Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
BY MICHELLE CHALEN, CLASS OF 2013 —
“My hair is just like this naturally,” she said, tippy toeing, leaning towards the mirror over the muddy sink whimsically twirling her hair to make sure her curls would dry intact. It was around 6:30 a.m. and she was quietly humming while getting ready to scurry on to class. Books: check, school ID and keys: check.
On this day two years ago, Sharlyn Ramirez would be going to classes, track practice, work study with Intramurals, and choir practice afterwards on some nights. Choir practice was usually held all the way down the hill in the Rankin building. After a full day of scheduled practices and classes a student would probably call it a night, but no, not Sharlyn Ramirez.
Sharlyn is a 5’4”, 21-year-old from Victor, a town in upstate New York near the Finger Lakes. She runs for the Saint Peter’s University track team. This co-ed team has won various MAAC titles with hard work and dedication. At track meets she competes in events including the hurdles. And you can say she is a triple threat. She is a track star, a photographer, and a singer with the rap group called Dumb Genius Music, which she joined two years ago.
I heard keys clatter as I was relaxing on my bed watching television. I was taking a look at her photos across the room which was taped to the wall and covered her side entirely. Sharlyn was just getting back from choir practice. “How was your day, what are you doing now?” I asked, as she was putting her books back into the pile that was on her neatly organized desk. She was on her way to the first floor to sing and record music in her friend Brandon McMillan’s (a founder of Dumb Genius music) dorm room. This particular building’s dorm rooms are rectangular and consist of two twin beds and two desks against the wall, a sink on the left or right side near the door, and a decent amount of floor space in the middle. She would walk into the room and the group would already have the computer equipment set up and ready to go. The back of the equipment faced the direction where she would sing: the closet.
“All you need is silence,” she said, while explaining how it does not matter where you record just as long as you can keep all noise out.
“Whenever you think I’m going to record, it’s in his closet. ‘Are you ready?’ I’ll close the closet door and start singing. It’s pretty funny. We did a lot during the summer,” Sharlyn said giggling, reminiscing about how it all started.
Two years later and her curls are still intact. Except this time her hair was not in a ponytail it was down, shining and lustrous, and we were no longer roommates. We were sitting down on these soft Indian-Red faux leather couches talking about how her phone just recently broke and when she first started singing.
She started in her church choir in the 7th grade, then continued on in middle school, high school, and in Argus Eyes: the drama society at Saint Peter’s University. She nodded her head when speaking about track not interfering with the singing. These days she is still a vocalist for Dumb Genius Music, an underground hip hop group.
“I don’t rap by any means, I sing,” she said, when talking about how she contributes to the music.
She joined the group sophomore year when her friend Brandon McMillan heard her sing once, then asked her to record. Sharlyn sings when she feels comfortable around you, and when she does sing you might not be able to guess what type of song she’ll sing next. She is frank when she says she does not think her voice should be labeled with a specific genre. Her voice is unique.
“My pronunciation isn’t like anything in this area.” Growing up in a more desolate area like upstate New York could have a lot to do with the sound of her voice, and that could be the very reason why she is the only female vocalist for Dumb Genius Music.
She is not a headliner for the group since it is a rap group, but she still contributes by singing in the tracks. When reminiscing about the start of her singing career as a young girl, Sharlyn smiles at the thought of performing. Sharlyn and Dumb Genius Music now showcase their talent live to the public who wants to hear to them. About two weeks ago Dumb Genius Music’s rap headliner “Freakstyle” performed at the W Hotel in Harlem. Sharlyn thinks it’s great to get exposure and performing in front of people is the only way. Sharlyn may feel the jitters about going on the stage, but doesn’t get nervous performing. She sings with her heart and loves every second of it. Her eyes sparkled when she told me she loved hearing the audience’s clap after performing.
“I don’t think a lot of people know, from school [that is] people I’m close with like the track team, [then] I just don’t shut up. If you only knew me as the girl on the track team you probably wouldn’t know,” she explained. The other day in class she showed a Saint Peter’s University basketball player a video from a showcase and the basketball player was taken aback.
“You sing? That’s weird I didn’t know you had a secret talent,” he said.
“Like, thanks?” She laughed.