Name: Stacy Sivinski
Department: English, PhD
Graduation Year: 2021
One of the most important skills I’ve learned as a PhD student is how to play the ukulele. Not play the ukulele well, mind you. Just play it with passion and friends who won’t care if you forget the fingering for a D chord right in the middle of “This Land is Your Land.”
This all began the summer after I finished my candidacy exams, when, by chance, I became the temporary owner of a baritone ukulele. I won’t get into the details of how it came into my possession (though a spontaneous karaoke session at a friend’s apartment after a few glasses of wine was definitely involved). The point is that I suddenly had a ukulele and a little more free time to do something with it. What I liked about learning to play was that I was completely horrible at it. The first few days, I couldn’t get the positioning right, and strumming was impossible. But after this initial frustration, I realized that for the first time in a long time, I didn’t actually have to be an expert at something to enjoy it. I could run my fingers over those strings, sound like a complete fool, and no one (except my neighbors) would care. My mediocrity, as it turns out, was empowering, and I continued to strum out classic country hits through August, feeling like the great Dolly Parton herself.
Since then, some of my friends and I have formed our own band, Hypatia and the Wallflowers (the philosopher of the group came up with that one). My main role is lead singer, but I continue to rock on with my baritone ukulele, still strumming in one direction but a little bit more on the beat than I was that first summer. We’re not quite ready for the Grizzly Rose, but that’s fine by me. I’m learning a lot more this way anyhow.