Willow Heatherly

La Rosa stands with his back against audience member Andrew Stacy as he plays an instrument with finger tongs.

On Monday afternoon, students, faculty, and CF alumni gathered in the Webber Center to experience the world music of Grammy Award-winner, Tito La Rosa. The presentation began with an introduction by Scott Olsen, a retired professor of philosophy and comparative religion who has returned to CF this term as an adjunct teacher. He explained that the idea behind La Rosa’s music is for listeners to “surrender” to themselves and to the vibrations.

The audience sat in the formation of what is called a “healing circle,” which allowed La Rosa to play to each listener. This was to give every person a chance to soak in the music to its fullest and become part of the performance. The lights dimmed, and for 45 minutes, La Rosa selected different instruments from his collection organized on a blanket on the floor and played them as he walked along the circle.

Tito La Rosa plays woodwind while his assistant, Matthew Pallamary plays a drum in the middle of the healing circle.

Olsen had requested to have La Rosa perform at CF as part of his ‘Mysteries of the Amazon’ exhibition of artworks that he has collected during his trips to the Amazon rainforest. This, however, was not the first time that La Rosa has performed for CF on behalf of Olsen.

“Tito was introduced to me in the Andes mountains,” Olsen said. “Back in 2002 was the first time I brought him here. We packed the Webber Center and he put on a performance.”

La Rosa enchanted the audience with a long, wooden flute while using hand signals to guide his assistant, Matthew Pallamary, in drumming. Another instrument resembled an artifact from an ancient history museum; it appeared to be two clay bulbs with a spout on top of one and a small bird on the other. Between some songs, La Rosa splashed water out of it and lifted so that when water travelled from one bulb to another, a whistling sound escaped.

The recital gave the impression that La Rosa has acquired his talent through a lifetime of practice in both music and spirituality. Some audience members appeared to absorb all those years of divine meditation, closing their eyes and lifting their faces to take in the vibrations from La Rosa’s guitar as he strummed it with a feather.

La Rosa strums using either end of a feather.

Andrew Stacy, a CF alumnus who graduated in the spring of 2017, was drawn to MEGA Monday by the promise of a sound healing performance. He had heard of it through Olsen when he took his Comparative Religions course some years ago and had been anticipating it ever since.

“I don’t think I’ve seen them bring something as spiritual in nature as this to a MEGA Monday before,” Stacy said.

MEGA Mondays, which started as an idea by Professor Karla Wilson, has become an essential part of some students’ Mondays. ‘MEGA’ stands for “Meet, Eat, Grow, Act” which is a condensed version of the program’s goal.

Normally, at 12:30 p.m. on any given Monday of the school term, students and faculty meet in Room 110 in Building 8 to be presented with a new topic to learn about and discuss. Food and attendance is free. Student groups and faculty can suggest topics they would like to cover at future meetings.

Jay Thompson, who assists Wilson in facilitating MEGA Mondays, reports that MEGA Mondays has exposed students to a variety of different subjects. Some of these include Peruvian music, presentations on K-9 units, and group discussions about sexual harassment on campus. The day before Halloween, MEGA Mondays will be hosting a film study of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie.

“The focus of MEGA Mondays is to allow the students to get a different sort of education than they would necessarily get in their class.” Thompson said.

Indeed, climbing to a higher state of consciousness through world music was a unique kind of education for many.

Photos and Story by: Willow Heatherly