We came in together. Nervous from day one about what the next two years had in store for us. Yearning to make the world of music education a more inclusive space - to bring to the forefront issues that are both important to us and important steps for music teacher education, or music education at large. The four of us, the quartet as we were lovingly called, have come such a long way since that first meeting at the Intermezzo Cafe.
As my freshman year nears its end, it has been and is a very busy time, with lots of end of the year activities! With all of the performance opportunities recently, it’s felt more and more like things are returning to normal. Within a two week span, there have been three major performances, with the last one 48 hours. Here’s the rundown.
The Senior Recital is the ultimate culmination of the Bachelor of Music degree. This is an hour-long program, and the solo performer takes the stage for its entirety. I gave a Junior Recital last year, and this was a 30-minute performance in the Smith Memorial Room. I was very excited to present an hour-long program, as I knew this would give me space to tell many stories and present different musical styles.
This past week, I had the unique opportunity to sing for a seminar for student conductors led by Professor Donald Schleicher, who is retiring at the end of this year. This workshop was centered around arias from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and I was lucky that Dr. Julie Gunn recommended me for it. I am always happy to sing anything from this opera, as it is one of my favorites, and the role of Count Almaviva is a staple of lyric baritone repertoire (my voice type). I agreed instantly to help out with this and was eager for the opportunity to sing with a reduced orchestra! I love singing with strings, and it always provides a welcome variety because even in non-pandemic times, rehearsals are typically with piano. Moreover, the aria I was designated to sing at the workshop was “Hai già vinta la causa,” Count Almaviva’s aria from Nozze, and this was an aria I sang many times throughout my audition season. I was eager to use my skills with the aria in this real-world application.
As a current vocalist and former cellist, I don’t get the chance to dive into the realms of cello playing like I used to. Luckily enough, I was told about the Illini Student Musicals production of Little Women needing a cellist for their pit orchestra. I couldn’t turn down such an opportunity as it allows me to perform the cello again. Prior to this experience, I have never performed in a pit orchestra because I was always more involved in the acting aspect of the show. I always knew and have been told that pit orchestra is way different than a regular orchestra, but I never really quite understood until we started to practice.
My dress rehearsal for my undergraduate junior recital is coming up, and I’ve been preparing myself to make the best use of the time that I will have onstage before the night of the performance. Here are some quick tips and helpful things I’ve been thinking about regarding this part of the recital process:
Opening the violin case is a very hard process at times. It often means you are about to focus extremely hard for a long period of time. It is much more convenient to just swipe past the Google Docs tab I’m writing on, to stop on Netflix about two slots over, or go grab lunch with friends. In musical communities, these negatives exit the mind, because everyone else is going to rehearsal/practice as well. It’s inspiring, because you see the hard work and great music of your peers, and also competitive because odds are the person you are listening to will be competing for a job or ensemble seating in the future. However, that practice room inspiration got taken away recently due to the epidemic. For a long time, there were no ensembles, no summer camps, no concerts, and no trips with friends to the practice rooms. How does a musician gain the motivation to practice during the pandemic?
Over the course of my last eight posts, you have learned about the ways that I have attempted a balance between mom life and PhD student life. You have read a couple of “interview-like” posts from a first-year DMA student, Andy Bruhn, in choral conducting, and from Director of Choral Activities, Dr. Andrew Megill. You have also read a couple of posts about my covid vaccine experience and all about my weekends at the Music Ed Annex. But how well do you think you know me based on those posts alone?
Previously, I wrote about singing a concert in Foellinger Great Hall with the University of Illinois Chamber Singers, which was recorded for Carle Hospital patients. We did not record all of our repertoire, and the following week, we decided to continue our recording streak, but this time, it would be in a strikingly different location! The Women’s Glee Club has used the Krannert Center Green Parking Garage for their rehearsals and recordings, so we followed their lead, and the results were fabulous! Dr. Megill spoke highly of the acoustics in this unique space-- he compared them to those of a cathedral, which would make the space ideal for some of our haunting a capella pieces.
As both an instrumentalist and vocalist, the care in the instrument is very much different. An instrument, such as the cello, is separate from your body and being. Stringed instruments you have to be aware of during the changes in season, cracks, bending of the bridge, the hair on the bow, etc. But when taking care of the voice, it teaches you what your limit is and how to be patient. Of course as an instrumentalist, no matter what your instrument is, you learn your limits and patience, although I have learned that as a vocalist, there is a different sense of limits and patience for yourself.
Student teaching as a young music education major can be rewarding, but it comes with many challenges. The picture accompanying this post is from my semester of student teaching grades 6-8. It was not the fairy tale adventure that I thought it would be, but it was a great learning experience.
Today, a university-wide non-instruction day, I was struggling to begin practicing my violin. The thought of it seemed overwhelming like it was too daunting of a task, and my mind began to throw evaluative statements at me, like “it’s not going to be good enough, you should’ve started earlier in the day, why aren’t you being productive?”, which made it even harder to begin. So, around 5:30 pm, I forced myself to stop watching Youtube videos, trying to distract myself from the stress, and took my roommate’s puppy on a walk around the block, focusing on breathing in the cool spring air. Then, I decided to sit down and write this blog post!
At some point in their college career (or afterward), most people experience some form of imposter syndrome, or the feeling that they’re a fraud/don’t deserve their successes. As a woman, in a major comprised primarily of men, this feeling is all too familiar to me. It’s hard sometimes to not doubt yourself and your skills, but over the years I’ve found there are ways to make imposter syndrome feel a little less overwhelming.
The Marching Illini is a 375-member historic marching band composed of students from all majors, backgrounds, and walks of life. This fall (2021), I will have the privilege of being a music section leader for the trumpet section! So, let’s talk a little bit about this organization that has had such a profound impact on my life.
The first few days to weeks of graduate studies are already stressful enough. So, why then would we want to worry about the level of our playing in addition to everything else? We don’t want to be worried about the consistency of performance on our instruments when we are trying to do things like adapt to a new environment, fit in with our new community members, start new courses, and perform ensemble auditions. There may seem to be lots of solutions to this wealth of stressors, but I am going to focus on just one preventative action step that you can do this summer to increase your consistency in performance, reduce your stress, and come into grad school feeling confident in your playing. It’s really a simple solution. Take the time now to develop an effective warmup routine and get your fundamentals locked down!
This week, I got to participate in a recording session with my choir, the University of Illinois Chamber Singers! We have done a few recording sessions, and we performed informally outside last semester, but this more formal affair was a much-needed return to the performing on which our group thrives.
It’s Saturday, which means I’m back at the Music Ed. Annex. Of course I should be working on chapter two of my dissertation, but after getting back from a walk around the Spurlock Museum and Alice Campbell Alumni Center, I figured I would put it off for a few more minutes and write a blog post. Hold on though, this is a turn from the fun posts and more about the necessity for self-care while working towards a PhD in Music Education.
If you know me, or if you’ve read my “about me” on the blog, you’ll know that I am a violinist exploring conducting! Here are a couple of reasons why I’m considering this as my next step:
Audition season for graduate music programs is a crucial time for music school seniors. Applications open around September, pre-screening videos are due by December 1st, live audition invitations are sent later that month or in January, and auditions typically occur throughout February or March. My virtual live auditions were mostly in February, but this past weekend, I completed the last audition of my season, for the Curtis Institute of Music opera program.
As a sophomore, I have definitely have learned the necessary tools one needs to have a successful academic life so I decided to share my thoughts and what I learned with those who may need the advice the most. I hope this list of items is a helpful tool for current and prospective students in a (hopefully) less stressful college life.
My freshman year has certainly been an interesting one with ups and downs, new restaurants, new friends, a pandemic, and the list goes on. I’ve picked up a lot of new information over the last semester and a half that has made life a lot easier, in serious and silly ways. I hope you all enjoy, and maybe learn a thing or two if you’re someone entering college!
One year ago this week, the music stopped. We had our last rehearsal. No masks. Standing shoulder to shoulder. Plenty of emotions, confusion, and fear that we might not sing together again for quite some time. That our community was somehow dissolving, disappearing with the distance that was being implemented. I was afraid. Afraid of losing this connection and the ability to make music, afraid of losing the bond that I had with the singers around me, but more than that, I was afraid that Covid might take my friends away from me.
You did it! You’re done! You’ve made it through the college visits, prospective lessons, pre-screening tapes, and auditions! Now, before you go and do anything else, congratulate yourself and take some time to relax. You have made it through the most difficult part of the music school admissions process and you deserve a break.
Then, before you know it, the acceptance letters start coming in and you are forced to start deciding where your home will be for the next two to four years. Although this may seem like a daunting decision, it can actually become quite easy if you consider three important factors when weighing offer letters and schools against one another. In my experience, the three most important things to consider are location & community, your primary teacher, and the cost.
One of the great milestones of any undergraduate music student’s career is their senior recital, which truly serves as a culmination of the previous four years. I am just over a month from giving my senior recital and finishing off my musical requirements here at the University of Illinois.
Are you a busy person? Are you feeling a little lost trying to keep track of all of your assignments? Would you rather plan things out week-by-week instead of day-by-day? Maybe you should try using a notebook!
Listen, life gets really busy sometimes. As a Music Education major, I completely understand - I’m in over two music RSOs, the Marching Illini, and I’ve had to overload on credit hours for 2 of the past 4 semesters! How have I kept track of everything? Well, my sophomore year I got a handy little notebook and I’ve been perfecting the art of planning out my week in it for a full year now. Here’s a step-by-step guide of how I plan out my week: