Inside Areté Interview Series

Who is Areté?

Carlos Steinkamp-Calandria, Areté Alumus 2014 and Teacher

How long were you at Areté as a student? I came to Areté at the end of 2012 as a sophomore and graduated in 2014.

Where did you go to college? Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, as recommended by Jim Hahn. I did a BA in Liberal Arts and self-designed my major in entrepreneurship and audiovisual production practice — which is basically a fancy term for making beats and videos while learning about the music business. 

What do you teach at Areté? I’m teaching a high school music production course, but I spend most of my time here as an in-class middle school mentor.

How does your education make your life better? Well, I never liked school before Areté. Throughout my life, education tended to make my life worse. In Spain, I failed at everything consistently, and it wasn’t until I got to go here that my academic curiosity started to kick in, to the point where I graduated with straight As! I guess on a consequential level, going to Areté allowed me to go to college and that allowed me to get this job. But I feel like most of the things I know, I pursued through my own curiosity, finding hands-on experiences, and asking people in the field. That type of knowledge has stayed with me more than what I learned in school. What’s funny though, and paradoxical about that, is that I chose schools that involved elements of that. Both Areté and Hampshire taught me well about how to get away with doing things my way. 

Having said that, I have to admit that there are some things that I’ve wanted to learn later in my career that required basic knowledge that I could have gotten from school, and I have at times regretted not having been driven to learn them back then. You have to go back if you want to specialize. But academically speaking, the biggest thing I got from both places was learning how to write well and eloquently express myself verbally. That skill has consistently gotten my foot in the door at jobs, internships, recording studios, record labels, and an internship with Ken Burns.

If you could go back and learn or do anything now or in the future, what would it be?  It’s hard to choose. I guess the most shocking answer would be math and science, particularly the fields of quantum physics, neuroscience and chemistry. I’m interested in human beings and their growth, and in how things work in general. The thing I’m most interested in though is how the mind works, and the issue for me is that in western thought the mind and the physical world are separate. I’d be curious to study the material world and to draw correlations with how yogis viewed the universe in ancient India. I’m interested in how as human beings we co-create our experience with the world around us, how our perception shapes our reality. Back then I thought science was too matter-of-fact, but now I realize that science doesn’t even know what science is. It questions itself. Plus, I’ve discovered that I have somewhat of a scientific/mathematical mind, which I wasn’t aware of back then. For example, I used to just want to make music and jam out without thinking much about it, but now, I could sit here and listen to someone talk about theory and feel satisfied with understanding it without putting it into practice. Those kinds of things stimulate the mathematical part of my brain. That is something that has changed in me since I was a student here.

What is your favorite philosopher, philosophical question or thought experiment? Who am I?

What was your last or favorite Areté Symposium about? My favorite one I did was about Brahmanism and the Hindu concept of oneness. I wrote a 10-page paper and did a puppet show.

What was that Symposium really about? I already practiced this philosophy in my life, so I knew the concepts well. For me, this symposium was about sharing my personal experience and philosophy with others. The principle of Brahman in Hinduism takes on a Monist approach — that God and creation are one and the same, that there is no distinction between Supreme Consciousness and individual consciousness. It is the idea that everything we experience is a manifestation of the Divine — that all is one and that duality is an illusion. 

What was your favorite moment at Areté? My whole experience here. Some of the greatest experiences of my life happened here. Being here is one of the most fulfilling experiences one could have. As someone who is passionate about learning and growing, Areté has been one of the most fulfilling environments I’ve encountered both as a student and as a teacher.

What do you like to do when you have free time? Sleep. Although I’m currently interning at a recording studio when I’m not at Arete, shadowing a Grammy Award-winning engineer. I really want to be a producer. I aspire to be somewhat of a cross between Quincy Jones and J Dilla. And I also like watching movies with beautiful cinematography.

What is an interesting fact about you? My first job was as a magician in England. I was 13. 

How are you different now from a few years ago? I got my act together. I’m a little more organized and reliable, which makes me more sure of myself because I know what expectations to have for myself. I clearly know what I can do and accomplish and what others can depend on me for.

What are you looking forward to most? Building a more disciplined routine and a meditation practice. I’m excited that for the first time, I’m making enough money to live independently and cover my expenses. Plus, I can now buy my own plug-ins!

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