This week, daze had a chance to sit down with Eric Aceto, an instrument builder and member of the popular Ithaca-based band Mectapus.

daze: When and how did you get into building instruments?

Eric Aceto: It was in the very early '70s, 1970 and '71. I was attending art school and I wanted to put the music and art together. I had played music my whole life and then I got into building basic instruments. I had done a lot of repair work and work on friends' instruments. And later, when I got into it more, I started constructing instruments more in a bigger way.

D: When did you build your first electric fiddle?

EA: That was in 1974, early on.

D: So many accomplished musicians use your instruments. Who are you most proud to build for?

EA: Wow. Well, probably Darol Anger [fiddle player who has performed with David Grisman, String Cheese Incident, and others]. He's a great player and he's been a great supporter of the whole project.

D: If, for whatever reason, you could no longer be either a musician or an instrument-maker, which would you choose?

EA: You know, it's not like that for me. I guess part of being a Gemini is that dual nature. They really go hand in hand. Plus, I began building violins because I was playing violin and looking for a certain sound. I really don't separate those two at all.

D: Do certain musical styles and approaches influence the design of your instruments?

EA: Well, certainly the instrument we're most interested in building is an amplified instrument, so yes. The reason I came to it is because I'm into acoustic music, and acoustic instruments. I'm trying to translate that feel, and that timbre, to an amplified situation, and it's been tough over the years but I'm feeling pretty good about it.

D: You certainly should. Roughly, how long does it take you to build a single instrument?

EA: Well, it's not just me. My partner Dan Hoffman has a huge amount to do with it. We pretty much work on each instrument together. Dan does all the plate carving, and what's called the corpus, so he's working the plates and the garling and the voicing of the air chamber and everything. And then I work more on the neck, the setup, the feel, and the peg-head carving. All the electric work and that stuff. So, we really both work on them and not just one instrument at a time. Different things are in different stages of development. But we can deliver a violin, right now, in about 10 weeks.

D: After all that, does the whole trend of rock stars smashing their instruments on stage make you cringe?

EA: Are they doing that again? Oh no. See, I've never wanted to smash an instrument, even in my most frustrated moments on stage. Why? I've never understood it.

D: Anything new in store with Ti Ti Chickapea [a folk trio consisting of Hank Roberts on cello, Richie Stearns on banjo and tenor guitar, and Eric on violin and guitar]?

EA: Yeah, right now we're working on album with Kevin Kinsella [lead singer and guitarist of reggae outfit John Brown's Body]. We're doing a bunch of Kevin's material, and that's been really fun. And we're hoping to do some gigging with that kind of group. It's tough working around Richie's schedule [he's now on tour with roots-rock group Donna the Buffalo] and Kevin'd been on the road quite a bit with John Brown's. But we're going to try to do a more scaled back, amplified acoustic thing. It's been really fun working with Kevin. He's such a beautiful guy.

D: Will we ever see more from Mectapus [an eclectic and notorious local band with which Eric played violin, mandolin, and guitar] in the future?

EA: Yeah. Definitely. Joe [Palermo, Mectapus drummer and professor of history and English at Cornell] took a gig out at the University of Santa Cruz. So he's not here during the year, but he may still teach here at Cornell during the summer. And we've talked about doing the acoustic thing with just hand percussion.

I actually got a chance to play with my dream band at the Rongo not too long ago. It was Mike Cerza [of Mectapus] on percussion, Joe on drums, my brother Harry on upright bass, and Mich

November 23, 2015

Black Students United Demands to Administrators Leaked Onto Reddit Forum

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A confidential letter detailing the demands issued by Black Students United to President Elizabeth Garrett and Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, was leaked Saturday on a Cornell subreddit.

The subreddit, titled “Cornell University Black Students United demands from secret meeting with President Garrett,” includes a scanned copy of the letter. The description of the post reads, “The Cornell Community has a right to know and debate, before decisions are made.”

The letter makes a series of demands, insisting that the administration rename the Cornell Plantations and create mandatory coursework for all students on systems of power and privilege, “centering [on] the voices of oppressed people,” among others. The letter was delivered to the Office of the President at the end of a silent march to Day Hall on Nov. 17.

“While Cornell touts its compositional diversity, the campus environment is not conducive to the overall success of of students of color,” the letter reads.

The demands listen in the letter are divided into six categories — curriculum, compositional diversity, mental and physical health and wellness, governance, support service and symbols.

The letter also demands the creation of Latino Studies, American Indian Studies and Asian-American studies majors and an increase in black faculty, administrators and staff.

“The University can make no claim to have achieved an ideal compositional diversity when its faculty and administrators continue to be overwhelmingly white,” the letter says.

The letter also stressed the need for more diversity in the staff of Gannett Health Services, requesting the hiring of more psychologists and psychiatrists of color.

“People of color historically have a reason to mistrust professionals,” the letter states. “We believe that there should be qualified psychologist and psychiatrists of color that can sufficiently address the way that racism affects the mental and emotional health and well-being of black students at a predominately white institution.”

The letter also requested standing appointments with Garrett to continue to grapple with the issues students of color face at Cornell.

The letter shown on the forum appears to have a stamp on the top right corner that says “Received November 17, 2015 Office of the President,” suggesting that the letter was leaked after it was delivered to Garrett’s office.

Samari Gilbert ’17, a member of BSU, confirmed in an email that the leaked letter was the one delivered to Garrett. However, she denied that any “secret meeting” took place, as indicated in the title of the Reddit post.

Gilbert did say, however, that the image of the stamp has lead some to believe that the letter was leaked by someone in the administration.

“In terms of the confidentiality of the document, it has been distributed to a variety of campus leaders, administrators and our general body,” she said. “While the leaking of the document is not really an issue, it is problematic that the document on Scribd appears to be a leak by an administrator.”

Renee Alexander ’74, associate dean and director of intercultural programs, student and academic services and advisor to BSU, said the leak illustrates how quickly information can travel over the internet.

“We live in an age where information travels,” she said. “I don’t know how that letter traveled, but … in this age of information being shared and at the push of a button, who knows whose hands that letter might’ve gone through inside the administration.”

The letter of demands has not been well received by some Reddit users, drawing criticism from a host of anonymous commenters.

“These demands are ridiculous and exemplify the intellectual fairness and freedom of universities being assaulted by fear mongering activists,” said Reddit user gat45.

John Carberry, senior director of media relations, confirmed in a statement that all documents delivered to the President’s office are stamped.  He also said a response to the letter will be released soon.

“All documents submitted as communications to the President’s Office are stamped for our records, and to insure they are handled in a timely manner,” he said. “President Garrett, vice president Lombardi and the University’s senior leadership are reviewing the letter from Black Students United and expect to reply early this week.”