Through the concerted efforts of both students and faculty, multiple new clubs and student groups are starting their operations with the beginning of the academic year. Two such organizations are Occidental Sinfonia, an entirely Occidental-based orchestra, and the Occidental Consulting Group (OCG), which aims to solve problems in the local community.
Occidental Sinfonia, conducted by Director of Instrumental Activities Dean Anderson, is a newly-formed chamber ensemble that could become Occidental’s orchestra. It is distinct from the Oxy-Caltech Symphony Orchestra and is open to any interested members of the Occidental community, as well as to the Los Angeles community at large. Although any interested person is welcome, Sinfonia remains solely affiliated with Occidental.
“My goal is to offer an orchestral or chamber orchestra experience to Occidental students and the community, including faculty and alumni,” Anderson said.
Sinfonia, created in response to a growing desire by alumni for an Occidental-based orchestra, is entirely run by and for Occidental, according to Anderson. Although collaboration with the California Institute of Technology has been beneficial in the past, the two schools are gradually moving in different directions.
“I think that having Sinfonia be the Oxy orchestra is really important,” cellist Shahar Amitay (first-year) said. “It would be good for us.”
Although Sinfonia, which currently boasts approximately 10 members, has not yet reached its ideal size of 15 to 20 members, weekly rehearsals held at 7:15 p.m. every Thursday are already in session with the violinists, violists and cellists currently in the ensemble. Anderson would appreciate the addition of other instruments that are traditionally included in chamber ensembles, including but not limited to flutes, oboes and French horns, but emphasizes that instrumentalists of any kind are welcome.
Cellist Claire Organick (first-year), who joined Sinfonia following positive experiences playing in a youth symphony at home, likewise acknowledges that a greater diversity in instrumentation would benefit the ensemble.
“Hopefully we’ll get some winds, so it’ll be a full symphonic sound,” Organick said.
Sinfonia was not designed exclusively for music majors, but for people with some musical experience who are more interested in a chamber ensemble experience for merely recreational or exploratory purposes. Anderson believes that music will always be a beneficial part of students’ lives, not only as an extracurricular activity but also as a stress reliever that can provide some reprieve from academia.
Sinfonia has worked with a Baroque and Classical Era repertoire thus far, but is not limited to these genres, Anderson said.
Collaboration with Occidental’s composition program via Assistant Professor of Composition Adam Schoenberg is in the works and will ideally result in original compositions written specifically for Sinfonia. Anderson, who describes these compositions as ultra-contemporary, stresses that these original works will be inclusive of whatever unorthodox instrumentation that Sinfonia finds itself with.
“Let’s say that an electric guitar wants to join us, or a xylophone player, or a drum set and keyboard player, or an accordion or an African drum,” Anderson said. “The goal will be, on this small level, to try out and experience works that are written by living composers, whether they be students or professional.”
Sinfonia’s first concert, scheduled Dec. 3, will feature classical music as well as original music played live alongside a silent film. More information and updates can be found on the group’s Facebook page.
Occidental Consulting Group
The summer before her sophomore year, Sarah Greilsamer (junior) realized that there was no existing organization that was professional, entrepreneurial and actively working to solve issues in the community. To fill this gap, she decided to create a consulting club.
Although a math major, Greilsamer considers herself an entrepreneur and spends much of her time starting challenging projects that address issues in the local community. The idea for a consulting club came to her after interacting with a local business owner who was on the brink of shutting down due to poor finances.
Greilsamer did research contacting students of consulting groups at other colleges, and found they were all thriving. The feedback she received was unanimous: Starting a consulting group would undoubtedly be a challenge, but it would be worth it in terms of the benefits for both its student participants and the surrounding community.
OCG Co-president Graham Garzon (junior), who works alongside Greilsamer, came into the picture this past summer. Although he initially had the same vision of a consulting group independently of Greilsamer, their paths crossed via a mutual advisor and allowed them to unite forces in their passion for consulting.
“Business consulting exposes you to so many aspects of business, everything from marketing to accounting,” Garzon said via email. “I thought it was a great opportunity for me to learn while also helping others to.”
Although Greilsamer began the process of training interested students last semester, OCG will not be fully active until a few weeks into this semester, once she and Garzon have determined which of their approximately 15 applicants to welcome to their team. They currently have eight positions to be filled by students who will subsequently be divided into two teams of four. Each team, with its own leader, will work on the same project, albeit separately. The projects that OCG hopes to tackle will benefit local businesses who lack the resources to independently solve any business-related issues they may encounter.
“The teams are small enough to be actively involved and provide input, but also to develop a sense of teamwork and learn to adapt work styles and communication to other people,” Greilsamer said.
In its first semester, OCG will be dealing with a mock case. Since none of its members are professional consultants, Greilsamer and Garzon thought it would be wise to first practice and develop the skills needed to approach an actual client. Ideally, by spring 2016, they hope to establish themselves by working with a real business.
“The thing with a consulting club is that even though it’s going to be run like any other club, it’s going to deal with real issues,” Greilsamer said. “Real businesses [will be] investing money, time and energy in our ideas.”
Greilsamer is confident that participation in OCG will be hugely beneficial to its members. In addition to the experience they will gain in working with a team and the research skills they will develop as part of the consulting process, they will have the opportunity to network with the business community of Northeast Los Angeles while also learning what it is like to be a real entrepreneur.
“I think that Oxy students have the potential to solve real-world problems, because Oxy students are very involved,” Greilsamer said. “They also work hard, and I think they have good critical thinking skills and the energy and the will to make a personal difference in the community.”
Garzon also hopes that OCG will act as a mentor program in which active alumni and more experienced members will serve as a support system for participants. He wants students to be able to take what they learn beyond the classroom and apply it to real-world situations.
Greilsamer and Garzon have expressed concern about establishing OCG due to the fact that the nature of their work has the potential to substantially affect the people with whom they work. However, they acknowledge that it will be a learning process, and hope that it will eventually become a successful organization that remains active in the business world of Los Angeles well past their own departure from Occidental.
“Although I think it might take a few years to develop, I am confident that OCG will eventually be a reputable and reliable group on campus and in our local community,” Garzon said.