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.
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!
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.
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.
My graduate school audition season has been winding down (though I still have one last audition, for Curtis Institute, which I will certainly detail in a blog post!) and my last audition in February was for the Yale School of Music opera program. This has been one of my top programs since the beginning of my application process. Only about sixteen singers are in the program at any given time, and it is tuition-free. I attended a virtual information session with current Yale Opera students the week of the audition, and I was very impressed by their answers to prospective students’ questions, their drive to make music safely during COVID, and their overall friendliness.
Walking into graduate school on day one can seem freeing, and in other ways overwhelming. Finally, you have the practice time you have long desired. Finally, there are no advisors and professors telling you exactly what you should be doing all of the time. Finally, you are given most of the deciding power in what kind of music you want to play, and what you want to say through your music. However, with this newfound sense of freedom, most new graduate students can feel lost, confused, overwhelmed, or unmotivated once they are left to do things on their own. Believe me, I have been there, and I still struggle with these same feelings. It is my hope that some of my successes and failures can come to guide new graduate students in “choosing their own adventure” that will set them up for a sustainable and enjoyable career in the arts. Here are some things to think about that may help to enlighten your path as a new graduate student:
I really should be working on being able to explain and explore chapter one of my dissertation, but it seems that writing a blog took priority over that today. (This is what Dr. Barrett calls, “dissertation avoidance behavior” and I am AWESOME at it!)
Most weekends I have a LOT of work to do and it is almost impossible to do anything at home. My kid is there, my wife is there, the couch and the television are there...need I say more?
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!