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Student bridges artistic disciplines to bring people together

  • Senior music major and transfer student Indigo Cook creates an eerie sound using a string bow and symbol in the choir rehearsal room in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts on April 10. Cook composed an original piece for her senior showcase that uses several percussion pieces, including singing bowls, symbols, glass bottles, a bass drum and a xylophone. (Photo by Stephanie Held)

Though Indigo Cook only transferred to Westminster College two years ago, her enthusiasm for collaborating with artists across disciplines has left an impression on the community.

Cook, a senior and the only percussion student in the music program, said she enjoys creating art that combines spoken word, movement and sound.

“She finds a very good balance between supporting even the craziest ideas you have but also structuring it and turning it into something actually worthwhile,” said Connor Lockie, a junior double major in English and music who regularly collaborates with Cook.

Originally from Salt Lake City, Cook transferred to Westminster from New York University (NYU). Although she said she enjoyed living in New York, the university’s percussion studio had become a “toxic environment.”

Senior music major and transfer student Indigo Cook creates an eerie sound using a string bow and symbol in the choir rehearsal room in the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts on April 10. Cook composed an original piece for her senior showcase that uses several percussion pieces, including singing bowls, symbols, glass bottles, a bass drum and a xylophone. (Photo by Stephanie Held)

“Unfortunately, with classical music, people get very serious and they can often get kind of a little nasty and a little depressed,” Cook said. “It’s a hard field to go into and chances of success… People are fond of reminding you that they’re very low. And so a lot of the students in the program weren’t happy with themselves. They didn’t have a very good relationship with music anymore. And I felt that starting to affect me […] and that’s when I knew I needed to walk away.”

Cook said she chose Westminster because she’d heard good things about the community and wanted to attend a smaller school. As the only percussion student in the music program, she said she has developed a close bond with professor Devin Maxwell.

Maxwell, an applied instructor of composition and percussion, started working at Westminster last year and Cook is his first percussion student.

“Indigo is an extremely hard worker and has very high standards for her level of performance,” Maxwell said. “She also has a deep understanding of the repertoire, so the pieces that are important to play as a percussionist, and has an innate dedication to playing those pieces.”

Noah Wood, a senior, said Cook has a “collaborative personality” and is willing to work with anyone.

“I think the most important thing is how she brings together different bubbles of networks,” said Wood, a music performance major and cellist. “I think that’s what makes her the best at collaborating of almost anybody I’ve met.”

Cook sat down with The Forum to talk about her passion for percussion and creating interdisciplinary art. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.

Q: When did you begin playing percussion?

A: When I was in sixth grade, we moved from Salt Lake to Arizona. My mom was doing a psychiatry residency and we had no friends over the summer, so my mom put us in band camp. And, you know, my sister sat down. She was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to play the flute.’ And she gives it a try and nearly passes out because she was breathing so hard. So I’m like, ‘I’m going to pass on the flute,’ and I thought drums would be much more fun, and it just went from there.

Q: How did you feel during your first performance?

A: It was the summer band camp. […] What I really love about music — and I’ve loved it since that very first performance — is the collaborative nature. When you get together in a room with people, you all work on something and you create something out of that interaction, which I really loved. And I also just love performing. It’s fun to be in a room with someone else and share something with them.

Q: Are you working on any collaborations right now?

A: Last semester, I started a group [at Westminster] called Interdisciplinary Arts Collective. So, it’s a student-based group of musicians and dancers — we’ve had a few poets come in — and we basically meet once a week to engage in experimental art practice. And [we] just talk to each other about art and share things from our individual disciplines and get to know each other a little bit better and do a bunch of performance based stuff, which is really fun.

And I’m also composing a piece for my senior recital for percussion and electronics, dance and spoken word. So I’ve been working with a member of the theatre department and a couple of the dancers on that.

Q: Why did you start the Interdisciplinary Arts Collective?

A: In Western culture, […] we’ve created a very large gap between audience and performer. Like the audience, you have to sit down in your chair and you have to be quiet. And you can’t clap between movements and when someone tells you you’re allowed to clap, you clap and then you leave. And that’s it. And the performer walks on to stage and plays music handed down from a composer. […] There’s no interaction between audience member and performer.

So my goal as a musician and an interdisciplinary artist is to try and find ways to bridge that gap between art and life and different artists and our community, our culture, and kind of bring everything together. Because I believe art is stronger when it interacts with other things and our life is improved when we interact with art.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m going to grad school next year to get my master’s in music at California Institute of the Arts. […] After I get my graduate degree, the goal is to be a freelance musician and convince someone to pay me to play music. I’m not quite sure where I’m going to end up location wise. I might stay in the [Los Angeles] area because there’s a lot happening there. I might move back to New York. I might come back to Salt Lake City — just kind of wherever the music takes me.

Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to other music students?                     

A: A lot of what I’ve discovered, especially starting with my college career with music, is that just sitting in a practice room alone, by yourself, and learning facility on your instrument is very important, but it’s not the only thing you need to be able to do. And it’s also not very good for you mentally to just be alone in a practice room all day. So I would really recommend to other musicians [to] go out and make music with other people. Engage in these really important decisions about art and think about what you’re doing — not just sit down and play through notes and be a robot and be done. Think really critically about how and why you’re doing things.

Q: Any last comments?

A: You should all come to my senior recital. It’s on May 5 at 4 p.m., and I’m going to be playing some really cool music.

*Note: Connor Lockie is also a contributor to The Forum.

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Stephanie Held
Stephanie, a senior communication major and history minor, is committed to serving her community. The Utah native loves to travel and enjoys discovering new places and cuisine. She brings three years of writing and editing experience to The Forum and currently works as a copyeditor for Honorable Mention, Westminster’s Honors College newsletter. Stephanie is thrilled to lend her skills as editor-in-chief and to further develop the news organization she loves.

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