Freshman Music Major Katrina Leshan Organizes Performance to Benefit Alternative Spring Break Project
The Guitar Performance and Music Education Double Major Part of Group Going to Xalapa, Mexico
Freshman Guitar Performance and Music Education major Katrina Leshan already has a pretty solid idea of what she wants to do when she "grows up." "I want to build a boarding school in an impoverished neighborhood that will teach reading, writing, math, science, computer” – she pauses, leaving the most personal element of her dream for last – “and guitar.” Katrina said she believes in the healing power of the arts and feels drawn to impoverished areas because the children there are forced to focus primarily on their own physical survival. "Childhood shouldn't be about survival but about developing yourself. It's about living," she says. "I want it to be a boarding school because I want it to be a safe place. A place where they can live."
Associate Provost and Professor of Music Tom Tunks recommended Katrina spend her spring break in Xalapa (pronounced ha-LA-pa), Mexico. As an alternative to the typical beach runs, SMU offers service trips over spring break to various locations such as Denver, to work with Habitat for Humanity; California, to work in AIDS/HIV outreach programs; Tennessee, to assist with environmental protection projects; and Xalapa, where students provide services to children and adults in poverty-stricken areas.
Katrina is one of eight students who, along with Dr. Tunks, will be traveling to Xalapa to work with Caritas, an organization that manages an orphanage, children's hospital, and homeless shelter, with a base in Xalapa. "It is an opportunity to work with kids and help them,” Katrina says. Sophomore Jose Campos, the trip coordinator, says, "We chose to go there because of the history SMU has accumulated through the Study Abroad Program in Xalapa." The trip costs $7000, but due to extraordinary fundraising efforts, the participants were able to considerably lower the cost. Katrina initially proposed a talent show as a way to raise money. "I'm a musician. For a physics project, I changed the song ‘Single Ladies’ into ‘Sinusoidals.’ I use music to do anything." With the help of SMU's own talent recruitment agency, T.R.E.A.T, and its president, sophomore Theatre major Trigg Burrage, the talent show morphed into Dance for Xalapa. "It wasn't hard because Trigg was so fundamental and supportive," Katrina says. "I told him my idea and he ran with it." The performance will present the work of musicians and dancers from all over campus, the SMU Ballroom Dance Club, the SMU Hip Hop Dance Club, and the SMU Dance Division. "I love the interdisciplinary aspect of it," Katrina says, "It is an opportunity to do something we love for a good cause." The money raised will help to cover the cost of the trip and buy supplies for the children.
Katrina wrote a song specifically for the event called "Give a Voice," and freshman dance major Michelle Broaddus choreographed a dance to accompany it. The first part of the song is about needing help in a situation where none is offered, something Katrina suspects is similar to the conditions of the children she will be encountering. The second part of the song is infused with quotes from the Dalai Lama. "It was a way to tie in what we're doing," Katrina says with a smile, beaming with pride and excitement. She expects a positive experience for everyone involved – the performers, the students traveling, and the children they are helping. "SMU students will be able to experience a whole new perspective on life and the community we are volunteering in will be able to benefit from additional help,” she said.
Dance for Xalapa will be held in the Taubman Atrium at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, February 19. If you're interested in financially donating to the cause, contact Sairah Hussain at firstname.lastname@example.org.