Leaving a Legacy
A member of the Class of 2013, Juwonni Cottle of Boston, Mass., made his mark on campus in a way that not only brought joy to others; it helped him to determine his career path.
One of the founders of the Allegrettos, MCLA's a capella group, Cottle also performed with and managed the ensemble before he settled upon a major in interdisciplinary studies with concentrations in music and arts management.
The Allegrettos formed after MCLA Residence Director Emily Schiavoni heard some students sing in the lobby outside of her apartment in fall 2009. After forming a caroling group and performing as a community service around the campus and for senior citizens living in North Adams, they became a club on campus, and held their first concert in spring 2010.
Immediately, the group became extremely popular, and they held auditions. What started out as 10 people rehearsing in a storage closet has grown to an award-winning a capella group at MCLA.
Their many successes include those at WGBY's Together in Song competition and a first place win in the Second Annual Lenox Caroling Competition in 2012. Then, in February, the Allegrettos advanced to the semi-finals of the International Competition of Collegiate A Capella (ICCA).
"This is considered the Holy Grail of collegiate a cappella," Cottle explained. "Since our conception, we always knew that this was what we wanted to work toward and we're so happy to have made it this far."
The point of making music, Cottle said, is to move people.
"When people have palpable and powerful reactions to what's happening on stage because they feel connected to what's happening, and the energy in the room shifts to bring everyone together, that's when I get really happy about a performance - that moment of everyone being connected."
One of the first organizations Cottle joined on campus was Harlequin, the College's musical theatre club. After participating in Wild Party his freshman year, he went on to serve as the musical director for Rent, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Into the Woods.
"Working with Harlequin has most definitely had a large impact on my artistry," he said.
Cottle is also the founder and director of the Calliope's Umbrella master class series, a joint effort between Harlequin and the Allegrettos. The series seeks to deepen the education of its performers and directors, and actively works to give back to the community.
What did Cottle discover at MCLA? "The adage 'My College. Right from the Start.' is legit," he said. "The size of this school and the support of the faculty and staff allow the impact you want to make be a personal choice. That freedom to actively pursue something isn't a chance you'll get at many other places.
"While I have a lot more growth to achieve professionally, I know that I wouldn't have the skills I possess now without the support and knowledge of the Fine and Performing Arts faculty."
With graduation upon him, Cottle is looking toward graduate school so he might earn a degree in education. "That's my calling and where I'm supposed to be." He aims to be a teaching artist who specializes in humanities, which he plans to teach through an arts-integrated curriculum.
In a perfect world, Cottle said, he also will run his own professional choir.
Over the past four years, Cottle has become more confident, a better educator and a better leader.
"I've learned how to work with many different types of personalities, and not to sweat the small things. Life is much too short, and most of the small issues we face are not important, have absolutely no bearing on our lives, and therefore shouldn't consume our time and energy," he said. "I've learned that if something is necessary, then it is most definitely possible."
Juwonni Cottle '13, center, performs at the Second Annual Lenox Caroling Competition last December, where the group came in first.