Month: April 2019

2 Minutes with … Sebastian Roman: Solving the math and music equation

Sebastian Roman holds his saxophone as he stands in front of a chalkboard full of math equations.
Sebastian Roman is studying math and music. They go together better than you might think.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

We like to think of math and music as insular communities of study. It’s easy to draw a hard line between what we see as “creative” and “not creative” and assume no interrelation. Math major and music minor Sebastian Roman ’19 embraces the unexpected harmony of studying these seemingly adverse fields.

The logical solution

For Sebastian, a saxophone player, it all comes down to logic. He works with math that is not computation, as math is commonly perceived, but the translation of very abstract concepts into simple, logical notations, called proofs. He believes the journey from problem to solution is the connection between math and music.

“When you write out a proof, just like how you write out a piece of music, there’s a story, there’s a development, there’s a conclusion,” he says. “You feel good afterwards. In the same way a proof is almost like a melody. There’s little aspects of it that work together.”

Channels for expression

It’s not just logic and hard lines. Sebastian values math and music together as important outlets of expression in his life.

“They’re both languages. You can learn that language with improvisation, logical resolutions and musical ideas, and express something within you that you couldn’t with words. In the same way with math, you can internalize all these logical methods of getting to an argument and express something that you can’t express with words.”

Math and music go hand in hand as outlets of creative expression. Math offers new experiences and insight that Sebastian says he expresses through his music. Being able to study both is one of the great draws of a Lawrence education, where the Conservatory of Music is part of the university.

“(Doing math) makes me a better musician in the sense that I’m learning more about myself and how to express myself and be a better person,” Sebastian says. “I’m gaining life experiences. And then when I go play the horn, I can express that stuff.”

More on Lawrence’s Mathematics offerings here and Conservatory of Music here

Balancing act

Sebastian is taking linear algebra, foundations of analysis and jazz improvisation II this term. Outside of class, he plays in Combo I and Latin Jazz Ensemble, takes jazz lessons with Jose Encarnacion, and tries to practice saxophone two to three hours a day. Yet he rarely feels overwhelmed.

“Sometimes I’d like to have more time doing music and sometimes I’d like to have more time doing math,” he says. “There’s not enough time. But I’m also a very social person and I like to hang out with people. Thankfully, math allows me to hang out with people and do homework.”

The two disciplines combine to make his learning journey whole, he says.

“If I’m doing math and not practicing, I’m getting better at music. If I’m playing music and not doing math as much, I’m getting better at math, in a weird kind of way. They help each other and they work together very well.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … George Mavrakis: YouTube, fish and a hobby gone wild

Lawrence University senior George Mavrakis feeds fish in an aquarium in his dorm room.
George Mavrakis ’19 tends to his fish in his Lawrence University dorm room. The LU economics major has built up a successful YouTube channel focused on coral fish.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21 

A lot of students have had a pet fish, but it is not every day someone can turn having a pet fish into the nation’s largest aquarium show and a YouTube channel with nearly 120,000 subscribers. Lawrence University’s George Mavrakis ’19 has done just that. 

“It was all about seeing what other people thought of my tank,” the Lawrence senior says. “I always wanted to show off my tank and see if other people think this is an awesome tank.”

It was. And they did. And a hobby focused on coral fish was about to explode.

George, an economics major from Golf, Illinois, who played on the LU basketball team, runs the YouTube channel CoralFish12g. He and a business partner have also launched Aquashella, an aquarium festival show that debuted first in Chicago last year and then Dallas earlier this year, drawing thousands of aquarium enthusiasts with a mix of fish, music and art.

Getting hooked

George went through 10 fish before he finally got the hang of things. In his defense, he was 14 and working with a much more difficult kind of fish than your standard gold fish — coral. There was much to learn about keeping salt water fish alive.

“YouTube, Google and books,” George says of his eight-year journey. “Like, my coral would die and I’d just be like, welp, it wasn’t calcium. Then I’d check that off, then my next coral would die, and I’d be like, well, it wasn’t calcium or the light. By trial and error, I taught myself to keep coral.” 

Then he set out to teach the rest of the world via YouTube.

His first videos were mostly just his tank. He eventually went in front of the camera, sharing knowledge on salt water aquatics through what he refers to as “infotainment.”

He found an audience, and now he has the biggest salt water aquarium channel on YouTube, making him the biggest salt water aquarium influencer, all operating out of a dorm room at Lawrence.

He traveled to Israel over holiday break with Facebook influencer Nas Daily. His 1-minute video has more than 3 million views.

Check out CoralFish12g, including the Nas Daily video, here.

Geoge Mavrakis poses in his Lawrence dorm room with his fish tanks and tech equipment.
George Mavakis’ YouTube channel, CoralFish12g, has nearly 120,000 subscribers.

He created Aquashella last year with a friend while studying abroad in London. They were both fans of aquarium festivals but wanted to launch one that infused art and music with the showing of the fish. Mission accomplished. More than 4,000 people showed up for an August 2018 show in Chicago, while 7,000 came out for an early spring show in Dallas. Chicago is again on the books for August 2019.

He tapped into skills learned through Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program. Balancing his coral fish hobby-turned-business with school has been a challenge, George says, noting he was “pulling more all-nighters” than desired and was giving up free time in pursuit of his fish adventures. The payoff, though, for all that hard work is on YouTube for all to see.

Sharing YouTube wisdom

Want to start a YouTube channel of your own? We asked George for four tips:

1: “Being different is better than being better.”

2: “Persistence is the key. It won’t happen overnight.”

3: “It’s a third luck, a third skill, and a third the quality of your content.” 

4: “Provide people with value.”  

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Isabella Mariani: In pursuit of a good read

Portrait of Isabella Mariani with a James Joyce book.
Isabella Mariani

Two student writers, Awa Badiane and Isabella Mariani, have joined the Communications staff and will begin writing a series of stories — 2 Minutes With … — to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. To get it started, we asked Awa to write about Isabella and Isabella to write about Awa.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

From very young and for reasons she cannot quite pinpoint, Isabella Mariani ’21 has been a bibliophile.

“Always when I was kid, I was reading,” she says. “I would bring a book everywhere I went.”

Fast forward to today, and chances are good you’ll find the Lawrence University sophomore English major with her nose in a book, even on a Saturday night.

“(Reading is an) escape,” Isabella says. “Not really from anything in particular that I consciously acknowledge, but it’s relaxing. For one thing, I am generally pretty busy and stressed out, so to have reading as a time to just relax and forget everything else is sorta the idea.” 

Did you know?

Isabella describes her dorm room as “looking like a library,” with books on the shelves, desk and floor. “Books are stacked everywhere,” she says.

But — quick fun fact — despite frequently studying in the library, Isabella has never actually checked out a book. Ever. She prefers buying her books, mostly from thrift stores, as she builds her own personal library.

As she pursues an English major at Lawrence, Isabella is able explore and have discussions about new reads in everything from the works of Jane Austen to Vladimir Mayakovsky. It’s a good fit, one she’s been eyeing since childhood.

“After learning to read, I remember doing short children’s stories for my younger brothers, which I also illustrated,” she says. “Creative writing time was my favorite in school and reading and writing never felt like homework to me. I’ve been journaling for years, and that’s where I’m at now.”   

Isabella, who credits her mother with instilling a love of books early on, says she became a prolific reader while bringing a book along to her brother’s hockey games while growing up in Sun Prairie. Turns out, it was time well spent.

A shared passion

On that note, we asked Isabella for some book recommendations. You’re welcome.

Five books she’d recommend to a friend: The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson; Ulysses, by James Joyce; To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf; Invitation to a Beheading, by Vladimir Nabokov; The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon 

Book she’s most looking forward to reading: The Master in Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. “Other people I know have talked about it and I really want to read it. And pretty much all the Jane Austen books.”

Book she thought would not be great but surprised her: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë 

Book she’s reread more than any other: Holes, by Louis Sachar

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Awa Badiane: Embracing leadership, celebrating diversity

Portrait of Awa Badiane
Awa Badiane

Two student writers, Awa Badiane and Isabella Mariani, have joined the Communications staff and will begin writing a series of stories — 2 Minutes With … — to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. To get it started, we asked Awa to write about Isabella and Isabella to write about Awa.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

“I like making connections throughout campus,” says Awa Badiane ’21. “You get to meet a lot of different people.”

It’s true. The sophomore is a familiar face on the Lawrence campus. And it didn’t take her long to get involved.

She was elected president of the Black Student Union, or BSU, before she finished her freshman year. The student organization works to promote cultural diversity and unity through education and social activism.

“Black students and other students of color on campus need a space where they can fully be themselves and be around people who can connect with certain aspects of their experience,” she says of the need for BSU to be active and accessible on campus.

Did you know?

Awa, a government major from Harlem, came to Lawrence via the Posse Foundation, a scholarship program that looks to identify future leaders among students of diverse backgrounds. High school students who show leadership potential are recruited from 10 participating U.S. cities. Lawrence partners with the Posse Foundation.

Awa remains tight with the nine other Posse students from her class.

“Not only do I get to be part of a very large group of leaders nationwide, I get to be part of the larger Posse community on campus,” Awa says. “It’s also nice to be recognized for my leadership skills.”

A passion to connect

She joined BSU early in her freshman year. Then, when it came time to elect a new club president, Awa stepped up and was elected. 

 “I was honestly very surprised because I was only a freshman, but at the same time I was excited because of having the opportunity to implement all the ideas I had,” she says.

Awa proposed the creation of a safe space complete with arts and crafts, a fashion show, a day of service and the first Excellence Ball, which launched during winter term as a lead-in to the annual People of Color Empowerment Week.

“We try to implement the encouragement of diversity in all of our events,” Awa said.

For Awa, BSU is a great avenue to share her ideas and follow her passions. But, like involvement in other campus activities, it’s also a great way to meet people and develop meaningful relationships.

“It’s important that it forces me to get out and talk to people,” Awa says.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.