A Jane of All Trades
What do a wedding officiant, violinist, actor, stunt performer, stunt-coordinator, singer/songwriter, and audio book narrator have in common? They are all means of employment for New Orleans resident and Nueva alumna Olga Munding ’86. She also publishes the occasional short story and in the future hopes to complete a book on the time she spent with blues legend Jessie Mae Hemphill.
Working multiple jobs means Olga doesn’t have a set 9-5 schedule, and she thrives on that dynamism. “I tried having a ‘stable’ job and that made me miserable,” Olga said. “There is no such thing as ‘stable’ as life is continuous, and it ebbs and flows.”
Many people would fear the unpredictability inherent in holding multiple, unorthodoxly-scheduled gigs, but that is exactly where Olga has hit her stride.
The Walking Dead Editor Got His Start at Nueva
For the past six years, Nueva alum Dan Liu ’96 has been an editor for the award-winning AMC television show The Walking Dead. Dan got his start by editing the concept trailer for Da Vinci's Demons with an editor of The Walking Dead, who then brought Dan on as his assistant editor for Season 2. He has been a full editor for several seasons now.
“What is fun about The Walking Dead is that it reinvents itself every eight episodes, even to the point where the style of editing will have noticeable differences,” said Dan.
The medium of visual storytelling has always intrigued him. “Editing initially appealed to me because editors help dictate the shots and the pacing of the show or movie,” said Dan. “I enjoy getting to see everything come together and getting to contribute to the story that the team set out to tell.”
Rapping for Social Change
Through his organization Rap Force Academy, Nueva alumnus Rahman Jamaal ’96 has been pioneering Hip Hop education for the last fifteen years, since he first encountered the educational nonprofit Hip Hop Congress. He helps people improve their communication skills through writing and performing rap songs in workshops designed to enhance a person’s self-expression and awareness. Students build their artistic creativity by playing with words and trying out their own voice as they develop their musical prowess and employ nuances of sound to write a rap.
“The students themselves are the most meaningful sources of inspiration in my work,” said Rahman. “When I can provide the language to legitimize a student's expression as artful, and I can see the sense of pride they develop upon realizing they have creative ability, it feels good to know I have assisted in their growth process.”
Alumna Builds Robot for NASA
Before beginning her robotics PhD at Carnegie Mellon University, Catherine Pavlov ’08 interned at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) where she designed, built, and field-tested a robot called Volcanobot. Catherine designed Volcanobot to enter and map volcanic fissures to help scientists understand the nuances of volcanic eruptions on Earth, Mars, and the Moon.
The results of Catherine’s field testing were published in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research earlier this year, but Catherine feels most accomplished by the construction of the robot itself.
“Seeing the robot actually drive around under my control for the first time was really cool,” said Catherine. “I have a parental feeling towards these robots; they’re like my children.”
Composing Compelling Music
One day in 1971, Nueva piano teacher Vladimir Pleshakov noticed Greg Pliska ’74 trying keys on the piano and suggested he attempt to write a piece of music. Ten year-old Greg agreed and wrote a string quintet — a feat that, at the time, Greg had no idea was unusual for a kid. He then performed his composition with some Nueva classmates and received a standing ovation.
Greg’s debut at Nueva was thrilling and spurred him to become a composer, writing scores for short films, Broadway plays, television programs on Discovery and PBS, and themes for podcasts. Greg now lives in New York City where he composes, orchestrates, and conducts for theater, feature films, documentaries, and television productions. His recent work includes orchestrations of themes for IMAX and the CBS Evening News.
“That I've gone on to a career creating music is due to the willingness on the part of a teacher to meet a student where he is and bring him forward, without regard for what might be normal,” said Greg. “Nueva just made that kind of exploration possible.”