Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Minor: Film Studies
Academic interests: literature and creative writing, documentary film, music history
Extracurricular activities: Mike Curb Fellowship, Memphis Public Tennis Center professional, music blogger for The Kollection, music journalism, Sigma Tau Delta (English Honors Society)
Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
I applied to Rhodes on a whim after hearing about a friend’s positive experience. My parents were supportive and excited; my peers wondered if everyone would say “y’all” with a thick Southern accent. For me, the intimate feel of Rhodes had no comparison –I knew I’d be getting the most out of my classes in a close-knit and challenging academic environment. Equally important, however, was the idea of place—I knew Memphis had a rich and complex history, socially and musically, due to its location in the Mississippi Delta (said to begin in the lobby of Memphis’ Peabody Hotel). The thought of touring studios and concert venues where revolutionary musicians had performed—from Elvis to Aretha Franklin, from Howlin’ Wolf to Al Green—was almost unfathomable to me.
How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes?
My passion for Memphis has deepened over the course of my four years here. Works I’ve read that were inspired by this city (Robert Gordon’s It Came From Memphis; Peter Taylor’s The Old Forest) have altered the way I interpret the Southern narrative. My work at Rhodes and involvement in the greater Memphis area has instilled in me a commitment to positive change in the city. I’ve met folks at Rhodes who’ve broadened my understanding of the world in terms of our respective backgrounds, as cliché as that may sound. Also, I now know that crawfish are edible.
Tell us about your documentary, Jookin, and the resources you had to produce it.
Last summer, I participated in the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, a program that provided me with the academic resources I needed to conduct extensive research on a form of Memphis dance known as “jookin.” I worked with a panel of professors and peers, exchanging research findings and personal experiences in order to transform my findings into a 55-minute documentary. Prof. Liz Daggett was instrumental in guiding me through film shoots, software recommendations, and editing tips. At the encouragement of my Rhodes peers and professors, I submitted my work to the Indie Memphis Film Festival. The festival ran my documentary as a feature on opening night, and I ended up winning the Best Hometowner Feature award, presented by Senator and Mrs. Mike Norris. The entire experience was an incredible honor.
Talk about your work with the Mike Curb Institute for Music.
The Curb Institute has provided me with the opportunity to film and edit concerts performed at Elvis Presley’s 1956 Audubon Drive house. The other Mike Curb fellows and I film local and touring acts in the intimate space of Presley’s living room; so far, we’ve welcomed Star & Micey, Bobby Rush, Jack Oblivian, Rosanne Cash, and Valerie June. For me, these concerts solidify an understanding of the importance of Memphis on an artistic level. The concerts also give me the opportunity to hone my skills as a filmmaker/editor.
What are your plans for next year? How has your Rhodes experience and your work in the Memphis community influenced your decision?
I don’t plan on leaving Memphis anytime soon. Coming from Los Angeles, I’ve been especially struck by the hardworking, passionate mentality of the people I’ve met in Memphis. Last summer, I was welcomed into the worlds of various dancers whom I filmed; they reflected this wonderfully assiduous approach to life that I haven’t seen in any other place that I’ve lived. My respect for these people—and the city that shaped them—has allowed me to throw myself into my work here without any reservations.
The accessible and vibrant film community here—which I witnessed firsthand at Indie Memphis—reminds me of the opportunities available in this city. Without my experience with the Curb Institute, I’d probably be back in Los Angeles or elsewhere next year, but I’m firmly convinced by the potential of Memphis in terms of shaping my career. A piece of advice for incoming students: embrace the resources that Rhodes has to offer, but step outside of the gates as often as possible. The city of Memphis is a fantastic resource in and of itself.
Compiled by Caroline Ponseti ‘15
Promo for An Evening at Elvis′, featuring Rosanne Cash and produced by the Curb Fellows