SPOTLIGHT ON: Sara Proud & Kevin Callery

Sophomore English major Sara Proud and senior political science major Kevin Callery make up two twee-folk acoustic music duos—Bong Pong and Parent Teacher’s Dissociation. Performing in Rochester, Avon and locally at open mics, house shows and even in a motel room, this duo has slowly gained a good reputation among the campus’ music community.

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SPOTLIGHT ON: Ariel Piazza

English creative writing major junior Ariel Piazza—also known as “Gypsy Freight”—is a free-spirited performer who creates songs and meaningful music as an emotional outlet. Playing the guitar, ukulele and piano, Piazza uses music to alleviate stress and bring together those around her. Music has always been an important part of Piazza’s life. She explained that her parents constantly had music playing around her house, which was a significant influence on her early love of music.

Piazza started playing instruments at an early age, teaching herself the piano and how to read music. For her, music seemed to be a calling. “I didn’t really have anything that I was particularly good at … growing up,” she said. “But then once I got my hands on a piano one day … I definitely felt connected to that and wanted to continue teaching myself from there and learning about that part of myself.”

Piazza began writing songs in high school, but she didn’t feel comfortable sharing them with others. She noted that her early music was very personal and she used it “like a stress reliever, like an emotion release.”

Although she started cultivating her musical skills early in her life, Piazza really delved into the music world in August 2014. She explained that she now wants to share her music in public with others. “I really want people to hear [my music] and understand it and listen to it … I really enjoy sharing it,” she said.

Piazza discussed the fact that her main sources of inspiration are Daughter lead singer Elena Timerand and Irish singer Enya. She added that she likes to imitate both of their sounds and styles. Piazza strives to keep her own music as “a hybrid of ambient and acoustic stuff together.”

She noted that her inspirations to write, however, are more intimate. “[My inspirations to write are] life experiences or memories that I want to particularly hold onto,” she said. “I try to write music … with a person or an experience as a focus and the sound develops around that.”

Piazza is currently signed with record company Bangkok Blend, a “do-it-yourself” label based out of Maryland and Rochester. She explained that label employees came up from Maryland and met her in Rochester for her first show.

Piazza said that what she most enjoys about performing are her interactions with people during her performances. “There’s this calm intimacy there. I really enjoy that,” she said. “And it opens up a lot of things for conversation after performing and stuff, which is also really important to me too.”

Although she wishes to pursue her love for music after college, Piazza noted that she has other plans on the horizon. With her major in creative writing, she hopes to go into editing and publishing—though she admits that her music might lead her elsewhere. “We’ll see where the wind takes me,” she said.

Although she has received some backlash regarding her stage name “Gypsy Freight,” her reasoning behind choosing the name bears no negative connation toward Romani individuals. Piazza explained that she did some research on the Romani people and her personal cultural background and ancestry. “I always thought it was really endearing to call somebody … a free spirit,” she said. “I really felt connected with that.”

“Freight,” on the other hand, alludes to the sense of alleviation she feels from her music. Piazza acknowledged that some people may take offense to the name, but stressed that there is no malice behind it.

“It’s part of my culture. I understand the negative connotations of gypsies and freight and those two words together and stuff like that, but if you listen to the kind of music I make, this is not a slander account at all,” she said. “It’s quite the opposite—if anything, I’m trying to honor that ancestry and that group of people.”

With the help of her music, Piazza can continue to entrance and connect with audiences as they bond over their shared love of music.

Spotlight: Philosophy degree key for alum writer

Geneseo resident Tyler DeBrauwere ‘15 graduated with a philosophy degree, a major often ribbed for its seemingly impractical nature. Having explored the philosophy major as an undergraduate, however, DeBrauwere was able to apply his studies into a real world task: writing his first novel.

DeBrauwere explained that with his in-progress novel, he hopes to provide readers with an entertaining literary experience and to extend their awareness of issues within today’s social consciousness, such as culturally-created idealizations.

Born and raised in Long Island, DeBrauwere noted that his appreciation for writing emerged as early as his first year of middle school. DeBrauwere continued to follow his passion in writing, winning several poetry contests throughout his teenage years. It wasn’t until he graduated from Geneseo, however, that his aspirations for turning his ideas into a novel really solidified.

“I’ve always been interested in writing. The thing that I’ve always found interesting was the way the written word has so much power,” DeBrauwere said. “I’ve always had an interest with connecting minds with what I have to say; however, growing up, I didn’t feel like I had much to say.”

DeBrauwere decided to remain in Geneseo after graduating, both to be with his friends and to contemplate various graduate schools—including Princeton University—where he plans to apply and pursue a doctorate in philosophy.

When he’s not writing or searching for post-grad opportunities, DeBrauwere has remained active in his independent studies—which ultimately help in conjuring new ideas to explore in his novel. With his growing repository of philosophical ideas, Spaulding seeks to share his own opinions on contentious topics and notions through the medium of his novel.

“Probably the most important class I ever took was Phenomenology and Existentialism with professor [of philosophy] Walter Soffer because we went over Nietzsche in that class, [who said that] everything is will to power … and power is a fundamental aspect in my novel,” DeBrauwere said. “The most fun, I feel, comes from expressing very complicated philosophical ideas through a very creative medium.”

DeBrauwere admitted that he has struggled with actualizing the expectations of how he wants his novel to be read. He can’t help but doubt the formulation of his ideas and wishes to re-organize them in a way that allows them to be more effectively portrayed in his writing.

“Everything—the entire idea of the novel—is in place. I have the main character, I know what I want him to be like, I know his story, his love interest—I have the world fleshed out,” DeBrauwere said. “I have this beautiful piece of marble, I have everything I need and now I’m trying to figure out what to sculpt that marble into and how to do it.”

DeBrauwere explained that his perfectionism in developing how the scenes, characters and realistic undertones are presented to his audience is what’s responsible for the slow pace of the novel’s progression. DeBrauwere has worked diligently to find the most creative and engaging avenues through which to deliver his message.

“Everything is so precise. This is my baby; this is my work of art,” he said. “I have incredibly high standards, so [writing] is completely draining.”

The writing process isn’t all bad, however. DeBrauwere expressed that the process of creating his own world and the pride associated with its inception is what gives writing the most amount of thrill for him.

“It’s not a bad emotional draining when I’m writing about my characters, when I’m writing about this world,” he said. “I’m there and I’m with them. I’m feeling their pains and laughing at their triumphs. I’m creating this and that’s why it’s so much fun.”

Although the process of creation is enjoyable for DeBrauwere, he emphasized his ultimate desire that the reader will be able to connect with the thematic elements in the story, specifically the ones that contain topics such as prejudice, greed and morality. DeBrauwere explained how he strives to use both plot and the events integral to its progression as metaphors to express the problems he identifies in society today.

“The key aspect of the book is that humans set an ideal to strive for and, as we keep pushing and moving toward that, we achieve this ideal and once we achieve it, it becomes the norm,” he said. “Once it’s the norm, we don’t want it anymore; we want a new ideal. So our lives—and society as a whole—is constantly pushing for an ideal. But by seeking that ideal and not accepting the norm, you destroy yourself and the world around you.”

In tying together the geopolitical and economic concerns of both recent and past history, the novel is set to be an exaggeration of today’s contemporary society. The walks the line that separates the impossible from the possible—or the fiction from non-fiction.

“While I am having a lot of fun writing a fictional story, it’s not about the story. It’s about what it’s trying to tell you,” DeBrauwere said.  “[Overall, the book tries to elaborate on] the repercussions of a society that is continuously being pushed forward in a direction by a small group of incredibly wealthy people.”

DeBrauwere added that while he hopes to find an agent to help publish his novel, he fully intends to share his work with his friends, family and anyone who he thinks might have an interest.


Singer/songwriter sophomore Anthony “AJ” Giaccio spends his free time creating amusing and playful music. As a geography and English double major, Giaccio is both a college student and a musician whose love for music guides him through his daily life.

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SPOTLIGHT ON: Clayton Smith

Over the summer, sophomore Clayton Smith decided it was time time to try stand-up comedy. When I watched him perform Friday Oct. 2 at Open Mic night, it was clear that he was a natural.

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Spotlight: Professor celebrates humanities, encourages study abroad

Adjunct Lecturer in English and languages and literatures Wes Kennison ‘79 is a strong believer in Geneseo’s unique requirements. Kennison graduated from Geneseo studying English and medieval studies and has taught humanities at Geneseo for almost three decades.  He explained that he has high hopes for the future of the humanities curriculum. 

“I think that the course is a great part of Geneseo and it should continue to be, but in order for it to do that, it needs to change and respond to the changing times,” he said. Kennison has now taught Humanities in Greece, Germany, Austria and Nicaragua. In addition to teaching humanities, Kennison also teaches Latin—highlighting the integrative learning practices of the Middle Ages. “Latin is not a language,” Kennison said. “It is a superpower.”

Kennison explained that he is thrilled to be able to work and travel with students. “Traveling with Geneseo students is an extraordinary experience … Geneseo has the highest percentage of students studying abroad in the whole SUNY system,” he said. He added that he believes that this is indicative of a desire to learn and grown outside of one’s own culture, a quality he thinks Geneseo students in particular harbor.

Originally from the nearby town of York, New York, Kennison explained that he thought of Geneseo as the “big city” throughout his childhood. “When I came to Geneseo as a freshman in 1975, the happy surprise that I got was that Geneseo became a window to the world,” he said.

Not only is Kennison a Geneseo alum, but many of his family members also attended. “Both of my children have Geneseo degrees, my aunt graduated from Geneseo, my niece graduated from Geneseo, my nephew is at Geneseo, my mother went to Geneseo,” he said. “Everywhere you look in my family, folks have degrees from Geneseo.”

Kennison was determined to study abroad during his time at Geneseo, although it was a “really weird thing to do at the time.” After a year of studying in England during the summer of his sophomore year, Kennison hitchhiked through Europe in 52 days on a budget of $352.

“The following summer, I got some grant money and I did a research project on Dante in Siena,” he said. This is where his lifetime love affair with the city began. Kennison noted that he has spent six years in Siena, traveling back once every year since 1978.

Kennison’s stressed that students should seek to travel abroad not just to see sights, but to actively participate and engage in a new culture and way of life. “The sooner you stop being a tourist and instead become a pilgrim and a learner, the more fun you’re going to have,” he said. One of the significant changes Geneseo students have experienced over time is this cross-cultural, open-minded perspective that Kennison advocates for with humanities.

“I know that if I set up 17 hoops at different heights and ask my students to jump through, they will do that. What I ask them to do now is set up the hoops,” Kennison said. “The core of a liberal arts education is that you can look honestly into the face of mystery and figure it out.”

Kennison can be found in the Study Abroad Office, creating faculty-led study abroad programs and pushing the idea of integrative learning.

Spotlight On: Tushara Surapaneni

Ever since she could hold a pencil, senior Tushara Surapaneni has had a passion for art. Her great enthusiasm led to her to take first place in Geneseo’s Battle of the Artists. Surapaneni explained that her three-piece charcoal series “India Ink” honors her heritage and expresses gratitude to her parents who have always been supportive figures in her life.

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Geneseo students may have heard of “mug guy” Jonathan “Paul” Thomas and Pit’s Pots, but few know the story behind the artwork. A senior psychology major from Mount Morris, New York, Thomas has experimented with art for most of his life. Despite his lifelong experience working in the art field, Thomas explained that he does not consider many of his earlier pieces to truly be art.

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Spotlight On: Jane Coons

Life as a freshman at any college can be difficult, but most don’t experience being the only freshman in their entire major. Jane Coons is one such student, having arrived at Geneseo as the only new voice performance major. She doesn’t let this keep her from what she loves, though.

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Student Spotlight: Limelight and Accents Coordinators bring entertainment to Geneseo

Although many students know about the Limelight and Accents performance series, few are familiar with the two dedicated students currently responsible for organizing this branch of the Activities Commission.

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Student Spotlight: Danny Carroll, Gavin Price spearhead student production

Next week marks the first time in five years that the Geneseo campus has offered students the chance to see a play that was written, produced and performed entirely by students.

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Student Spotlight: Sarah Rychlik a seasoned student of theatre

Senior musical theater major Sarah Rychlik, who has brought innovation and variety to each of her many Geneseo performances, is directing her experience at the renowned theatrical production "Tick … Tick … BOOM!"

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Student Spotlight: Senior Stephanie Murdock kicks off a cappella group

Senior French major Stephanie Murdock has taken involvement to the next level with her formation of Between the Lines, Geneseo's newest a cappella group.

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