How has the COVID-19 Pandemic affected the learning experience of BMCC students? What are the outcomes of exploring BMCC campuses and their surroundings? What are the benefits of diversity in a class environment? In this podcast episode, Brian Ortiz, a jazz and pop major and creator of the Universe of Music at BMCC community, discusses these and other relevant topics.
Check out more information about the resources that Brian recommends in his interview:
BMCC Associate of Science (A.S.) degree program in Music
Brian Ortiz on Instagram
WELCOME TO STUDENT VOICES, A PODCAST THAT PRESENTS AWESOME STORIES OF BMCC STUDENTS. IN THIS SEASON, WE ARE LAUNCHING A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS ABOUT THE CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING A SENSE OF BELONGING AND CREATING A COMMUNITY AS A BMCC STUDENT. IN THIS EPISODE, IQRA SHEIK, FROM THE OPENLAB TEAM, INTERVIEWS BRIAN ORTIZ. BRIAN IS A TALENTED JAZZ AND POP MAJOR, SONGWRITER, DANCER AND GUITAR PLAYER. NO MORE TALKING, LET’S JUMP TO HIS INTERVIEW.
Iqra: Let’s start off with who you are, what school you go to, which is, we already know what school but, let’s just start out with that.
Brian: Hello world, welcome to anyone who sees this in the near future which probably, hopefully a lot of people Brian Ortiz here. I go to BMCC, I’m 22 years old. I’m also a Music major if anyone needs to know yeah there is that.
Iqra: Ok, alright. In a few sentences, how would you describe yourself? And share your greatest interests and one fun fact about yourself.
Brian: In a few sentences, how I would describe myself… I would say I’m a very caring and protective person, especially when it comes to friends and family. In any way whatsoever, I’m very caring. I’m also very open to listening, I’m like a POV. I always hear it from two stories, I don’t take one side or the other. It’s always both ways. Hum… and yeah, I would say that I’m pretty considerate towards others. Hum… how do I share my interests… well, if you go through my Instagram, it’s all I can literally do at the moment is to just take the camera, sit in front of the camera and sing in front of the camera Yeah… that’s what I do, I’m an open book, so I just share a lot in the world for people to see, and you know, it’s fun. I love it. And some people, some people like it, some people don’t, you know. If they don’t, that’s them, I’m just living life to the fullest and as long as I’m happy, it’s all I can ever ask for. It’s all we can ever do on this planet, it’s just to be happy for what we got and with the time that we have. What was the last question again?
Iqra: And share one fun fact about yourself.
Brian: Umm, fun fact… I have never ever tasted, what was the one thing… actually, no, this is gonna shock everybody… I can’t— I’m allergic to chocolate. Like, I can’t eat chocolate, any piece of chocolate. I cannot. I will die in front of you. Literally.
Iqra: Wow. So that’s a fun fact.
Iqra: That’s a very ironic fun fact! [laughter].
Iqra: What led you to enroll into BMCC? Like, why BMCC?
Brian: Well, when I was obviously searching to colleges in high school, which was in 2019– 2018 because I was junior, 18 years old… I was looking for something… music. I always wanted to be in a music major, and schools that were, well, you know, they were very expensive, there was SUNY, and I was, no, I can’t. We gotta start very small. And not a lot of CUNYs have open doors for music that I know of… that I knew of at that time. Cause I was in highschool full of athleticism, and academics… and that was just not me. Ahn… obviously, academics, I was pretty smart, but I wasn’t as smart as all the other brainiacs but… I knew music was my thing. I knew creativity was a part of me and will always be a part of me and that was something I wanted to explore more out into the world, share more out into the world, and I’m glad that I took that step, because I kept searching and searching until I found here, and I was like, oh! Something small, something simple, and the music program is great in BMCC. Like, it’s fantastic, you know, this is the first step, and I’ll just keep going from there. I know this is going to be a start of a wonderful journey. And it has been, it has been wonderful. Besides the pandemic, that’s when I had to like shut it down and then… I was like, I can’t come back to the school because I can’t focus doing this… like what we were doing online…you know, it’s hard to receive information and process it. And, you know, it’s better to be in person to do that than over the phone…
Brian: I mean, like, learning wize. Like, learning wize, like, things that we needed to learn and could’t really do. A keyboard, like a keyboard class, we had a keyboard class. I couldn’t go and buy a keyboard for a small apartment in the Bronx and then expect to find a place to put it away and I was like yea no i’m going to end up failing all my classes. I just dropped it and I came back when school reopen and we did hybrid and then, you know what, I’m gonna do the same thing. And then I did it. So I came back 2021, 2020… 2021 basically.
Iqra: Yeah, like, when COVID, I was still at BMCC, and that was in 2019, right?
Brian: Yeah… No, it was in the beginning of 2020, because I was in the spring semester of 2020 when that occurred. I remember 2019, because in 2019, I had literally just been fresh out highschool, so…
THE COVID PANDEMIC IMPOSED REAL CHALLENGES, SPECIALLY FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS. IQRA REMINDS US OF THE THINGS THAT SHE EXPERIENCED DURING 2020, A STORY THAT REPRESENTS WHAT MANY OF US HAD TO GO THROUGH.
Iqra: Oh, yeah. 2020 I was still at BMCC, and, ah… I remember when COVID, you know, when it was in the news, I didn’t think much of it, and then later I got to a point where I had to take classes online and it was hard. Definitely, at some points, I felt like I wasn’t even learning, I was just writing just to write and to get by and not, you know, but hum… I changed, like, I look at it now, and I’m like, I did try my best, you know, and everyone was going through such a hard time, you know, especially, like, the schooling system, like… my little brother who was five at the time, his school was online. Everyone was going through such a hard time, and… ugh, yeah… Anyways, just saying that I totally agree with you, it was like, being super hard to, like, feel like you’re in school when its all online. Hum… but, oh yes, I wanted to ask, like, so what kind of music, like, is that the right answer to ask like, a music major, what kind of music do you make, or, like, what kind of instrument do you play, or…
Brian: Yeah, yeah, there are lots of different players of instruments here. There are piano players, guitar players, clarinet players, trumpet players, the list will go on, I’m gonna stop there.
Iqra: What do you fit?
Brian: My main instrument is voice, and I do play a little bit of guitar, because I do have guitar classes here. By the way, if anyone from BMCC is watching this, and you are a psych major or just letting you know that if you want to learn an instrument as an elective, take Guitar 101 or 102, for music, very important. Just saying, if you want to learn an instrument, you wanna learn guitar, that’s the class for you. 101 and 102.
Iqra: So, could anyone just enroll into those classes?
Brian: Yeah, it’s an elective.
Iqra: Wow. I wish I knew that when I was a student.
AT THIS POINT, BRIAN ALSO SHARES HIS EXPERIENCE IN ATTENDING CLASSES IN PERSON. HIS CURIOSITY WAS KEY TO LEVERAGE HIS LEARNING JOURNEY AT BMCC.
Brian: You’re lucky you didn’t meet me. I was like the guy… I was the guy… anyone who can do knows me, hangs out with me and will tell you: “This kid knows the buildings inside and out.” And I did it since 2019. When I first arrived, freshman year, I was curious, I was in Manhattan by myself… “I was like, for the grace of God, I was like, wait, I’m alone in the world, finally.” And So I said, I’m gonna take it by myself to explore the city… in doing so I explored the buildings, I found shortcuts to get to spots in the building, I would make different routes to myself to get around the buildings. Chambers, Fitterman, Murray, all that … so basically now I’m a walking tour guide, for anyone new coming in. And it’s fun, it is fun. And then I would go out to different places in the city near the school, and I would find, like, there is a bagel shop here. Oooh, there is Chinatown, not so far from here… like you can even walk to the Brooklyn Bridge, and I found so many cool places, and I was like, you know what, I will stay here forever. But not, not the school, but like, near the area. Yeah, there’s that…
Iqra: Ok, I’m gonna get my other questions. Do you feel connected to the school? Does BMCC give you that college experience you want? Yea… you’re nodding your head yes.
Brian: Yes, hundred percent. I mean obviously in the beginning not because you’re fresh out of high school and you’re still feeling like a child. So kind of had those child-like tendencies—to act like one. But then later on, you get a little older and you start to processes things a lot more easier. You start to see things for how they really are and you’re like wow this is how it is to be an adult—you know coming out into the world. You gotta come out here, I know leaving the house all the time, I gotta come out here with a certain amount of money because if not, i’m not eating for the day…um…you know you learn different things, you learn to read people, perceive people, that’s one thing. You learn to-how to move around you know alone in life which I don’t think a lot of people do-can do nowadays, especially now the youngsters nowadays being behind the computer they don’t-you know they don’t really go out to perceive the world and it’s fun to do that. It’s fun to go out and to see the people who are well attended and who are not. It’s fun to learn that.
Iqra: So you’re saying because you had the experience of attending BMCC in person, you gained a lot of value from that. You know you learned how to literally go outside in the world alone because you have to go to school alone into a neighborhood that is not near you. So like you’re doing that extra leap…you know… to have to continue your life which means traveling to a whole different borough you know and then learning that neighborhood.
Iqra: But other than that, do you think the school as an academic system is providing you with the needs that you want for a college experience? Like, you can answer yes or no. It’s an open-ended question. Do you feel…did you…do you feel a sense of belonging? Like when you are in BMCC do you feel like “yea I belong here. I-I am welcomed here.”
Brian: Literally when I enter or when I’m right across the street from Fitterman hall, I literally say, “I’m hooommee.” It’s so crazy that I do and I say “I’m back, im back.” Every semester when it ends and re-opens I say “I’m home! Yes! Yes”. And I get excited to come back every time because not only do i get to see the people that I care about, I get to see the teachers that-like-taught to me so much—that i’ve learned from and you know even if its on an everyday basis and yea there are days where you’re like “ugh, I don’t wanna go to school” I have those days, but I still come to school and I come with the biggest smile on my face because its a joy just coming here-just being able to learn the things that you need to learn, And you know what, make your schedule around maybe make yourself have a little break here and there so that way you can explore. Just to let the people know, they gotta know, you need to explore. But yea, I would say yes. I feel very well connected, especially the times when…I believe it was last fall…no last spring semester, sga had a lot of different events and I performed at some events singing wise and dancing wise and it’s-it’s-it’s fun. It is fun to like you know to be one of the people that are like “oh we know that guy. He’s done this and that and the [not audible enough to transcribe]’. Um…I would say for myself and I think a lot of people know me, this-one right next to me in particular would say “I know-I’m pretty much famous at the school. Quote on quote as I can’t be around one person for 10 minutes without me being recognized. And I was like hmm is this true. But then again it has happened. Funny story, I was with a friend at shake-shack you know, there’s two, the one in Battery Park and the one at the Fulton center and me and friend Clarice, who goes t the school as well, we’re going to get shake shack and we had perceived four people and it was literally the time frame of like maybe 5-10 minutes had noticed me coming and going back and she was right, you can’t go without 10 minutes of saying hi to somebody at least.
Iqra: Yea It sounds like you definitely have a community.
Iqra: You have your people.
TO FINISH THE INTERVIEW, BRIAN SHARES SOME VALUABLE ADVICES FOR STUDENTS ENROLLING INTO BMCC.
Brian: You’re not alone, you’re literally not. There’s so many different people coming in here of all ages. You would be- I was surprised. When i first got here i saw a very very old lady. I know I don’t gotta say it but that’s what she was, an old lady taking a voice class. I was in my first semester so I was very shocked. I was like, “what is happening”? ‘Cause I didn’t know at that age you could still keep going to college. And it’s very cool to see that. It encouraged me–it encourages me to like keep going. Like yea, I keep going and who knows I can go for more and more degrees if i want to besides music. I believe I also had a classmate who was 63 years old, his name was sam. He came back to BMCC twice. He came back for a music degree and I did not know you could do that and it was cool because I was in shock. And also for my dear freshman, when you get here I know it’s exciting but please go to your classes. I know you’re going to be like, Ahhh-oooo It’s like a shiny new toy…You know you’re like It’s new its wonderful, it’s amazing, I have to explore. Yea you do, but like if you make your schedule, make it to be like that…that you have that time to explore. But also have that time to go to your classes and also to learn because some days, like what i said, when you come out high school you still have those child-like tendencies — you still have those you know child-like absences like oh I wanna skip class. Don’t do it because you could miss something very important. I remember I got sick, and I missed a class. Tsss I had missed a very-I had missed so much information that I got lost within one class and for the rest of the semester I was just lost.
Brian: I was lost and I didn’t ask for any notes because maybe I could just catch up. But nope, that was not ideal. Not at all…
Iqra: You are doing everything that you can to really be acknowledged in this school into every activity the school in offering you. Ah… ok, I think that’s it. We covered all of the questions. I also want to say thank you so much for, you know, giving me the time to talk to you and to like ask you if you want to be in this podcast series and you were really helpful and just very outgoing and, yeah, I feel like I really appreciate that because there’s not a lot of students like that, so…
Brian: Not a problem. Literally. It is nice to talk about the school, being able to talk to people about the school and let them know, “hey you can come here. It’s amazing, it’s fantastic. Just push yourself to learn and you’ll love it more and more everyday”.
EXPLORE THE CAMPUS AND ITS SURROUNDINGS, MAKE YOUR SCHEDULE, AND GIVE VALUE TO CLASSES. IN THIS INTERVIEW, BRIAN MAKES US THINK ABOUT HOW THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE IS UNIQUE AND THAT EVERY STUDENT SHOULD TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO THE FULLEST.
THIS EPISODE IS PART OF OUR PODCAST SERIES ABOUT THE CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING A SENSE OF BELONGING AND CREATING A COMMUNITY AS A BMCC STUDENT. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO THIS INTERVIEW, AND PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US. YOU ARE ALSO INVITED TO SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN OUR PODCAST. YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT.
I AM RAQUEL NERIS FROM THE OPENLAB TEAM, AND I WILL SEE YOU IN THE NEXT EPISODE OF THE STUDENT VOICES PODCAST.