Band Member signing painting of piano

The Piano Project Launch: Reflections from Jeremy Barrett

From dodging flyers to indulging in table-side snacks, traversing BruinWalk is a quintessentially UCLA experience. On January 30th, a new tradition was established. Nestled behind the trees at the top of Bruinwalk is a piano anyone can play. This piano has inspired spontaneous performances, beautiful music, and a sense of peace and relaxation. And it’s not the only one. There are four pianos scattered throughout campus, located by Bruin Plate, Covel Commons, the Luskin Conference Hall, and of course- Bruin Walk. This effort was driven by Jeremy Barrett, a UCLA student with a vision to build community through music.

Here’s Jeremy in his own words, explaining his journey to launching the Piano Project in a speech he gave on the January 30th launch:

My fellow family of UCLA, I am happy to join with you today in what may be one of the greatest demonstrations of building community through music that our campus has ever seen, setting the path for a healthier future and growing prosperity. We are fortunate to be students at this time in UCLA History as we celebrate the 100th year anniversary of our beautiful campus.

My name is Jeremy Barrett, and I am the director of the UCLA Piano Project.

Several months back, the UCLA Piano Project was nothing but an idea. After a quick meeting in his office, Chancellor Gene Block encouraged me to reach out to some of our exceptional staff and faculty to make them aware of this special project I was orchestrating. I believe that most students in our school are passionate about music, and while many of them have some basic ability to express themselves musically, they have limited spaces to do it. I fear that some kids at UCLA end up feeling alone because of the high admission standards; and expressing themselves, interacting and feeling part of it all, are often difficult.

I wanted to do one small thing to help students connect, and because my passion is music, I created what I believe is an effective way. After great effort I finally got Chancellor Gene Block, Dean Smith of the Schoenberg Music Building, Jane Semel, Dr. Wendy Slusser, Peter Angelis and many more to agree with me. We worked tirelessly to install publically accessible pianos around campus in order to create a higher sense of family in the UCLA community.

Originally, I envisioned our first piano to be right outside of the Schoenberg Music Building. However, this was not available because of many different reasons. After building relations with Dean Smith of the Schoenberg Music Building, she eventually told me that if I find a LOCATION for the piano, then the Schoenberg Music Building will be willing to donate pianos to the cause. Now let me tell you something; location scouting at this school, is not the easiest thing in the world. But with Dean Smith’s agreement, I had my goals set…. We now have Four Pianos donated from the Schoenberg Music Building across UCLA fostering spaces of music, collaboration, and community. Thank you Schoenberg!

After, Peter Angelis of Housing and Hospitality has said: ​“​Since they’ve been installed, impromptu performances have been non-stop and watching the social interactions of passersby with the pianists have been heartwarming. The pianos have brought a higher level of community and wellness to the Hill, and one that makes me wonder how we could have gone so long without the beautiful instruments.” I couldn’t agree more. Thank you Peter. 

One of the goals of the project is to revive the atmosphere of college universities that was present before the internet, where instead of iphone games and instagram, the most enjoyable way to invest your time was conversation and face-to-face communication, which is something I am a firm believer in.

After months of orchestration, I am beyond excited to open our Fourth Public Piano that is located aside BRUIN WALK by the Student Union behind the Student Activities Center. This piano is available for ANYONE to play ANYTHING their heart desires. We envision performances of all types and levels, but most importantly, we envision a “space” where our diverse student body will congregate, break down barriers and generally use the A-political Universal language of music to talk to each other, build friendships and make a better place here at UCLA and even the world in general.

Today, I offer you something that is more precious than gold; and that’s Community. This God-given nation was founded upon the belief that all men and women are created as free individuals; We as a people must emphasize unification in order to reach our highest potential and bring the highest potentials out of others. Imagine what we can accomplish as not just free individuals, but free individuals together. The UCLA Piano Project is dedicated to this pledge of diversity, freedom, and companionship.

UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden once said, “Make Everyday Your Masterpiece.” For a piano player to make a masterpiece, it requires practice and dedication. In the same way, we as a people must dedicate our hearts and souls to our nation, and practice the creation of peace and community. We have the opportunity to come together here at the #1 public university in the NATION as a collaborative whole to achieve our best potential selves; Are you ready to make everyday your masterpiece?

This piano is a lot more than just an instrument of tune; it is an instrument of peace. As we encourage this peace to UCLA Students, who are in line to be the future leaders of our nation, I believe we are set for greatness. Let this project not only serve as an inspiration for us to build community in UCLA, but inspire companionship in Los Angeles, and in California, and in America, and even the world!

Now, let music sing from the steps of Bruin Plate. Let music sing from the outstanding Sunset Village. Let music sing from the brand new, captivating Luskin Conference Center. And finally, let music sing loud and mighty from the great paved hills of Bruin Walk.

Thank You!




For Metta World Peace, Living Well Matters

By: Vanessa Perez, MPH student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and Move Well Pod GSR for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative

Metta World Peace is a big fan of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI), envisioned and supported by Jane and Terry Semel, and I had the opportunity to find out why.

Metta, formerly known as Ron Artest, is a professional basketball player in the NBA, currently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Metta started off by telling me about his journey, and how a certain charity sparked his interest in both basketball and service.

“For me, the charitable side of Ron Artest started when I was 13 years old,” said Metta. “I met a guy named Hank Carter, and he had a fundraiser called the Wheelchair Charities. He raised money for paraplegics; he started off by doing concerts and basketball games to raise money. I actually played in his pro-game in Madison Square Garden in 1990. He just showed me the importance of giving back.”

For Metta, giving back has meant becoming an advocate for mental health awareness. “The reason that I got into my mission was because I was affected mentally by so many different things…so when I started to discover that mental health aspect, I wanted to figure out ways to become balanced and happy.”

He started Xcel University in 2007, a mental health initiative in which he has raised around $800,000 for a variety of mental health institutions. The campaign is in the process of becoming a foundation, to be called The Panda’s Friend Foundation. I asked where the new name comes from, and he said, “The panda is very zenful; they are great animals. They represent so many cool things.”

Currently, Metta oversees, an online store where he sells merchandise related to his brand. He plans on using the proceeds to fund The Panda’s Friend Foundation. He said, “I want to open up facilities; I want to have curriculums and staff; I want to help families.”

I asked Metta what specifically interested him about HCI, and discovered that he was initially intrigued by our focus on sustainable and healthy food. He has visited both of our gardens (the medicinal herb garden at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center, and the new living amphitheater at Sunset Recreation Center).

“It just shows that the university is still connected to the earth. It actually frees you a little bit when you come here and you see the things that the professors are getting into, the things that the students are interested in; so I was very excited to learn more because I’m into food from the planet, just on a personal level,” said Metta.

Metta will be joining us at our 2017 HCI Annual Celebration, the Dream Revolution, on May 4th. I asked him, “Why are you excited to be a part of the Dream Revolution?”

Metta responded, “Seeing people promote health affects you and makes you feel good subconsciously. I’m excited because [HCI] is doing research on how to make the world a better place.”

I asked Metta, “What were your dreams and ambitions growing up as a kid, and how do you feel that living well has helped you to achieve your dreams?”

He smiled as he admitted his childhood dream of wanting to be Michael Jackson or a pastor, and how he used to mimic both personalities. He also recounted wanting to be a math teacher, as he majored in math before joining the NBA. Above all, he made clear how much he wanted to be a good family member, and was honest about the struggles he went through to do this.

“Along the way, you forget what you want out of life, and then you also pick up habits; bad habits that can affect you. I picked up tons of bad habits,” admitted Metta. He went into some of the issues he faced related to alcohol and family problems, and proudly discussed the ways in which he got the help he needed through counseling and classes.

“Some people say you change, but I wouldn’t say I changed, because that means at my worst that’s who I was. So I always tell people I never changed, I’m just who I always was. I don’t think anyone should change, I think they should just be who they are. And when you look at it like that, I feel comfortable being myself,” said Metta.

I asked Metta, “How have your dreams and goals evolved over time?”

He referred back to some of the unhealthy lifestyle habits he picked up earlier in his career, and how the effects made him more conscious of his health and nutrition. Now, he is considering going back to school to study nutrition: “I love nutrition; I don’t know everything about it, but I know a lot; I could probably be a nutritionist if I really wanted to.”

Our HCI motto is “living well.” I asked what “living well” means to Metta, and he said, “Living well means respecting yourself and respecting other people. And the respect you have for your planet. Some people, I think, forget how important the planet is.”

With regards to exercising, Metta said this: “I think everybody should have a physical activity that you do—volleyball, softball, tennis, walking, hiking—you should have some type of activity that you’re doing. Everybody should be moving. Just do something that makes you happy; maybe it’s walking to the store instead of driving.”

I was curious to hear Metta’s thoughts on his physical activity of choice, and here’s what he had to say about basketball: “Basketball is a tough workout. If it wasn’t for the ball, I don’t know if I would want to push myself that hard. Because there’s times where you are fatigued, you need water, your body hurts, you twist an ankle, you get elbowed, maybe you get cut, you stitch it up and you just go back out there, depending on what type of person you are. It’s motivating, it’s inspiring…I think it’s a challenge.”

Finally, I asked Metta, “How do you use your work to inspire other people to move?”

He said, “I think people see me out in public sometimes; I’m always working out. I’m 37, so there’s not a lot of 37 year olds playing basketball, so I think people get inspired and say if he could still run, I could still run; if he could still move, I could still move; so I think that’s how I probably inspire people to move.”

Be sure to join the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and Metta World Peace at our annual celebration, the Dream Revolution, on Thursday, May 4th from 4-7pm at UCLA’s Sunset Recreation Center.

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UCLA Health and Wellness Resources 101: A Guide for New Students

In addition to the Healthy Campus Initiative, there are many great health and wellness resources for students on UCLA’s campus. If you’re new to campus, use this list to familiarize yourself with the resources that can help you enjoy the best and healthiest college experience possible.

UCLA Recreation — UCLA offers numerous places to workout on campus, all free with your Bruin card: the John Wooden Center, the Bruin Fitness Center (BFit), Drake Stadium, Sunset Canyon Recreation (which boasts multiple pools), and the Los Angeles Tennis Center. UCLA Recreation also offers numerous fitness classes every quarter, from yoga to barbell to salsa dancing, so you can try something new every quarter if you desire! You can also rent bikes at the Bike Shop or camping equipment at the Equipmental Rental center.

UCLA Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) — UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) center describes itself as a multi-disciplinary mental health center. In addition to offered individual counseling session to students, it offers group therapy, wellness workshops, and much more. CAPS is located in John Wooden Center West and is available to all students (though the quantity of services or sessions available depends on whether or not you subscribe to UCLA’s health insurance, UCSHIP). More than one in four students utilize CAPS, so if there’s something bothering you or you need someone to talk to about your college transition, don’t be afraid to use it –make an appointment today simply by showing up at the front desk.

LGBTQ Campus Resource Center — The LGBTQ Campus Resource Center offers a wide range of services to students, from academic mentors to career counseling to individual counseling. The center has fours CAPS counsellors in-residence that are available for drop-in counseling throughout the week and offers LGBTQ-specific therapy groups. The center also boasts a library, cyber center, and an ally training program, and hosts numerous events for students a quarter.

Student Wellness Commission (SWC) — The Student Wellness Commission is an office within the Undergraduate Student Association Counsel. The commission is made up of 12 student-run committees that address all aspects of student health and wellness on campus, from mental health to consent education to body image. SWC puts on dozens of health-related events for students each quarter and provides free condoms and feminine hygiene products outside its office (Kerckhoff 308). Keep up-to-date on their events by liking their facebook page.

Cafe 580 — Cafe 580, located at 580 Hilgard Avenue (inside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church), provides free meals to financially struggling students. The cafe offers free meals three times a day Monday through Friday and feeds everyone that knocks on its door, no questions asked.

Bruin Resource Center (BRC) — The Bruin Resource Center, located in Bradley Hall on the hill, provides many resources for UCLA students, including transfers, veterans, active military, undocumented students, and students with dependents. The BRC also runs UCLA’s GRIT counseling program, which offers free peer-to-peer counseling. You can sign up for a GRIT coach here.

Student Activities Center (SAC) — The Student Activities Center, located in Dickson court, is home to numerous campus resources. The Community Programs Office (CPO) contains the Student Retention Center (SRC) which provides services to help retain students, especially those who have historically lacked support in higher education, until graduation. You can also the UCLA Test bank (where you can get a copy of the last final your professor gave by trading in one of your exams), the CPO Computer Lab (with free printing for all students), a nightly Study Hall, the Commuter Van Ride Service, and the Writing Success Program to support the academic and holistic development of students. The CPO food closet, where financially struggling students can find canned foods and fresh produce, is located in room 111 and open from 8am-6pm. SAC is also home to a pool and basketball courts.

Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars — The Dashew center, located in Bradley Hall on the hill, aims to support UCLA’s 12,000 international students. The center has numerous programs throughout the year, most of which are open to all UCLA students. The center assists international students with visa applications and coordinates programs such as Thanksgiving dinner and language circles.

UCLA Center for Accessible Education (CAE) — The Center for Accessible Education works to support and meet the educational needs of Bruins with disabilities. The office offers note-taking services, van rides around campus, support groups, individual counseling, test-taking accommodations, and more.

Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center — The Ashe center is UCLA’s student health center. Here you can make appointments for your annual check-up, get free flu vaccines, pick up a free toothbrush, and fill prescriptions at the pharmacy. Call (310) 825-4073 to make an appointment or learn more about the services Ashe offers.

Title IX Office — The Title IX education amendment prohibits any discrimination due to sex or gender on campus. The office on campus exists to ensure that UCLA’s community remains free of discrimination, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. If you ever wish to discuss your rights on campus or feel as if your rights have been violated, the Title IX office’s doors are open to you.

Danielle de Bruin is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Italian and Global Health. She is the blog coordinator for the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative and the director of UCLA’s Body Image Task Force, which is a committee within the UCLA Student Wellness Commission. With the Body Image Task Force, Danielle organizes events, workshops, and campaigns to promote healthy body image, self-confidence, and mental health on campus. She is also a published co-author in the journal PLOS Medicine.