Tag: alumni

Meet Brandon Victor Dixon. Dixon, a Columbia College Class of 2007 graduate, is a two-time Tony Award Nominee. During his career, he has performed in various Broadway shows (including Columbia’s very own Varsity Show). Starting in August 2016, Dixon will assume the role of Aaron Burr in Lin Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway show, Hamilton: An American Musical. As he prepares for his role, I sat down with him to talk about his career in the performing arts and his insights on pursuing your dreams and excelling in your career.

What did you study while at Columbia, and do you have any favorite memories from your time there? 

I was an Economics major initially. I left after my first semester senior year, but when I came back and I finished, I was a theater major. My favorite memories from school were of working on the Varsity Show V107 and V108.

What first sparked your interest in theater, and how did you explore that field as a student? Was it mostly through the Varsity Show?

I came to Columbia because I knew what I wanted to do, and I just wanted to go to school in New York so that I could audition and build my career. That’s why I came to Columbia, and I appreciated that Columbia had a campus, and a vibrant curriculum that I could delve into and expand my information base in general. But no, I didn’t go to Columbia to train, or help my career, though a lot of the work I did and the classes I took were of great help and education to me in the theater department at large. I came to Columbia so that I could be in New York.

What were some of the shows you’ve performed in prior to Shuffle Along, and now, Hamilton starting next month?

The Lion King, The Color Purple, Rent, Far from Heaven, The Scottsboro Boys.

With your recent casting as Aaron Burr in Hamilton, how are you preparing for the role? Are you nervous about anything about it?

Nope. It will be a good time. I’m working on a lot of the movement. The movement style is a little different for me so I’m focusing on the movement, but I’m approaching it like anything else. I’m doing my research. I’m learning the material. It’ll be interesting replacing someone in such a big and involved show. I’m going to be learning it even as I’m performing it.

What’s the most surprising or interesting that’s happened to you while performing and go like backstage?

While performing I fell in the orchestra pit one time. That’s one of the more interesting things. I can’t really think of anything that stands out about anything that’s happened backstage but definitely falling in the orchestra pit, that was an interesting one.

 What has been your favorite role to perform so far and why?

Eubie Blake in Shuffle Along. I’ve learned more about myself as a human being in this show and about all of us as human beings in the show. Also, it’s a culmination of everything that has come before it, so you know, it embodies all of the things that you see.

What general advice would you give to students interested in pursuing their career in theater and the performing arts?

The thing I’d say to anybody interested in pursuing anything: there are no rules, your power and ability are limitless, and keep going.

With Hamilton, did you know that you wanted to play Burr, or did they offer that role to you?

I didn’t want to be Burr … I wasn’t interested in doing the show because it’d been done. I don’t tend to replace. My goal is almost always to create something new but this is a unique show, and a unique opportunity and it came on at kind of the right time. The more they talked to me about it, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I did get about the process of joining the show. I am happy; it’s going to be a new experience.

What keeps you excited about being in theater? Is it that the audience has you perform? Is it just the idea of taking on the role of a new character? What motivates you or drives you?

Creating. Creation is what drives me. The reason we are here on this planet is to connect more deeply with ourselves and with each other, and art, and performance, and theater I think is a tool that I’ve come here with to make use of. Creating stories in this way, particularly … In art in general, particularly in live theater, it is a highly communicative, community experience. We get to share something special in that moment of time and that room with one another … And we leave transformed, and that is the important to evolve, to transform, to emote, and to connect with one another.

Since a lot of the people who will be reading this are incoming students, like this is their first time in New York, some have never seen a Broadway show. Do you have any advice for them like for shows they should, or general ideas and tips about what the magic behind Broadway is, in a sense?

The magic behind Broadway is that the people on stage create something from nothing. It’s creating magic, and it helps inspire you to create something from what you have. New York is a cultural bastion unlike any other. So see everything you can, do everything you can. Big, small, do it all.

 As you prepare for Hamilton, what’s your favorite song so far, whether it’s one you’ll be singing, or one some other character will be singing?

My favorite track in Hamilton is Guns and Ships but my favorite song to sing in that obviously is Wait for It.

Can I ask why Wait for It is going to be your favorite one to sing?

I think because I’m exploring the detail of the song but the thing that it sticks out for me is the chorus. Not a love, nor death, nor life, you know. It says,

Life doesn’t discriminate

between the sinners and the saints

it takes and it takes and it takes

and we keep loving anyway

we laugh and we cry and we break and we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m still alive

While everyone who loves me has died

and I’m willing to wait for it.

So minus the coda at the end, it’s that element of that’s true. Life is that, as is love, as is death, and they are all phases of the same thing, and they do not discriminate according to who you are.

Whether you are good or bad, it’s going to take something but you have to keep giving to it. It’s kind of a mini-encapsulated message about the circle of life, and what living is about. It’s a song with no resolution. He doesn’t figure anything out by the e`d of it. He starts affirming something, and then he starts questioning it, but then he finds himself left with a question in the end of it. It’s interesting piece but it’s one that’s resonated with me.

Brandon will begin performances as Aaron Burr in Hamilton: An American Musical starting in August 2016. For tickets to the show’s New York production, visit the show’s Broadway site.

Interested in interviewing students and alumni about how their time at Columbia has shaped their experiences and outlook? Join The Lion Profiles team by sending an email to team@columbialion.com.

Welcome to another installment of Ask an Adult, where Rebecca Hsu, CC ’89, tells you what to do about life’s biggest problems. Have a question? Send it to thecolumbialion@gmail.com – God knows we aren’t qualified to answer, but we’ll pass it along! 

Q: It’s finals week — save us! What do we do about stress?

A: What is stress? I’m a doctor, so let’s start with the medical definition: stress is defined as an organism’s total response to environmental demands or pressures.

As you approach finals week, I’m sure you understand. There have been studies to show that the stress felt by students taking finals is like that of soldiers entering a battle. Well, I definitely took a few exams where I would have preferred bullets flying by my head than writing the answer to the question.

First and most importantly, you need to realize what you are stressed about. You think you are freaking out because you need to pull an all-nighter to finish your Lit Hum paper, but what you may be more worried about is what to wear on your next hot date, since you can’t decide between the red pumps and the black sandals.

Let’s make it simple by starting with the obvious and easy. Find a way to RELAX both your body and your mind. This usually means taking a study break.

Here are a few suggestions for one:

 

Engage in some intimate time with another person. For those of you with your mind in the gutter, yes, sex is on the list. However, aside from the postcoital high that may follow by a good nap, it shouldn’t be the only option that comes to mind. A long walk, an interesting conversation, a nice meal, a massage, or any time spent in the company of someone you like can be very good for you. Even if all you do is vent about how much you hate whatever, at least you get it out of your system.

Do some intense physical activity. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Go for a run (not in Central Park, alone, after midnight. This is a stress relief thing, not a suicide mission). Get some friends together and play a game that involves a lot of running around. No, shopping doesn’t count in this category, but do read on.

Do some shopping. When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping! At least that’s how they handled stress in Great Neck, Long Island where I grew up. This can be great, but expensive. Window shopping, without buying, counts. Then you have a great excuse to buy it AFTER you pass your exams…

Do something quiet that lets your mind wander. Read a novel (one that isn’t required reading, of course). If you enjoy meditating, painting, writing, or any type of craft or hobby, now is a great time to break it out and dust it off. You liked it before school, so why not indulge a little now?

Make some noise. Sing, dance, blast that stereo for just a little while. Blow something up-that’s what chemistry lab is for, isn’t it? As an archer, I’d feel better when I just plain shot something. It could work for you too!
Just make certain you do SOMETHING. Cook, clean, create, or destroy something. Do whatever it takes to take your mind off the current problem. Remember that taking too long can be a problem, so whatever you choose to do, make it a quickie!

What SHOULDN’T you do?

Don’t beat yourself up for feeling stressed. You will only become more stressed. Pain is a relative thing. Just because you think it can’t get worse doesn’t mean it won’t!

Drowning yourself in ANYTHING is not good. This includes, but is not limited to ethanol, drugs, sex, work, and swimming pools. Follow Aristotle-there is a balance to be struck that works.

The key to stress relief is to find something to keep you happy while your mind works out the details of how to handle whatever is making you stressed. You will be surprised how quickly that works or fails to work if you are too intoxicated to think about anything. Get yourself calm and you will start to ask: “What stress? I feel great!”

Ok, maybe not great, but as long as you do SOMETHING other than what you were stressing out about, you’ll find that you didn’t need to stress after all. To assist you in this, let me make a suggestion:

Wear the pumps. They work with everything.

Photo Courtesy Columbia Community Impact

In a brief email from President Bollinger, Bollinger has announced the passing of Bill Campbell, a Columbia alumnus and former member of the Board of Trustees.

The full message can be found below:

Dear fellow members of the Columbia Community:

I cannot begin to compose a statement that fully expresses the grievous sense of loss we experienced early this morning when Bill Campbell passed away.  Bill was a beloved alumnus, football coach, Trustee, former Chair of the Board of Trustees, and, above all, a friend and source of boundless joy and counsel to everyone who knew him.  Columbia will forever remember Bill.

We extend our love to Bill’s family at this sad time.  I will write again once I have more to share.

Sincerely,

Lee C. Bollinger

Photo Courtesy Matt Landes

As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?
  2. If elected, what would your goals be?
  3. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
  4. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Below, you can find the candidate(s)’s unfiltered responses to help in deciding who you choose to vote for.  The Lion has yet to endorse any candidate at this time and the views below do not necessarily represent the views of our team. For more information, email submissions@columbialion.com.

What motivated you to run for this position?

I was motivated to run for Alumni Affairs Rep mainly because I think that alumni should be involved as much as possible in the lives of students in order to enable an even better experience as students while at Columbia, but also in order to help set up current students with good opportunities for their lives after college. The combination of helping my peers out without having to get so caught in the internal politics of what the Executive Board and similar positions deal with plus working directly with alumni seemed really appealing to me. Basically being on a Student Council that also deals with the world outside of the College seemed especially enticing, and I think I could do a good job at it as well.

If elected, what would your goals be?

My ultimate goals would be to achieve what I delineated in the beginning of my previous answer. The main ways I would go about achieving those goals would be through trying to grant students access to the alumni directory and getting alumni more directly involved with clubs. With the help of the current Alumni Affairs Rep I composed particular strategies to accomplish these two things, and if you are interested in hearing about them I suggest either showing up to the debate on Sunday or just reaching out to me (I do partly address the strategy with regards to alumni being more engaged with clubs in the next answer).
What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
I want to fix the disconnect between students and alumni, and as I mentioned above one of the ways I want to go about doing this is by matching alumni with clubs so that particular alumni can be affiliated with specific clubs in the capacity of an advisor or even just as a friendly face. Alumni with real world experience in particular fields can be especially helpful to clubs with focuses on that sort of real world experience. And student activist groups can even enlist the help of alumni to further their causes. The matching process would start with reaching out the members of the Board of Visitors and other particularly engaged alumni and matching them with clubs. Once those initial matches are made, those alumni can suggest other alumni they know that might be interested, and so on.
Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?
Just read up on each candidate, especially their platforms and what Spec, Bwog and The Lion write about them in order to make the most informed choice. Don’t focus so much on campaign promises, rather focus on how candidates plan on implementing those promises. Also, good luck on all the midterms and papers.