Welcome back, friends! It is nice to see you again. When we last had a conversation I let you know what brought me to this wonderful campus to study music education. This time, I’ll take you through what it is like to be a scholar and a parent simultaneously at UIUC.
This is not going to be a sweet post about how wonderfully balanced my life is as both a student and a mom. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great life, but balancing student-life and mom-life is a STRUGGLE that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic
Last week, I sat in on the first orchestra rehearsal for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois’ and University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra’s concert presentation of excerpts from Samuel Barber’s Vanessa. I could not wait to begin working on the music with the talented chamber orchestra, and today, I had the opportunity to do so! This was quite a big deal for me because it was the first time I had sung solo in the Foellinger Great Hall unamplified (one of my greatest Illinois memories was singing the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance in November 2018, but that performance utilized microphones). The acoustics of the Foellinger Great Hall are renowned, and some of the world’s greatest singers, including many of my vocal idols, have enjoyed giving recitals on this stage. It felt amazing singing with an orchestra in this space which is so kind to singers and provides plentiful natural amplification.
Winter Break was extra long this year. For me, this meant more practice time, which I found to be, depending on a variety of factors on any given day, both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, more time to practice = more time to study the repertoire I was preparing for the annual Paul Rolland Violin Award Competition. On the other hand, more time to practice = more time playing the violin alone, without anyone to structure my day except me. While I do appreciate a slow, meditative practice session, I find it a difficult lifestyle to maintain without the routine expectations provided by a “normal” weekly schedule of playing in lessons, studios, and chamber groups, and orchestra rehearsals; all of which I am lucky to experience in-person this year. I think that’s why I felt all the more grateful at my first in-person orchestra rehearsal experience of the second semester.
Since I am a senior undergraduate, the question of my plans after graduation looms large. I started thinking about these plans quite early, meeting professors from appealing graduate programs during junior year. Now, in late February of my senior year, I am nearing the end of this long but imperative process. This is a very unique audition season; some schools eliminated the pre-screen round entirely, some simply advanced our videos to a second viewing, and a few required live virtual auditions over Zoom! In January, I had such an audition for Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and this helped me get comfortable with this unique audition format. Earlier today, February 20th, I had another virtual live audition, this time for the Voice and Opera Program at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music in Evanston, IL.
When I was applying for colleges, I knew I wanted to stick with music. I was infamous in high school for being overly involved: I did band, choir, musical theatre, and took any music production class I could. Being well-rounded was great, but when it came time to audition for schools and choose what I wanted to major in, I had no idea. I hadn’t spent countless hours practicing one instrument, I wasn’t a performer, and I didn’t see myself as a music teacher. I felt that music departments at many schools only advertised their performance and education degrees, and I felt a bit lost. I thought to myself, “are there any other options for people who were looking for something different?”
Hi! My name is Brigid Young, and I’m currently a junior studying Music Technology. I switched into this major during my second semester of freshman year, and even when applying to switch, I didn’t really know what the major entailed. Whenever I tell people I study music tech, they usually have no idea what I’m talking about. So, I figured that I could tell you exactly what the curriculum looks like, and maybe you’ll end up majoring in it too!
Incredibly, the last time I was in the Krannert Center’s cavernous Foellinger Great Hall, one of the great treasures of our university, was March 2020, almost a year ago. The last day before the pandemic fully took hold, I was on that familiar stage performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” with the Men’s Glee Club, non-treble voices of Oratorio Society and Chamber Singers, soloist Ricardo Herrera, and the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra led by Donald Schleicher. This was also the last time I performed with a large ensemble for a large audience, and even the last time I have been in a room with that many people for any purpose. This performance took on particular weight when we found that we would not perform the piece at Carnegie Hall and that this would be our last chance to communicate Shoshtakovich’s fiercely relevant political message. The performance was life-affirming in every sense, and its memory still thrills when I think about its eternal temporal place on the edge of a pre-pandemic era.
When this pandemic began to shut everything down back in March of 2020, schools of music were no exception. Live music stopped, music school students returned home, and we were left to figure out how to create music virtually; at a time when music was needed the most. Now, on the dawn of a vaccine horizon, we are again trying to figure out our next steps. Although I am not able to offer answers to the scientific questions surrounding musicians and the pandemic, I am able to offer my own experiences with performing chamber music during the pandemic, in the hope that some of my success and failures can help current and future Illinois music students navigate these crazy times and bring music back to our community… safely!
Hello readers! This is my first post, and I wanted to start with something simple: my typical Thursday. It’s more entertaining than it sounds, I promise.
Like the teenager I am, I woke up at the early hour of noon and grabbed some classic chicken and rice from the dining hall. After freshening up and a short walk to the Krannert Center, it was time for rehearsal! I’m a member of an ensemble called Chamber Orchestra. However, violins are not needed for the opera we are performing, so on those rehearsal days, we also get to play in the String Orchestra. Both are super fun and high-performing groups. We played two different pieces, Serenade by Josef Suk, and Starburst by Jessie Montgomery. A fun bit of information, Josef Suk was the great-grandson of the highly esteemed composer Dvorak. I originally met him when I was 6 years old during a violin trip to Prague.
Hi friends! I heard you were looking into coming to Champaign, Illinois to become a music major at the University of Illinois. Well, you’ve come to the right place.
My name is Miranda, some people call me M.R. and I’ll be your tour guide for the duration of this blog. Before I get into how I have found a home in the music program, I wanted to share a little about myself.
I’ve lived my whole life in the state of Connecticut surrounded by water, seafood, and the 2-hour drive to New York. From the beginning, I knew of the vast and obvious differences between Illinois and Connecticut, but settling onto campus reminded me of them every day. It was difficult for me to situate myself when I was so used to the hustle and bustle and was too occupied missing my home and family. It was then, like a slap to my face, I recognized the reality of going to college: finding and creating a new home.