Liberal arts professor Sally Blazar traveled to Kauai, Hawaii with a group of faculty through a Nurturing the Creative Arts fellowship provided by Berklee’s Office of Faculty Development. Blazar’s project is an identity reader/anthology to be uses in college courses similar to the Identity course she teaches at Berklee. She’s selecting material that looks at identity from a number of perspectives such as nationality, gender, family, race/ethnicity, and the body. The following is Blazar’s account of the trip to Tony’s Steelgrass Farm. 

The residency was such an amazing gift to me and to all of us, I think, but of course I’ll only write for myself, and these are in no special order.

Berklee in Hawaii
Sally Blazar and Niihau students explore identity via body height.

To be in such gorgeous surroundings as Tony’s Steelgrass Farm and Kauai and 70-degree balmy weather—how can this not be wonderful for creative juices??!! For my project, working on the Identity Anthology, being in a different environment necessarily raised many new ideas because of meeting new people (both from Berklee and from Kauai) and of thinking about different ways of life. Part of my anthology includes our identities in relationship to where we live, and I was able to get a mini-taste of life on an island in the middle of a huge ocean—with all sorts of issues that that in itself raises, along with the colonization of Hawaii and the many cultures which live on Hawaii and Kauai.

Berklee in Hawaii
Berklee faculty and staff in Hawaii (from left to right): MP&E professor Stephen Webber, vice president for curriculum Jeanine Cowen, Voice Department accompanist Jiri Nedoma, Percussion Department assistant chair Yoron Israel, liberal arts professor Sally Blazar, MP&E associate professor Mark Wessel, voice professor Gabrielle Goodman, and City Music Teacher Matthew Truss.

Going to the Niihau school was especially interesting to me in terms of issues of identity (and also because the students and everyone who works there are so great) because of Niihau’s unique history and the students’ and their families’ unique relationship to place.

Serendipitous events were also an important part of the residency—again, for me personally in terms of the topic of identity, and also for the creative process. As the only person not involved with the music production/recording, I got a special chance to witness the rest of the group doing their creative work—and being around others who are doing what they love is catchy.  It also gave me a deeper appreciation for what goes on at Berklee all the time, for what the students are working on and the teachers they’re working under.

An important way that I think the residency will impact my teaching is that I’m going to aim to incorporate more serendipity into the class work. I keep being re-introduced to how important it is to take a break from work in order for the unconscious to do what it needs to do. As someone teaching literature and language, this means for me, I think, that I’ll incorporate non-verbal and non-linguistic material.

Other wonderful aspects of the residency were all the in-between-the-work:  or the work interrupted all of this.  Here are some snippets of memories that will stay with me:

–  the Lydgates! what generous, fascinating, open, large-hearted people all of the Lydgates are!

–  our group!  what a nice group of people and such different personalities making a life together for two weeks was delightful!

– all the sights we got to see: gorgeous beaches, canyons, mountains, vegetation, waterfalls, chickens, more chickens, roosters, more roosters, gorgeous vegetation, more chickens!

– sitting in on the recording sessions

– the concerts, at the college and house

– the incredibly delicious food that we made together under Matthew’s [Truss] tutelage and care!  and the delicious food we got to have at specially-picked-by-Stephen [Webber] restaurants

– the landscape!  hiking up Sleeping Giant; seeing spouts on every ocean walk; bike riding on the gorgeous bike path along the water; Waimea Canyon; Napali coast

– being taken in, guided on the island, and cared for by so many people—including the Lydgates; Stephen and Jeanine [Cowen] as our shepherds;  Berklee for sending us;

– the vegetation – being surrounded by such lush vegetation, and edible vegetation, was a treat.  I loved going out to pick limes and lemons everyday, and making ice tea and lemonade.



Lesley Mahoney
Latest posts by Lesley Mahoney (see all)