Silas Durocher can pinpoint the exact moment when he decided to apply to New College.
Durocher, who grew up in Maryland, received a New College brochure in the mail one day. On the first page was a picture of a student sitting in class with his bare feet propped up on a desk.
The text above the photo read: “You don’t even have to wear shoes to class.”
From that moment on, Durocher, 25, was sold.
“That’s the short version of the story,” Durocher says. “The school’s promotional brochure was incredible — with pictures of bayfront classes and cool-looking alternative kids. Ultimately though, the emphasis on self-guided learning was what appealed to me most.”
For Durocher, good grades never came easy. As a kid, he struggled with standard education. Had his parents not encouraged him to study, he says he never would have tested high enough to get into New College.
“My sole reason for doing well in high school was to have the freedom to pick a college that was actually right for me,” Durocher says.
He studied music theory and composition under New College professor and mentor Stephen Miles, an experience he describes as “life-changing.”
His junior year he composed two pieces for the Florida Wind Quintet, which were published and sold internationally.
The following year, he composed work for the Florida Brass Quintet and formed the orchestral rock combo, Everybody Knows, with Sarasota Orchestra musicians Bharat Chandra (clarinet), John Miller (bass), Sasha von Dassow (cello) and Garrett Dawson (drums). The group even recorded an album.
In 2008, a year after Durocher had moved to Asheville, N.C., to play with the soul/funk band, Soulgrass Rebellion, he was commissioned to compose a piece for the Sarasota Orchestra.
The composer/musician returns to Sarasota again this month to ring in New College’s 50th anniversary celebration with the premiere of his new piece, “This is Not a Quiet Celebration,” written for the Sarasota Orchestra and the ensemble, Everybody Knows.
“I’m excited to do something meatier,” Durocher says of the piece. “My press release calls it, ‘the world’s first funk symphony,’ which is a pretty accurate term. I hope the audience will find it as exciting I do.”
Durocher isn’t the only alum returning to New College to premiere a new work.
California filmmaker Josh Tickell will screen his new documentary, “The New College Experiment,” which he and wife Rebecca Harrell Tickell shot on location last year specifically for the college’s three-day anniversary event.
According to Tickell, 35, the documentary is a “kind of sweeping time capsule spanning 50 years of the college’s history.”
The footage includes interviews with more than 30 New College faculty and graduates who experienced the school at different points over the past five decades.
“What was great about making the film was seeing the enthusiasm and excitement people who graduated 46 years ago still have for the college,” Tickell says. “It reminded me of the way I felt when I first arrived on campus.”
Tickell, who graduated from New College in 1997 with a degree in sustainable living, directed the eco-conscious film “FUEL,” which won the 2008 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary.
Like Durocher, the filmmaker says he was drawn to the college’s beachy, laidback surroundings and emphasis on independent learning.
“It was an intense intellectual journey,” Tickell says of his years at New College. “Everything I thought or believed would eventually be questioned and re-examined. It was a boundless time of personal investigation that spanned everything from trying a raw food diet to letting my hair and beard grow until I looked like a member of ZZ Top.”
IF YOU GO
New College’s 50th Anniversary Celebration runs Feb. 11 to Feb. 13, on the New College campus.
Josh Tickell’s film, “The New College Experiment,” will premiere at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb 12, in the Sudakoff Conference Center. A Q&A discussion with the filmmaker will follow the screening.
The Sarasota Orchestra, led by conductors Dirk Meyer and Paul Wolfe, will perform Silas Durocher’s “This is Not a Quiet Celebration” at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, on the bayfront campus.
For a complete schedule of events, visit www.50th.ncf.edu.
Contact Heidi Kurpiela [email protected]