Kareem Canada '05

Kareem Canada

Kareem Canada '05

Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina
Major: Music

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I was invited up for the Experience Weekend, so that was one of my first looks at Bowdoin. Also, my uncle [Geoffrey Canada '74], who went to Bowdoin, encouraged me to check it out, so that I did during the Experience Weekend, and I enjoyed myself and learned a lot about the campus. Bowdoin ended up being my top choice because of the Chamberlain Scholarship, which they offered me. [Because of] the people that I met and the resources and opportunities that I saw while I was here, and also that I anticipated having after I graduated, I decided to come to Bowdoin.

How did you decide on your major?
It was a long and twisty road. I started out with Psychology and then Economics and then English, and then finally, right before I did my semester abroad, I decided to major in Music. Music was something that I was really passionate about, and there was a time when I was taking four classes and didn't even like three of them except for my music classes. I could get credit for performing and I could write [music] and I could always do independent studies, so it was the clear and obvious choice after two and a half years of fiddling around!

What extracurricular activities do you participate in?
For a while I worked for Red Bull North America when their Mobile Energy Team was based out of Brunswick. That was a really great experience because I got to interact with all types of people throughout the day and also got to know about Maine outside of Bowdoin's campus.

As far as on campus stuff, I'm one of the captains of the Step Team. This semester, I danced with Vague, the jazz group, and in the past, I've been a tour guide, I've choreographed for Obvious, the hip-hop group, I ran track, I did student government, I was involved in the House System - I've lived in two houses since I've been at Bowdoin. I've done Residential Life, as well.

Step is something that I've been wanting to do since I was in middle school but never really had the opportunity to, so an unexpected benefit of coming to Bowdoin, a small college in Maine, [was the] Step Team. That was great because I didn't have to deal with the whole initiation of a fraternity at a southern state school, where they have step teams at the fraternities. Step introduced me to the Dance Department - I've been very involved with the Dance Department at Bowdoin, as well. So performing in the dance shows with the Step Team not only helped me with my stage presence and my ability to choreograph step, but also got me looking at modern dance.

I got to choreograph a piece I did myself of gumboot dancing, which is a predecessor to step. So I got to perform that in the dance show, where they have professional lighting and they helped us with the staging of it. That's one of the things that I loved about Bowdoin. It's a small school with small departments, but the people in those departments know what they're doing and they have excellent resources, so you can put together, with their help, a show that's really top-notch, and there aren't a lot of people competing for those resources.

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
I would have to say, by far, my independent studies, especially the one I did this past semester with [Assistant Professor of Music] Vineet Shende. I had the opportunity to work on my songwriting as well as get more familiar using MIDI and ProTools to basically be a producer, so now I have a very short demo CD [which] I'm hoping I can use that to shop around at some record labels. I love the process of recording and creating and composing my own stuff, so it was really rewarding. One of the things I finally realized is that liberal arts is more about the process than the product, so I focused a lot more on the process and what I learned through doing it, not necessarily getting [a finished product] done.

Have you done any other independent studies?
I did three other independent studies. One was a core theory class with [Associate Professor of Music] Robbie Greenlee. The other was also with Robbie Greenlee, looking at rhythm. I did a project where I coordinated the Step Team and the World Music Ensemble, which was doing African drumming that semester. So I analyzed the different beats [of each group] and then basically coached everybody. The Step Team performed with the World Music Ensemble at their last concert at the end of the semester.

This semester, I also did an advanced independent performance study. I decided I wanted to sing country and blues music, [so] I got to work with a three-piece band, and I got to work with a lot of fun music. So I put together a thirty-minute "Kareem Show," and I had to write [a paper] for it, as well.

Did you study abroad?
Yes. I went to Sydney, Australia at the University of Sydney. It was definitely a great experience. I've always wanted to live in a city, and so Sydney was a big city, but it was a lot friendlier, just because Australian people are just very friendly and very chatty. So it was great to take a break from Bowdoin for a while and experience a whole other culture. The most important thing that shaped me during my study abroad was interacting with people who weren't in college and who were taking alternative paths or doing their own thing. Interacting with those types of people and taking dance classes and hip-hop dance classes in the city was a really great experience. I got to augment and add to my Bowdoin education in a way that a small college in Maine couldn't do.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
I would say, every year when spring comes, just because winter can get a bit intense. It's almost like I psych myself out and I almost believe it's not going to happen, but every time it does, I'm just, "Wow! Spring!" Everybody's mood just gets so much better and people are a lot happier and you see people on the Quad. The coming of spring to Bowdoin just changes things and makes things a lot happier.

What are your plans after graduation?
Over the summer, I'm teaching at the Exploration Summer Programs. I'm teaching a hip-hop dance class and a performance percussion class, sort of like the show Stomp, where you use all kinds of instruments for performing and creating beats. And I'm going to be doing a step workshop. And then after that's over, I'm planning to move to New York. I'll be working for a company called Total Entertainment, where I'll be creating atmosphere at parties, like sweet sixteens and weddings and bar mitzvahs. I go in with a team of dancers and a microphone and I'll be starting chants and getting people on the dance floor and just making sure everybody has a good time. I feel like it's a really good match for me.

What advice would you give to a first year student about the Bowdoin experience?
My time at Bowdoin was a bit torn because I've always been good at academics but I've always had this flair for performing, so it really took me a long time to realize that I wanted to pursue performing. So I'd say, for anybody planning to come to Bowdoin, don't limit yourself. Take a variety of different classes and explore different things. Even if you've never tried dance before, take a dance class, because you just discover so much, and there's not another opportunity where you'll be able to dabble in different things. If you don't like it, there's no big penalty. You haven't really lost anything. So I would say take advantage of your limited time to explore and don't set your sights on anything specific in your studies or in anything that you do during this time.

Story posted on July 08, 2005

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