Before coming to UIUC, I had no idea about the electric strings program here (which is funny now, considering my best friend is an electric violin student here). I only knew about electric violin beforehand when Mark Wood performed in my school district when I was 12. We were in a rehearsal once and he asked me to play with him on stage because I had a great bow arm… it was the coolest experience ever and I had him sign my ½ size violin.
But I forgot about that until recently. I’ve been to a couple electric strings performances and masterclasses this semester and it has been a huge source of inspiration for me. It’s been so inspiring that I plan on getting myself an electric violin and taking lessons next semester!
I really love what Dr. Haken is doing with his students. There seems to be a focus on rock music (which I absolutely love), but also works specifically for electric violin. I currently take a class with Dr. Haken and I’ve learned that he is really open to whatever his students want to do. One person at the electric strings studio recital played a piece from a video game which was amazing!
I recently got back into songwriting after a long break and showed him a tune I’d want to perform on electric violin. I was nervous he might not think it was a worthwhile endeavor but he seems very excited about my ideas. I even want to show him more of the songs I’ve written next semester. A lot of these songs are many years old, and I think now is finally the time I can present them well. Keep an eye out because you just might see me performing my own compositions in a concert very soon!
During my undergraduate years, I was often too stressed or dealing with mental health issues to take full advantage of the events going on around me. I tried joining clubs, but they weren’t that welcoming. I always felt like an outsider. It wasn’t until my senior year that I started going to concerts that I wanted to go to. I went to faculty recitals, I saw Gil Shaham perform the works of Bach, and I got to hear Kelly Hall-Tompkins perform Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto which was really special for me. I even saw some of my peers' recitals and that was really fun, too.
This semester, it’s almost difficult to pick and choose what to attend because there’s so much going on every week! I really appreciate the weekly music events email that goes out because I am quite forgetful. So far I’ve gone to the David Rosenboom Residency concert in October, an electric strings DMA recital, one Illini Strings concert, two electric strings masterclasses, the electric strings studio recital and an artist diploma student recital. I also got to see the Chicago Symphony perform in Krannert Center for Performing Arts which was incredible!
I’m constantly amazed at how many opportunities there are not only to see others perform but to participate in things as a musician. For example, I’m currently in Dr. Koo’s studio and I’m working on a composer collaboration where we get to learn a piece written by a composer and record it. This is just a great learning experience because I’ve never done anything like this before. I wish my previous school had stuff like this to do with their students!
And, in February, I’m performing in a faculty-student side by side performance of ALL of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. That is literally a dream of mine to play the Brandenburg Concertos at such a high level! All in all, I’m learning so much from attending these performances, seeing performers of all levels play vastly different kinds of music. It’s so inspiring for me and I can’t wait to see what next semester has to offer!