Bakersfield is home to some incredible people, including musicians, athletes, activists, community leaders and more, and similarly, Bakersfield College is home to some incredible Renegades.
As the Director of Student Life at the Home of the Renegades since August 2014, I have been inspired countless times to write a piece and I’m excited to finally hit the submission button.
I love to sing and hear people sing. It is one of my passions, and it’s got mood and soul, power and magic. Music is both transformative and unifying. It can turn a frown upside down, and it can unite people in community. Since coming to BC, I have gone to hear the BC Chamber Singers perform under the direction of Jennifer Garrett several times. If you have never heard them, the sound of the 30-plus students is divine.
For the past three years, they have been working hard to raise funds to sing at the Sydney Opera House in Australia this summer. They held exchange concerts, performed at community events and everything you could think of in-between. By the grace of the heavens above, I was invited to travel and sing with the choir at the Opera House Choral Festival. Not only that, but my partner was also invited to come along with us as a supporting guest. I was very humbled to not only to hear them sing aboard in the various venues, but then to join them in the choral festival concert at the Opera House with maestro Craig Hella Johnson at the University of Sydney with 340 voices from around the world.
The choir held three mini concerts before the choral festival. The repertoire they sung for the concerts always brought audience members to their feet in seconds. The Renegade talent was strong with passion and heart. The pieces were difficult, but with the amount of practice inside and outside the classroom, they made the songs come to life and sound effortlessly. Their premiere song was "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine" composed by Eric Whitacre. Knowing they were extremely nervous to take the stage, hearing them perform brought tears to my eyes, but the sound and zest filled the venue, taking the audience on a journey through a dream of life.
Along with singing, we had the opportunity to see and experience the local culture. We rode on an army duck in a Rainforest in Cairns, while learning how to throw boomerangs and even play the didgeridoo. Of course, we held a koala, interacted with kangaroos and dipped into the ocean and viewed the Great Barrier Reef with its glory and beauty.
This unforgettable trip to Australia changed my life and the lives of these students. I am forever grateful to them for sharing this transformative experience and uniting me with a love of music.
As the Director of Student Life, these students presented Bakersfield College and our community with vibrance. We know that Leonardo never actually achieved his dream of flying, but being bounded to a charter bus for 11 days in Australia with these Renegades, I can truly say they each earned their wings and soared.
Nicky Damania is the Director of Student Life at Bakersfield College. The opinions expressed are his own.