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Science, Society and the Arts Presents: Dana Gary ‘18

Scholasticism’s theme of personal growth through a combination of artistic, spiritual, and intellectual discoveries is particularly relevant to the mission of SSA.”

Dana Gary, whose first EP is recorded, produced and publicized by a student-run record label, will present songs at SSA.

Science, Society, and the Arts is a multi-disciplinary conference where Washington and Lee undergraduates and law students present their academic achievements before an audience of their peers and the faculty. Through the conference, students, faculty and staff alike have the opportunity to explore new topics and discuss new ideas. Conference participants share their work via oral presentations, traditional academic conference-style panels, poster sessions, artistic shows, creative performances, or various other methods.

Even though SSA has ended, you can still enjoy these stories about the many interesting projects and performances being presented by the students.

FUDG Records Presents: Dana Gary 

Q: Can you describe your project?

With the birth of Friday Underground last year came the birth of Friday Underground Records, an entirely student-run independent record label dedicated to promoting other student artists on campus. I was lucky enough to be chosen by the other members of the FUDG records team to produce our next EP of original songs. Austin Frank and I have produced, recorded, and promoted this album together over the past two months, and we will be presenting songs at Science, Society and the Arts from the EP entitled “Scholasticism.” I can’t wait. 

Q: What about the topic made you explore it?

The subject of the EP is the college experience in all its strangeness, especially here in Lexington. I felt I owed it to this place – and to myself – to remember all that it did both for and against me. In the music, I allude to the incredible intellectual and emotional overhaul I have experienced at the loving hand of all the course texts, mentors, friends and physical spaces. It was important to me to document how this specific place affected my art and my thought processes, and I believe the EP’s theme of personal growth through a combination of artistic, spiritual, and intellectual discoveries is particularly relevant to the mission of SSA.

Q: What was the most interesting thing you have learned while working on this project?

I learned how fortunate I am to be a musician in the 21st century where music technology is just mindbogglingly helpful. During our sessions, I’ll sit next to the computer spouting ridiculously vague commentary at Austin, and within 5 to 10 minutes he’s extracted the sound directly from the conceptual music in my head. Watching him work his tech magic amazes me every time.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced?

Recording is a loooong and tedious process, and it doesn’t get any easier when you’re setting up and tearing down equipment for every session as you hop around various practice rooms throughout Wilson Hall. Occasionally we’d get what we thought was a perfect take, only to listen back to it and realize we could faintly hear a pianist practicing down the hall or the soft whirring of Austin’s computer fan. But that’s just part of the fun of learning as you go along.

Q: What insight – or insights – did you gain during the research period?

I learned Lexington is hard to define even through the medium of music, which has limitless potential for ambiguity and mood. It is a slippery place, and it doesn’t like you thinking that you might know something it doesn’t.

Q: What is your favorite part of creating, researching or developing this project?

I cherish the DIY-ness of this project. Austin and I play almost every instrument on every track. We set up makeshift studios in reserved rooms and recorded all of this in our free time. We met up during the day between classes to mix songs. We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking about plans and tiny adjustments to the sound. With Caleigh Well’s help, we produced a Kickstarter page, raising over $3,000 in under a month, $1,000 more than our original goal. We receive the full blow of every frustration, every triumph, every compliment, every criticism. W&L students have complete ownership over FUDG Records’ projects, and I’m beginning to understand just how lucky I am to have so much at stake in something as important as student art.

Q: What does SSA mean to you?

SSA is a celebration of the substantial accomplishments of my peers. This is when we officially applaud the people who unconsciously inspire me every day.

Q: Why is SSA – considering science, society, and arts together – important to this campus?

As a campus that thrives off making connections that illuminate the way the world works, members of our community have the capability and the responsibility to familiarize themselves with everything. In connecting even the most seemingly disparate things, we also connect the most seemingly disparate people. An appreciation for all fields of study leads to an appreciation for all people in all fields of study. Receiving a liberal arts education means developing an empathetic intellect, and compassion-driven academia not only benefits our campus but our global society as well.

If you know a W&L student who would be a great profile subject, tell us about it! Nominate them for a web profile.

A little more about Dana

Hometown:
Nashville, TN

Major:
English Major, Music and Film Double Minor

Extracurricular involvement:
– 
Member of the founding team of Friday Underground, W&L’s student-run venue and coffeeshop
– Artistic Director for Friday Underground Records
Peer Counselor
– Musical Director for General Admission
University Singers, Tenor I
ODK National Leadership Honor Society
– Appeared in six W&L theatrical productions (and hopefully more to come)

Why did you choose your major?
The very first class I registered for at W&L was a class on 18th century British literature where we read Gothic novels and drew comparisons to modern horror films. I was an absolute goner after that.

What professor has inspired you?
You’re making me pick just one? Cruel. Well, keeping the latest FUDG records project in mind, I’ll say Professor Lesley Wheeler. She taught me to take ownership of the way I interact with poetry. Her course on modern American poetry from 1900-1950 was 12 consecutive weeks of life-affirming verses and energizing class discussions that have absolutely leaked into my more recent songs.

What’s your personal motto?
“A thorn grows next to the rose as its witness. I am that thorn for whom simply to be is an act of praise. Near the rose, no shame.” – Rumi

What’s your favorite song right now?
“Hideaway” by Jacob Collier

A friend showed it to me last semester and it reawakened my appetite for music. Jacob Collier has this marvelous way of making innovative sounds feel familiar.

Best place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?
My wedding will be at Napa Thai. Instead of rice, well-wishers will throw pad Thai at me and my betrothed.

What do you wish you’d known before you came to campus?
No one peaks in their first year.

Post-graduation plans:
Now taking suggestions: garyd18@mail.wlu.edu

Favorite W&L memory:
Singing in cathedrals, bars, and coves across Ireland with the University Singers.

Favorite class:
That first Brit lit class with Professor Jess Keiser. It would be almost impossible to top the wide-eyed wonder of a high schooler experiencing their first fun college class. I loved my studies so much that they felt indulgent at times. I still feel that way about many of my classes.

Favorite W&L event:
Anytime there’s jazz music at Friday Underground.

Favorite campus landmark:
I’m a sucker for Lee Chapel, especially on winter nights when the lights are on inside and it looks so warm.

What’s your passion?
I really, really, really love to sing.

What’s something people wouldn’t guess about you?
I have no idea what I am doing.

Why did you choose W&L?
I could tell it was old, and I suspected because it was so old it had something very important to teach me. (I was right.)