Saturday at the Symphony by Nina Berggren

On Saturday evening, I slipped into classy attire and rode the train to Davies Symphony Hall, downtown. I entered the lobby early, and settled into a seat beside several sophomore peers. None of us had had the opportunity to research the performance in store for us, so we discussed our previous experiences attending the symphony. Eventually, Ronald Chase approached us. Ronald is the founder of San Francisco Art & Film for Teenagers, an organization that immerses interested teenagers in a world of art, film, and music for free! By providing free access to local cultural programs, students like myself learn to better engage with, discuss, dissect, and enjoy, art, film, and music. Saturday night was my first time taking advantage of Art & Film’s free symphony tickets.

Ronald joined us on our bench, quickly launching into an elaborate explanation of musical history relating to the following evening’s music. With our minds brimming with newfound knowledge, we clutched our tickets tightly and entered the grand symphony hall. Our tickets lead us to a collection of seats in the second row of the front orchestra. Ecstatically we sunk into yellow, cushioned chairs and endured the thirty minute lecture that came before the music. As the long rows behind us filled with elegant ladies and equally spiffy gentlemen, I admired the tall rounded ceiling and lavish nature of my surrounding environment. At long last, the conductor walked onstage, almost close enough for me to reach out and touch him. His wrinkled face revealed comfort that can only be attributed to someone that has been in a particular business for decades. A choir rose in the back and musicians took their seats, taking brief moments to tune their instruments. Then, they played and sang and my body felt full and complete as I absorbed the music with every fiber of my being. I leaned forward and allowed the sounds to run through me and take my mind from thought to image and back again. I sat so close to a violin player that I could hear the scratch of his bow on strings, which added an element of intensity and authenticity to the sound, much like a record player does. The distance I had always felt from most classical music was immediately eliminated, because I was both physically and mentally in the thick of it.

Between two hymns performed, I got to thinking that classical music and the romantic poetry we are studying in Creative Writing 1, are similar in many ways. First, one must approach both poetry and music with patience. In order to appreciate each word or note in a piece, as well as the piece as a whole, one must patiently interpret it and come to various conclusions on their own. Second, both compositions and poems are inspiring and inspired by the world around us. Romantics in the 1800s spent lifetimes writing poetry about nature and emotions. While composers often sought out urban environments to write music about. One example of this, was the final song played at the symphony called “An American in Paris,” a stunning classic that was inspired by a foreigner walking through Parisian streets.

With this knowledge, I listened to the symphony play it and could clearly visualize an American in Paris, listening to unfamiliar sounds and inhaling the culture. Which brings me to my third point, not only are poets and composers inspired by life, the works of art they create provide clear images in one’s mind, whether one has to read or listen, to see it. Fourth, both poetry and music convey emotions and make you feel emotions. All through the evening I heard sound combinations that swelled my heart and sounded so complicated and beautiful. During intermission, Ronald Chase informed us that all the history and information he had initially taught us, described different pieces that he mistakenly thought would be played that night. However the unpredictability of going into something unfamiliar forced me to run with my emotions as opposed to my mind. This strengthened my experience and made me come out of it with a newfound interest and wonder for classical music and symphonies.

I was especially fascinated by one of the main differentiating aspects of writing and music: teamwork. While poetry is personal and often written in privacy, symphonies would not thrive without countless unified musicians, working together to bring a piece to life. Their flawless ability to play in such harmony, was enough to draw me back to many more future performances. I highly encourage others to attend, and I look forward to venturing forth into more musically influenced endeavors. Thank you Art & Film!

Nina Berggren, class of 2020

What Does Creative Writing Do? by Nina Berggren

“We don’t sit in a room all day! No way! No way!” Creative Writing chanted, clad in yellow, from the school bleachers on Field Day. This chant stemmed from the question every Creative Writer at SOTA is frequently asked: “What does Creative Writing do? Write for three hours a day?” As this blog can attest to, we often escape our classroom and venture into the city. Whether it’s to attend field trips and performances, or to strengthen our community by carrying out one of many Creative Writing traditions. If it is the former, our intention is usually to draw inspiration from our surroundings, something we cannot always do from our desks.

For the most part, we do sit in a room all day. That said, we do more than write silently at our desks in the dark for three straight hours. Every class period, we answer a writing prompt written on the board, and either everyone shares their prompts or we volunteer to read them out loud. What follows, depends on what unit we are in: fiction, poetry, playwriting, or a shorter unit that falls under another category. Whoever teaches the class has created a lesson plan that incorporates more than just writing, but also discussions, games, visuals and films, peer editing, reading and analyzing thought-provoking texts–the list goes on!

In response to those who ask what Creative Writing does, we have endless fun making puns, correcting Huck’s grammar, exploring every aspect of writing and being a writer, but also exploring life and the experiences and parts of life that contribute to us as individuals and to our world.

Sophomore Appreciation Post, by Nina Berggren

As our Creative Writing 1 poetry unit comes to an end, I am beginning to feel nostalgic reflecting upon the content we have been studying, and the way it has been taught. Heather divided up the unit among the sophomores in our department. The sophomore class agreed to teach 1-2 day mini-units inspired by their diverse backgrounds and rich cultural histories. They came up with their lesson plans over the summer. Their lessons incorporated short videos, poetry, stories, songs, topics to discuss, and homework prompts.

These mini-units helped me get to know the sophomores and the cultures they come from. The sophomores impressed me with their ability to take advantage of the creative freedom they were given. They brought so many new artists to my attention. They also introduced new writing styles, political issues I was not previously aware of, and other elements of their cultures and religions. I left every class with a myriad of thoughts and ideas that inspired me to focus on the poetry I needed to write. I also came out of the unit appreciating many new styles of poetry that I had not been exposed to before.

The sophomores had no problem communicating their thoughts clearly while stimulating controversial discussions. The fact that they are only one year older than me feels intimidating because it sets a high standard for the freshman class, but it also makes me want to work harder and participate more. I am looking forward to next year when I am given the opportunity to set an admirable example for the incoming freshman, just as the current sophomores have done for us.

Nina Berggren, class of 2020

My First Kirby Cove by Nina Berggren

When I arrived at Creative Writing’s annual camping trip to Kirby Cove, I came wide-eyed and eager to experience all of its glory. The Marin sun breathed heavily on our necks, and the tall, beautiful trees, provided a welcoming shade.

Late afternoon, all the Creative Writers went down to the beach, where the seniors struggled hilariously to dunk the freshman in the frigid bay, a refreshing, but also numbing, Creative Writing tradition.

When nightfall came, we gathered around the campfire to eat sausages, while listening to a delightfully creepy story, told by Sam, Heather’s husband. Following the story, the Creative Writers retired to the bunker for Hot Seat. What transpired at that time can not be repeated, but it brought us all together as a class and made me feel much closer to my peers.

It was two in the morning when Hot Seat concluded and tired writers began to give in to their exhaustion, shrinking away from the bunker and into their sleeping bags– all but a lively eight of us, who decided to pull an all-nighter. We sat around the fire with the dark, raccoon-infested forest at our backs, and the hot, crackling flames heating up our faces. Time slipped by as we listened to Max Chu (‘20) strumming his ukulele while we talked and laughed. My peers were slowly being exposed to my wild side, a result of me being delirious.

After a competitive game of “B.S.” we walking back to the ocean at around 4:30am. We treaded carefully across the smooth, icy stones to a nearby rope swing that had been used by tourists all day.The swing was now empty, but not silent. The foghorn sounded often in the distance. Heavy fog encircled us as we took turns soaring upwards on the swing, an exhilarating feeling that belittled any stress I once had.

After returning back to the campfire to warm up, we returned to the beach to watch the glistening stars give way to the soft light of dawn. The fog was thicker than ever and the Golden Gate Bridge was entirely shrouded in the white wetness. We watched the ocean transform from deep black to a crystal blue. The water swung repeatedly over the edge of the beach like the swing over the water. That moment was serene. I was amazed when a pink and orange glow was revealed, originally hidden by the fog. We watched the fog move and listened to the foghorn wish us good morning. I could now see the Golden Gate bridge in all its entirety, as well as downtown San Francisco’s skyline, a silhouette surrounded by warm, red and yellow hues. The colors deepened slowly and finally faded when the full sun could be seen. Wind followed us back to camp for coffee, muffins, and fruit, a glorious ending to my first Kirby Cove.

Nina Berggren, class of 2020