Cellist Revisits Beloit College -
Coming Home to Beloit College
Everyone needs a place to call home. And, as we all move throughout this world, we often adopt numerous homes over time, flitting from place to place.
Beloit College graduate and professional musician Helen Gillet definitely remembers feeling at home in Beloit as she began her undergraduate studies, with a double major of anthropology and music, from 1996 to 2000.
I spoke with Gillet briefly on the phone as she travelled to the airport, so that she could arrive in Beloit on time. During Gillet’s short stay, she will teach a class and then perform tonight, Wednesday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. for free in the picturesque, 120-year building known as the Eaton Chapel, located on the Beloit College campus.
Initially, Gillet was attracted to the strong background that Beloit College offered by way of their anthropological program.
“I feel really excited about coming back,” Gillet remarked. She explained that much of what she learned during her anthropological studies, for example, “I [carry] that with me throughout my life.”
Reflecting on her college days, Gillet said that she strongly remembers performing in the Eaton Chapel, and is amazed at how much has changed for her, musically speaking, since then.
Gillet went from playing more classical pieces as a student to playing her own type of rock ‘n roll, with a poppy-type style, as she explained, reflecting on her past. Now, as she returns, she admitted, “I’m excited about seeing the campus!”
Prior to being a Beloit College student, Gillet lived in various places on the globe, including Belgium, Singapore, Illinois, Wisconsin, and now resides in New Orleans, according to Gillet’s own website.
As an international globetrotter, Gillet speaks and sings bilingually (French and English) during her performance as she strums the soft strings of her cello. Additionally, she uses a special looping pedal with her foot in order to create layers of sound, which proffers up more texture and volume and depth in her music.
When I asked her about how she feels about music, Gillet responded immediately with warmth and excitement for the medium.
“[Music] honestly… It keeps me… It’s my whole life,” Gillet stated. “It keeps me going. I couldn’t survive without music. I need it to express myself.” She also compared her need to be intimately connected with music akin to eating and breathing.
Lastly, Gillet pointed out that since she is a regular traveler, music is a constant force in her life that keeps her motivated and going.
Another part of music that Gillet absolutely loves is the social aspect. She often performs with other musicians and is grateful for them. She also enjoys engaging with those who listens to her music.
Small Town, International Community
Earlier in life, Gillet lived in a suburb near Chicago, where she felt a bit overwhelmed by the size of everything. However, once she transported to Beloit College, she found herself surrounded by other international students and people who were open and honest in a way that quickly made Beloit feel like home.
For example, during her freshman year, her first roommate originated in India. This fact helped cement her affinity for her undergraduate home, and she also said she found that the education she received at Beloit College was great.
In 1998, according to a Beloit Daily News article, Gillet won an instrumental competition while being involved with the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra.
“So Beloit campus felt like home,” Gillet said, with a note of fondness in her voice. Even I could tell on the phone how much Gillet loved her four-year stint living in Beloit, learning to become a professional musician and forming friendships and knowledge, which is a must for any successful college graduate.