Grad School is Weird, and Here’s Why: A 6-Week Update

Can you believe I’ve made it through over a month of grad school?

Six weeks ago, as I packed the car and drove halfway across the country to grad school, my mom gave me an ominous warning on what lay ahead:

“It’s going to be weird for a few months.”

When I got here, at first, I thought everything was fine.  I figured if I’d managed alright in college, grad school would be no problem.  But as the semester has gone on, I can’t say she was incorrect.

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Where I’ve Been for the Last Year… And Where I’m Going Next

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.

Christmas came a couple of weeks early this year…

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Atlantic Music Festival, Week 1

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The beautiful campus of Atlantic’s host, Colby College

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself traveling all over the place to study at a couple of summer music festivals.  I was at the Fresh Inc Festival in Wisconsin for two weeks in June, and it was so good that I haven’t been able to figure out how to sum up the experience in one post.  Hopefully I’ll do that soon, though.  At the moment, I’ve just finished my first week at the Atlantic Music Festival in Maine, and it’s been amazing.

When I say “music festival” to some people, they imagine that I’m talking about loud rock bands and lots of drugs and wild partying, but these classical festivals I attend could hardly be farther from that.  In my world, the music festivals I speak of are the places you go as a young composer to sharpen your skills, make connections, and study music intensely without the burden of homework and day-to-day chores that I have during the school year.

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Just a Life Update…

With my senior year behind me, I can say it’s been a pretty unbelievable couple of semesters, for so many reasons.  So much has happened since I posted in August that I figured it was time for an update…

This year, I had nine performances of several of my pieces.  One of the highlights was having the Belmont Orchestra perform Out of Ashes twice this spring: once at the annual Classical Performers Concert, as the winner of the Composition Competition, and once at the Tennessee Music Education Association Conference.  I’ve learned so much from my peers over the last four years, so it was wonderful to hear them play my work—not to mention that they gave it such incredible performances!

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The Belmont Symphony Orchestra performing my composition, Out of Ashes, in March 2017

 

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Out of Ashes… Again?

Since I last posted on here, so much has happened that I can’t possibly put it one post, so I’ll just keep it short.

To start out, my first serious orchestral piece, “Out of Ashes” had a fantastic premiere by the Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra in May. Huge thanks to all of the musicians for their hard work in making it a success! There are no words to describe that night, so I’m just going to post the recording here for you:

 

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Why Rest Is Vital to Composing

After making it halfway through music school this semester and doing everything I came to Nashville to do, I’d worked myself into the ground.  I’d run out of creativity, because I’d had to expend so much energy on trying to get through the semester.  I could no longer write any music, no matter how much part of me still wanted to do it.

So I took a break from trying to compose.  

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Halfway Through, Fully Burned Out

I’ve just finished my second year of Music School in college!  This year, I’ve worked harder than I ever knew I could, and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunities that have allowed me to do so.

So much happened this last school year: Continue reading “Halfway Through, Fully Burned Out”

Where I’ve Been

I know, I know—I haven’t posted in two months.  So maybe you’ve been wondering where I’ve been.  Or maybe you didn’t notice.  The truth is, I’ve been a lot of places, so I’ll tell you about some of them…

 

For the most part, I’ve been… At school, in the practice rooms.
Three hours a-day, seven days a week (in theory, anyway). Music school is extremely demanding and exhausting, but in all of that time at the piano, I’ve come up with some amazing pieces that I’m looking forward to sharing on the next album.  I’m going to dare to say that my second album will be better than the first.  (I’ll tell you more about this album in next week’s post.) Continue reading “Where I’ve Been”

Why I Know I’m a Composer

In the last few months, much has happened that has made clear to me that I need to focus on being a composer.  I can’t only do engineering.  I’m certainly still recording, producing, and spending plenty of time in the studio (and plan to keep doing so because I still love it and need to record my compositions), but I’ve realized that, first and foremost, I’m a composer.  

In the wake of an exhausting freshman year, unfortunately, until a few weeks ago, I had been struggling tremendously to compose anything at all.  It wasn’t that I didn’t try—I tried harder than I knew I could.  But the music wouldn’t come.  I hated almost everything I did manage to write.  On some level, I even began to hate composing itself because it took so much effort to even write things I didn’t like.

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The Secret Life of a Music Major

“Music students: as the semester grinds on you may feel intensely burnt-out. You may even consider dropping out of music altogether. If that happens, go back and listen to your favorite recordings, make music with your friends, do anything you can to remind yourself why you loved music before you started studying it. An education in music can be a very good thing, but it can also squeeze the life out of any love you ever had for it. Don’t let it.”

Recently, I came across this quote by Eric Whitacre from his blog, via Facebook. The timing couldn’t have been better.

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