Ask another fifth-year

Evan Williams

Last year, my friend and fellow theory/composition major Drew Baungartner wrote a weekly column called “Ask a Fith-Year” for The Lawrentian. It was a witty yet informative look at campus issues from someone who had experienced Lawrence over the course of more than four years. If you’re like me, opening The Lawrentian just didn’t feel the same without Drew’s fantastic commentary on life at Lawrence.
While I don’t claim to be half as witty and intelligent as Drew, I hope that through reviving this column, I can provide a decent substitute for the void his departure left in our hearts.
After all, hearing a voice of experience may help younger Lawrentians to deal with the academic and social stresses that come with college life – or at least make them think twice before they do stupid things. If nothing else, this column will be an adequate distraction for those sitting on the Con couches, residence hall lobbies and New Downer – a.k.a. Andrew Commons.Dear Evan,
I am a freshman participating in a Conservatory ensemble, but I am not a music major. I’m doing my best trying to relate to Connies, but sitting on the Con couches often brings curious and unwelcoming stares from the musicians. My Con friends are often telling me how they have it a lot harder than me, and make me feel like my major is less worthwhile. What should I do?
-Stranger in a Strange Conservatory

Hi Stranger. First of all, great Robert A. Heinlein reference. Bravo – or Brava! I think it’s great that you are participating in an ensemble as a non-major. Music making is for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel that what you’re doing in life is less important than anyone else.
Let’s look at the couch situation first. It’s easy to feel awkward and out of place when people are staring at you, but consider this: are you particularly attractive or particularly unattractive? It’s human nature to stare at people one finds physically appealing or strange. If this is the case, then I wouldn’t worry about the stares, because this will follow you wherever you go.
The more likely reason is that you are unfamiliar to them. The Con couches are often a hub for animated and often inappropriate discourse. When people are gossiping, debating politics or playing “Babe or Not-Babe,” they are wary that unfamiliar people may be put off or offended by the conversation. They may be giving you awkward glances to make sure you are not angry about the topic at hand.
If you’re not angry, introduce yourself and join in the conversation. A new voice in the great debate of whether or not Hilary Swank is a babe is welcomed and needed. If you are offended by such sophomoric objectification, then it’s probably just best to head to the other side of the lobby before the debate turns toward Sarah Palin.
As for your friends, it’s hard enough to leave your group of high school friends and find a place of your own here at Lawrence without Connies bragging about how much work and practicing they have to do. Yet, for a moment, try to see if from their point of view.
In a conducting master class here, the visiting conductor told us that as musicians, we have big egos, yet are extremely self-conscious. As a budding composer, conductor and performer, I definitely know the feeling – I mean come on! I create from nothing! Bow down and worship me! Winning the “who’s busiest” game helps stroke that ego, yet most of us do our best not to belittle anyone.
As a friend who cares, the best thing you can do is get new friends and stop talking to the ones that make you feel bad. Trust me, you’re helping them.
See, the most successful and emotionally fulfilled musicians are the ones who can work well with others. In order to do this, the ego must be deflated or at least suppressed. The best way to deflate an ego is to stop feeding it. But you don’t want to be mean, so it’s best to just stop talking to them. If they change, resume the friendship. If they don’t, then at least you won’t have to deal with them anymore.

I hope answering this fake question helps a few of you. I’d love to answer some real ones in future columns. Please feel free to send a question to Or if you prefer, send one anonymously through campus mail to SPC 1577.