Eleanor Callott Whitney ’00 is an entrepreneur, writer, rock musician, and educator who is living in Brooklyn, NY. She is the proud recipient of a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Baruch College. For over a decade, Eleanor has worked with world-class museums. As a Program Officer for Fiscal Sponsorship at the New York Foundation for the Arts she managed and expanded a national program that enabled artists to increase their fundraising capabilities. She has also worked at the Brooklyn Museum, the Rubin Museum of Art, and at POV/American Documentary. She is currently the Community Outreach Coordinator at Shapeways, a 3D Printing community and marketplace and is the author of Grow, a practical field guide for starting a creative business. You can watch the video of her February 2015 presentation at Upper School Assembly linked here. You can check out her other activities on her website, linked here.
Sometimes a Waynflete education comes in handy in unexpected ways. Such was the case recently for Misha Linnehan ’14.
Today in my American Politics lecture, we were discussing the Constitution. Since the State of the Union was last night, someone asked what part of the Constitution decreed that the President needed to make that speech. My professor responded, “Article II section 3…I forget the exact quote.” She then looked down at the podium, and realized she had forgotten to bring a copy of the Constitution from which to read said quote. She halfheartedly looked up and asked, in a disappointed voice, “Does anyone happen to have a Constitution with them?”
While I heard the noise of 70 of my fellow classmates thinking “Why on Earth would anyone have a copy of the Constitution with them,” I immediately thought “HOLY COW, THERE’S LIKE A 50% CHANCE I HAVE ONE OF THOSE LEFT OVER IN MY BACKPACK FROM HIGH SCHOOL.” Sure enough, upon thorough inspection, I found not one, not two, but three separate copies of the Constitution scrunched up in my backpack.
I quickly raised my hand and said “Yes! I do!”, walked up to the stage, and bestowed one of the copies upon my obviously impressed professor. She asked me my name and wrote it down. Class participation is 15% of our grade. I have a feeling that small act may help me down the line, and it’s entirely due to you throwing Constitutions with the persistency of a woodpecker.
So thank you, Debba, for both your direct and indirect contributions to my grades at college.
PS: I’m considering adding a class called “History of Revolutionary America: 1763-1815.” Do I already know everything or is there substantially more to learn?
I read somewhere once that the biggest fear most people have, even eclipsing fear of death, is that of public speaking. There’s something about having to stand up in front of a large group of people and deliver a statement that is understandable, well-written, eloquent, and engaging that is uniquely frightening. That said, if you can keep the nerves down, master the formula for an effective speech, and memorize thoroughly, public speaking can become something of a routine that gets less scary with practice.
Now imagine this: performing that same routine, but having someone repeatedly interrupt you with an argument about how what you’re saying is wrong. Then, on the spot, you have to come up with a strategy to explain why you’re right. And if it’s decided that you are indeed wrong, you have to completely reorganize your thoughts and keep going without appearing at all flustered. That would be a new level of scary.
Amazingly, there are some incredibly twisted people who do this for fun by signing up for mock trial. Before my time at Waynflete began, I didn’t think I would ever be one of those people. Nonetheless, I have just completed my first semester at Brown University, and my fifth semester of competition on the mock trial circuit. What once was unthinkable has become a favorite activity that I couldn’t imagine leaving behind when I graduated.
As I explained before, mock trial is hard. It’s a chemical compound of countless other pursuits – it’s the intellectual exercise of a debate, combined with the dramatic flair of a theater performance, and the competitive intensity of a sporting event. If you take on the role of a witness in the case, you have to be ready to be shredded on cross examination. If you’re an attorney, you better be able to do the shredding. Whatever your role might be, you have to be well-prepared and flexible. Most importantly, you have to be confident. If you believe that you’re unflappable, chances are you will be.
Caught up in an objection battle with a polished senior adversary recently, it occurred to me just how much my day-to-day life in high school contributed to my ability to do this. At Waynflete, as anyone who has ever gone here will tell you, you can’t hide behind others. From a purely numerical standpoint, the classes are small enough that you will inevitably get called on. When you do, you’re expected to have a thought or a question that furthers the conversation. Teachers here want you to be able to think critically and then express those thoughts in a public setting. I didn’t realize how ingrained in my psyche that instinct had become – until it was put to the test in the intimidating arena of collegiate mock trial.
I owe a major debt of gratitude to Waynflete’s resident mock trial miracle worker Debba as well as all my other teachers and classmates for encouraging me to embody confidence in mock trial and outside of it. Using the skills that Waynflete helps to develop, it’s easy to be confident. That makes both public speaking and everything else a whole lot less scary, more enriching, and more enjoyable.
Since graduating Waynflete in 2007, I have definitely been on a journey. I originally was accepted to my first choice college at the University of Vermont where I studied Jazz Performance for two years. In the midst of those years I became intrigued by the recording aspect of the music industry and found myself interning at The Studio in Portland, Maine. Soon intrigue turned into a passion and I transferred to the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music where I was awarded a Merit Scholarship in audio production. In 2012, I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Music degree in Jazz and Commercial music with a concentration in Audio Production.
The day after graduation, I packed my car up and drove to Los Angeles in hopes of starting my career as an audio engineer and music producer. I’ve been living in Hollywood for about two and a half years now. Life out here has definitely been a roller coaster but has taught me more than I think I actually realize. I first started working for one of the top music producers in LA helping him with projects such as Maroon 5, Aerosmith, Florence and The Machine, and Better Than Ezra. It was a humbling and surreal experience to say the least. From there I had expanded my networks and started work at smaller studios. There, I didn’t feel I was reaching my full potential, so I took out EVERY album that has changed my life, researched and contacted all the engineers and producers in hopes one of them was in need of an assistant engineer.
Luckily for me, I got one response out of the 100 emails I sent! Matt Linesch (Linny), the recording and mixing engineer for Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, was moving back to Hollywood and needed some assistance setting up and wiring his studio. Fun!! To add to my excitement, Linny was moving his studio to United Recording Studios (formerly Ocean Way Recording)- one of the top recording studios in the world built by Frank Sinatra http://www.oceanwayrecording.com/index.php. Many of my favorite artists have recorded there: Tom Petty, Beck, Green Day, Radiohead, Elton John, Bonnie Raitt, Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton – the list could go for miles.
After meeting Linny and having a successful day of setting up his studio space, he gave me an open invitation to come by whenever I’d like. So, I did. All the time. Most every day. I’d help keep the studio tidy, make sure the gear was running smoothly, take notes while he mixed an album, catered to his clients, and helped him with small edits such as tuning vocals until one day he introduced me to an industry top dog as his assistant engineer. Small step in the music industry, HUGE leap for Hannah Finegold.
The moral of my story thus far, though may sound cheesy, is stay driven, persistent and work hard- it WILL pay off! I have Waynflete to thank for this mindset and I am so grateful for all the supportive staff that helped me grow through those four years.
If people have any interest in the recording world, they can follow me on Instagram @thefinestofgold .
I graduated from Waynflete in 1989. At the time, my favourite subject was English. Classes like Creative Writing with Elizabeth Maiman and Essay with Ellie Dwight were where I discovered a talent for telling stories, and a way to explain the world as I saw it. I’m in no doubt that what I learned there was vital. But, funnily enough, it turns out that the classes I dreaded most were the ones that opened doors to my current career.
I went into the compulsory studio art classes kicking and screaming. Nothing seemed less pleasing than a mandatory lesson in humility. What the hell was I going to do with with refined skills in cutting and pasting? Why should I even bother to attempt a drawing when the person to one side of me can sketch like Matisse and the one on the other side can make a charcoal pencil dance in their hands? And for god’s sake, do I really need to put my work up on a board next to everyone else’s, just to hear how terrible it is?
Well, it’s been 25 years since I left Waynflete. Despite my determination to become a writer, I am now, through some sort of twisted plot, a professional artist. Of course I still use the writing skills I picked up. But I draw on the things I learned in that art studio every hour of everyday. Those teachers taught me to see, to interpret, and to convey. I now make animation using a computer. I lead small teams of artists as we try to make moving images that will tell stories for documentaries or encourage people to sign up for Amnesty International or (unfortunately) to buy something. In other words, I have to see, to interpret, to convey.
I remember the frustration I felt when I first started Major Art in Junior year. I look at schools where I live now (and where my children go) and see students and parents happily see art classes cut from the curriculum as though they’re a luxury. And I realize, as with so many things that you can only understand with hindsight, how wise my teachers were, how vital it was, and is, to keep things like Major Art going and to expose students to a full range of subjects. I’d only suggest they ditch the charcoal pencils. Nobody can really draw with those things. Not even Matisse.