Courtesy of Arden Conine '26

November 29, 2022

“Our Last Words”: A Love Letter to Upstate NY

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Stanley Michael Kaminsky ’23, law grew up in northern Pennsylvania, constantly inspired by his three artsy older sisters. By the age of 14, he was the guitarist in a band with his friends. 

He had no initial plans to break into singing, but his friends convinced him otherwise. During our interview, he said “they were like, just try it. Just try it. And [I said] I really don’t want to. And then finally, because I was getting annoyed, I tried it. And it ended up being a lot of fun. And I’ve just done it ever since.”

Kaminsky is now a singer-songwriter, as well as a third-year law student at Cornell University. While his eighth-grade band didn’t stand the test of time, he’s released two solo songs since the beginning of his undergraduate career. He developed his first song, “Never Need Anything More,” with some of the Audio Arts graduate students at Syracuse University. Seven years later, he recently released “Our Last Words.”

Kaminsky wrote his newest song right after graduating from Syracuse University in 2016. He was reminiscing upon the grand moments of his college experience — both the “great, monumental, and life-changing,” as well as the trials and tribulations. This song was an outlet for Kaminsky to “let go of all that nostalgia.” 

For three years, the song went untouched. In his last year of law school, Stanley began a similar process of reminiscing; “I feel like I’m already getting nostalgic, even though I’m still here.” He decided that it was finally time to produce the song. 

As it’s shaped by the experiences of living in Syracuse and Ithaca, Kaminsky wanted to keep the song local. He collaborated with Syracuse music producer Steve Brown at Subcat Studios. Kaminsky contacted Cornell’s Department of Art to find a student interested in designing the cover art. Arden Conine ’26 was eager to complete the job, and she did it wonderfully; her design perfectly encapsulates the song’s theme of growth.

On the first listen, “Our Last Words” may sound romantic. “I think if you’re a listener, and you have no idea what the song is about … it might sound like it’s about a person,” Kaminsky said. Instead of a romantic interest, though, it’s a love letter to upstate New York. Even if they’re sometimes hesitant to admit it, Cornell students are well acquainted with the unique beauties of being a student in this region — namely, the incomparable fall foliage. No Cornell student will hesitate to tell you about their late nights drinking caffeine. Life as a Cornellian is a grind; ask any student when their prelim season is (it’s all semester). When you can count on one hand the hours between when you left the Cocktail Lounge last night and started class this morning, it’s hard to imagine reminiscing about sleep deprivation and stress. 

We often forget how hard we worked to even get into Cornell, many of us having pulled similar all-nighters throughout high school. Every so often, though, we look up and remember the incredible views surrounding campus. Cascadilla Gorge’s incredible waterfalls and the view from Anabel Taylor Hall’s courtyard remind us why we came here, which motivates us to keep pushing forward. 

Leaving behind the sights of the fall semester, the lyrics “spring forward” allude to the spring semester. It also represents moving on to a new chapter of life. To Kaminsky, this song is about acknowledging how much an experience has impacted you, but still allowing yourself to move forward. He told me, “be grateful for the good experiences you’ve had. Be able to look back at them, but then … move, and … do other great things with your life.” 

As winter approaches, we may feel tempted to resent the reality of living in Ithaca. Yet maybe we could bear the winter a bit more joyfully with a mindset like Kaminsky’s. I understand that this winter will be some Cornellians’ first, whereas Kaminsky grew up with the snow. Still, I think it may do us all some good to try to celebrate Ithaca while we are here. 

After all, we may find ourselves wishing to return after our four years are done. We may find ourselves telling stories of college’s best and worst moments and reminiscing upon our all-nighters. After moving to a big city, we may find ourselves yearning for Ithaca’s small-town luxuries. Maybe we’ll have a bad day and want to visit Rosa in Stimson Hall, only to remember she is countless miles away. It might come when our friends start to live further away than the distance from North to West campus. Whenever it hits, I think we will all miss Ithaca at some point. And when we do, we can listen to “Our Last Words.”

You can stream Stanley Michael Kaminsky’s “Our Last Words” on Spotify, Apple Music, SoundCloud, YouTube or Tidal. The song has a beautiful mix of vocals and guitar and meaning unique to Cornellians. 

Isabella Hackett is a freshman in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].