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Where the TinyTent AT?

Hundreds of miles in, with thousands more to go—one would think these two women would be nicknamed Blisters and Wails. Instead, Emily Sklar ’15 and Margaux Reckard ’13 are known along the trail as Giggles and Chuckles, respectively.

Hikin’ Hornets Emily Sklar ’15 (left) and Margaux Reckard ‘13.

The two laughing hikers are at this very moment somewhere along the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, hiking from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine on an adventure that began on March 24. The adventures of Giggles and Chuckles are being recorded, step by step and with vivid photography, on their blog, Where the tinytent AT?

“My SIP [senior individualized project] is an exploration of the relationship between humans and their natural environment on the Appalachian Trail,” wrote Emily, a.k.a. Giggles, in early April, from a point near Springer Mountain, about 164 miles into the hike.  She is a biology major with an interest in ecological issues, and she started thinking about hiking the Trail while on her LandSea expedition at the beginning of her freshman year. Her interest in nature, biology, and ecology came together in her SIP plan.

My SIP will explore what people gain from their experiences on the trail.

“I am conducting interviews along our hike to discuss individuals’ experiences, and what people gain from their experience on the trail,” Emily said. “The trip thus far has been really interesting. I’ve met a lot of people. Everyone has a different story and comes from a different place. Folks come from different geographic regions, levels of fitness, and experience levels.”

Emily Sklar ’15 encounters a wild pony in Grayson Highlands, a portion of the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike she is doing for her Senior Individualized Project.

New friends (and SIP subjects) include hikers with such trail names as The Captain, Grandpa Chops, Roadrunner, Hearsay, LAF and Slim.

Emily added: “I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the company that we’ve found at the camps, although the sites very over crowded our first week. There were around 20 tents a night at each campsite. The groups are beginning to thin now because folks either leave the trail or move at different speeds.”

The two hikers have at this point hiked through the state of Georgia, and yes, there have been blisters, and rain, and frustrations along with the laughter.

“The biggest frustration that we’ve met so far has not been the rain,” said Emily. “We’ve felt like we have something to prove, being women out here. A lot of folks in camp haven’t taken us too seriously, but as soon as they learn that we’re some of the most experienced hikers out here, that changes a bit. All in all, we’re happy. We’re a little bit sore from the recent increase in mileage, but we’re having a lot of fun, making a lot of friends, staying dry (for the most part), and laughing frequently. “

As the weeks go on, the miles accumulate, and the blisters heal into calluses, the two write on their blog that they are feeling stronger. The goal of reaching Katahdin in Maine, wrote Margaux, “feels more and more possible.”

Follow their adventures and view the photos of Giggles and Chuckles at Where the tinytent AT?

Forgotten Lunches, 30 Years Apart

Most, but not all, Kalamazoo College students go on study abroad. Most, but not all, do an internship. On the other hand, everyone who graduates does a Senior Individualized Project.

Therefore, the fact that Diane Dupuis ’80 and Fiona Carey ’14 did a SIP is more “Dog Bites Man” than vice versa. But when you consider that Dupuis is Carey’s mother, and that they both studied French and completed SIPs that were both based on translating literature in their second language, things start to get a bit more “Man Bites Dog.”

And the similarities don’t end there.

SIP students and supervisor (l-r): Diane Dupuis ’80, Fiona Carey ’14, Professor Kathleen (White) Smith.

Both women studied abroad in French-speaking nations—Dupuis in Caen, France, and Carey in Dakar, Senegal—and both persuaded Professor of Romance Languages and Literature Kathleen White Smith to serve as their SIP advisor, albeit some 34 years apart.

“One needs to know French very well to create a literal translation that reads well,” Smith says. “Diane and Fiona are both extremely proficient in French.”

In the fall of 1979, Dupuis translated Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein by Marguerite Duras, first published in France in 1964. Duras grew up in French Indochina, creating a literary perspective and voice unique from other French writers of the time, Dupuis says.

“There was an otherness to her voice that set her apart,” she says. “I really responded to her style.”

Carey, meanwhile, translated the first act of the three-act play Béatrice du Congo by Bernard Dadié, published in 1970, a work she first encountered in a francophone African literature class at K. Here, too, there are serendipitous similarities between the choices of mother and daughter. Significant themes in both works revolve around colonial imperialism, religion, and native peoples trying to maintain or resurrect traditional ways of living upended by foreign influences.

“I was amazed that our SIPs were almost the same,” Dupuis says. “I wondered why I didn’t think about this sooner. It seemed almost inevitable that we would pursue the same kind of project.”

Both women love language—French in particular. Carey well remembers a trip the family took to France when she was in high school, particularly the admiration she felt for her mother as they walked around towns in Normandy and she heard her mom’s French language skills reawaken.

Dupuis often read French to Carey and her younger brother when they were kids growing up, teaching them how to make the sounds of the words. But she never pushed her children to learn the language, Carey says. It just kind of happened.

“I attribute my love for language to her love for language,” she says. “I knew my mom translated a novel, but I didn’t really think about it until the end of this winter. It’s funny that it worked out this way!”

When it comes to pathways to higher education, the similarities fade. Dupuis, the daughter of two Detroit Public Schools teachers, was intrigued with medicine. In the mid-1970s, some universities were offering six-year programs that, when completed, earned a student a bachelor’s and medical degree, a sort of fast-track to the medical profession.

She applied to these programs at the University of Michigan, Boston University and Northwestern University, among others. Kalamazoo College—where she’d been accepted—was her “traditional-track” top choice, she says, adding, “If I didn’t get into one of those specialized programs, I at least knew I wanted to go to the best school in Michigan, with an excellent rate of med-school acceptances.”

She got interviews at all the universities she applied to, was placed on waiting lists for a few of them, and got rejections from a few others. K was still there, the doors wide open.

“I didn’t like the waiting list idea,” Dupuis says. “K let me know they wanted me.”

She had a passion for science, enrolling in the pre-med curriculum, but it soon became apparent that the rigidity and competitiveness of the traditional pre-med and medical-school trajectory of 35 years ago did not square with Dupuis’s vision of health and healing.  “These days we have terms for what I wanted to explore: integrative or holistic medicine, and alternative and complementary therapies,” Dupuis explains. “Back then, those concepts were generally labeled as ‘snake oil.’  I wasn’t comfortable with the narrow combativeness of the mainstream.”

So Dupuis started down a compelling new path, double-majoring in English and French, diving into creative writing, writing for the Index, serving on the yearbook staff, editing the Cauldron, and helping out in the library’s A.M. Todd Rare Book Room.

Words became her passion. She took an internship on the editorial team at the Chicago publishing house Nelson-Hall, which, at that time, was administered in part by a K graduate. That experience led to a nearly two-decade career in book publishing, taking a job in 1980 at the Detroit-based Gale Research Company and spearheading her own imprint—Visible Ink Press—which she launched and led.

Now, after ten years in nonprofit administration at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Dupuis serves as Charitable Giving Specialist for the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, near her home in northwestern Michigan’s Benzie County.

Thinking back to the six months she spent in Caen, Dupuis remembers being routinely mistaken for a native, her last name a fairly common “nom de famille” in France. Then French natives would start talking a mile a minute. She had to try to keep up, and it was hard. The experience has stayed with her.

How can I be always learning to be a gracious presence in the world?

“K was a place where you really could pursue what intrigued you. Things felt possible there. I had gone to Italy when on study abroad, and when I came back I had a strong desire to learn Italian. So Dr. Henry Cohen in the Romance Language department made it happen—just because I asked. Our intellectual curiosity was valued there. The K- Plan is so forward-looking, such a wonderful way to find your place in the world.”

For Carey, things were a bit more streamlined when it came to searching for schools. She applied to Bowdoin, Swarthmore, Dartmouth, MIT, Middlebury, and Kalamazoo College. In the end, says Carey, who majored in theatre at Interlochen Arts Academy, K was a pretty easy choice—thanks in part to her mother’s experience.

“K was always on my radar because of my mom,” Carey says. “I think particularly the study abroad the College offers was mouthwateringly cool, and I love Michigan. I wanted that small, liberal arts experience. The choice to go to school here was pretty easy.”

Graduating this June, Carey has been busy on campus, serving as a Student Chaplain volunteer and spending substantial time and talent on Festival Playhouse theatre productions, including Kahani, a theatre project that toured in India in July, 2012. Carey has always been fascinated with the intersection of culture and the arts, and with art’s potential for creating intercultural dialogue.

It was Carey’s time in Dakar, Senegal’s capital city, that really woke her to the uniqueness of the K experience, as well as her own love for learning foreign languages and navigating between cultures. Dupuis helped out, too.

“Mom’s multicultural awareness and appreciation for other cultures helped shape mine,” Carey says. “She transferred that to my brother and me. I’m very grateful for that.”

The openness and hospitality she experienced while in the West African metropolis astounded her as she learned from teachers, host family, friends, and strangers in a constant flow of culture shock and warm welcome. Carey was able to participate in a give-and-take that was different from give-and-take at home.

“It’s said that you are never more from your home country than you are when you’re abroad,” Carey says. “I experienced a heightened awareness of the importance of generosity. I carry that with me. There’s the saying at K that’s inscribed in the wall of Trowbridge Hall:  “The end of learning is gracious living.” To me, that has a lot to do with responsibility, with respect on a deep level—how can I be always learning to be a gracious presence in the world? I definitely felt myself asking that question in Dakar and growing in that way.”

This September, Carey will start a job teaching English to middle- and high-schoolers on the Caribbean island of Martinique.

So, who’s the better translator? The answers are diplomatic.

“I don’t know,” Dupuis says, “I haven’t seen Fiona’s SIP yet. She’s working with idioms I am probably not familiar with. Fiona is a gifted writer in English, which is just as essential.”

Says Carey, “My mom’s probably been exposed to more French text than I have. She’s got more experience. She just has such a nuanced sensibility with language in general—she’s a really great writer.”

Either way, it matters little. What’s most important? Dupuis has a good answer: “I have always told my kids to pay attention to the things that, when you are doing them, make you forget what you had for lunch, or even whether you had lunch.

“K is a place where you can lose yourself in so many explorations that help you realize your full potential.”

Sound Check

Playing to a packed venue in downtown Kalamazoo, the indie rock band “Lasso”—featuring Andy Catlin ’09 on keyboards—finishes the final chords of its set to rousing applause. But before Catlin can catch his breath and greet his friends in the audience (including a contingent of Kalamazoo College alumni who are staples at his concerts) he jumps back onstage to perform with “The Go Rounds,” another popular Kalamazoo-area rock band.

Andy Catlin ’09 - Photo by Steven Michael Holmes.

Catlin has been writing, performing, and recording music in southwest Michigan for the better part of a decade. Lasso has released five full-length albums since its 2010 debut. It’s fifth, “Golden Lasso,” was released this spring.

In 2011, Catlin and a business partner, Ben Lau, established Double Phelix Recording Collective, a 2,500-sq. ft. recording studio and performance space located in the River’s Edge neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown Kalamazoo. Musicians pay monthly dues for studio time to rehearse and record their own music. Most end up helping other musicians with their projects. Lasso and The Go Rounds are among a dozen music groups that currently belong to the Collective.

Double Phelix services include audio production, engineering, mixing and mastering; music and sound for film, TV, and radio; location recording; instrument repair and rental; and more.

Catlin books bands’ gigs, schedules studio time in Double Phelix’s 100-year old converted barn space (conveniently located near a bevy of downtown Kalamazoo coffee houses and brew pubs), and oversees every aspect of recording and production. A multi-instrumentalist, he often sits in as a session musician when needed, especially during the once-a-month evenings of music he organizes for member bands dubbed “Double Phelix Showcases.”

He also promotes the studio through the weekly release of an original song from a Double Phelix member band. With singles released via “Double Phelix Bandcamp” and other social media sites, the studio enjoys a consistent web presence.

Out of breath yet? Not Catlin. In addition to all the aforementioned, he helped launch a nonprofit organization that encourages school kids to make their own music.

During his time at K, Catlin took a partial-credit course in recording technology from part-time K music instructor and acclaimed Kalamazoo-based sound engineer John Stites.

“Although my focus was always more on the music than engineering, John became a huge advocate of me being able to play and produce,” says Catlin.

Instruments of Choice
Catlin remembers first being obsessed with music as a fifth-grader learning to play the clarinet—and falling asleep with it at night.

“It was all clarinet, all the time” he smiled.

He then became interested in the trombone, tuba, guitar, piano/keyboards, “and percussion instruments of all kinds.”

After his parents gave him a four-track cassette recorder for Christmas (he was 14), Catlin began “reading every book I could possibly find about recording.”

He also became interested in the stories behind popular music studios and the wider musical cultures from which they emerged, eventually basing certain aspects of Double Phelix’s business model on successful elements of the Motown experience in Detroit and Muscle Shoals in Alabama.

Catlin began making connections in the music industry during his senior year at K when he became full-time booking agent for the now defunct Kalamazoo music venue The Strutt, at the corner of Academy and W. Michigan (now home to Rupert’s brewpub and music club). Within two years Catlin had booked more than 700 acts and was central to the transformation of the small-time coffee house and bar into a venue that featured national touring acts.

“The Strutt was an incredible meeting place for Michigan musicians. I soon started to record, produce, and advocate on behalf of a wide body of musicians. This was the genesis of Double Phelix.”

Andy Catlin ’09 in Double Phelix - Photo by Steven Michael Holmes.

Although the studio possesses industry standard digital recording capabilities, Catlin says “we are passionate about analog sound and vintage instruments.” Thus his instrument of choice many days is a Tascam ATR 6016 one-inch tape-recorder he purchased in 2012. It’s the premiere method for recording music by his other bands. In 2013, he used it to record nationally renowned bass player Dominic Davis, perhaps best recognized for his collaboration with “White Stripes” front man Jack White, named one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone.

Music in the Key of K
A person must possess an intense work ethic in order to juggle musician’s schedules, organize complex musical arrangements, oversee recording, mixing, and mastering efforts, and then market the final product.

Catlin said he found his at K.

“I think the K work ethic seeped into how I approach music,” said the Grand Rapids native who majored in religious studies. “K was the place where I went from being a talented musician, to becoming a total musical being. I developed so much while I was there.”

He also credits K’s liberal arts for helping to develop his jack-of-all-trades capability at Double Phelix.

“The campus is a playground of creativity,” he said.

For his Senior Individualized Project Catlin composed and recorded a 40-minute musical composition for strings, drums, guitars, and electronics.

“My SIP laid the groundwork for me to create and sustain a professional music studio.”

K was where I became a total musical being.

During the summer of 2013, Catlin drew again from his K heritage when he helped solidify a partnership between Double Phelix, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo, and the Dan Schmidt Gift of Music Fund. The collaboration set in motion an innovative after-school music education program for Kalamazoo Public School middle school students. Each participating student writes, rehearses, records, and publicly performs his or her own original song.

“K is such a huge advocate of community service, so it’s incredibly fun and rewarding to follow up with that kind of work now.”

He is optimistic about what comes next as he approaches the five-year anniversary of his June 2009 commencement. And he’s eager to keep his K connection strong.

“I continue to meet and network with the K community. I’ve played some shows on campus and continue to get support. I’m open to any collaboration that the College sees fit! We’ll at least be rocking here in ‘Kzoo’ for a few more years, maybe longer!”

Rock on, Andy!

Read more about Andy Catlin and Double Phelix in the Kalamazoo Gazette (Dec. 26, 2012).
Download Double Phelix music at doublephelix.bandcamp.com.
Follow the fun at doublephelix.tumblr.com.