Interview with Nina Joss (C Fernandez)

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00:00:00 - Introductions and childhood music exposure

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Partial Transcript: Caroline Fernandez: Okay. This is Caroline Fernandez, interviewing Nina Joss for, um, our OHMS project on, um, On-Campus Ethnography in ensembles. Um, so, hi, Nina! Um, can you just introduce yourself, talk a little about, uh, what year you are, what you’re studying; general, like, university….

Nina Joss: Yes. Okay, hi, I’m Nina Joss. I’m a current sophomore, um. I’m from Michigan. And I am studying…well, that’s still kind of being figured out, but my goal is to do an interdisciplinary major in Global Journalism and then minors in leadership studies and, uh, visual arts and media practice.

Fernandez: Gotcha. Um, so, what is your music background? Did you have anything coming into college, or was this the first thing you did?

Joss: Yeah. So, when I was in…start way back. When I was in, like, elementary school, I, like, fiddled around on the piano because my family wanted, like, me to take lessons. But I didn’t like it, so then I stopped. Then in middle school I, um, joined band, and I played trombone starting in sixth grade. And then – so I played trombone for three years, and then I also started taking guitar lessons at that time. So, I played – no. I started taking guitar lessons in eighth grade. I, like, taught myself a little bit before that, and then I started taking them in eighth grade.

And then, when I got to high school, I joined our jazz band and played guitar in the jazz band. But that was just for a year because then I quit to do photography. So then I stopped playing guitar. I still, like, did some guitar stuff, like, at performances with my friends. We had, like, open mic things. And me and my friends would, like, sing. So, I did, like, a cappella once at a performance with my friends, but we had no idea what we were doing. We were just making stuff up.

Um, so I’ve always liked to sing. I sang in my church choir for, like, a couple years in this Christmas show. Um, and you had to, like, audition for that. But it was, like, when I was, like, a child, so it wasn’t like – good singer.

Um, so singing I’ve never actually done, chorus or anything. I just, like, enjoy doing it. And then, have, like, done it with, with guitar I, like, sang a lot. So, yeah.

Segment Synopsis: Nina introduces herself and sketches her music background prior to coming to college.

Keywords: ethnography; guitar; interdisciplinary major; jazz band; michigan; music; photography; trombone

Subjects: college; ethnography; music

GPS: Heilman Dining Center.
Map Coordinates: 37.57522, -77.54062
00:02:04 - Auditioning for Chords and first impressions

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Partial Transcript: Fernandez: Gotcha. So then, when you came to college, um, where you planning, like, initially on continuing doing, like, anything musical? Or was Chords, like, out of the blue?

Joss: Yeah, I wasn’t actually – I was hoping – I brought my guitar and my ukulele to school, and I was like, “I’m gonna keep doing music!” But then, I, I didn’t plan on joining any, like, groups for it?

Fernandez: Mhm.

Joss: The thought of a cappella crossed my mind a few times in high school, just ‘cause, like, Pitch Perfect. And I was like, “That’d be so fun!” But I didn’t actually plan on doing it. I had, like, I remember the summer before college started I mentioned like, “Oh, maybe I’ll do a cappella,” but it was more just, like, if it happened. I don’t know, I wasn’t, like, set on it. Um, I had a lot of ideas of things I wanted to do that I didn’t end up doing, so it was just one of those.

Um, but then, when I got here, it was like the first week of school, and it was, like, before classes started, so I didn’t have any homework to do or – I just, like, didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with my time, and I was, like, lonely, and I was, like, “Wh- college sucks,” like, “Why am I here?”

And then I saw – like, I passed the table for auditions and this one girl, Abbie Keiser, who graduated now, but she was at the table. And I, like, kind of knew her, ‘cause I had seen her around before. So I started talking to her.

And then I – auditions were, like, that night. But I was like, “I have nothing else to do,” like, “I need to join something now so I can make friends.” So I just sort of went out for it ‘cause I was, like, lonely and sad. And then, it came from there. So, yeah!

Fernandez: Gotcha. Um, was it the only – was Chords the only group that you auditioned for, or did you audition for the other…?

Joss: I auditioned for Chords and Off the Cuff. Um, I didn’t audition for Sirens ‘cause I didn’t want to be in an all-girls group; I wanted to be in coed.

Fernandez: Okay, gotcha. Um, okay, so then…I guess, like, going a little bit chronologically, um – when you did, like, you were accepted to the group, um, was there, like – how was that, the first, like, couple rehearsals? Like, was that different from what you’d done before? Was there anything that stood out as, like, being uniquely…Chords?

Joss: Yeah. I’m trying to remember…it was so long ago. I know that, like, at auditions I was, like, amazed by how close they were, and how much fun they were. And that was why I wanted to join Chords. I mean, Off the Cuff was also really fun, but – just, all the groups in general I was like, “Wow, they’re s- they’re, like, tight, so this would be cool.”

Um, at rehearsals, the first few…I, like, genuinely can’t remember how they went. I, I probably was sort of in the same thing, like, “Wow, here I am, like this freshman, I don’t know any of these people but, like, hopefully they become my friends.”

Um, musically it was different than what I had done before because I’ve never been directed by students. Um, or, really – I mean, musically, in church I was directed by like, a pastor, like, a, our, whatever, the director guy. But that was, like, such a brief period of my life, that chorus in general, like, I’ve never done that. So, I didn’t really, like, know what I was doing at all either.

Oh, well, I did musicals too, in high school, but, like, only a couple, and I was in the ensemble. And I was, like, always the one girl who, like, wasn’t in choir but did the musicals, so, like, didn’t know what was going on.

So, it was different having, like, students, um, directing us, I guess. But I, I liked that ‘cause it felt more, like, chill. Yeah.

Segment Synopsis: Nina talks about why she decided to audition for Chords and her first impressions of the group.

Keywords: a cappella; auditions; musicals

Subjects: a cappella; music

GPS: Heilman Dining Center.
Map Coordinates: 37.57522, -77.54062
00:05:01 - Being on the executive board; power balances within the group

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Partial Transcript: Fernandez: Gotcha. Okay. Um, cool. Alright, uh…so, you were saying, like, having students direct is a good thing, um. How…do you ever feel, like – so, when you’re, like, having rehearsal, um, I notice, like, sometimes you guys get a little bit off topic. Um, is that, like – which, on the one hand, like, seems like a great thing, like, where you guys are really, like, bonding and becoming a family. Um, is there ever times when it’s, like, stressful or anything like that….

Joss: Yes. Definitely. I want to just put out there that I heard Anna talking during her interview a little bit yesterday, so some of this is, like, because I heard her say that. But also, I agree.

Um, there, like…there’s like a huge difference in the group this year versus last year. So it’s kind of hard to, like, generalize it, but it’s definitely true that we get off-topic a lot.

And I think what Anna was saying about the fact that, like, the people leading us are our friends – does make it difficult. ‘Cause then, like…like me and Sarah, the president, will be, like, joking around, but then she has to, like, be like, “Okay, wait, guys, focus.” And then I’m like, “Well, we weren’t just focusing.”

So it’s, like – it is hard, sometimes. I think that our…last year there were a lot of, like, big personalities. So usually when we got, like, distracted, it was about the music. And it was just a bunch of people, like, battling opinions about the music.

Fernandez: Ah, okay.

Joss: In general. So that’s an interesting difference, ‘cause now I feel like we always, like, get off topic, like, about actual other things and then come back to the music. Whereas last year it was just, like, a bunch of people, like, about, like what was going on – but it was still stressful. Um…it, yeah. Having students run it is hard sometimes.

I think this year the group feels a lot more equal. Like, the power balances are more equal, and I think everybody, like, cares about what everybody thinks a lot more. Like, cares about everybody being involved in the process, which I think is a really good thing. But having that absence of, like, an authoritative figure who’s, like, “I’m the one in charge,” which is kind of how it felt more last year, makes it a different, like, level of focus. If that makes sense.

Fernandez: Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so – this year, you’re on exec. Yes?

Joss: Yes.

Fernandez: Okay, great. I was like, “Did I remember?” Um, so, what is your position on exec?

Joss: I’m the, um, Head of Communications and…Marketing. So, um –

Fernandez: And what does that entail?

Joss: Like, media – I do the social media, um, like, posters. Mostly, like, the artistic side of things and the, like, public relations side of things.

Fernandez: Okay, gotcha.

Joss: So, I, um…I don’t have to, like…. We have another separate position that’s Outreach Chair, and that’s Jake’s position. So, he does a lot of communication with, like, other groups about, like, pairing up to do concerts together and stuff. So, I don’t actually, like, talk to that – I don’t actually do that much, like, public communication; mine is mostly, like, representing the group through social media and…yeah, stuff like that. T-shirts, all that good stuff.

Fernandez: Nice (laughs). Um, so…when…um, was that something – like, being on exec. Was that something that you were considering earlier on, or was that something that was just like, “Oh! Now I…”

Joss: Yeah. I wasn’t – when I joined the group, I wasn’t like, “Oh, sophomore year I’m gonna, like, be on exec,” ‘cause I was kind of like, “I don’t wanna, like, do too many commitments.” Like, ‘cause I’m the type of person who always does too much, so then I was like, “Slow down.”

So, I wasn’t, like, planning on it, but then, um, Fatima, who was the – my position last year – she, like, I met her when I visited on my scholar trip. So, like, I already knew her, kind of, and I met her in a photography class, so I knew that she was, like, an art person.

So, when she started doing the designs and stuff, she would sometimes, like, talk to me; or I would be like, “Oh, that’s really cool,” and she’d be like, “Yeah, you’d be really good at this,” like. So, I kind of, like, felt…because I knew her and related with her that it would be a good position for me.

Um, and then, in the end I ran for it just because I, like, honestly, this is gonna sound, like, cocky, but I really felt that I would be, like, the best person for it. It wasn’t, like, “Oh my god, I really want a leadership role.” It was just like, “Well, I should be the one doing that.”

Fernandez: Yeah. And it fits with your…interests, which is good.

Joss: Yeah, it also gives me experience, yeah, so. And I love it.

Fernandez: Gotcha. Has that changed anything about, like – in rehearsal, like, do you feel different because you’re on exec, or anything like that?

Joss: No. Honestly not, because with my position, it’s not like I really make decisions about things. I mean, sometimes I feel, like, a little bit more important ‘cause I, like, have an announcement to make. But it’s, like, “Pay me for your t-shirt,” it’s not, like, “We’re doing this thing,” so.

Um…I feel kind of, like, in; like, I get to be like, “Oh, Sarah.” Sometimes I do talk with other a cappella groups at schools and, like, have to communicate things. So sometimes it’s like, “Oh, cool, I’m doing stuff.” But, overall, it’s not really….

And I also think that, like, last year, exec was smaller. ‘Cause we didn’t have Jake’s position. And it was also all seniors. So – well, except for…. Actually, not all seniors, but mostly seniors. So, I feel like last year, exec felt, like, forced together. Whereas this year, so far at least, it’s kind of, like, Sarah and Micah and Kobe are, like, the leaders. And then, like, the rest of the exec positions, like, do things, but it’s not really, like –

Fernandez: Over everyone.

Joss: Yeah, yeah.

Fernandez: Okay, cool…that’s cool. Okay, so –

Joss: I also have been slacking a lot on my position, so I need to do a lot more. Like, it’s just been a rough time. Midterms, man.

Segment Synopsis: Nina talks about her position on the Chords exec board and considers the power dynamic of the group.

Keywords: exec; marketing; music; power balance; social media

Subjects: a cappella; marketing; social media

GPS: Heilman Dining Center
Map Coordinates: 37.57522, -77.54062
00:09:57 - Diverse musical backgrounds in rehearsal

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Partial Transcript: Fernandez: Yeah, no, no, I understand (laughs). Um, okay, so, like, in terms of, like, the music stuff in the group, um…. So, you’re not in the music department, right?

Joss: Correct.

Fernandez: Um, what…and, from what – like, I interviewed Micah. And from what he told me is, like, some people in the group are in the music department, some are not. Has that been, like, something that you guys have to adjust to, like, when people have more experience, like, in classical or in a cappella? And then, just, like, how does that work? Especially with new people coming in, and that sort of thing.

Joss: Yeah. That’s a really good question, because I think that, like –.

So Micah’s, like, very trained. Like, he knows music. And Kobe too, like, he knows what’s going on all the time. And there are some other people who just, like – and Claire, who’s a new member, but she’s been doing a cappella – she, like, was, she, like, knows a lot of stuff too. And Megan knows a lot of theory. So, sometimes –.

And, like, I, I took music theory last year, so, like, I actually do know stuff, but I don’t, like, have it in me the same way that they do, you know? So, sometimes I feel like it, it’s like….

I think it’s a good thing that some of us are really trained because then, like, we can sound good. Sometimes the people who know what’s going on have a lot, like, more specific expectations of how things should be. And sometimes I think that takes away from us, like…being…I don’t know how to say this.

Sometimes, like, when it’s, like, “Oh, we need to really, really focus on this specific music thing,” that, like, to a regular audience won’t actually make that big of a difference, but to someone trained in music would make that big of a difference? I think sometimes us focusing on that so much takes away from our, like, performance.

‘Cause we don’t focus on, like, the way that we’re looking and the way that we’re, like, being energized; we’re focusing on, like, “Make sure you’re doing forte here and then going down to, like, mezzoforte.” And it’s, like, nobody’s really gonna notice it that much. So sometimes I think that that takes away a little bit. But overall I think that it’s good. Because even the people who aren’t, like, trained in theory still, like, express, like, can still share ideas.

Like, I – I was saying something at one rehearsal recently, and I didn’t know, like, the words for it. So I was just, like, using hand motions and being, like, “Then we go boom!” And Micah was like, “I love how you…you really don’t know, like, theory that much, but you still, like, know what’s going on.” And I was like, “Yeah. Like, exactly.” So I think that there’s a good, like, mix, where we all still, like, respect each other’s opinions and, like, can figure that out. So.

Fernandez: That’s cool. Okay. Gotcha. Um, interesting. Um, okay, and then…let’s see. Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed, like, in, um, like, rehearsals – ‘cause I’ve sat in on some – um, like, you’re always like, “Guys, we need to, like, smile more,” and whatnot. And so that…makes sense.

Joss: ‘Cause it’s true. ‘Cause…when we’re performing, if we don’t – if we just stand there and sing the notes well, it’s not fun to watch, like, it looks bad. And we had a few performances last year – like that was, last year I feel like we focused a lot on, like, making sure we were moving and, like, getting into it. And we do that with some of our songs.

And maybe it’s ‘cause we don’t have that many songs yet to work with, but I do notice that, like, not being as present this year. So I’m, like, trying to make sure that we’re, like, gonna look good. ‘Cause we haven’t had a real performance yet, except for that one. So…when we have, like, a real one, we have to, like…perform. So.

Fernandez: Yeah. And your next performance is in…December?

Joss: Our, our next big performance is Homecoming weekend.

Fernandez: Oh, that’s soon.

Joss: Which is – yes, very soon. Um, and it’s the Family Weekend rescheduled concert. And then, the genre blocking concert, if that works out, doesn’t have a date yet. But will be between Homecoming and Christmas. And then we have the Christmas concert that’s with all the other groups.

Segment Synopsis: Nina talks about the musical aspect of Chords rehearsals and how the members have different approaches to musicality.

Keywords: a cappella; classical training; interpretation; rehearsal

Subjects: a cappella; music

GPS: Heilman Dining Center
Map Coordinates: 37.57522, -77.54062
00:13:26 - Chords as a social environment

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Partial Transcript: Fernandez: Okay, gotcha. Um, and what is – so, I know when I was talking to, like, Anna, she was saying that it was really important to her, um, to have, like, a family and a community, a sense of community. Have you felt like, that Chords is something that you do outside of the time when you guys are rehearsing, or…? Like, where has it fallen on, I guess, your list of, like, the many things you do? And, like, how much time –?

Joss: It definitely is my biggest, like, group…well, I, like –. So last year I did – I’m in Young Life, too, and I volunteered off-campus. And I felt just busy all the time, but that’s really all I did, those three things and school. Um, and then, like, random things. This year, I’m not volunteering because I needed to, like, make more time to, like, sleep and shit, so –.

Fernandez: It’s okay (laughs).

Joss: (Laughs) Um, but, so, yeah. So, this is the only, like, club group that I’m a part of, other than Young Life. Um, and since it’s smaller than Young Life, I really feel like the, it is, like, my biggest, like, group that has, like, a family to it. And it’s funny because, like, sometimes you don’t feel, like, as close with every member in a group, but within this group I really do feel like I, like, could talk to – like, if I saw any one person sitting in D-Hall I could sit with them. And it wouldn’t be awkward or weird.

Fernandez: Okay.

Joss: So, and that’s like the reason why I joined at the beginning, was ‘cause I wanted, like, a group of people like that who – like, while I’m still figuring out, like, freshman self and, like, making friends, that I can have people to fall back on. And so, Chords really definitely has, like, done that. So, we don’t – we don’t always have that many, like, organized things outside of rehearsal, but we, like, hang out when we see each other. And then we do have some, like, things together. Yeah.

Segment Synopsis: Nina talks about the social interactions of Chords members and about where she prioritizes Chords in her extracurriculars.

Keywords: family; group; young life

Subjects: a cappella; community

GPS: Heilman Dining Center
Map Coordinates: 37.57522, -77.54062
00:15:04 - Audition and dream songs

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Partial Transcript: Fernandez: Gotcha. Cool. Um, okay, and then – quick blitz, and then I’ll be done, um, but…. What would be – okay, first of all, was your audition song?

Joss: We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off, by Ella Eyre. Eyre? I don’t know how you say her last name.

Fernandez: Gotcha. And this was, I guess, on the same day you just decided to audition, right?

Joss: Yes. Actually, maybe it was the next…. You know, I – so I had my audition and then I had a callback, and I sang a different song. And I don’t remember what I sang. So I don’t know if that was for the callback or for the audition. But yeah, I guess for one of them it was that night.

Fernandez: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joss: It actually was that night. So I think I had to choose a song that I already knew. I don’t even remember, it was probably, like, Taylor Swift. But We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off is probably the one that I remember, like, practicing a lot. So.

Fernandez: Okay. Gotcha. So there’s that one, and then, um…if there was anything you could sing, um, like, as, in the group, what would be something that you would really be eager to do?

Joss: Ooh. Okay, well, there’s a song – like, a specific song?

Fernandez: Yeah.

Joss: There’s a song called Blue Hundreds by Holy Mattress Money, and then Holy – it’s this random band, I didn’t know they existed ‘til this summer – and then Holy Mattress Money has another song called Broken Bottles. And my friend showed them to me this summer, and I was listening to them, and I was like, “Okay.” Like, they have a lot of fun, like, things going on, lots of different instruments. And then, together, like, they could mash up so well.

And so, in my brain, I’ve, like, created a mashup. But not a whole thing, just, like, parts that fit together. So I would love for us to do that, but the problem is, no- I would have to arrange it, which I would like the challenge of doing, but I would need to, like, make time for that; and second of all, nobody knows them or the song. At all. So it would be, like – I’m not sure people would be excited about it. Um, I’m not sure, like, audiences would be excited about it. But…it would be so good, so.

Fernandez: Well, hopefully…keep it in mind, I would love to hear it. I will look them up.

Joss: Okay, do it. It’s a really good song. Yeah.

Fernandez: Okay, well, thank you so much for interviewing.

Joss: Of course!

Segment Synopsis: Nina talks about her audition song and a mashup that she'd like to one day sing with Chords.

Keywords: Holy Mattress Money; a cappella; mashup

Subjects: a cappella; music

GPS: Heilman Dining Center
Map Coordinates: 37.57522, -77.54062