September 9, 2022 | CULTURE | By Jonathan Cox

Greetings, dear readers, to the second edition of my Music Column! I’m glad you’re here to think about music and its meanings with me. Let me apologize for my lack of polite small talk in my first piece, how rude of me not to introduce myself.

My name is Jonathan Cox and I am a sophomore with a Spotify addiction.

I discussed one of my favorite Spotify fixes last week, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. I was lucky enough to see them live over the summer, and it was everything I had anticipated and more. Although Derek Trucks blows my mind with his ground-shaking solos, it is his ability to gracefully cry through his guitar that melts my soul.

That warm summer night with the rain falling lightly on the downward-sloped lawn of the concert, I will never forget the pure ecstatic bliss I felt. An immense peace came over me during one of these soul-melting guitar monologues; my mind went blank, it felt as if I could feel my blood harmoniously circulating through my body.

I relished in the eternal – as John Riker, a philosophy professor at Colorado College, would say – for only a few minutes, but the transportation to that state of mind was one much different than the one I was in as a summer camp counselor earlier that day.

Camp Cory sits right along the water on one of Upstate New York’s Finger Lakes. While an incredible opportunity, being a camp counselor comes along with ample stressors and a turbulent 24/7 work schedule. This moment of Zen that I had at the concert was a nice breath of fresh air.

But if I felt stressed, the Counselors-in-Training I was responsible for were thrown in headfirst during their training, swimming in teenage angst. At the end of the three-week program, the CITs “graduate” to become camp counselors, interlocking arms, singing and swaying in front of the rest of the campers, initiated by a song that represents their collective experience – Vienna, by the one and only Billy Joel.

The camp’s program director hits play, and a warm fuzzy feeling comes over me as I look down the line of my CITs and fellow camp counselors.

As the soft, echoing piano trills open the song, we patiently wait for the lyrics to take us away on our Summer Camp Anthem, swaying left and right – a human metronome – to the hi-hat: “Slow down you crazy child / you’re so ambitious for a juvenile / but then if you’re so smart, tell me why you’re still so afraid?”  

The goosebumps are resurfacing as I’m writing this almost two months later – leaving a trace of that Zen.

I close my eyes and open my vocal chords, letting Billy’s beautiful blues lead the way.

It’s nearing dusk, but there are still enough purple and orange hues in the sky to paint Keuka Lake’s rippled water. My CIT family belts out the refrain with zest: “But you know that when the truth is told / that you can get what you want or just get old / You’re gonna kick off before you even get halfway through (Oooh)” and then resolve with the heart of the song: “When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?”

Our CIT family held these words sacred. As the CITs were going through this intense three-week program, they faced a slew of trials and were stretched and pushed into new and stronger people because of it. Watching and participating in their growth was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced, and that growing process shines through in Vienna – with so much ambition and opportunity ahead, it can be easy to feel pressure, but you need to slow down too, as you can’t be everything you want to be before your time.

The song is about personal growth, but Mr. Joel also reminds you that you will never experience anything like the present moment again, and that sentiment weighed heavily on my CITs transitioning from camper to camp counselor.

I know another place where some intensive three weeks pushes you to grow as a person. Standing on the precipice of my sophomore year, kicking off before I’m even halfway through, there are challenging classes, major declarations, internship gigs, and getting involved in clubs on the horizon – but I need to remind myself that it doesn’t all have to come at once: I can afford to lose a day or two.

Just like my CITs couldn’t be campers forever, I can’t be a college student forever, even if I tried to find the fountain of youth at Sig Chi.

Vienna is out there somewhere, and but there’s no rush to find it, it’s waiting for me. Back at camp, my fellow camp counselor, Angie, inspired our CITs by the flicker of the fire circle, inviting them on a journey to find their Vienna at camp. Following your bliss is the path to finding your Vienna, and when you do, I’d imagine that Zen feeling will be there, even if just for a moment.

I hope you become one step closer to finding yours this year, here.

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