Not everybody can tease a bass line out of a mailbox, but that’s just what Johannes Rath did.
Now pursuing graduate work in guitar and world musical traditions at CalArts, he recalls the innovative course work assigned by Naropa music instructor (now Music Director) Janet Feder. “We had to write a piece of music for an instrument we’d made, so I took a mailbox and strapped bungee cord to the top rim of the door. Any time you closed the mailbox, the cord would tighten and change the pitch. My friend and I wrote a song for it called “Special Delivery” that we performed for the class. My friend had a tea kettle filled with oil and popcorn that started burning, so the performance became olfactory as well as auditory.”
That experimental edge has never left Johannes’ performance style nor his artistic philosophy: “The kind of space that I try to create with music is to remind people of a primordial mystery, to become enchanted or like a child, and really remember newness. The Naropa experience and meditation practice have given me a real appreciation for space. If I don’t feel like my mind is at rest, or I’m not being genuine, then all I’m doing while playing music is sharing my own neurosis.”
It is space, both physical and mental, that Johannes cites as an invaluable byproduct of the artistic vision of Naropa’s founder, Trungpa Rinpoche. “Rinpoche’s views…involved having groundlessness as a reference point, and I feel that allowed me to make art from the simplest of gestures, to allow inspiration to plant seeds in a place that was open to all possibilities. Knowledge of who he was is fundamental to knowing what Naropa is about—a place where consciousness and wisdom are valued.”
When Christopher Winsor traveled from the mountains of North Carolina to Naropa and the mountains of Boulder, he fell in love with both the city and the school, where his creative muse was revived.
"I love music and had been composing for eight years," he says. "But I had hit a wall and felt that studying further would help me take it to places I could not imagine. I wanted to take my basic theory knowledge and expand on it, so I chose Naropa because it offers interesting classes that other schools do not."
Listing the senior recital as his most prominent memory, Christopher continues to play and compose music. He is also a substitute teacher at a Montesorri preschool and involved with the Obama campaign.
"I am grateful and blessed to have been able to experience Naropa," he says. "It helped me to appreciate life more. I followed my heart and dream to study music, and Naropa was the most valuable move I have ever made. It will reverberate throughout the rest of my life. It opened me up....I met so many amazing people in Boulder...from my professors to fellow students and roommates. Naropa is a special place to delve into."