STEP Experience- Destin

In my STEP Signature Project, I chose to enhance my outlook on life through my day-to-day struggles with depression. I traveled to Destin, Florida where my project proceeded to included travelling to wildlife preserves, beaches, the city, and relaxing at “home.” For a week I utilized journalism and photography to display my daily activities and explorations. These explorations and the usage of photography allowed for me to grow in my confidence, independence and sense of responsibility. I was able to interact with many locals and also visitors who influenced my STEP experience in various different ways.

My outlook on life since this trip has had an exponential change. I very often used to look upon the negative things in life and dwell upon them for extended periods of time. While in Destin I came to realize how simple life really can be. I took the time each day to simply list the things that I was grateful for. I did not prompt myself to write this at a specific time each day but rather when I felt the time was right. Some of these times included moments where I was relaxed and very buoyant with life; others when I was very frustrated with life and more pessimistic than normal. I found that taking the time when feeling down and upset allowed me to decipher how much the event that was frustrating me really matter in the grand scheme. This trip allowed me to change how I view hardships in my life and allowed for me to think about how I would handle what life throws at me.

Being on my own allowed for me to reflect upon my current struggles with anxiety and depression. For the longest time now, I have dealt with depression that can be described as high-functioning depression. I live a very normal life in which not anyone would suspect me of having depression. I go to class, go to work, study, and have friends and relationships, and good family. My depression runs more deep, and is rarely displayed through interactions with anyone. I chose to pour myself into other things in order to avoid the lingering thoughts and feelings that otherwise would consume my days. Since, around 15 I have been on medication and am very open about it because of the amazing affect it has had on my life. I have been able to regain much self-confidence and positively enhance my home, school, and relationships with others. Throughout my trip to Destin I was able to dig deeper into my thoughts and try to figure out how to cope with them better. I realized that a lot of the lingering thought that I experience are misconstrued thoughts that are meant to belittle and put myself down. This trip allowed me to rebuild my self-confidence and to regain the positive strength needed to live a healthier life. Now, I still struggle but it is more manageable and easier to handle with the tricks and sayings that I developed upon my STEP experience.

Throughout the duration of my trip I visited a few wildlife preservations and spent time taking photographs of the land and wildlife. I was able to spend time relaxing and not stressing over anything. It was very rejuvenating to be surrounded by nothing but nature after having spent such a long time in the city. I was able to come across a few birds and insects while exploring and I never realized until this point how hard it is to capture a picture of an animal. They live in their own world and go about their business completely ignoring those around them. I thought about how often humans go about their lives the same. We put our blinders up and focus on ourselves and not those around us. I took this in to consideration when dealing with my depression. Numerous times I have thought excessively about the struggles I am experiencing and blocked out the people who care about me. I now realize that it is okay to feel this way but it is not okay to allow it to control me. I should not let my depression put up blinders in my life and keep me from being myself, reaching my goals, and living a happy life.

Another experience that occurred when I went to dinner the first night I was in Destin. When I went to dinner that night the service, food and restaurant were all under poor conditions. I left the restaurant feeling frustrated and mad that I had just wasted my money on something so low in quality. After getting home, I sat down and realized though that the manager there had seemed very new. He had apologized multiple times to me, checked back on me and even altered my payment. He genuinely was trying his hardest and I feel now that I should not have been so judgmental.  My small experience of frustration is minuscule in relation to my life. In contrast, he most likely has to deal with this interaction with customers on the daily and is in the processes of fixing the restaurant. Many of us are so quick to judge the struggles of others because we are so busy absorbing ourselves in our own burdens and struggles. From this negative dinner experience I was able to see the light in the situation. I was not hungry because I had the money to eat food, and the opportunity to positively affect someone’s day through just a simple interaction. Small gestures, when not expected, often mean the most.

While on the beach one day, I had two girls approach me and ask if they could ask me some questions for a study that they were conducting. They showed me a set of photos and asked me to pick out the four that best described my life and then asked me to pick out four that best describe who God is. I was very impressed with their confidence and certainty. I happened to share the same beliefs as them and we were able to talk in depth about God. I found it very comforting to talk with someone who I barely know but was able to connect to them on an emotional and spiritual level. This has inspired me to be more confident in my faith and to trust that everything has a purpose.

This experience was transformational to me in the sense that it changed y outlook on life and the way that I react to events. Living with depression and anxiety has always been a struggle in my life. This STEP experience allowed for me to escape daily stress, relax and reflect on how to cope with my depression better. I was able to gain a better understanding of how to embrace and handle my emotions better. I also was able to gain a greater sense of independence throughout my trip. Overall, this experience has allowed for me to become more independent, confident and responsible. This will allow for me to better manage my time throughout my final year at Ohio State University to better my quality of life. This trip also changed my personal and professional goals for the future. It has inspired me to take the path that I chose best for me, and to strive for gold. In the past when I have undergone difficult times I usually let them overwhelm me. I have learned to turn to those who care for me and to take a more positive outlook upon life.




STEP Reflection-Photography Portfolio


Name: Ana Medina Fetterman

Type of Project: Creative and Artistic Endeavors

Portfolio link:

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

The aim of my STEP project was to devote myself to my photography during the summer of 2016. I invested in new equipment, connected with individuals in the industry, and, most importantly, built my own online portfolio to showcase my work.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

My STEP project enabled me to pursue one of my long-term aspirations at a more professional level. Reaching out and networking with others in the field –models, both student and professional photographers, not only gave me a deeper understanding of the difficulties of the field, but led to my development as a young, more confident artist. Completing my STEP experience pushed me to build my work in a serious way and to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I encouraged myself to shoot photographs with like-minded individuals, reach out to photographers about their experiences in the field, and ultimately create a cohesive body of work. My portfolio, which is now on my website, allows me to further connect with individuals in the field by showcasing my work. STEP gave me the opportunity to push my boundaries and enable me to take my passion seriously at the financial level. It was an extremely rewarding experience to complete a project from start to finish and to devote so much time to something that I feel passionately about.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

One goal I set for myself, for my STEP project, was to interact with likeminded individuals in the art community. Progress in art is often made by pushing oneself out of a comfort zone. The main objective of my project was to invest in my passion in the hopes that I could begin to work at a professional level in photography. Since I am often surrounded by students of varying interests, and only know a few artists at Ohio State, I was able to learn a lot by surrounding myself with other individuals in the field. Connections with others in the field, at least in the fashion world, are imperative to success. I reached out to professional photographers to get their advice in the field. I was often told that the biggest impediment to success was not having the perseverance to pursue photography long-term: success is not immediate. I also reached out to amateur models in the Chapel Hill area and was able to work with a number of individuals to simultaneously build both of our portfolios. The art industry is rather interesting in that models will sometimes pay photographers and photographers will sometimes pay models. There is a complex dynamic in field—making money as a photographer means that you have to be talented and market yourself well. Otherwise, starting out in the industry can be expensive. In many cases, I would just email professional photographers about their experiences, while I was also able to meet up with several young people who were attempting to work in the field as well. It was inspiring to meet other models, amateur photographers, and professional photographers with the same aspirations and artistic views and helpful to know how others were pursuing their artistic endeavors in the real world.

The final showcase of my STEP project is my digital portfolio. I purchased an annual subscription to and spent some time teaching myself new editing techniques on Adobe Lightroom. Having a professional digital portfolio is essential in the art world. As you reach out to fellow artists, potential employers and/or clients, or mentors, it is common that people ask to see your work in digital form. A digital portfolio gives you a building block from which to market yourself and gain new photographic experiences. I found that once I began to showcase my portfolio, individuals were a lot more receptive to working with me. I was able to shoot every weekend and most afternoons during my time in Chapel Hill, and I know that I progressed as an artist at a far faster pace than I normally do during the academic year.

Lastly, my STEP project inspired me to do a lot of research concerning what type of equipment I will need in the future to shoot different types of scenes. I did quite a bit of online research about the financial investments and most important steps for advancing in the field. I developed a more thorough understanding of the steps that I should take to continue to grow as a photographer: I will need to continue to network with individuals who have succeeded in my field, develop a “niche” body of work, and continue to invest in my gear regularly. Photographers are not necessarily praised for building a breadth of work; developing a specific talent and theme is more important. STEP allowed me to do some in-person and online research to discover more about the field to enable me to build a more cohesive long-term plan for my involvement in the fashion and portraiture industry. Additionally, I was able to work on my technical skills and meet a number of other artists in the Chapel Hill area, which both inspired and allowed me to grow from my work.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

Photography has been a long-time interest of mine. I first began photographing in high school in my spare time. In the past several years, it blossomed into a lifelong passion. With other academic interests and restraints, it has often been difficult to devote the time and resources to my work. However, this project not only gave me the resources to grow as a photographer, but also to view my work from a new perspective. Since I often photographed for fun, I have only recently begun to learn about the commercial world of photography and the expectations in the field, and to take an objective look at my own work. While I am also pursuing other academic interests in school, I know that I am interested in pursuing photography professionally, if only part-time. This project launched me into the start of marketing myself commercially as a photographer, taking my work more seriously, developing more technical expertise, and becoming more informed about the realities of the industry.


Cello STEP Project 2015-2016

This summer I began my lengthy STEP Project, with the ultimate goal of purchasing and learning how to play the cello. My interest in music began at a young age when my father played guitar for my brother and I. We soon learned to play instruments of our own, and have carried that musical curiosity with us throughout our whole lives. My interest in the cello began more recently, when my grandmother purchased a cello of her own and began taking lessons. I wanted to have an instrument in common with her, as I had learned to play the banjo with my grandfather several years earlier. My grandmother has been incredibly helpful and encouraging as I worked to learn this instrument that is so unlike any other instrument that I have ever played before.

The STEP Experience that I chose to participate in is Artistic and Creative Endeavors. The academic component and preparation for my STEP Experience was my background with music. I have formal instruction in piano and trumpet, and I will enroll in a music class to develop a more complete understanding of music theory. Also, I have taught myself to play the banjo, melodica, and bass guitar. This knowledge of instruments and music theory has greatly benefited me in attaining my goal of learning to play the cello. In developing my proposal, I consulted with my grandmother, who has purchased a cello and learned to play the instrument, so I had a good understanding of what to expect when purchasing and learning to play a cello of my own.

After a good deal of shopping around, I finally purchased my cello on June 30, 2015. The store was called Studio Strings, and I was shown dozens of cellos that were all very near to my price-range. One of the owners played each cello in order to help me narrow down my choices, and then handed me a bow. At this point, I was given my first lesson: how to correctly hold the bow. This is much more difficult than it looks, and was one problem that I did not imagine when planning my STEP Proposal! When I finally had the bow in my hand correctly (it would take me several more weeks to get the hang of), I played my first note on a cello. The instrument produced a fairly weak sound, and probably didn’t sound very good, but I was immediately hooked!

It was exactly two weeks later that I took my first lesson from my cello teacher. In those two weeks I played my cello almost constantly, which turned out to be not a great idea. The amount of “structural” changes that my teacher told me I needed to change was amazing. The entire right side of my body was too tense while playing, the cello was sitting too low and was off-center, the bow was not being dragged across the strings in a straight line, and my thumb was constantly pressed flat across the back of the cello’s neck. During the first lesson my teacher placed thin tape over the neck to indicate where my fingers needed to press for each note, and I was also forbidden to play the cello with the bow for the week. Instead, I practiced placing my left hand correctly and plucked the strings: a style called pizzicato.

Over my next several lessons, I learned how to correctly play with the bow (undoing all of the damage that I had done by trying to learn on my own) by playing in front of a mirror and watching the angle of the bow on each string. I also slowly learned to read music, which was my biggest concern about learning to play the cello. I was already able to read music, as I had played piano and trumpet for years, but reading music in the context of a stringed instrument posed an interesting challenge. I quickly learned which fingers needed to go to each position in order to make each note, but still have trouble sometimes associating each position with the note name instead of simply recognizing its note on the page. As I get into more complex works, this understanding will be crucial to my continued success.

My understanding of music theory helped me immensely when I first began. My teacher did not have to walk through explanations of note-lengths, rests, key signatures, or other music notation, which allowed us to focus solely on creating the best sound possible through my instrument. I know that I still have much to work on, but I am very happy with the progress I have made thus far. I’m looking forward to many more lessons in the future, and eventually performances. I will post more information about my STEP Project as it leads up to my presentation at the STEP Expo in autumn semester of 2016.

Wires: An Asian American Experience

In this identity exploration through art, Wires, I wanted to better understand how the environment shaped the Asian American experience and identity. Based on interviews with those that grew up as one of the few Asian Americans in their school, I translated their experience into a portrait that reflects their experience.

I never realized how lucky I was to have come from a very diverse upbringing and being constantly surrounded by other Asian Americans who shared similar experiences and obstacles. Growing up with parents who are both immigrants from China, outside of my home I constantly felt like I was stuck between two different cultures. When I was with my family, I was considered the American girl, but it was easy to see that outside of my family, I was just another Chinese girl. I never felt like I could be completely accepted by either of the cultures because my experiences. Whenever the two cultures conflicted, I struggled to figure out where I stood, but my narrative was not uncommon. I had many Asian-American friends that could help me process and supported me through this experience of feeling stuck in between two cultures.

This project really helped me to understand just how there are so many different narratives that compose the Asian-American experience – not one narrative is the same. I used to believe there was a very general structure for those who also felt stuck between two cultures, but I got the chance to know other people who felt between cultures in a different way. Unfortunately, they didn’t grow up surrounded by people who shared this experience and this in turn greatly shaped the type of person they have become. This project has helped me to better understand where my identity as an Asian American stands and how I need to start questioning why society thinks that one term, Asian, is sufficient in capturing a vast variety of ethnicities.

In my STEP Signature Project, a large portion of it was interviewing others. I was able to discuss with others how the environment they grew up in has shaped them. As an Asian American that grew up in an environment where there were so many others who I could relate to and so many parts of my culture that were easily accessible beyond my household, there were some stories that was difficult for me to wrap my mind around. It was difficult hearing stories of people getting made fun of because of what was in their lunch box. It was difficult hearing people confess that they did not want their friends over because their parents could not speak English. It was difficult hearing stories about explicit racism.

Growing up in a diverse setting allowed myself to cope with a lot of the more subtle racism that I experienced. However, I am tired of being silent. It is my responsibility to speak up, regardless of whether it is a personal, academic, or professional setting. To have to grow up feeling isolated because you are different is not an experience that anyone deserves.

Emma Earick STEP – Faces of Therapy   (link to the Faces of Therapy site)

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

I photographed 70 people doing what they believed to be most therapeutic for them. In addition, each participant wrote a response explaining why it is therapeutic for them. The project was documented throughout using a photo album on my personal Facebook page as well as an Instagram account specific to my project. In culmination, I have created a website that displays the collection of photos their responses with the intent of expanding upon what is seen as therapeutic.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

An expectation I had when starting my STEP Signature Project was that people probably do what they consider to be therapeutic for them often, but that is not what I found. In asking what is most therapeutic for them, I saw many people feel challenged in how they take care of themselves. In an unexpected way, my project allowed me to help people really think about what is therapeutic for them, and remind them why it is therapeutic. I sought to expand upon what is seen as therapeutic and I believe that is true of my project, but I also had the chance to see how the present structure of our society does not necessarily support self-care in regards to personal therapeutic practices.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

I received a lot of positive feedback throughout the duration of my project, which I was very thankful for. I always had people volunteering to participate, and that spoke volumes to me. I saw people who were excited about the topic and desired to communicate what was therapeutic for them and why. Upon my first announcement of looking for volunteers, I immediately received numerous responses from people who wanted to be involved with my project. It was a topic that I was very passionate about in starting this project, and it was telling to see multiple other people also value what is therapeutic for them.

One instance in particular that I can think of was a girl who messaged me a couple months after my first announcement expressing interest in participating. I explained what I was looking for and we got to talk through what kind of photo session would really capture her therapy. Unfortunately, location and weather played a large role in her response and there was never a time that worked out for us before the project deadline; however, she sent me a message recently explaining the impact that my project had on her. Although I did not get to photograph her, she explained the impact that the prompt for my project had on her. Her form of therapy was something that she once had turned to in battling depression, but had not set aside time for in a while. She described that our conversation had motivated her to set aside time for her form of therapy and that she was thankful for what I was doing. Her words of truth and encouragement led me to value my STEP project so much more. I was asking people to respond to what I saw as a simple prompt, but the impact that I saw was much greater than expected.

I mentioned how I do not believe that the present structure of our society necessarily supports self-care in regards to personal therapeutic practices, and I saw that specifically in my struggle to schedule photo sessions. I had plenty of volunteers to reach my original goal of 365 photos, but the difficult part was trying to schedule in all of those people. I think busy, full schedules are valued in our society above taking time for self-care. Volunteers struggled to find a time where they could squeeze in their form of therapy. My hope is that each participant was reminded of the importance of setting aside time for what is therapeutic for them.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life?  Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

My professional goals have changed since I started my STEP project, but what I have gained is still very much applicable. My original intended career path was Occupational Therapy in order to pursue animal-assisted therapy, but this past summer I decided to pursue full-time ministry upon graduation instead. It has been an interesting transition because despite the change in future plans, my passions for therapeutic practices remains. One of the things I ask people now upon meeting them is what they consider to be therapeutic for them. I love to hear the various responses and to encourage people to take that time to do what is life-giving for them.


A couple example photos…



Musical Muse

For my STEP project, I purchased a trumpet and took private lessons through the Ohio State School of Music. One of my main goals was to master the art of brass playing, something that will help will help me immensely in my professional goals to pursue music therapy and perform professionally with a big band.

Throughout my STEP project, I found that I transformed so much not only as a musician, but also as a person. In order to learn a new instrument at this age and with such a busy college schedule, I had to be extremely committed to practicing and putting time into mastering the fundamentals of brass playing. This journey has taught me so much about myself and made me realize that I’m capable of achieving any dream I really work hard to accomplish. I found within me a deep passion for performing, mainly jazz, and a strong love of this instrument. My project helped me fall in love with music in a totally new and unique way. I found that my understanding of myself has strengthened so much because I’m much more in tune with my abilities and I have a greater understanding of what it takes for me to accomplish my goals.

During my step project, I met countless different musicians as I dove into the world of jazz and the art of trumpet playing. Meeting so many new people helped me gain lots of great perspectives on music and life. It was interesting to learn a little bit from each interaction and to allow myself to integrate the skills and lessons others taught me into my own playing and mentality about living and performing. By developing so many close relationships with the musicians around me, (my section, fellow band members, private lesson instructor, professors in the School of Music, etc.), I was able to gain a better understanding of myself and what I valued in my musical journey.

One event in particular that helped lead to my personal and musical transformation was my goal to be a member of the OSU Marching Band. This gave me something concrete to work toward and motivation to continue practicing even when I felt I wasn’t capable of learning this new instrument. By having this in the back of my mind as a dream I really wanted to fulfill, it gave me strength and courage to keep pursuing brass and to improve something small each day. I ended up making the marching band this year, which is something I’ve been dreaming of since my freshman year of college. The opportunities my STEP project gave me helped me accomplish this and taught me a lot about hard work and perseverance. I spent so much time working toward this goal, and I used jazz and a way to practice and learn the trumpet. This also led me to fall in love with jazz, and helped me realize that it’s something I want to be part of my life forever. I’ve discovered a lot about myself and what makes me happy during this project, and one of the main discoveries was learning I have a deep desire to master the language of jazz. I’m so grateful that my project led me to this because my life has been forever changed since this realization.

One of the key aspects of my project was my private lessons with the jazz trumpet professor at OSU. This relationship helped me in so much, both musically and personally. I found that I was constantly inspired by the way my teacher spoke about jazz, music, trumpet, and life. He gave me a lot to think about and a lot to take in all at once. He helped instill in me the love and passion I developed for this style of music over the course of my project. Another person who helped me transform over the course of my step project is my friend Ben. I met him during this new musical journey, and he has been there to support and inspire me since day one. He approaches his practicing with such passion and diligence, and he encourages me to do the same and has taught me a lot about myself both musically and personally. I’ve also met many faculty members who are jazz musicians who serve as role models for me both on and off stage. The amount of self-growth and discovery I’ve experienced since starting my STEP project has just been phenomenal, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I know it’s something I’m going to remember forever and something that has greatly impacted the direction of my life.

This change and transformation has been very significant and valuable to my life because I feel so empowered to accomplish any of my goals, and I’ve come to learn that with enough drive and dedication, truly anything is possible. I’ve also realized that it’s not about being THE best, it’s about being YOUR best. If you put in all that you have and approach every situation with that mentality, you will be happy with the results and content knowing that you performed to the very best of your ability. All these changes and discoveries are so valuable to my current and future life because I understand myself so much more and I feel like I have a much better mindset going into my future professional musical goals. I have a clearer idea of what my goals are, what makes me happiest, and how I can go about achieving those goals and continuing to grow and evolve and a person and a musician each day.

STEP Reflection: A Suite for Orchestra


Chad Sandlin

A Suite for Orchestra (STEP: Artistic and Creative Endeavors)


My love of music is incredibly deep; it has influenced all of the major decisions I’ve made in college.  In fact, it influenced the biggest decision I’ve ever made: to study Music Education and become a teacher.  How will I increase my understanding of music?  How will I increase my performance ability?  How will I utilize music to help others?  At times, the answer was to become a leader in an organization, and at other times the answer was to join an ensemble and learn from a great director.  When STEP came along, the answer was to intensively study the creation and organization of music itself.

I’ve always been interested in composing music – hearing and studying the greats like Beethoven, Mahler, Wagner, Stravinsky, Tchaikovksy, Rachmaninoff, and more made me curious as to how they created music.  I think that everyone has a musical voice inside of them, and if they access that voice they have great potential. I wanted to see if I had potential from the writing aspect of music.

My proposal read as follows: “I will utilize my funds to privately research the advanced field of music composition, theory, harmony, counterpoint, structure, genre, and anything else I can learn.  Once I gain sufficient knowledge on these subjects, I will write my own composition and perform it by the Spring Semester of 2016.”

I succeeded.  I took the summer of 2015 to study all of the great books on composing, to study all of the great scores, to listen to all the great records, and to write.  I had a regular schedule of reading and taking notes, and then one day about three weeks in, I was struck with a musical idea. I wrote it down, built upon it, molded it, varied it, and eventually I had the rough framework for a piece of music.  At first, I never intended to have it performed, but a wonderful friend of mine, Jonathan Rush, helps run a student-lead orchestra at OSU, and he offered to program whatever piece came out of this project.  So I took that framework and started assigning notes and rhythms to all of the instruments in an orchestra.  The editing process took months; much longer than it did just creating the music.  What followed is a twenty-minute, three-movement Suite for Orchestra (the title of the piece).  It was performed on Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 at the King Avenue United Methodist Church by the Buckeye Philharmonic Orchestra to a modest crowd and a very nervous me.  Additionally, the directors of the orchestra asked me to arrange OSU’s Alma Mater, “Carmen Ohio” for their orchestra, which I gladly did; this arrangement was performed last as the salute to a great year.

Although I was incredibly nervous for the concert, and although the performance didn’t go absolutely perfectly, I grew so much.  I set out to create a large piece of music (I had never actually performed or even finished a piece I wrote before) and the process was long and difficult, but I came out on top.  I know have the knowledge of a performed composer, which helps me relate even more to the music I’m studying/playing: I can now see the intent of a composer, I can more easily recognize the systems and organizations they use within their music, I can aurally distinguish a bevy of musical concepts that I could never distinguish before, and I now have the confidence (and respect from my peers) to continue writing – I wrote a thirteen-minute piece for a Saxophone Quartet which will be performed on my Solo Recital in just about a month’s time.

Because my study was private, there wasn’t an extensive amount of events or interactions that led me to the performance of my piece.  I took a lot from the composition writing of Schoenberg, Persichetti, Adler, and many more.  I studied the music of Ravel, Puccini, Copland, Shostakovich, and Bruckner most because I wanted to emulate their sounds.  In preparation for the project, I connected with several of my professors to gain their insight.  Most notably, I received assistance from my saxophone lesson teacher, Dr. Michael Torres, who provided me with a great deal of advice.  He provided me with support and guidance.  I spent a few nights sitting down the conductor of my piece, Jonathan Rush, to go through interpretive aspects of the music.  This solidified our friendship and gave me new ways to look at the music on the page.  I visited several of the Buckeye Philharmonic rehearsals to be a part of and advise the performance of my music.  Those experiences in particular taught me how important it was for a composer to be able to walk in the shoes of a performer.  How are they reading the notes on the page?  What language can I best use to describe my writing?  What emotion/feeling am I trying to communicate?  Is this music easy to play?  Is it fun to play?  I think that was one of the most profound takeaways from this project: perspective.  I gained the ability to remove myself from my egotistical bubble and viewed my music from another vantage point.

I was a wreck the day of the concert.  There was a point I stopped trying to personally invite people to the concert.  I didn’t want a ton of people there.  That piece was me bearing myself to the audience; it almost functioned as a window into my soul.  What if people don’t like what they see in there?  I was ridiculously apprehensive, but after the fact I was able to recognize the courage of those that create art and put it on a stage or in a frame or on a dance floor.  It’s difficult to create something and show it to the world.  I’m naturally very self-conscious about the way others think of me, so I’m amazed even more at those that can do it without worrying as much as I did.  I’ve learned from it though, and I’ve gained confidence in myself.  There’s a reason I wrote and will be performing another piece of mine: it’s thrilling to produce music.  New ideas being released into the air.  Even if no one enjoys it especially – the creation of something new is an incredibly special act.

My piece was the first of the program, and it was followed by several incredible pieces by some of the greatest Classical composers – Schumann, Berlioz, and Grieg.  I couldn’t match up to them.  Despite everything, however, I received positive reviews from everyone I spoke to after the concert.  “What inspired the music?”  “Will you keep writing?”  “I also loved Carmen!”  I wasn’t completely happy with the performance, but others were.  The support I received was vindicating.

The experiences I’ve gained from this STEP Project will stay with me for the rest of my career.  My understanding of music is at a much higher level now, and I’ll always be able to study it with a more advanced frame of mind.  I plan to write and arrange music for my students once I graduate at the end of this year and become a teacher.  I plan to write and arrange music for personal enjoyment and I hope to publish some of my music some day – or at least be performed again.  I’ve found my own particular style/sound that I really enjoy because, well, it comes from within.  All of music seems to have so much more character now.  It’s like I got my glasses adjusted and I can see much more clearly.  The effects will last a life time.

In the long run, I owe so many thanks to STEP.  Before, I was interested in composing, but never had the means to explore it.  Now, I write music regularly, and I’ve had the honor of performing several pieces that I’ve wrote.  STEP gave me the means to pursue a dream of mine.  These experiences will never leave me.


the peregrine muse. – A STEP Reflection by Daniel Rodriguez


This is the story of a story, how it came to mind and how it came to be, and how it came to change what the world looked like for me. Combining aspects of the aesthetic and the realistic, this STEP project culminated with the writing and publication of a book comprised of short stories and poems. This undertaking allowed for creative expression and growth, as well as an opportunity to practice effective communication, both of captivating stories and of salient societal issues. The result, you may ask?

the peregrine muse: an anthology

Now, this little book was by no means straightforward; it morphed and changed more times than I like to admit, but all of this was ultimately part of the creative process. I have known since I was a small child that I wanted to write a book. That much has never changed. What has changed, did change, is my view of the world. This perspective has radically transformed, and at times, even degenerated. We live in a day and age where we have grown numb to violence of the highest order, to repeated violations of the human condition, and to that which should intrinsically horrify us. And yet, here we are: fascinated by chaos. This reality became all too clear to me throughout the writing process. I came to realize how much our voices matter, and even more concerning, how casually and frequently our words are mitigated and their value diminished. Through it all, this book taught me to never be silenced.

See, I consider myself to be an eternal optimist. Almost to a fault. I have too much faith in the inherent humanity of humans. Buried deep within my chest, I feel a pulse. You should too. Talk to anybody else at any given time and there is an energy that exists between you two, regardless of race, gender, religion, or age. They also have a pulse, those beating fibers of good that linger within their body. Every person inherently and infallibly carries with them these wisps of positivity, of childhood optimism. Whether or not they surface is another story, or just a story in general. In this shadowy area between reality and fiction is where I thrive. Stories exist literally everywhere: good, bad, happy, sad, inspiring, depressing, and on and on and on. And I am no different than anybody else: every single human on this planet has the capacity to be a writer, a storyteller. The difference, however, lies in effort.

And a great deal of effort. This project drove me to my limits: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I began to question everything. There were days when I would stare at the static canvas of my computer screen and absolutely nothing would make sense. It was as though I had forgotten how to type, how to harness inspiration, how to think. It was maddening. For weeks, this would happen and the idleness would fester. In spurts, the drive and the words to compose prose would eventually channel through my fingertips, but their stay would be brief. It was incredibly frustrating, especially near the end of the last story that I was writing, to know exactly how the plot was to conclude, how the story could finally tie together, and not having the spark to pen the last words. I learned an immensely powerful lesson about patience: you are not asked to be patient when you like. Oftentimes, the requirement to be steady of head and heart comes when you are the least prepared, the most vulnerable.

This rang true for me, nearly on a daily basis. Writing is very much an outlet for the nebulous tumult that is my soul, my bottomless box of dreams and nightmares. For as long as I can remember, I have always found a certain indescribable comfort in the pen, in the beauty of a word, and that much has never changed. I can assuredly say that I am a more confident individual because of my familiarity with writing, with the organization of thoughts onto a page. Then again, my craft requires much from me in order for it to be real, for it to truly come from a place of truth and raw emotion. This is a taxing process. It was draining to write as much as I did, and yet, I knew that I had to trudge on. There was too much at stake to just give up or to take the easy road. On any given day, I would write about love, race, identity, or the human mind, only to tear each construct apart on the very next page. This process of building, destroying, and rebuilding these concepts forced me to think deeply about each one, more intensely than I had ever considered before. This, in turn, led to my finest writing.

There is a central premise in acting regarding the idea of stakes. In essence, the higher the stakes, the better the performance. The same notion applies to writing. By fully and completely investing yourself in your work, only then will it lead to a visibly transformative result. My book and its theme changed immensely from the first page to the last, but I would not change one thing. I changed alongside it. I examined the inner machinations of my mind and fostered ideas that had previously been foreign to me. Furthermore, I put a magnifying glass to society and found ways to distill the chaos of living into stanzas of poetry, into vivid metaphors in my prose. My faith in people never wavered, but my perspective on the world inherently changed, and this will undoubtedly continue to color my future works.

Throughout it all, I wrote for the sake of writing. There was nothing to gain from this endeavor other than fulfilling a childhood dream. Money was never a driving factor. I did briefly find myself falling into the trap of writing to please and to quell the criticism that I expected to receive. In other words, there was a time during which I was diluting my subject matter to make it easier to swallow. After some thorough self-reflection, I found this to be a lack of respect to my own art form. My words deserved to exist unshackled from the opinions of others. If anything, this was the riskiest thing that I could have done. I put myself in the particularly vulnerable position of not only placing my deepest thoughts on public exhibition, but they were also uncensored. I worried that people would not want to read such things, that everything that I had written would not be relatable.

This could not have been further from the truth. My proposal won the Best of the Best Award for Creative and Artistic Endeavors from STEP. I have sold over 150 copies in under a month. The book is now on sale at The Book Loft in the German Village, and it will most likely be available on Amazon before the end of the year. I am getting featured by three different Columbus publications within the coming month, and the exposure has only continued to get broader. The feedback that I have received has reaffirmed why I do what I do, and I could not be happier about the difference that my muse is making. Going one step further, this reassures me in my aspirations for future. In the same way that I was once writing to please others, I was also searching for careers that fit the mold that others had crafted for me. No more. I am incredibly attune with what I love in life, more so now than ever, and I have faith that this will undoubtedly lead me to discover an incredibly rewarding career. STEP afforded to me the opportunity to live out a dream and to see it through to the end. I will never, ever forget this experience, and I only hope that my journey and my stories may inspire others to find themselves in their own time too.

A dream turned reality: now on sale on bookshelves near you.

click here to purchase the peregrine muse.

MiChaela Barker’s STEP Experience

In my STEP Signature Project, I chose to focus on cultivating my artistic expression. My project was to create new music under my stage name of Bella Reign to allow myself the opportunity to indulge in my artistic passions that I am not always able to indulge in during the academic school term. My project consisted of writing and recording multiple songs, a photoshoot, a video shoot, and traveling to multiple venues to perform my music live.

During the creation and execution of my STEP Signature Project, I learned many different things about myself. While writing the lyrics to my songs, I tapped into emotions that I had long ago buried. Listening to music has always been therapeutic for me, but being able to create my own allows me to vent and relieve stress in a positive and non-detrimental way. Pain from failed relationships, familial stress, self image, and broken dreams, I realized throughout my artistic process that there were so many things that I had left undealt with in my heart. Throughout this experience, I discovered that it was ok to be emotional and to let those sensitive topics out. I had already done the hard part; I had survived all of the events that I went through. The final step was actually acknowledging what had happened to me and making an active decision to face those painful times and to get over them. This STEP experience allowed me to do just that.

My view of the world also changed as I was creating this project. Becoming a professional and well-known musician and performer is something that many only dream about. Before this project, I was convinced that I would only be considered a professional if I was to win a prestigious award like a Grammy, perform for audiences consisting of the most well known people, and to be nothing less than perfect. This could not be farther from the truth. I discovered that I am a professional performer because I have passion for my craft and practice often, I perform for audiences and get paid to do so, and I treat each of my clients in nothing less than a professional manner and respect. One does not need one million followers on Instagram or several Grammy’s to be considered a legitimate artist. There is nothing diminishing about not being as famous as those that our society of pop culture portrays. What matters is that you love your craft, you conduct yourself in a professional manner, and that you treat everyone involved with respect. I am no lesser than anyone else because of my current status, and that is what this experience helped me to learn.

At the beginning of my process to create my music and videos, I had to first find a producer to help me record and create my songs. Shaquille Brown is a producer back in my hometown of East Lansing, Michigan who has not only worked with many local talents, but has helped to produce for international pop starts such as Tinashe. He was the first person that I turned to. I showed him the lyrics that I created, and together we were able to mix and master different sounds that we felt went with the flow and vibe that I wanted my music to have. Once I began recording and was able to hear how my voice sounded on each track, I was ecstatic, but nervous. I told Mr. Brown to be nothing short of honest with me. If my music or singing was horrible, I wanted to know. I was elated when I saw his reaction to my lyrics and how I performed them while recording. Having someone of his background and success in the music industry compliment me was so affirming that it continued to push me to pursue my goal of releasing my music to the public, despite any past reservations or nervousness that I had had.

The second person that helped me to make my transition towards greater confidence in myself, my dream, and my craft was David Majors. David Majors is a director who works nationally on public relations and marketing projects by creating websites, commercials, facilitating photoshoots, and directing music videos. He has actually worked with 2 Chainz on music videos. When I gave him my ideas for my video, I had kept things very cliché. I was afraid of branching out and doing something more artistic, because I feared that everything would be misinterpreted. David Majors encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone by telling me to not hide behind special effects, garish outfits, or complicated scenery. Instead, he sat me down in front of a video camera and encouraged me to have a one on one conversation: just me and my audience. Extremely raw and extremely personal. By not hiding behind any over the top features, I was forced to own my creation and to give all of myself to my future audience. Though I was scared, I quickly gained confidence take after take. I expressed myself unapologetically, and was proud to reveal all of the things that I had been through. I hope that by letting my guard down, others will be able to allow themselves to be vulnerable and tell the stories that they have been keeping inside.

The final person who truly affirmed the pursuit of my musical endeavors would have to be Kimmie Horne, the great niece of the legendary Lena Horne. This past July, I was performing in a Jazz showcase in Michigan when I heard that Kimmie Horne would also be performing. Leading up to my set, I had not seen her. Little did I know, as I was performing, Kimmie Horne was watching me from backstage. After my set, she not only came up to me and asked me to take a picture, but to also perform with her at her jazz show. This legitimized my status as a professional performer in my eyes. I had caught the attention of a world renowned jazz singer, and had been identified as someone who was fit enough to take on another large show. I could see my dreams becoming even more of a reality, and I was, and still am, extremely proud of that.

The change that this experience has provided has helped to improve my life both academically, personally, and professionally.  By having a creative and expressive outlet of self care, my academics will continue to do well because I am able to release any stress that I have amidst taking and preparing for classes, and the release of that stress will better allow me to have a clearer line of focus when carrying out academic activities. This also holds true to my professional development. Too often we start receiving tunnel vision where we only focus on what needs to get done and when something needs to get done. By fostering my creative side, I will also be further developing my ability to think outside of the box and come up with innovative solutions to different problems that arise within my field. Lastly, this experience has helped me on a tremendous level personally. I was able to free myself of the chains that emotional hardship had placed on me. I was able to prove to myself that I could pursue both music and a degree at the same time and find happiness in both.

I have learned that just because you are pursuing an academic goal, does not mean that you have to give up your dreams within other fields. In fact, by making time for those other things that you hold very dearly, you are more likely to be relaxed, have greater confidence in yourself, and these things will in turn help you to succeed in your schoolwork and professional life. The STEP Signature Project was not only fun, but it was a learning and healing experience that I truly needed.


Screen grab from my "Hotline Bling Remix" video shootScreen grab from my “Hotline Bling Remix” video shoot


Album cover art

Album cover art


Kimmie Horne and I after performing at a Jazz festival

Kimmie Horne and I after performing at a Jazz festival

STEP Reflection: Becoming an EMT

Name: Ankita Sarnaik

Type of Project: Artistic & Creative Endeavors – Becoming an EMT

For my STEP Signature Project, I decided to take a couple Emergency Medical Service courses over the summer at the NVCC Medical Campus so that I could obtain my certification as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). EMTs provide pre-hospital emergency medical care and transportation for critical patients who need immediate help. They have the basic knowledge and skills necessary to stabilize and safely transport patients ranging from non-emergency and routine medical transports to life threatening injuries. As someone who is on the “medicine track”, I wanted to gain exposure to a hands-on patient-care field like this one and be able to make a difference in peoples’ lives by learning about emergency medical care.

As someone who wasn’t really previously educated on pre-hospital emergency care, I walked into this summer thinking that these courses wouldn’t really be a big deal and that I would just be learning basic concepts such as treating minor injuries (scrapes, lacerations, etc.) and patient transportation skills. I feel like the popular assumption is that doctors and nurses at the hospital are the ones who do the treating and life-saving from the moment the patient is brought through its doors. No one, including me before this summer, really thinks about the pre-hospital care or what is done from the moment the patient is picked up to when they’re dropped off at the hospital. After taking this course, my views about EMRs, EMTs, and paramedics really changed and I learned how critical first responders really are to the vitality of people who are injured in one way or another. They are the first to have contact with the patient and it is up to them to decide how to proceed to preserve the patient’s life. That being said, this experience in turn taught me how to trust myself and my instincts and also how important it is to have confidence in yourself.

As soon as classes began, I learned very quickly just how fast-paced and critical this field was. The class was every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 AM to 3 PM. On Mondays and Wednesdays, we sat in a lecture hall and learned course material and on Friday’s we met in a room where we would practice trauma assessments, medical assessments, and various skills sessions endlessly. For the second half of the summer session, we would enroll in clinical sessions where we would actually be out in the field playing an active role in pre-hospital care. All of this would be to prepare us for our psychomotor examinations and our written tests in order for each of us to obtain our national certificate.

Now, for someone who is pretty shy and finds comfort in following rather than leading, being thrown into this kind of environment was pretty stressful and made me feel rather anxious. But with the help of my peers and teachers, I was able to take it one day at a time and master the material. As far as my self-confidence goes, after studying and practicing the material repeatedly I began to feel more comfortable with myself and started to fully trust myself and my instincts. Soon I was even able to lead the class in assessments and skills sessions.

When clinicals began, that same overwhelming feeling and panic began to wash over me, but I realized that everything I needed to know to succeed was right in my head and I just needed to stay calm and think. Clinicals were a great experience and preview for what I wanted to be doing for the rest of my life. We would either meet our paramedic lead on a one-on-one in the triage area of an emergency department or in the back of an ambulance for ride-alongs. I learned how to triage patients, which involved taking their blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, weight/age, symptoms, and medical history. This really helped me visualize patients and learn how to talk to them as in the classroom setting, students just practice on each other. However, I think I took away most from the ride-alongs.

I remember getting our very first call. We were dispatched to a house of a 3 year old boy who had gone into anaphylactic shock (he had a allergic reaction to peanut butter) and his mother didn’t remember how to administer is epinephrine pen. We raced over there with lights and sirens while staying on the line with the mother. The paramedic was able to keep her calm and help her give the child the epi step by step. By the time we got there, his hives had stopped spreading and he was able to breathe again. We loaded the mother and the child up into the rig, hooking him up to oxygen and IV fluids, and transported them to the hospital. I was again given the duty of taking his vitals. I remember thinking to myself the entire time that this boy would have lost his life that day had it not been for the paramedic and the driver of the rig. That mother would not have been able to get her child to the hospital in time and she would have lost him. Furthermore, this is just one example of the kind of circumstance that occurs many times, every single day, all over the world. That realization was just incredible and reaffirmed once more that saving lives is what I want to do with my life.

It’s true when they say that there is no greater joy that the one you feel when you manage to help those in need. Seeing the look on the mother’s face when her son was able to breathe again or even his own face when he was no longer feeling pain or discomfort was priceless, and just being involved in the process of making that happen is incredible. It also just reinstates the concept that life is so precious and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. I’m very thankful for the STEP Signature Project in allowing me to gain exposure and have this experience because it allowed me to conquer my fears and grow as an individual, contribute to society and a greater purpose, and understand what I want in a career and how I want to spend the rest of my life.