Undergrad Bill Xu has supported Hart House programming and designed the music for a Well Being Collective @ Hart House podcast. His experiences at the House have nurtured a whole new side of the science student: a leadership role in music, one in which he clearly excels.
While offering students rich experiential opportunities and encouraging them to explore who they are and aspire to be, Hart House has seen some remarkable talents emerge. Indeed, the House is a place where students can break out of siloes and reach beyond their academic sectors.
Bill Xu, an undergrad at University of Toronto Scarborough, illustrates this to a tee. He is a neuroscience major. Despite graduation looming this spring or fall, he’s still considering taking more courses. Intellectually curious to the core, Bill is eyeing a range of topics – most notably, American Sign Language – stepping, effortlessly, outside of his chosen field.
Music is the perfect example of how easily and proficiently Bill shifts away from science to set his sights on an entirely different subject. At Hart House, he has blossomed into an exceptional music producer, working in the Producers’ Circle program, leading workshops, facilitating sessions and designing the music for the Well Being Collective @ Hart House podcast.
In fact, the musician and all-around Renaissance man was recently bestowed a Judi Schwartz Memorial Scholarship for his contribution. “Bill helped to shape the music production community, leading a comfortable space at the Hart House Producers’ Circle. With his experience and dedication to the community, Bill is committed to pushing new ideas in the creative industry,” said the awards committee.
Bill states about winning this award: “It was humbling to be recognized for something I am passionate about. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have shared my skills and knowledge with others.”
He first connected with Hart House at the height of COVID. He asked the VP of the Student Union if there were any clubs or student organizations he could join. The VP mentioned Producers’ Circle. So, Bill attended a meeting and met Marco Adamovic, Program Coordinator.
“After that, I sent Marco a pseudo CV. He got me in to Producers’ Circle, and we worked extensively in the first couple years with the African American Culture Complex in San Francisco,” Bill explains.
With guitar, ukelele and piano under his belt, Bill grew increasingly involved in the Producers’ Circle, designing music. He focuses on digital music creation, electronic music and orchestral electronic music “because they're so heavy on synths that it demands you to learn all the intricacies.”
Hart House: A “Receptive and Kind” Environment
Bill describes Hart House as a hub for digital music production, and also appreciates the visual arts in the halls of the House.
He feels he can unwind in such a convivial location. “It’s a nice spot to let go of all the strictness of my actual studying. It lets me relax a little bit more. When I'm at Hart House, it's a really great community. Everyone is very nice. Everyone I worked with on the Well Being podcasts wanted some level of communication with me or needed to work with me for music. They've been so receptive and kind.”
Next Chapter: Possibly Medical School, Video Games and the Interconnection of Music and Science
Bill’s sights were originally set on medical school, and he has written his MCT already. But music is also calling to him.
On one hand, he is interested in other areas of medicine and sees opportunities to apply neuroscience to neurodegenerative diseases in research.
On the other hand, he has created music for video games. “I got to know people in the industry, and they reached out to me to create music for media, commercials and video games.” He describes the delight of playing a game, then being invited by the game’s creators to be a part of the team. “That’s always exciting.”
Curiously, he sees similarities between neuroscience and music. “In neuroscience, you’re firing all these electrical signals and when you’re listening to music, your neurons are firing too – that’s very similar.”
Advice for Students
Bill has some tips for undergrads:
- Find your passion. “What issues or causes do you care about? Look for opportunities that align with your passions, whether it's a club or event. Do your research, go to club fairs, check out websites, and talk with others to gain information.”
- Attend events. “Just go to the first event and see if you like it. If the vibe is great, then you're going to enjoy it. It’s also a wonderful way to meet new people, especially if you're at the beginning of university life.”
- Volunteer your time. “It's a great way to gain experience, meet new people and make a positive impact. There's no better way to learn something than when you’re teaching it because that reinforces your own knowledge.”
- Be open minded. “Try new things, step outside your comfort zone, take on leadership roles.”
Asian Heritage Month
This is another way to expand your horizons, Bill believes. “I'm Chinese, and I'm excited to explore Chinese cuisine this month! Everyone connects over food.”
He encourages Asians and non-Asians to learn about the history, culture and traditions “because it's an important part of celebrating the month. Festivals and events that showcase Asian food, art, music, dance and fashion are great ways to experience and appreciate the unique aspects of Chinese culture.”
Bill says that it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of Asian individuals in the fields of science, medicine, art, music and business.
“It’s a time to honour the contributions of the culture to North American society. By learning, engaging and celebrating, you can strengthen your connection to your cultural roots, and share your love and appreciation for the culture of others,” he adds.