Jack Schwimmer

April 30, 2013
Jack Schwimmer has been playing the saxophone since fourth grade and it can safely be said that he is now a virtuoso.

Schwimmer, a student at Arizona State University and Barrett, The Honors College, will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Music with a major in saxophone performance and a minor in political science.

For his academic and musical accomplishments, he has been chosen as the honors college Outstanding Graduate for Creative Project. "“I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Jack, and I am convinced that wherever he goes and in whatever he does, Jack will make this university proud,”" said Hannah Creviston, a visiting assistant professor at the ASU School of Music, who nominated Schwimmer for the award. Download Full Image

Indeed, Schwimmer’'s list of accomplishments is long. He performs with the Musicfest Quartet, a group of ASU student musicians who travel to local elementary and middle schools to play for students, give demonstrations of various instruments, and encourage young children to join their school band. He also gives weekly jazz saxophone sectionals at Connolly Middle School in Tempe, teaches private saxophone lessons for students ranging in age from nine to 66 years old, plays with the ASU Concert Jazz Band and Saxophone Ensemble, and has performed the National anthem at Oakland Athletics spring training games. His professional music experience includes working as ensemble manager at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.

“"I feel strongly that music education can be a positive force in children’s lives, both for its proven effectiveness in raising test scores and increasing intelligence, and also for its inherent intrinsic value. There is no greater feeling for me than the thrill that comes after a great performance, and I want to share that with younger students. In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people that have had a profound effect on me as a musician and as a person,”" Schwimmer said.

He has performed with some of those inspiring people: Grammy Award winning jazz guitarist George Benson and members of the R&B super group The Temptations.

"“There is nothing like the experience of getting to play with someone like George Benson or The Temptations. Having grown up listening to their music, it was completely surreal performing songs like “'My Girl”' with the same band that recorded them. Moments like those are the reason I love to perform,”" he added.

All of this musical work hasn’t detracted from Schwimmer’s academic accomplishments and leadership activities. He is a National Merit Scholar with a 3.97 GPA, a three-time member of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Academic Bowl team, a music editor and featured musician for the Lux Undergraduate Creative Review, and a mentor for the Barrett Mentoring Program.

His honors thesis, titled "Forgotten Voices: The Lives, Deaths, and Works of Four Theresienstadt Composers," focused on the work of composers and musicians imprisoned in the Nazi-era Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic.

“Receiving this award is a real honor, especially being chosen from among so many amazing students here at Barrett. The fact that faculty thought highly enough of me to nominate me is really great too,” Schwimmer said.

Barrett Dean Mark Jacobs said Schwimmer combines musicianship and community service, making him deserving of the award. “Jack in an incredibly talented musician who lives to bring his joy of music to others, both as pure listening pleasure and as therapy and education,” Jacobs said.

Schwimmer plans to attend graduate school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas for a joint program leading to a Master of Arts and a master’'s in business administration focusing on arts management.

"“I'’d ideally like to start and lead a music education nonprofit, keep playing and teaching,”" he said.

Coffee grounds: the magic ingredient to ASU's newly lush flowerbeds

April 30, 2013

Flower beds throughout ASU's Tempe campus are looking lusher than ever, and many of the citrus trees and lawns are greener and healthier looking, thanks in part to an innovative program started by a couple of Grounds Services employees who also are ASU students.

With majors in sustainable engineering and urban horticulture, Vicente Solis and Rigoberto Polanco have been able to demonstrate that a cup or two of coffee can be just as beneficial to campus plants as it is to the rest of us. Vicente Solis (left) and Rigoberto Polanco Download Full Image

For more than a year, Sollis and Polanco have been collecting more than 500 pounds a week of used coffee grounds, using them as a natural fertilizer and soil amendment around campus.

Their “Grounds for Grounds” program has saved the equivalent of about $10,000 in fertilizer costs and $900 in waste removal fees, and has diverted almost a ton of waste from the landfill monthly. It has greatly improved campus soil quality, while avoiding the negative environmental impacts of synthetic fertilizers.

Facilities Management Grounds Services has won an ASU President’s Award for Innovation for the program. The award recognizes ASU faculty and staff who have developed creative and inspiring projects that address one or more of the challenges before us.

“What prompted us was the need for fertilizer, specifically an organic fertilizer because we wanted to avoid synthetics,” says Solis. “The past years have been rough on the university’s budget, so instead of sitting around and waiting for things to bounce back so we could buy fertilizer, we found another means.

“The bulk of the waste is from the four Starbucks and the three cafes that serve Starbucks coffee on the Tempe campus. We worked with partners at Aramark and ASU Facilities Management to develop the program, placing 96-gallon green bins on the Memorial Union loading dock and behind Oasis Café. These bins are filled once a day by Starbucks employees.”

When that program proved successful, Aramark trained its employees at campus convenience stories to recycle coffee grounds, and the team also recruited the Biodesign Institute to begin coffee grounds collection in academic buildings.

Coffee grounds are a low-nitrogen, slow release fertilizer which can bring down the pH levels of the soil and improve the availability of nutrients for plant life, Solis says. Used at high enough quantities, they improve the soil structure over time and attract earthworms, which improve the soil even more.

By contrast, synthetic fertilizers cause metal accumulation in soils, deplete oxygen in run-off waters and increase levels of nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere. Grounds Services is focused on maintaining organic landscapes, and it has enlisted student involvement in the program through Greek Life and the ASU Chavez Program.

“Recycling food waste is an essential component of ASU’s goal to be a Zero Waste Campus,” says Solis. “We believe this is the first program on campus to do that.

“We’ve noticed a ‘greener’ difference in our flower beds. The beds are holding more moisture, and flowers are looking beautiful throughout campus. The citrus trees are showing similar results, and the lawns did green up during the time of our test period.”

The two also give credit to Gary Matyas, who has been appointed to be in charge of the flower crew, and to the rest of the Grounds Services employees who carry out the project. 

“Because of Gary’s knowledge, experience, and his willingness and initiative to implement the Grounds for Grounds program in his beds, he is responsible for making it a big success,” says Polanco. 

Polanco, 31, is a New York City native who chose an urban horticulture major because he loves working with plants and soil. Solis, 29, says he was drawn to engineering because he enjoys problem-solving. They have been working at ASU and attending classes part-time for years, and both hope to graduate in 2014.

The two, who also won a Pitchfork Award this spring for their project, pointed out that most Starbucks shops will provide 5-pound bags of used grounds to individuals interested in using coffee grounds as a fertilizer at home.