Seven months ago, the hardest and best chapter of my life so far came to a close: I graduated from Belmont University with a BM in Composition and a BS in Audio Engineering Technology. Even now, it’s still hard to believe it’s done!
I must confess I felt equal amounts of relief and panic the day I walked across the stage: relief, because four and-a-half years of blood, sweat, and tears were finished; and panic, because I realized I had two degrees but no firm plan for what would follow.
Some of you have asked: what have I been doing since then, and where am I going next?
Because I haven’t updated this blog since last August, I suppose I should first back up a little and talk about my final semester. It was easily the hardest one ever, which is why I stopped writing, but there were also three high points…
The first was my senior recital in November, in which I presented six of my original compositions: “Elude” (string quartet), “Fuse” (flute, cello, and piano), “Cicada Suite” (flute and guitar), “Sight Unseen” (trumpet and piano), “Proceed with Caution” (violin, cello, piano), and “Agitato” (piano). I played on three of the pieces, and my peers and one of my professors played the other pieces and other instruments. It was an afternoon I’ll never forget and a perfect way to wrap up my undergraduate years.
I also became an official member of the Nashville Composer Collective—Nashville’s premiere group of composers and musicians that seeks to bring new music to the Nashville community with several free concerts every year. It’s a great bunch of people, and I’m looking forward to continuing to contribute. My piece, “Cicada Suite,” was featured on the October concert at Bennett Art Galleries. Listen to the piece here:
Lastly, I found out that my pieces, “Out of Ashes,” and “Precarious,” were Finalists in the American Prize for Composition this year! Hear “Out of Ashes” below:
What about after I graduated?
To make a long and difficult story short, as hard as it was to leave the life I’d built in Nashville, even if only temporarily, I decided to pack up my apartment and go back to Virginia for a while. I still miss Music City every day, but being near my mountains again with scenery like this has made me feel better:
Being home and away from the pressures of school and the music industry has given me some much-needed time to regroup and figure things out. I realized that I was profoundly burned out creatively, but having this time has been the antidote.
Because I have my piano with me again, I’ve made my way back into the studio to record and write new pieces for my forthcoming solo piano album, Phoenix. I’d hoped to finish before the end of this summer, but alas, I knew it couldn’t be rushed.
When I release Phoenix, I don’t want to do so just so I can say I put out another album. I have a specific vision in mind, and there just weren’t enough pieces for it yet—or more accurately, not the right pieces. It’ll have to wait a bit longer, but I want to release some singles before the album comes out.
What’s next for me?
Am I going back to Nashville? Eventually, probably yes, but not as soon as I’d thought…
I’d originally intended to spend only a few months in Virginia and then move back to Nashville to keep working, but then I applied to graduate school. As a composer, you have so many more professional options if you at least have a master’s degree, and I knew it would be beneficial to continue my training.
Yet when I moved to Nashville and started at Belmont in 2013, I figured I would live and work in that city for the rest of my life. Indeed, my heart is still in Nashville, and I’ve told myself I’ll return as often as I can while in graduate school—perhaps I’ll even spend next summer there. Nevertheless, I realized that, at twenty-three years old, I really wasn’t ready to settle down anywhere permanently.
This is the time, when you’re young and free, to go explore the world. And it’s the time to try wild things like moving somewhere for two years that you’ve only visited for one day.
And so, I decided to move to Chicago for two years to get my master’s degree! I’ll be serving as Graduate Composition Assistant at my school, which means I’ll be recording the composer concerts and overseeing the electroacoustic studios—putting both of my degrees to work.
Chicago is a fantastic place for classical music—and really, for all kinds of music. Admittedly, I’ve only ever spent a few hours in Chicago, when I went for my interview, but I’m confident in the decision. I’m so thrilled for this new adventure and all that Chicago and my new school have to offer.
Windy City, here I come!
But first, I’ll be studying at the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival this summer up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I had a wonderful experience when I went three years ago, and I can’t wait to have another one.
The last year has been quite a ride, and it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to my undergraduate years. Chicago is going to be a major change from both Nashville and Charlottesville, but I’m ready for whatever comes next.