Happy Halloween. . . In October

From Kittie Cooper, Director of De(Composers) Forums

We asked Young Musicians Program (YMP) faculty member Kittie Cooper to tells us about Halloween in July, a beloved YMP tradition that she introduced six years ago:

Halloween in July is one of those beautiful days at Walden that bring out peak levels of wackiness in the community. It’s always a surprise when it’ll happen—some space is just decorated on campus for the students to discover. They then have the afternoon to come up with costumes while the offices are converted into a haunted house for students to trick-or-treat in later. The decorating is done secretly, under the cover of some complicated and blatantly fictional story that keeps the students away (this year, spiders had nested up in the offices and needed to be relocated).

Halloween in July is one of Walden’s more recent traditions—the first one was in 2016 and we’ve had one every year since (even 2020 when Walden was online). Some faculty and staff were talking about how we have winter holidays in July, and we were kidding around that we should have Halloween in July.

I really wanted it to happen though, because it sounded awesome and very summer-campy, so I kept bringing it up and asking people to help so we could make it happen. I convinced Sam Pluta to suggest Halloween as one of the musicianship frolic themes (which ended up being “Welcome to the Hallolympic Games” or some such), because then I knew we’d at least have some Halloween decorations to start with. People were honestly so trusting that year—I still can’t believe they just let us take over the offices and jumped right in to running around decorating things.

The rooms of the haunted house change every year, and are always a mix of spooky, scary, funny, nerdy, and just plain beautiful. This year two rooms that were on the particularly beautiful side of things were the hidden room of rainbows and unicorns (and other glittery, happy things curated by Rebekah Griffin Greene), and the room of 12-tone solfege bots (where Francesca Hellerman made a Max patch that randomly generated tone rows for the students to solfege). We also had a jump scare hallway with a bunch of DIY synths and lights (thanks to Alex Christie), and a room of planned obsolescence (featuring antiquated Walden merch and technology, dreamed up by Theo Trevisan), and there were many more stand-outs that I’d love to list but then this would be too long! My favorite thing about Halloween is that it’s always a group effort, and you get to see people’s personalities and senses of humor coming out in their own unique ways—just through costumes and decorations. And the Walden students are of course extremely clever, so they come up with some really amazingly original (and spooky, and hilarious) stuff every year.