Music Transforms People

Participating in the Second Year Transformational Experience Program (STEP) was an opportunity I used to continue my musical education even though I am a non-music major at Ohio State. I took music lessons through Columbus Music Schools who worked seamlessly with me to make sure I had the proper documentation and that I was prepared for my reporting back performance. I took one vocal lesson and one guitar lesson per week. Taking guitar and vocal lessons has helped me realize that I will be able to one-day sing and play at the same time with continued practice. I learned how to play basic guitar music and I improved upon the vocal base I already had.


As a soprano singer myself, my vocal instructor challenged me by having me perform songs that were in a lower range than I am use to singing. I learned to overcome my fear of singing in front of people and this in turn has boosted my self-confidence and has even improved my public speaking skills. I have always enjoyed singing, but performing for other people was unsettling to me. Not only did I perform in front of people at the STEP expo, but I also performed at the Columbus Music Schools spring recital. This experience has done more than just taught me how to sing properly. It has given me life skills that I will use in my future career. I also learned some music theory in these lessons and that is transferrable to any instrument. I can use my music theory to analyze music in my everyday life.

I had never played guitar before my first guitar lesson. I learned not only how to play the guitar, but the historical significance of the guitar and how rock and roll was developed. My guitar instructor focused a lot on the education of influential bands, guitar players, and the evolution of guitar playing as we know it today. This supplemental information has given me a platform to communicate with people that I may not have had anything in common with. Listening to the different styles of influential guitar players has given me a new appreciation for the guitar. Compared to other instruments I know how to play; guitar is much more difficult. I struggled with the rhythmic aspects of guitar and the coordination of both hands. The guitar is a very dynamic instrument and I was challenged musically by the guitar. I learned a lot from the guitar that I have not learned from the flute, piano, bells, or saxophone. My new knowledge I have acquired has led me to develop a newfound interest in other genres of music.


Music lessons do more for a person than teach them how to play the instrument. I use music for my personal mental health. I believe music has a strong hold on a person’s emotions and feelings. Music can make people feel a certain way and being able to play an instrument and project the emotions that a person is feeling into the music has an almost medicinal property. I use music to project my feelings and to open up about myself when words may not suite the situation or are hard for me to articulate.

I believe that music is an outlet for a lot of people especially college students. Walk around campus and you will see most students with headphones in. Music is all around us and everyone is drawn to music genres that they can connect with. I used these music lessons to connect more with myself and express myself. I found that during finals and other stressful times, music became very important for me and playing helped to make life less stressful. This is a technique I can use in future stressful situations to improve my mental health.

The relationships that I built with my instructors helped to build me a network of people in the music industry that I could go back to and continue my education later on. Both of my instructors listened to what I wanted to accomplish and helped me create a transformative experience for myself. Networking not only provided me information in the realm of music, but it helped support my future career as a veterinarian. Dr. Freedy my guitar instructor added me to his cat care team for when he leaves on trips. These kinds of connections may seem minor, but they articulate how the world works. Networking is so important. I learned so much about myself and how important it is to communicate clearly what you want from others. Both instructors helped me to really transform.


The impact of my transformational experience did not just last the 8 months I was involved in music lessons. This is an experience that will affect me for the rest of my life. I can use the information I have learned to continue playing instruments, improving my skills and connecting with music and other people. As a non-music major, the influence of the newfound confidence I now have and the education I have received that goes beyond the classroom has truly created an experience that will carry with me for years to come. I would recommend STEP to incoming students as a way to learn more about themselves and find joy in life in places that they may have forgot existed.

Practice Makes Perfect

Finding Myself and My Inner Teacher in 200 Hours

For my STEP Project, I pursued my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training through a program created by Katie Brauer, owner of The Yoga ProfessionalTM, and facilitated by Colleen McFall. Proceeding my project, I worked for Alice Gantman at Heartfelt Yoga Studio as an Engagement Manger to learn more about the professional aspects of yoga and have continued to do so throughout the program. During this project, I dedicated myself to my practice, learned about the power of sequencing, the history of yoga, and how to skillfully lead a class.

This project helped me to see the beauty of myself and all of the power I hold within me. This training is based off of a Shakta Tantric lineage, which focuses on finding empowerment through small moments of bliss that you obtain throughout life. This lineage also subscribes to the belief that the power of enlightenment is already within us, and we use practices such as yoga to connect our souls to our bodies in order to find this. This style of yoga could not have been more perfect for me, as I have struggled with self-image since I was in high school. For the first few weeks of training, I would walk into the studio and feel unworthy of being part of this process; however, Colleen did not agree. Whenever I would share this message with her she would remind me that there was something that brought me here, and she wouldn’t have let me join the program if she didn’t believe I was ready. Teacher training heavily focuses on self-reflection, because it is imperative for good teachers to be able to connect with themselves, and the practice of yoga is the practice of being mindful. So, I spent a lot of time getting to know myself and through that I discovered just how powerful I am.

One of the people who helped me the most to see the beauty in myself was Colleen McFall. Colleen is originally from Canada and has been teaching yoga for 13 years, but this is her first teacher training. She has led sections of trainings before, but never liked one enough to put her name behind it until Katie reached out to her. During the first week of training, I was struggling to find my place amongst the other participants and was getting angry at myself for feeling so emotional about it all. At the time, I really missed my family, but had been unable to make a trip to see them between school, work, and training. I was feeling lost and a little alone. During one of our breaks, I went out to the hallway to cry and Colleen saw me as she was leaving the restroom and came over to embrace me. She asked me what was wrong, and all of my thoughts began to spill out. I told her I hated how rough around the edges I was and how easily I cried. It reminded me of being in elementary school and being labeled as the girl who cried every day. She told me she was my teacher now, and she was happy that I was crying. It meant that I was working through something and that I was meant to be here. She told me this program was meant to elicit strong emotions. After I had calmed down she thanked me, and we entered the room together. My strong feelings of isolation had dissipated, and I was starting to open myself up to the possibility of being a member of this group. This moment with Colleen led me to the events that would help me find myself.

Another quintessential moment in this program was when I made peace with my self-hatred. In yoga, part of the 8 Limb Path are the Yamas and the Niyamas, which are restraints or observations that help you to reach enlightenment. One of the Yamas is ahimsa, which means non-violence. During the second week of practice, Colleen read each of them out and had us journal about the ones which we needed in our life. At first when I was journaling, I didn’t pick ahimsa because I didn’t consider myself a violent person, but another girl asked a question that hit me deep. She asked if it could be considered violence towards yourself, and Colleen told us a story of how ahimsa picked her. She had just finished her first practice teach and was sitting amongst the other participants in her group. The Teacher opened up the question of how everyone felt, and most people said they were satisfied, but she was staying quiet in the back. She felt stupid. She felt unworthy. It felt like everything went wrong, even though no one said that to her. So, when the attention was turned to her, she couldn’t help but break down into tears and admit it all to her teacher, who was grinning as he watched Colleen finally be vulnerable to her classmates. He said,” That, Colleen, is the yoga.” Me and another girl connected to this story and both broke down into tears. Colleen had us gather in a circle and we grabbed each other’s hands and affirmed that we were all worthy, and that this was part of the process. This is my story of how ahimsa chose me.

The full realization waved over me during my first practice teach. The week leading up to my practice teach had been a pretty emotional time. I was spending time with my family, getting ready for my boyfriend to leave for Texas, and considering finding a new job. That left very little time to practice. For this, I had to memorize a 30-minute sequence and teach it to my fellow classmates, who were going to do the same for me. I was not as ready as I wanted to be when it came time for me to lead the class and I could feel the nerves all over my body. The voice in my head began to berate me. You aren’t good enough. This isn’t going to go well. You’re wasting everyone’s time. However, I had to push forward and teach. I made it through centering without too many hiccups, but as soon as I had to teach the sequence my mind drew a blank. I stared out at my peers as my body seized, unable to work through what to do next. One of my friends looked at me and smiled, then whispered “Begin Again”, a phrase that our training had been built on. I took a deep breath and did my best to center myself, and then decided to move forward with something that wasn’t in the sequence but was how I often began my personal practices. As I continued, the sequence came back to me and the rest of my time continued peacefully. Once I had finished my friend gave me a hug and told me she was proud. In that moment, I realized that I did not have to hang my mistakes over my head, because they did not define my work. These events led me to a deeper understanding and appreciation for myself.

My 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training helped me to find a deeper value of myself. Not only did this aide me in gaining more tools as a professional, such as connections to people in the field of education, more experience leading classes, and the ability to self-evaluate, but it also showed me how to appreciate the aspects of myself that are unique. As someone who grew up as a straight A student, a lot of my identity was predicated on this fact. I was “the smart one”, but when I started at Ohio State I quickly realized that I was surrounded by people who were all “the smart one”, and a lot of them did even more exceptional things than I did in high school. I struggled a lot with my identity and my sense of self-worth was slipping away, especially after my first semester when I was no longer a straight A student. Yoga helped to connect me to a part of myself that went ignored for a long time, a part that reminded me  that my worth was not supposed to be predicated on my GPA, but rather on my personal character. Through this teacher training, I learned how to find value in myself outside of the academic universe.

Google Cloud Next 19′

Name: Mitchell Giese

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavors

  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.

My project was to travel to and attend Google Cloud Next ’19, a developer conference in San Francisco, CA. There, I joined some of the brightest minds in tech for three days of networking, learning, and problem solving. I connected with IT professionals and executives across industries while engaging in deep technical content and hands-on learning. I also spent a few extra days exploring the city and culture of the Bay Area. After the conference I traveled to Los Angeles to catch up with family and learn about their transition out to the West Coast after graduation.  

  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.

This year I have been struggling trying to figure out where I want to end up after graduation. I have spent my entire life in Columbus, but the past year has really opened my eyes to opportunities beyond state lines. Specifically, I have been interested in what it might be like to live and work on the West coast, and this was a chance for me to spend over a week out there essentially by myself. What I found was a diverse culture of amazing people who share many of my ambitions, an uncompromising lifestyle that balances pleasure with technical excellence, and a limitless ceiling for growth as I chase my ever-expanding career goals. I think the words of one executive I met on the trip embody my transformation best. In the airport listening to me talk about my trip and my dreams he said, “I don’t think Ohio is big enough for you.” This trip confirmed feelings that I have been struggling with for a long time and I finally feel confident making the move out West when the time comes.

  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.

There were 3 main experiences that came together to form my transformation: the people, the city, and the lifestyle. I like to think that Columbus is one of the more diverse cities in Ohio, and yet it doesn’t even compare to the diversity of people I met on this trip. I stayed in an international hostel in San Francisco that gave me the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. For many travelers, the West coast is their first stop and I absolutely loved meeting people from Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and so many more places on my trip. Beyond international travelers, the city is a hotspot for technology and innovation that lures brilliant minds and creative problem solvers. I met with people at all stages of their career journey from executives to new startups and hearing their stories has helped to shape my own.

The second experience that contributed to my transformation was the city. During my time on the coast I spent most of my days in San Francisco or Los Angeles. These are cities teeming with activities and opportunity and there was no shortage of things to do. At night there were concerts, a great bar and restaurant scene, and sponsored networking and development events. During the day, I got to spend time in Chinatown, walk down along the pier, take a run by the beach, visit historic landmarks, and watch the sun set over the water. As I walked through downtown San Francisco, every other building belonged to some company that has made a huge impact on the technology and software industry. People that I met at dinner or in an uber all had connections to the industry inside an out of the city. There is no place in the world more concentrated with talent and ideas around technology than San Francisco, and the culture of the city has grown and shaped to make it even more attractive to people like myself.

The third experience I just generalize as the lifestyle. “Lifestyle” was a word I found myself using a lot on the trip. “I could get used to this lifestyle” I would tell my friends and family because it really felt like I was living a completely different life. It’s hard to put into words but I became a different person on the west coast. A combination of the great weather, the liveliness of the city, the passion of the people, and the oodles of things to do had me waking up refreshed and ready to tackle the day head on. I found myself more motivated than ever to pursue personal projects and ideas I had been sitting on for months. I was having fun every day and night without compromising my other obligations. When talking to my family about their move out west, it became clear that they make the most out of every day they are given. The beaches, the mountains, the desert, and the city are all within a few hours of one another and it empowers you to make every day and weekend one to remember.

  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.

This experience has come at a very important moment in my life. I am only one semester (at a maximum one year) away from graduation and I am preparing to make a few decisions that are hugely consequential to who I become over the next few years. From a young age I have known what I want to do with my life and what I had to do to get there. But now, on the cusp of graduation and true adulthood, I don’t think I have ever been more nervous to take these next steps. This trip was the reassurance I needed that everything will be alright. Spending a week in the city alone, networking with other professionals at the conference, and talking with family about their transition after graduation was exactly what I needed to know I can get through this next year. People have told me the biggest difference between those working out west and in Columbus is their adversity to risk, their willingness to jump ship and try something new. I have been asking myself this year if I have that same adversity, if I have what it takes to leave behind everything safe that I know here in Columbus for a new adventure. I finally am comfortable saying that I do, and I am not afraid of wherever this next year takes me.