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Memories of SSU

Diane Baines

Student, Psychology and Music
1974-1977, 1979-1980

Sonoma Hills

I graduated from Sonoma State with a BA degree in music and psychology. I returned in 1979 to obtain my music teaching credential. I am an elementary music specialist. I have had the good fortune to be able to live in and teach music to children in Sonoma County, which I immediately fell in love with upon attending SSU.

I loved being a student at SSU! I loved the small classes, the beautiful campus, and the friendly and informal manner of the teachers. I attended UCLA upon graduating from high school and hated it! My norm was 500 students in a class. I was accustomed to asking questions and having dialogues with my teachers in high school. At UCLA, I was much too intimidated to raise my hand. Many teachers were TAs (teaching assistants), and the school was the size of a city. I felt like a number, rather than a student, at that huge place.

Sonoma State, with its magnificent emerald hills, offered me the chance to experience education in a more friendly setting. My class sizes were always small, and I felt comfortable raising my hand with questions or comments. At SSU, I felt supported and encouraged by its dedicated staff and faculty.

My husband and I were accepted into SSU as philosophy majors, although we were really interested in the Humanistic Psychology Department. In the winter of 1974, when we arrived at SSU, the psychology department was closed and courses were not available to non-majors. I remember the first night of registration, hearts pounding in the dark; we snuck into the registration tent and guerrilla-style, signed up for our treasured psychology classes.

I was profoundly moved by Paul Molinari’s innovative classes, which included the Psychology of Mural Processes, Group Process and a seminar on creativity. These were amazing classes, different than I’d ever experienced before…not the kind of book-reading, studying-for-tests and writing-research-papers kind of education that I’d experienced up to that point. In stepping into these classes, I learned things about myself, about who I was and what was important to me, that could never be learned in traditional academic classes. Some of these classes took place once a week in the redwood forests near the ridges of Occidental, where I had a chance to hike alone in the forest and hear my own heart songs. The mural processes class allowed me to deeply examine my own symbols, while painting my 4x8 foot mural at midnight in Stevenson Hall. The tools and insights I learned from these classes steered me to the Music Department, where I began a new course of study.

In the Music Department, I met Larry Snyder, who gave me the opportunity to study during one summer in order to try to test out of the required classes of a first year music major. I took to the challenge and was successful.

I studied voice and enjoyed participating in numerous singing groups, including a student-led a capella chorus, which kept meeting even after we all graduated. I remember my favorite teacher, Joann Feldman, who was so supportive of her students. She gave out homemade cookies before passing out her final exam to help us calm down so that we could be successful.

I remember selling homemade apple crisp, houseplants and beads on blankets in the quad. And, I remember girls dancing topless to rock and roll bands by the duck pond. I remember a friend becoming so enthusiastic one day that she fell into the pond.

I remember feeling safe, happy, open to life, learning and meeting so many, many new and wonderful people. SSU felt like family to me. In fact, most of my closest, lifelong friendships originated from SSU during those years. It was a very, very special time in my life…one of my best, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be there.