or gigs that have food!)  While one may not know everyone here, it is not difficult to identify an outsider.  River Campus students with whom I have spoken have related our reactions to either one of these two, general types: a tribe cut-off from society seeing a white man for the first time, and the classic, “We don’t take kindly to strangers [cue spittoon sound.]”  They describe their dining experience in the pit or dining center as being studied from afar like wild animals.

Our almost childish reaction, albeit humorous, is something that I cannot quite come to terms with.  After all, they help to fill our concert halls, sometimes take lessons from professors and graduate students, and without doubt make us feel as though we attend a school that other people want to attend.  The positives of our relationship outweigh the negatives by far, and lead me to believe most of our ambivalence toward any given individual River Campus student stems merely from the institution itself (or perhaps we just don’t get out much…)

With Honig’s concepts of foreignness in mind, the relationship between we Australians and other British subjects is all the more intriguing.  Even when individual citizens of the empire simply come to visit our warm, sandy beaches we cannot help but recall Gallipoli, the Boer Wars, and the other examples of exploitation from our foreign ruler.

Hopefully, the tasteless reference to my first analogy takes a little bit of the weight out of what I am saying.  Just to save face and make it clear that I have no other feeling than indifference towards our relationship to the University of Rochester, I would like once again to point out that this was merely a semi-humorous stream of thought I was exploring.  It’s something to think about the next time you see a strange new face on our “turf.”

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