Music is good for the soul

Monday, October 19, 2020

LE MARS — As colleges and students across the country grapple with the best way to offer classes and keep students safe, it may be even more difficult for freshmen, who saw their senior year of high school end in no classes or activities.

For Drake Oswald, a 2020 graduate of Le Mars Community High School, music has kept him balanced.

Oswald is attending Iowa State University, and decided to live with his brother, Jack.

“Living with him was my first choice, as it was cheaper than living on campus and because I like my brother,” he said. “I only live about a mile from campus, so I usually just bike there.”

Oswald is majoring in biology, and would like to specialize in either botany or veterinary sciences after he earns his bachelor’s degree. 

“I have three classes on campus. One is a biology class, which I have every week. The other two are my chemistry lab and my biology lab, which are both biweekly, on opposite weeks. All of my other classes are online,” he said.

While in high school, Oswald was active in band and jazz band, playing the saxophone, as well as large group speech.

Oswald was also one of a select group of musicians to receive his fourth All-State Music Festival medal in November 2019.

“Sadly, playing the sax doesn’t fit into my academic pursuits at all,” Oswald said.

But he has found a way for music to play a role in his life each day.

“Although, I do still play the saxophone every day, and most days I play outside so that my neighbors can hear me. At first, I was nervous to do this, but they reached out and told me that they enjoy hearing me play, so I just kept doing it,” Oswald said.

“I started playing outside the first day here because I used to practice outside all the time at home. Living out in the country, there were no neighbors to complain about me, so I practiced outside because it was fun and nice out,” he said.

“Usually I play jazz outside. I like to play a mixture of swing and Latin tunes. I try to memorize a new song every day,” he said.

However, living in a city, with others living close by, is another story.

The neighborhood he lives in is in North Ames, so none of his neighbors are college kids.

“It’s pretty quiet, as most people have families or are retired. I live on a relatively busy intersection though, so many people that are driving or walking by hear me playing,” he said.

“I don’t personally meet most of the people who listen to me, but my neighbor Fred, a retired psychology professor, tells me all the people that he sees like listening to me. Mostly, it’s other teachers. Also the neighbor kids like to hear me play saxophone, and are usually playing outside if I’m practicing outside,” he continued.

He added some of his favorite pieces to play are “Straight No Chaser” by Thelonious Monk, “Watermelon Man” by Herbie Hancock, and “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie.

After spending the last weeks of his senior year at home with no directed studying, Oswald said the college experience is very different for him. 

“COVID-19 changed the social aspect of college a lot for me. Since I don’t live in the dorms, I don’t have many opportunities to meet new people,” he said.

“It also changed the learning aspect. I had to build a large arsenal of self-management skills so that I didn’t fall behind on all the modular school work,” he concluded.

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