Musicianship, Disney Theme Parks, Communication, Heart Eyes, & Museums

Chat Conversation Between Katie & Sonya

Kaitlyn Benoit and I chatted on Facebook as part of a project facilitated by Melody Kramer. (For context, read this post: “Inviting Participation Makes Membership Happen”.) The conversation took place on 4/20/2015 from roughly 9:30am to 11am. Here is the full transcript, copy-pasted from FB:

Sonya: Hey! Are you online? Sorry for the delay. I turned off my alarm, decided to lie in bed for a bit, and fell back asleep.

Katie: No worries! I’m available to talk now, if you’d like.

Sonya: Excellent! So, you mentioned instrumental performance. Are you a musician?

Katie: I did mention musical performance as a hobby/ passion of mine — I’ve played the clarinet for many years, but wouldn’t call myself a musician — but I’m open to talking about anything you’d like!

Sonya: That’s cool! Clarinet and other breath instruments seem kind of exotic to me. Why wouldn’t you call yourself a musician?

Katie: All other woodwind instruments are foreign to me as well! I don’t know that this is a particularly good answer, but often feel weird about using the title “musician” as a non-professional. Musician, to me, seems to professional, legitimate, etc. Though we know that to be considered a musician, all one must be able to do is play an instrument, haha!

Sonya: Interesting. Like you said, I tend to think anyone qualifies as a musician if they make music! This reminds me of “impostor syndrome” although I guess that’s more extreme.

Have you ever considered pursuing music professionally?

Katie: It does smell a bit like impostor syndrome — which is a phenomenon that is so fascinating to me — though, as you said, to a much lesser degree. Music, for me, is just a hobby. Do you dabble in music at all? Or, what are you passionate about?

Sonya: I sing along to the radio while I’m driving, lol. I played guitar in middle school and a bit in high school, but I was never full-on passionate about it. I did write some angsty songs about my crushes, though! I still have those in a notebook somewhere.

When did you start playing clarinet?

Katie: Super cool! I’m sure many people have angsty teenage crush songs or diary entries stashed away in forgotten notebooks somewhere, haha. I started playing clarinet when I was pretty young — early elementary school — and took lessons until I got to the middle school band (whose biggest perk was an excused-absence trip to Six Flags). Later played in high school wind ensemble (whose perk was a trip to Disney!), and then university band and pep band.

Sonya: Whoa, you got escalating awesome trips! I love Disneyland (although I guess you probably went to Disneyworld? idk how different they are).
This may be hard to put a finger on, but what about musical performance feels rewarding to you?

Katie: We went to Disney World… 24 nonstop hours on a bus with 100 high schoolers. But it was a neat experience, for sure. I’ve never been to Disneyland (or anywhere on the West Coast, actually) but imagine that it’s certainly a fun place to visit.

I think the most rewarding thing about musical performance is just being able to translate random black circles and lines on a staff into something audible that can be interpreted by listeners in a variety of ways. Also, I find there’s a sense of personal accomplishment at learning a new, difficult piece.

Sonya: From what I’ve heard, Disneyland & World are pretty similar, except the World version is HUGE. Disneyland is fairly small/manageable. I just love the attention to detail and how you can enter all these little fantasy landscapes. It gives me heart eyes.

That is a super cool thing about music, that in a way it’s so abstract and the notation seems so dry, but it comes alive as a beautiful, concrete, personal experience shared between musicians and audience.

To an extent I feel that way about writing. Sentences don’t mean anything until someone reads them and interprets them with their own personal context and their own emotional background.

It’s really neat that humans have figured out all these ways to communicate and come together in different ways appealing to different senses. There’s something for everyone!

/wall of text, sorry haha

Katie: Disneyland always seems to me like it’s so much more intimate and less commercial than Disney World. …and here I go getting nostalgic for a place I’ve never been.

Sonya: haha well I don’t know either, since I’ve never been to the other version! they do definitely make boatloads of money. I forget what a day pass costs but it’s something like $100

Katie: But I agree with your sentiments on writing. I think there is something so personal and even sacred (not the religious definition) about assembling words into sentences that reveal so much about us as writers even if the piece of writing isn’t necessarily meant to be an introspective piece. And I think there’s such an intimacy about reading something someone has written — we get to see how they turn words into meaning and how they string thoughts into sentences, AND we also get to use our own social context and worldview to understand those words and thoughts. It’s just so incredibly cool.

And our takeaway might be something that was totally different than what the author intended, but that just adds to the cool factor hah

Sonya: Absolutely! This is basically why I subscribe to Mel’s tinyletter. I really respect how open she is about everything she’s working on, and how happy she is to get feedback. It’s like she facilitates a club of people who are all using their interesting brains to think of ways to improve communication, and it exposes everyone to more perspectives than they would have otherwise.

Katie: Definitely! And certainly that’s a reason I spend so much time reading posts on sites like Vitae and Medium and even some academic blogs — there’s such a cool space that’s created when you’re not in competition with someone but rather working together to offer insights and improve whatever it is you’re collectively working on or thinking about.

Sonya: Talking about this gives me warm fuzzies, especially because we’re basically doing it right now

Semi-related, I saw on your profile that you’re studying history. What kind of history/what’s your focus?

Katie: It just got so meta haha. I am about to finish up my undergrad degree in about three weeks, which is both exciting and absolutely terrifying. I love modern American history (so like Progressive Era to present), but particularly enjoy 1920s-60s, Civil Rights era, media history in the creation of cultural narrative, etc. It’s hard to lock it down, but one of my favorite things about history is crafting the narrative. And that history is not the past, but a story of the past — the past never changes, but the story can.


To be clear, I responded with the Facebook “heart eyes” emoji sticker or whatever it’s called.

That is so fascinating & TRUE

Early congrats on graduating, also!~

Katie: I am very heart eyes emoji re: history. And thanks!!

Sonya: I’m trying to think of an intelligent question to ask about history. Um,,,,

WELL I’ll ask more about you instead. What are you planning to do after graduating?

Katie: Sure…I’m hoping to go to grad school in the fall, but that’s sort of up in the air right now. Otherwise, I’m looking for summer jobs at living history museums!

Sonya: How is a living history museum different from a regular history museum?

Katie: A living history museum is usually outside with buildings, houses, farmland, etc. and sort of recreates daily life and work as it was during whatever time period the museum is set in. Interpreters dress and act and work as though the are living in, say, the 1620s (Plimoth Plantation, for example). They’re really popular field trip destinations for elementary schools but also just (I think) cool immersion in general.

Sonya: That is nifty. I should look up if there are any near me to take my boyfriend to. He had never been to any museum, ever, until I took him to the Museum of the African Diaspora (which is a contemporary art museum in San Francisco) like last month! So weird to me since I got dragged to a million of them in elementary & middle school, although I didn’t appreciate it then, haha

Katie: Wow, that is interesting, and you totally should! I agree that it’s foreign to me as well, since I grew up with a mom who’s a teacher and used our summer vacation time as an extended life classroom; wish I had appreciated it then, but alas!

Sonya: I guess it’s good enough to retroactively appreciate it, haha. Anyway, it’s been lovely talking to you! I have to go do some “actual work” now but hopefully we can keep in touch

Do you mind if I publish portions of our conversation on my blog/Medium/somewhere like that? Should I link to a webpage or yours or something?

Katie: Yes, you as well. Made my lunch break so interesting! I don’t mind at all, and in fact, look forward to reading whatever it is that you write. Shoot me a link when you’ve finished! I don’t have a blog, unfortunately, but do own the domain haha. (which is more like a final portfolio than a website really, so probably don’t like to that lol)


Sonya: haha I can link to Twitter or something if that’s preferable! or nothing at all if you want

Katie: Sure, Twitter is fine. @benoitkate is my handle

Sonya: okey dokey! have a lovely Monday

Katie: You too! It was so nice virtually talking to you.