Daniel Barnes

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It's been a year!

I haven't updated here in a while-- but here's the overview of the classes I took this year and what I thought!

FYE: Creativity and Logic

This class got me pumped up for the rest of the year. I got to work on a project with my friend Bridget, and we presented an idea for promoting music education in schools. We explored critical inquiry and creative problem solving, and it got me excited about the next four years at the college.

Topics in Ethnomusicology: Black Music Matters

I decided to dive into a music class for my first real block. We had a visiting professor, Dr. Norfleet, a lecturer and performer of music, and the class was very discussion-based. This class opened my eyes to the attention to detail and the passion that each student brings to each class-- and I think I walked out of the class with not only an understanding of the subject material, but how to responsibly discuss sensitive topics and consider all viewpoints.

Calculus III

This class was a tricky one. I was in this class with several of my friends from my FYE including Bridget, Miles, and Abigail, and tried to absorb as much as I could. While I did well in AP Calculus BC in high school, I only really formally took a compressed version of Calculus II through CMC. I was nervous going into the class, but the subject material was pretty manageable. I felt as though the grading was particularly harsh-- it was possible to come to the correct conclusion or the correct answer to a problem and still get a 70-80% on the problem, which was frustrating. Nevertheless, it fulfills the prerequisites of Calc I and II, which is helpful for a Computer Science degree.

Latin for Beginners

This was a fun class. This was two blocks long, and was intended to cover a year's worth of material. This means a quiz every single day of class, 20 vocab words a night, 20 sentences to translate a night-- and a lot of work to cram it all in your head. Latin in particular is very interesting to me because the syntax is like a puzzle-- words can be in any order and still mean the same thing (with different emphasis)-- so you're looking at the form of the word above the order. This was one of the more strenuous classes I've taken on the block plan, and it consumed a lot of my time trying to fit everything I could into my head.

Instrument Learning Theories for Band and Orchestra Instruments

This class was real fun. I was the only person who signed up for the class, so every day's 3-hour lecture was essentially a private lesson. The class was theory based and performance based, meaning I had to write reports about how to teach all the instruments I was learning about, while also preparing for a recital at the end of the block on six instruments. I chose to perform on oboe, clarinet, violin, cello, French horn, and tuba-- and gave a recital at the end of the year for a couple of my friends and a couple faculty members in the music department.

Hilariously, the audience was asked to fill out CHSAA solo/ensemble forms to grade my performance. My friends all gave me very nice grades like 1s or 2s (on a scale 1-5, 1 is the best)-- and some random CC students showed up and gave me 4s across the board (which is perhaps to be expected-- having only played these instruments for 3.5 weeks). I thought this difference in grading was hilarious.

Computer Science II

This class was definitely a weed-out class. After students take Computational Thinking and Computer Science I, they're feeling pretty excited about all the fun projects they were asked to do... and then, all of the sudden, they go into CS2 to make sure they're ready to take on a major. This class studied data structures and algorithms.

I went into the class nervous that I was taking on too much-- after all, I had never taken a formal computer science class and was entirely self-taught. I talked to the professor during office hours and just mentioned that I was nervous, and he said that I would be fine.

At the end of the class I ended up clenching the highest grade in the class, only missing two points on the final and getting a perfect score on everything else. I think this was a good sign that I was in the right place, and that I should pursue computer science to some extent.

During this class I also participated in a hackathon contest-- a 24 hour coding competition where you make a program in response to a prompt-- and I won the faculty award for the project I made, which is a nicer version of the announcement system the school uses (called the "digest"). This was pretty exciting.


Meanwhile, much of my time was spent making music. I participated in 4 ensembles (jazz band, concert band, chamber orchestra, and chamber chorus), took lessons (1 semester trombone, 1 semester euphonium, 1 semester piano, 1 semester voice), and participated in musical theatre (opera scenes showcase in the fall, musical theatre show "A Light in the Piazza" in the spring), and finished a extended format block on conducting.

I was selected to perform in the music department honors recital in the spring, where I performed Atlantic Zephyrs on euphonium-- and this was very exciting for me. This summer I'm working at Theatre Aspen, playing trombone in their orchestra pit, which is even more exciting.

I'm excited to get started on my summer!

By Daniel, on June 12, 2018, 12:59 pm

Creativity and Logic: Block 1

I just finished my first block of class at Colorado College! While FYE classes last for two blocks, the end of this block marks a cadence in my class where we take a short break and get a few days off to relax. I'm fortunately spending the weekend visiting Denver and seeing my friend Hunter, going to her tango class and trombone choir at DU (and hopefully getting a chance to visit my brother at CU Boulder).

This class was so expertly designed, I feel like there's so much that happens behind the scenes in order to keep us questioning what will happen next-- every day was a new development and a new keener sense of awareness of the world around us.

I'd like to talk about the project we did during our second weekend during this block.

The people in our class were split up into groups of three or four (and were arranged by how "different" our thinking styles are, according to a screening we did at the beginning of the block. We learned a lot about how people tend to work with people most similar to them, which is most comfortable but least productive. Working with people who think differently than you gives you a much broader scope of ideas to work off of.)

Anyway, the project was this: WITHOUT using research, we had to answer a series of questions in a quiz game.

Simple as that. But allow me to elaborate more.

Research is looking up information of any kind. This includes:

  • Internet resources (not including texting/e-mailing people with personal connections)
  • Printed Resources
  • Recordings
  • Directories (for example, a phone resource)

The quiz questions were not related to class, but rather, random, very specific trivia. Examples are:

  • When does the first train leave from New Haven to New York on Monday morning?
  • Translate this: Jaldī se ṭhīk ho jāo
  • On what day of the week was John Maynard Keynes born?
  • Identify the origin of the object pictured here:

Our first question: how could we possibly figure these things out?

It became apparent that the only way to follow the rules was to leverage personal connections in order to find the answers to these questions. Basically, we had to find someone who had taken that bus, or spoke that language, or knew a lot about John Maynard Keynes, or had read that book.

We were to submit any answers and documentation of finding answers on Canvas in a group, which was named "6-degrees team C". This was clearly a reference to the "6 degrees of separation" theory, which indicates that every person in the world is connected to every other person by six or less common connections.

Back to the task-- we got to work on figuring out these questions and spread out in different directions based on who we knew.

I'll share a couple personal favorite stories:

  1. To find the time when the train leaves from New Haven to New York, I contacted my dad, who grew up in downtown New York. He told me to ask my mom, because she had family in New Haven. Sure enough, she did-- she got me in touch with her cousin, Howard, who got me in touch with his brother, Allan, who lives in New Haven. Allan walked over to his neighbor's house, and asked, and his neighbor called a friend who gave us the correct answer.
  2. To find what that text translated to, I basically walked around the dining hall staging it as a "trivia game". I asked several groups of people if they knew what the text meant, and I luckily ran into one person who told me it meant "Get well soon!" in Hindi.
  3. To find when John Maynard Keynes was born, I contacted a friend named Joel, who graduated from Basalt two years before I did. He goes to UNC now, and I asked him if he had any friends studying economics. He fortunately did, and he asked his friend who knew his birthdate. I plugged the birthdate into a custom python program which gave me the day of the week.

Now, something that was very interesting to me was the level of investment from random people in trying to solve these problems. People actively wanted to see through to the end of this seemingly meaningless task.

Whenever I asked someone to help me, I would always have to explain the rules-- I need to know the answer, but you can't look it up and neither can I. This immediately sparked some sort of interest and investment, where people felt challenged by the rules and wanted to challenge the rules back. People would ask about loopholes-- "can I look up the answer and then tell you?" (no). And people always wanted to see the questions through to the end.

When I asked my mom's cousin Allan if he knew the answer, he didn't off the top of his head-- and that could have been the end of my path. However, he took the initiative, without my knowledge, to walk over to his neighbor's house and seek out the answer himself. This was endlessly fascinating to me-- that he would take enough interest in my homework to take it on as his own assignment.

Everyone from close people who I contacted (like my parents) to random people (like students in the dining hall) all seemed to be brought together by this strange task, and I feel as though it built some sense of temporary community through solving this task.

It was a lot of fun and I really appreciated all the help I got-- but I feel like this could be indicative of something deeper, something that explains why we want to help people and when. This could be an interesting thing to study in the future, but I feel like I've gotten a cool glimpse into something that I hadn't thought of before.

What a cool assignment.

By Daniel, on September 21, 2017, 11:17 am

Transition to College

When writing to high school seniors, a lot of people write about what's different in college, and what kinds of things will throw you off-guard when you move. I think it's important to talk about the mundane things, the things that aren't quite on the front of your mind, but the things that are really important when you arrive.

  1. There's plenty to eat. You can always find a place to eat, and can usually find people to eat with. The food here is great, with the option of dining hall food, a burger joint, and several coffee/pastry shops on campus. In fact, there's a convenience store called the C-Store inside my dorm.

  2. Class is fun. Each day of class is new and exciting, and nothing really feels scripted or forced anymore. Class is organic and engaging, and not like what you're used to.

  3. The facilities are great. Truly. Colorado College just built a new library that's available, and it's a hotspot for people to study. You can sit at a large table, at a bar-style seat, in a silent area, in a collaboration room, and anywhere in between. Not to mention there is an athletic center, climbing wall, sports areas, and dozens of other things I haven't even discovered yet.

  4. You will make habits. If you get into a habit of where you travel or what buildings you visit, good! You're getting more comfortable with the campus. Once you're ready to branch out, it's exciting all over again, letting you discover things that you had previously missed.

  5. There's too much to do. Here, you can sign up for mailing lists where they'll let you know about whatever weird events are going on, from ice cream socials to night bike rides to special visitors to music concerts. There's no shortage of things to do, and there's an opportunity cost to sitting in your room and just hanging out. Maximize your time, you're paying for it.

By Daniel, on September 7, 2017, 3:16 pm

What is a block, and why?

Colorado College uses a unique system called the block plan, which dictates the schedule of the school and the students. They have transformed classes from semester-long concurrent classes (such as taking 4 classes at a time for an entire semester), and instead decided to offer courses one-at-a-time. This amounts to classes which are intensive, three-and-a-half weeks long, and cover a semester's worth of material.

This serves a great scheduling benefit. A class has the freedom to change meeting times freely and even go on trips during their block, because it's the only thing the students are doing. Students are provided work from only one class instead of several, so it's easy to keep focused and just study one subject intensely. And after every block, students get a "block-break", where Wednesday afternoon through Sunday night is a blank spot which can be filled with whatever the student pleases.

Now, it's interesting to theorize about and think how it would fit into college life. So how do students view the block plan?

For me, it feels like every student is on the same page, all the time. All the readings we do are all pooled in my head in a way that feels extremely associative-- rather, I can make connections very easily.

Each day we've had up to 100 pages of reading, plus reflections. It seems like it'd be easy to read through, do reflections, and forget about what you read, and I believe in a traditional semester plan that's exactly what I'd do. However, I'm constantly surprised by my ability to recall and use information seamlessly because of the block plan. This, I believe, is it's strongest point, and where the block plan works best.

Today I finished my ninth day of class in my first block. For students at other colleges, this means they've been taking classes for two weeks-- for me, it means I'm half-way through my first block. And going back through all the work we've done, I almost want to say, "that's crazy, I didn't do that much work this block."

An intensive schedule is working for me, and while it caught me by surprise at first, I think the block plan is probably the best way for me to learn at the time.

By Daniel, on September 7, 2017, 3:03 pm

Back Into Music

After a hard week of 6 music auditions tacked on to my first week of learning on the block program, I'm excited to start playing music in a college setting. I'll be performing with:

  • Concert Band (euphonium)
  • Chamber Choir (bass/baritone)
  • Chamber Orchestra (trombone/trumpet)

I'm still waiting to hear back from one of the a cappella groups and the jazz band. I'm also going to be joining a conducting class and taking private trombone lessons.

I'm certainly excited to see what making music is like outside of high school. I'm honestly clueless-- I have no idea what kind of music these groups will be selecting, how much work it will be to prepare them, and where I stand as far as preparedness.

However, it definitely feels like I've taken a small gap and haven't gotten to play much music lately, so I'm really excited to dive into it headfirst again in whatever manner is possible.

I'm considering seeing if I can create a small brass-band similar to the Basalt StreetHorns group I was in in high school. I think it could be a really exciting way to a) have some sort of leadership position in music, b) play with a brass group, which I absolutely love, and c) get to play fun music, and perhaps be in charge of deciding the music and arranging it. The goal is a little ambitious since I've been here just over two weeks-- but I'm going to try to gauge interest and if it's something people genuinely want to do, I would love that.

This weekend I got the pleasure of seeing a Phish concert, which my brother took me to. He, my parents, and I were all able to go and got a really good spot to see the concert. It was certainly stimulating and had a lot going on at once, but I'll admit that while I was skeptical about going at first, there were moments where I did somewhat fall into the music and realize how complex some of the things they were playing were. I really enjoyed the concert and was really happy to see my family.

I'm definitely happy here so far, but it's really nice to be able to think about what's going on back home and check back in. I got to see some videos of the aforementioned StreetHorns playing at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass concert and that was awesome-- I definitely wish I could have been there. I've been keeping up on all the improvements going on with the Basalt schools and I'm excited about the direction they're going.

For now, I gotta get some readings done for tomorrow-- big day!

By Daniel, on September 3, 2017, 6:40 pm

PRIDDY Trip, Orientation, and beginning of classes

I moved into college on August 19, 2017. Shortly thereafter, our whole class attended orientation sessions which went over general expectations related to the honor code, information about sexual assault and Title IX, and other safety issues.

Our entire freshman class was then shipped off to different parts of the country for a service trip, called a PRIDDY trip. Many of us spent the weekend camping, hiking, and exploring the outdoors-- and while on these trips, we all completed a service project. I went to an Easter Seals camp in Empire, CO where we helped with some "housekeeping"-- cleaning up trash, moving equipment, and doing fire mitigation work. We were given the chance to connect with mentors on the trip-- older students who were leading the trip encouraged discussion about concerns toward starting college.

We returned back to the campus on Sunday, and immediately dove into our first classes on Monday.

For those of you who are not aware, Colorado College has an interesting system for classes that they use, called the "block plan". Instead of taking multiple classes at the same time throughout a semester or quarter, Colorado College allows you to take only one class at a time-- a three-and-a-half week intensive course, covering a semester's worth of material.

Every year in high school, there's a College & Career seminar where graduates visit the school and talk about college in a Q&A format. Every year, somebody asks the question, "did attending Basalt High School prepare you adequately for college?" And every year, the overwhelming response from the new college students is, "no". This is what I'm pondering as I begin my first couple days here. I haven't been having trouble with the work, and though it's drastically different from what I did in high school, I can appreciate the school's effort to foreshadow this while not hitting us with it full-on.

Here in college, I've spent about 4 hours a day in the library doing homework. However, it's not like I've never studied before-- I just haven't studied with this much depth in a single topic before. I was caught off guard, but I still landed on my feet, and the workload is manageable. Whether high school prepared me for this or not, I'm not sure yet. But I appreciate that high school was less intense than college (and probably for good reason, too).

My first class is Creativity and Logic, taught by a musicology professor and an economics professor. That, in itself, embodies Colorado College's idea of liberal arts-- this interdisciplinary kind of studying isn't common in other college, and it's a very deep contrast from any kind of classwork I've done before. The idea of the class is to develop "critical inquiry", and give us the tools necessary to be more successful and provocative in future classes. It's been a lot of fun so far, and I'll update more about the class after a few more days of experiencing it.

So far, I'm really enjoying it here. Moving into college has been a smoother transition than I was expecting, and I'm excited to be here and see what kinds of activities I can get into.

By Daniel, on August 31, 2017, 10:08 pm