Something that I will always hold against my sisters is that they both decided to get married over a weekend in May when I was still in school. My older sister, Rebecca, got married two years ago over Memorial Day weekend, and my other sister, Rachel just got married this past weekend- almost two exact years to the day from Rebecca's wedding. And both of them decided to get married in the Georgia heat....why?! I guess the facts that we all grew up in Georgia, and that weddings in May are beneficial for multiple reasons had something to do with it. Actually, I’m not upset with them for choosing those dates for their weddings - I haven't minded escaping from school during that last stretch of work and finals to spend time with my family and celebrate with my dear sisters! And what a special time it has been at both events.
As you all know, Rachel has had quite the debut on my blog, so you can tell how much she means to me! That’s why it’s probably an understood thing that I approached her wedding with great feelings of joy and excitement for her, and also sadness in letting her go. Ask any twin who is very close to his or her other half, and you will often find that when one twin gets married it almost feels like the twins are going through a divorce, as the married twin forms a close bond with another person. However, Rachel had dated her husband, Daniel, for six years, so I had plenty of time to process this change and accept it. I could not be happier for them! And who helped give her that happiness? I DID.
I like to joke about that a lot, but it is sort of true. You see, Rachel and Daniel first met and started dating because my high school boyfriend and I set the two of them up to join us for a double-date my and Rachel’s sophomore year of high school. They were both quiet and awkward due to nerves, but apparently something intrigued both of them about the other, and they continued to date. After 5 months of dating, Rachel and I transferred to Interlochen Arts Academy to study music more intensely our last two years of high school, and they continued to do long distance for the 5.5 years after those 5 months. It’s really remarkable and inspiring that they were so committed to one another all those years! And I saw them grow together so much during those times they were so far apart.
The wedding weekend was also special for me because I was able to reunite with my two best childhood friends, Saureh and Erin, for the first time in half a year. Before that last visit together, we hadn’t all been together in three years. So the four of us had a blast, giggling and swapping stories of the memories of our 13 years of friendship. It was a sweet time.
The wedding day was full of so much love and happiness. Rachel and Daniel were married at Waters Mill in Dahlonega, Georgia, under an arbor in a beautiful grassy field. I started crying the moment I saw my angelic sister step onto the stone aisle. I then turned to her soon-to-be-hubby and saw tears overflowing from his eyes, and I lost it! We were all beaming with tears running down our cheeks as she approached the altar with my dad. My dad, being the incredible man he is, was making jokes the entire time he stood there with her. We all laughed and cried and then laughed and cried some more.
Once the ceremony finished, the bridal party stayed behind to take pictures with the newly Mr. and Mrs. Hall, and we all tried our best to continue to look good, despite the intensity of the hot Georgia sun. The best man, Evan (who is the boy I dated and was my partner in setting Rachel and Daniel up!!), and I hurried into the reception hall once the pictures were done to mentally prepare ourselves for our toasts and the surprise we had planned. What was this amazing surprise? I am so proud of myself for this, but I had actually kept a secret from Rachel for months now - I secretly recorded Rachel and Daniel sharing their takes on each of their significant relationship moments and played it at the reception! And they absolutely loved it. It meant so much to me to surprise them and to give them such a personal gift, and I was also relieved that they weren’t mad at me for keeping some of their funny stories in the recording!
After all of my stressful duties were over, I sat with Saureh and Erin and ate the delicious cake. We eventually hit the dance floor, but before we knew it, we were in the Bridal Suite, quickly throwing everything of Rachel’s into a bag so we could dump it into her and Daniel’s car before they drove off! Just seconds after we shut the door with all of their things, Rachel and her husband drove off in their car that was perfectly decorated by the groomsmen (which was a surprise to us bridesmaids, as the boys had lied to us and told us they had forgotten the materials to do it!). My family and I lingered to help clean up and then ran some errands before we hosted a taco party for the guests at the house we had rented for the weekend. It was a great time to continue catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in six years and enjoy nature before heading back to the city.
I am now back in Chicago and - ready or not! - am approaching my final two weeks of college. I feel extreme thankfulness right now - for a weekend away, for lifelong friendships, for unending love and devotion, for celebrating the joys of life together. I am so happy for both of my sisters and love my two brothers-in-law dearly and hope to marry someone someday that will complete the trio of boys in a perfect harmony! And who knows when that will be?! I mean, I DID catch Rachel’s bouquet at the wedding! Although, I’m going to focus on one year at a time.
Next stop: graduation.
Next, NEXT stop: ALASKA!
This past week, I was honored to attend the Annual Board of Trustees Student Luncheon. Besides a mouthful of words, what was it, exactly? That's exactly what I was asking myself the day of the event, as I was walk-running (a personal favorite exercise routine for me) toward the Student Center, three minutes late for my scheduled arrival time. I had received an email, asking me to wear business casual attire (I'll take any excuse to dress up and feel like an adult!) and thanking me for participating in this informal "Q & A session"- did that mean I had to get up and speak in front of everyone?! I secretly hoped not.
I walked up to the third floor of the Student Center- a place I had only ever gone to receive my mail, stop by the University Ministry office
, or lounge around on the comfy seats- and picked up my fancy name tag and table assignment. As I walked into the large room, I saw 12 tables full of students from various schools within DePaul. When I walked over to my table, I was happy to see that one of my friends from the Theatre School
was also sitting at my table; we represented the artistic majors at DePaul. After speculating what we would be doing, we were eventually asked to join a table of other majors because we did not have enough people at ours.
We joined our new table and became acquainted with everyone there: there were 8 of us students and two men on the Board of Trustees. I learned that we were simply having a delicious lunch with these members of the Board, sharing about ourselves, our experiences at DePaul, and recommending improvements where we see needs. I ended up being seated next to one of the Board members, a prestigious, nice man. He ended up asking me a lot of questions about myself and my time at DePaul. It was great to share my DePaul story and my thoughts about what could have made it even better.
After we all shared, each table was asked to write down everything we had told the Board members about and present it to the rest of the room. It was a great time to hear about other programs and needs within our school and to see such mature, inspiring peers of mine be so passionate about DePaul. We finished our three-course meal and all said our goodbyes as the two men at our table left to attend a meeting with the rest of the Board members. I loved that both men were incredibly understanding and patient with listening to our opinions. It meant a lot to me that we could all come together over our common love of DePaul and work toward making it a better place.
Something really weird happened this past weekend. My twin sister became a college graduate a month before I did! I once again returned to Cleveland to celebrate with Rachel as she walked across the stage of Kulas Hall at Cleveland Institute of Music to receive her Bachelor's of Music Performance
It was a long day on Saturday, as my flight had arrived into Cleveland at midnight that morning. And of course, the moment the taxi from the airport pulled up to my sister's apartment, a torrential downpour of rain started! I quickly discovered that my umbrella was broken and proceeded to run. It's always great to get a workout in before bed!
We woke up early that morning because Rachel and her two roommates had to be at the graduation venue early. It was amusing to hear the three of them laughing and singing and squealing at 6:30 am out of excitement, but it was also not the most pleasant thing after a long night of travel, so early in the morning!
My parents and I reunited for the first time since my recital in the CIM building and set out to pick some great seats in Kulas for the ceremony. We amused ourselves by taking plenty of selfies and texting my older sister, Rebecca, who couldn't attend the ceremony, and Rachel as she waited outside with the other graduates. And finally, it was time! Except it wasn't "actually" time for another hour or so, as there were plenty of musical performances and speeches to be made! But in that time, we had the honor of hearing world-famous composer, musician, and conductor, Gunther Schuller, give a speech at the ripe age of 89 from his wheelchair on the stage.
It was finally time for the graduates to walk and receive their diplomas, and I could tell right away that this ceremony was a unique one for a small class of musicians: each person was listed by their instrument, and they each received applause as they walked onto the stage. Rachel was among the first quarter of the 90 graduates, and we got plenty of pictures of her beaming excitedly as she walked onto, across, and off the stage.
After the ceremony, we were all invited to attend an outdoor reception in a tent full of food, drinks, and very happy people. Rachel was so busy saying hello to everyone, that she asked me to hold her cap and gown for her. Well, being a twin has always had its quirks...one of which is that if you go somewhere just your twin has been for years, people will immediately mistake you for her. I had already been mistaken for Rachel three or four times that day and decided to have a little fun: I put on her cap and gown and walked around the tent! It was great to have people come up to me as they were in the process of extending their arms to hug me until they saw the look of confusion and amusement all over my face. That definitely happened twice!
I eventually ceased my shenanigans so I could help take some nice portraits of my sister with her fiancé and the rest of my family, and we headed out to her favorite restaurant in Little Italy to dine on champagne and delicious pasta. My parents left after lunch, and I flew out the following morning. We spent the evening of that day at the beautifully ornate Severance Hall to hear the equally-as-beautiful "New World Symphony
" by Antonin Dvorak
, played by The Cleveland Orchestra
. It was a glorious performance and a great way for Rachel to say goodbye to Cleveland, as she is moving down to Georgia to get married in a couple weeks and attend graduate school!
It was a great time to celebrate Rachel's hard work and wonderful experiences these past four years, and I am very much looking forward to being able to do the same for myself in just under a month!!
Something that I will greatly miss about DePaul once I graduate is the Ray Meyer Fitness Center. I headed over there this past Saturday morning to burn some calories and get my heart pumping and kept thinking to myself, “Why don’t I go here more often?!”. Especially when the weather isn’t desirable or you are looking to use a machine, this is the place to go.
Just a minute walk from the Student Center (where the DePaul cafeteria is), the Ray is one of the highlights of DePaul’s facilities and should be taken great advantage of by all students. A membership to the Ray is included in DePaul’s tuition, so students can go as often as they would like and go for a swim, play racquetball or basketball, run on the indoor track, or use any number of the machines and weights.
Not only does the Ray have a beautiful track on its top floor that overlooks Lincoln Park, a large swimming pool with multiple lanes, AND an entire floor of machines, but it also offers a great variety of group fitness classes that are free to students. From boxing to Zumba, you can be led by motivational and inspiring fitness instructors and embarrass yourself in a group of other people who are feeling just as lost as you are! I tried a couple classes with friends, but my favorite group instruction class has been cycling. I’ve enjoyed how the instructors use different music, lighting effects, and images to motivate us to push ourselves. I especially enjoy when the instructor turns on the black lights so everyone is glowing in the dark!
In regards to machinery, my favorite one to use is the elliptical, but I have also used the treadmill and stair steppers. A lot of the machines also have individual televisions connected to them, so you can watch TV as you work out, to distract you from the agonizing pain you’re in (or maybe that’s just me?!)! I enjoy listening to music as I work out or watching Netflix on my phone, especially because there is no background noise. Something that I appreciate is the gym doesn’t play music in overhead speakers, so it is a quiet, clean environment.
Once you finish your workout, you can head downstairs to the Ray cafe that offers delicious smoothies with fresh fruit, grilled paninis, or quesadillas. There are also great snack items there. While I love everything about this place, eating its food is my favorite part about visiting the Ray!
There is something special about being in the School of Music
late at night. The incessant repetition of excerpts finally ceases, the rush of people going in and out of rehearsals and lessons slows, and all staff leave their offices for the night. Who is left? The small minority of late-night practicers, the janitor, and me and my boyfriend, Tobin.
Tobin and I are both cellists and are in the same studio, so we are able to see one another throughout the day in classes. However, when our school obligations are done for the day and we want to spend time together, we usually flee from the School of Music (SOM) as soon as we possibly can, just because we are there so often! As I mentioned in my post about DePaul SOM jobs, students can apply to work at the front desk, and those shifts can go as long as 10pm. Tobin picked up the 3-10pm shift one day this week, so we decided to do something new and have a date night in the SOM.
We have both been really looking forward to seeing the new Avengers movie; he's excited about seeing the actual movie, and I'm more excited about sitting in the incredible recliners in the Regal Webster Theater
making popcorn my dinner. In preparation for that, we have begun to watch all the Marvel movies, and first up was Iron Man I. So I joined Tobin around 7:30 as he sat at the front desk and gave keys to people so they could practice in their teacher's studios. We saw many music friends as they stopped by to say hi, and I tried to remain composed and sit up straight because, after all, Tobin was still on the job.
But by the time 9pm rolled around and virtually no one was there, my shoes were off, and I was squirming around in my chair to find the most comfortable, lazy position I could. Once Tobin's shift was over, we decided to continue our movie marathon in the SOM Student Lounge, a spacious area decked with extremely comfortable couches, tables, and chairs. We situated the couches the way we wanted them, used the lounge microwave to pop popcorn, bought gummy bears from the vending machines, and we were set!
The School of Music is open until midnight during the school week, which gave us just enough time to finish Iron Man. It was really nice to spend time relaxing in the SOM and seeing people as they went about their nights and headed home (one of our orchestra conductors definitely passed the front desk as we were in full-out lazy mode, so that gave him a laugh!). It also made me realize that if I ever needed to live in the SOM and its three buildings, I could totally survive! So overall, it was an entertaining and enjoyable night spent in DePaul's School of Music!
This may come as a shock to some of you, but I've decided to go farther north next year. MUCH farther north.
Where, you may ask?
ALASKA. No joke, I'm moving to Juneau, Alaska this July (just five weeks after I graduate!) to begin a year-long Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program for El Sistema
music education at University of Alaska Southeast
. I know that you are already well informed about the El Sistema movement and what it stands for from my other blogs. You probably have already pieced together that I greatly respect it and desire to know more about how to teach music well, especially in underserved areas.
I actually heard about this MAT program after I found out that I was accepted into another graduate program that was similar but wasn’t quite what I wanted. Upon my acceptance, I talked with colleagues in the El Sistema community who told me that they had heard of a brand new program at University of Alaska Southeast that is offering a Master's for people who want to study under nationally-renowned music pedagogue, Lorrie Heagy. Although it was originally difficult to picture myself in Alaska, I decided to look into the program and talk to Lorrie myself before making any decisions. Within hours of emailing her, Lorrie and I were skyping as she sat in a classroom of an Alaskan public school, and she told me all about her work, her vision for this program, and the details behind it. And I thought, "Why not?! I'll at least apply!" A month later, I had submitted all of my extensive application materials.
Throughout that month, I began to think deeply about what I want my first year, post-graduation to look like. I had been accepted to a job I was excited about in Chicago, I could also continue to teach with El Sistema Ravinia and privately, and accept gigs. I also wasn’t sure if I felt ready to leave this city or my friends. But there was also this feeling, this natural instinct within me, reminding me of how much I absolutely love adventure and exploring new places. I reassured myself that this would only be a year-long commitment and started to come around to the idea of possibly moving outside the continental U.S. to participate in a program I had only just heard of a month before. I started to watch videos, read articles, and talk with others about the program and Lorrie Heagy’s work, and it became clear to me that this was where I wanted to earn my Master’s degree.
I received my official acceptance letter just last week, and I have already announced to all of my family and friends my decision. It was actually entertaining to see how everyone reacted to it; some were very excited for me and knew that this would be a great adventure. Others were puzzled as to why I would want to move there or why I was going to receive a Master’s in Teaching and not in performance. I just explained as well as I could about the transformation my career goals have gone through during my time at DePaul, and that yes, it’s crazy and scary, but that I want to pursue a career in El Sistema education. And with its bays, glaciers, and mountains, Alaska doesn’t actually sound like such a bad place to do it!
So as I mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare myself to graduate, pack up my things, and fly off to Juneau, I am trying to take time to be excited about this and also be present where I am now, soaking up my last few weeks at a fantastic school in a beautiful city. Making decisions about graduate school has shown me just how well being a music student at DePaul has prepared me for this big step, and it makes me ever prouder to be a Blue Demon.
My new school’s mascot is “Spike”, the humpback whale, so I can officially say that I am either a Blue-Whale Demon, or a Blue Demon-Whale! I’m not sure which one I like more yet. ;)
Now that my recital is over, I have been able to explore the city and all the amazing things it offers a bit this past week. And this weekend, I did one of my favorite activities: shopping!
Whether you're not that into it or are a shopaholic, it's helpful to know where some major shopping areas are, so I'll share about the stores I usually go to when I need a pair of shoes, a table, or a jacket.
North State Street (Off the Monroe red line stop):
Nordstrom Rack: If you are looking for classier, slightly more expensive clothing, go to The Rack. They have a great selection of accessories, and casual and fancy dress for men and women.
H&M: This is my favorite store! I view it as sort of an older version of Forever 21 with slightly better quality. There are a variety of styles of clothing sold in the store for both men and women. My favorite thing about the store? Their super cool chandelier!
Payless Shoesource: I am obsessed with this place! I have gotten multiple pairs of flats, heels, and sandals here. If you are looking for affordable shoes, go here.
There is a Ross, TJ Maxx, and a Target store right around State Street as well with great prices and products!
Water Tower Place (Off the Chicago red line stop):
Macy's: This Macy's store, as well as the one off of State Street (check that out when you're hitting up the other State Street stores!), is beautiful! I highly recommend going to both Macy's stores during the winter because they put up beautiful Christmas decorations and have a giant Christmas tree inside, in a dining area called The Walnut Room.
Forever 21: While I have recently become enamored with H&M, Forever 21 is a great store for younger women- especially college students! They offer a great variety of styles of clothing, and the store inside this mall is two floors of fashion heaven.
Marbles: The Brain Store: If you are tired of looking at so much clothing, check out this super cool store! They have a great variety of interesting games and toys that work your mind as well as your hands. The employees are super friendly and love to show you things. I just bought a complicated puzzle of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" that I cannot wait to start!
The LEGO Store: Another fun place to go is this big LEGO store in the mall. It is full of different kits and huge figurines made up of thousands of Legos, making it a neat place in which you can explore and embrace your inner kid!
Plato's Closet: If you are looking for cheaper options and are perfectly fine with wearing second-hand clothing, I highly recommend all three of these stores. There is a Plato's Closet off Broadway Street that has so much clothing, you could spend hours going through each section (trust me- I have!). I actually got my dress for my sophomore recital there.
Crossroads Trading Co.:
Crossroads is a slightly more expensive used clothing store with very fashionable, cute clothing for both men and women. My boyfriend and I stumbled upon this store one day and found so many great things for both of us!
Salvation Army: There is a large Salvation Army just a short walk away from campus, and it is full of excellent deals! I am not even exaggerating when I say that I got a designer blazer for $.50 because of a huge sale they were having once! They also have great used furniture, dish ware, decorations, and appliances that are perfect for college students who are furnishing their first apartments.
So if you want to explore all the retail options the city has to offer, start with these! But prepare yourself to be intensely sore, tired, and hungry after! Once you are at that point, you should check out my posts about junk food in Chicago!
There are so many beautiful things about the spring season at DePaul: the grass is green again, the flowers and trees are bursting with color and life, outdoor events are actually enjoyable in the warmth of the sun, and ice cream shops are overflowing with hungry kids...and college students.
Even though everyone tries to avoid scheduling their recital during the "rush recital time", it inevitably happens. This is mostly because everyone wants to have as much time as possible to prepare for their recital so they can sound the best they can. I also think that once the weather is so nice, it just seems more enjoyable to perform because we are all genuinely happy that winter is over! It adds a lightness to every music major's playing when the temperature rises above 50 degrees.
Like every school, DePaul has a specific process for scheduling and preparing for a recital. All performance majors must give a junior and a senior recital as part of their degree requirement, and there are certain guidelines for the genre and timing of the repertoire. I gave my senior recital this a few weekends ago (woo hoo!), and as a senior, I was required to play a program of at least 60 minutes, which had to include a piece written after the 20th century. As I prepared for my recital all throughout winter quarter, I also had to take certain steps to secure an accompanist, a date, and a location for my recital. This had to be scheduled with the facilities office months before. Juniors and seniors are also required to write and submit program notes about their pieces in advance, which is a great way to inform both the audience and the performer of significant facts about the pieces.
A typical weekend in the spring could have as many as three recitals that you will want to attend. While this seems like a busy day that could have been spent outside or practicing, it is really nice to spend time with your classmates in a more social environment and to also celebrate with your performing friends about their musical accomplishments. Another great thing about recitals at DePaul? The receptions! You can actually have every meal taken care of for an entire day some weekends. Students almost always provide receptions directly following their recitals (which are usually in the Recital Hall) and have their reception across the hall in the student lounge. It's fantastic!
So as spring rolls around, prepare yourself to spend a significant amount of time sitting in an audience and stuffing your face with delicious finger foods. Try to enjoy the beautiful weather as much as you can, but embrace the wonderful music-making!
I am not good at making decisions. Simply ask my sisters, parents, or friends who go shopping with me. I look at the shelves of lamps, the racks of shirts, the boxes of macaroni and cheese, and I just get overwhelmed. I spend thirty minutes deciding between two different pieces of jewelry and usually end up buying both, either because I cannot handle being so stressed about making a choice, or the person I am dragging around cannot handle being so stressed by watching me make a choice.
So when it came to choosing which music school to attend, which was the biggest decision I had had to make at that point in my life, it was a big struggle for me. I applied to seven schools. Three of them were music conservatories, two were universities with huge music programs, and the other two were big schools with smaller music programs. After I submitted my applications and finished my auditions for all of the schools I applied to, I did not let myself hope that I would get into my dream school, one of the conservatories. But when I was informed that I was accepted to my dream school two days before I was obligated to inform all schools which program I chose, and after I had already picked DePaul, I felt stuck. Here I was, standing in the hypothetical shopping aisle. In one hand, I was holding a small, competitive conservatory I had strived to get into for years and always thought I would love. In the other hand, I held a university in a fantastic city, with an incredible cello teacher, and much more of a liberal arts experience. So, I followed my instincts and chose the unexpected.
After a couple days of intense prayer, reflection, heart-to-hearts, and talks with prospective music professors, I chose DePaul. How did I have such a big change of heart in a matter of days? There were many logical factors that pushed me toward DePaul, including the fact that my identical twin sister was also interested in the conservatory and we had wanted to go to different colleges, but there were also deeper realizations about what I actually wanted to experience in college that hit me as I grappled with this decision.
As I debated between these two very contrasting school environments, cities, and college experiences, I discovered that being a student at DePaul seemed so much more appealing to me. I realized that when I thought about going to college, I always envisioned being on a beautiful, big campus that was full of a variety of schools and majors. I wanted to be surrounded by history, architecture, and nature. I wanted to be classmates with people whose majors were completely unrelated to mine, and with people who grew up in very different economic, religious, and physical backgrounds so I could learn more about the diversity of my generation. I craved to feel like I was in college while also gaining experience in this oh-so-scary “real world” everyone kept informing me about at every dinner party my parents ever threw. After talking with my future cello teacher and emailing with a current School of Music student, I saw that DePaul had these aspects I had been hoping for. Being in Chicago, a city with a very strong and diverse music scene and a great amount of history and sites to see, attending a school with a student population of 25,000, and being able to grow greatly in my musical aspirations, were my expectations and my actual experiences as a student at DePaul.
As I enjoy my senior year at DePaul and reflect on those two days of panic and difficulty, I am grateful I took the time to truly step back and ask myself, “Is this what I want?” I definitely heard strong, contrasting opinions about this major decision, but in the end, I felt it within myself. I envisioned myself walking the streets of Lincoln Park, wearing a DePaul sweatshirt and carrying a cello on my back. I saw myself growing into the person I wanted to be at DePaul, as I encountered many different cultures and ideas and grew in my faith. I chose DePaul for many reasons, but what really moved me to choose this school was that I finally felt at peace when I let myself say yes.
It has been a great start to my final quarter of college: I had a fantastic Easter with my family in Michigan, and this past week, I started a new teaching job! While I love working in the DePaul Music Admissions office dearly, teaching cello with El Sistema programs is my passion in life.
In case you are unfamiliar with the El Sistema movement and have not read some of my earlier posts, El Sistema is an educational methodology centered around social empowerment through music. The movement began in Venezuela in 1975 by a man named Jose Antonio Abreu; he started programs around Venezuela that provided kids with free music education, five to six days a week, keeping them off the streets and in a loving community. This philosophy is centered around the belief that every child deserves an equal opportunity to grow as a person, using music to encourage that growth.
This is actually the third program I have been honored to work with in the past three years. I began volunteering with The People’s Music School Youth Orchestra
program my freshman year of college. How did I find out about this opportunity? I saw a poster hanging on the DePaul School of Music bulletin board! I am forever grateful for that bulletin board. I taught cello for the first time with that program, leading group and private lessons with students who ranged from ages 8 to 14.
I worked with The People’s Music School (TPMS) until the end of my Junior year and then went on my summer adventure to Trujillo, Peru where I worked with a non-profit organization called VivePeru
, teaching cello, and also taught cello with an El Sistema program there called Arpegio Peru. My experiences teaching with Vive Peru and with Arpegio Peru were both phenomenal. With Vive, I taught lessons at the Trujillo Conservatory, working with Peruvian students ranging from ages 22 to 27. It was so amazing to not only work with students who were older than I was, but I also taught my lessons completely in Spanish! Working with Arpegio gave me a glimpse into the South American El Sistema experience, one that is characterized by deep friendship, great joy, and intense love for music. It was incredible to travel to the nearby city of Chimbote each weekend to teach kids and adults.
I returned to Chicago this Fall, extremely excited to enroll in North Park University’s Certificate in Music for Social Change program, a year-long study of El Sistema history, philosophy, and principles. I am currently finishing this course and have been learning so much about El Sistema because of it!
As of last week, I am teaching with an El Sistema program headed by Ravinia, as part of their “Reach, Teach, Play” program. I am teaching once a week in the Austin neighborhood, which is a very different community than Logan Square, the neighborhood where I taught with TPMS.
No matter where I have taught- from Peru to Chicago- I see energy, eagerness, and passion in each student. All of them crave to learn more and be the best they can be. Although I am teaching them musical and social skills, I know that I have so much to learn from each of my students. I love being immersed in a very different culture and learning about my students’ stories and dreams. I am excited to grow more as a teacher in the next couple of months before I graduate, and I am also looking forward to what I will learn in the years to come because of El Sistema!
Something beautiful about being a DePaul student is that, no matter the season, there is always delicious junk food to feed your soul. Especially when it is cold or rainy out and there seems to be nothing better to do; it's a great idea to go get delicious food with friends. Here are some of my favorite places:
This place is a beautiful creation. Insomnia Cookies
sells amazingly huge homemade cookies that are incredibly delicious. You can have milk with your cookie order, or you can turn your cookie into a "cookiewich", if you want a cookie-ice cream sandwich! This is a great place to go after a concert at the School of Music, as it is only a few blocks away from school. They are open until 3am and also deliver, so go cookie crazy!
is a classy, German-style restaurant full of delicious pizza, pasta, and sandwiches. It has a unique system: once you walk in, you are given a card that you use every time you order something at their various stations from personal chefs. You then pay at the end of your time in the restaurant. With a modern, warm vibe, Vapiano is a classier alternative to Papa John's or Domino's. They are usually open until 1am, so it is the perfect place to go for a long, late-night dinner.
is a classic place that I highly recommend you visit once you arrive in Chicago. I have only been to the ones downtown, so it is a longer trek from campus. But if you are out shopping or seeing sights, I highly recommend this savory snack! It really is the best popcorn I have ever tasted. Flavors sold include regular butter popcorn, cheese popcorn, chocolate-covered caramel corn, and regular caramel corn. Caramel corn is my all-time favorite!
If you want a classic, Chicago-style deep dish pizza, go to Lou Malnati's
! This restaurant has received awards and recognition for its outstanding pizza. There are many different options on the menu- they have even gluten free crust! Lou Malnati's is only a fifteen-minute walk away from DePaul, so it's a great way to satisfy a deep dish/regular pizza craving.
So whether you want a midnight meal with friends or some snacks as you watch a movie at home, check out these awesome places!
I have learned many things throughout my time at DePaul. From discovering how to manage my time to learning more about how to be a great musician, I know that I will be able to cross the stage at graduation feeling like I really learned significant things during college. But as a freshman, I had no way to know what my college experience would end up being like. There were so many unexpected moments, lessons, and opportunities that I encountered in just my first year of college alone. As I look back on my time at DePaul, I ask myself what I wish I had known when I first began this crazy-cool journey of college. I think that I can summarize the things I wish I knew as a freshman at DePaul in three basic points: one that is practical, one that is profound, and another that is pretty straightforward.
The Practical: Learn
how you work best and go for it.
I can remember many-a-night during my freshman year when I was doing a lot of musicianship (music theory and music history) homework or was studying for an exam. By sophomore year, I realized that I often work best alone and that group studying or homework sessions only work for me if I feel solid about the material and just need someone to quiz me on it or check over my work. Although many people would regularly meet together to learn test material as a group, it didn’t feel rude to study on my own and meet with a classmate or two the night before the exam or before the homework was due. I discovered what worked for me and felt no shame in doing what I needed to do. But if you work best in groups, find other people who also do and form them as soon as possible!
Everybody else is just as unsure about life as you are.
It really is true. Although we all express it differently (or don’t ever express it!), most people have no idea what their futures hold. Many of us aren’t quite sure what we want sometimes, and all of us have insecurities. I entered college with high expectations of myself; I thought that I had to have everything figured out. I also thought that I had to have everything together all the time, and I kept to myself the fact that I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my major or with my life! I would show up to lessons, terrified that my professor might find out that I wasn’t feeling confident in my playing that week. Or, I tried to not let my new friends discover that I was actually super homesick and stressed some days. And with time, as I discovered more of who I was and what my fears, insecurities, and dreams are, I realized that those are important things that I am allowed to share with others. Once I began to stop expecting so much of myself and allowed myself to open up to others about how adjusting to college can be hard, I learned that I wasn’t alone. You are entering a completely new stage of life when you start college. Entering college marks a time in your life where you are more independent than you have ever been before, and it’s scary. You’re faced with big decisions that must be made in a not-so-distant future. So, allow yourself to not know everything about yourself or about life. And tell people; you might just be surprised by how many others feel the same way! And this nugget of truth doesn’t even just apply to college freshmen- all of us are unsure and scared about life sometimes!
straightforward: You go to school in an incredible city—embrace it!
College really does just fly by. They all said it to me when I chose DePaul and moved into my dorm. I can hear my parents saying it now: “You couldn’t have picked a better city! Take advantage of Chicago; it’s your playground for the next four years. And remember- college really does just fly by”. That’s literally what they said. So enjoy where you are. Go to random school events you just learned about 5 minutes before they began. Make new friends. Try different things. Take advantage of free things, both at DePaul and in Chicago! Go to artisan fairs and food festivals. Go to the zoo, go ice skating, visit the Bean and take as many selfies as your hipster heart desires; attend concerts, have a picnic in a park, have a NAP in a park, attend master classes, walk to the lake. Get your nature fix, your shopping fix, your I’m-going-to-pretend-to-be-a-tourist fix. Host movie nights in your dorm room. Try to be fancy and serve cheese and crackers and sparkling soda. Go to pet stores with friends. Take a random train route you’ve never taken and get off at a random stop (as long as it’s safe). I wish I had done more of these things as a freshman, when I lived in the dorms and had so many new friendships to pursue and no jobs or extra obligations to consume my time.
Freshman year is an irreplaceable nine months of your life. I grew so much, learned a lot, and I discovered so many incredible things. But there were still things I wish I had known—don’t let these be the three things you wish YOU had known as a freshman at DePaul!
This is a “class” that performance majors will have every quarter for their entire time at DePaul. Lessons usually take place once a week for an hour, although some professors travel to perform, so they may happen less often and in bigger chunks. Every professor arranges their lesson schedule differently, but our cello professor, Mr. Balderston created a set lesson schedule for the entire year. So I always have my lessons at a certain time for the entire year. Lessons are worth 4 credits, which is the maximum amount a class can be worth. So they are obviously a big deal!
Musicianship is a class that is required of all freshmen and sophomores. Even if you have taken music theory (and even if you scored high on the AP music theory test), you must take this course. Musicianship is taught by a number of different professors, and by the time you reach sophomore year, there are a little more options for what time of the day the class will be offered. However, my freshman year, I had musicianship class at 8:30 am, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. It was a struggle! By sophomore year, you are assigned to a class that meets Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, and I was fortunate enough to be in the 11:20-12:50 musicianship class. Musicianship consists of music theory and music history. When you come to DePaul for orientation, you will take a theory placement test, and this will determine in which of the three levels of musicianship you will be for the first year. After those two years, you will have learned how to part-write using different chord progressions; how to listen to a piece and know its basic characteristics, time period, and its composer; you will do research on various composers; and you will write your own short piece of some kind. This class is very helpful in teaching you about the music you play!
Aural training is another class you are required to take your first two years at DePaul. However, at the beginning of the quarter, there will be a “test-out” day, and if you have experience with aural training before, you may never have to take the class. The test usually consists of a harmonic progression (progressions with changing chords), a melodic progression (just a melody without chords), and a rhythmic exercise (which is often played on the piano on a single note. You are usually given the time signature and must write out the rhythm). If you don’t have experience with listening to music and writing it down and with sight-singing, fear not! Most people don’t have too much experience with it upon starting college. And although this class can be difficult, as you learn a new way of approaching music, you sharpen your listening skills tremendously, which can only help you in the long-run. If you end up having to take this class, it is often directly before or after your musicianship class.
This class is a little more self-explanatory. It is also a class that you can try to test out of! In the same way, you can go and play for one of the group piano professors at the beginning of each quarter to try to test out of the class. By the time you finish group piano, you will know all two-octave scales and arpeggios on the piano, different chord progressions, how to play sevenths and ninth chords on the piano, and how to play and sight-read basic piano pieces/exercises. This class can be quite entertaining, as piano is a brand new skill for some people (that was pretty much me!). And when it’s a new skill AND you don’t practice, it can sound pretty bad. My advice: practice! I tried to practice piano a few times a week because I really needed it. That way, I only embarrassed myself in front of my classmates a couple of times each quarter. Even though it can be embarrassing or scary playing in front of your peers and professor, group piano helps you feel more comfortable with the piano and with showing your poor or not-so-poor skills you have on it.
Music Traditions is a required course that lasts only a quarter, and you can take it pretty much any time you would like to. I decided to take it my junior year, and it was offered twice a week for an hour. It depends on the professor, as this course is taught by a few different ones, but mine was lecture-style for the entire course. My professor had an incredible knowledge about the topics of the class, which included an extensive history of jazz and various styles/genres of music from around the world, so he would lecture by memory about each topic, and I took notes on every word he said. The class had no homework or reading, but you have to be there for every class, or else you will miss an important topic discussed in the lecture. I really enjoyed the class because I never learned much about jazz, Eastern, or African music, and it was great to learn about genres other than Western classical music.
This class was one of my favorite classes, but it was also one of the most difficult ones. I am unsure in regards to wind instruments, but each string instrument has its own orchestral rep. class. The cello class was taught by Mr. Balderston. A group of 10 or less of us would get together for this class once a week for two hours, and we would each perform excerpts that our professor had assigned to us the week before. We always had a week to learn the excerpts, and we sometimes had to learn up to 5 of them for a given class. It took a lot of work and practicing, and the turnaround was so fast! But because of that, we got through so many well-known orchestral excerpts that are often given in auditions, and I got so many valuable tips on them. My teacher also gave a booklet of all the excerpts to each of us, so I now have music with his markings from his time in major symphonies for the rest of my life!
When string students become upperclassmen, they are required to take orchestral repertoire one year and pedagogy the other year. I am currently taking pedagogy and will continue to for the rest of my time at DePaul. This class is super helpful to me, as I am currently a private teacher and plan to continue teaching throughout my music career. For the first two quarters, each instrument is divided into separate classes, as they are in orchestral rep., and for the Spring quarter, all the classes of different string instruments come together as one class. It depends on your instrument and your professor, but the cello pedagogy class has been learning about different books teachers use with young students, different teaching techniques, and things of that nature.
Orchestra is another class that you will take your entire time at DePaul as a performance major. At the beginning of each school year, string students audition for the orchestra conductors and the professors of their instrument, which determines the student's orchestra placement and seating for the year. DePaul has two main orchestras: Chamber and Symphony Orchestra. Once you are placed in your orchestra, you will either rehearse on Tuesday and Thursday for two hours each (if you are in Chamber, which we call DPCO- DePaul Chamber Orchestra), or on Monday, Wednesday, Friday (if you are in Symphony, DPSO).
Students are required to play in a chamber music group for two years in total at some point during their undergraduate. However, if you wanted to play in more chamber groups after those two years, you can totally do that! I have played in a chamber group almost my entire time at DePaul. Once the chamber requirements are filled, chamber music counts as an elective. What I love about chamber music at DePaul is the amount of freedom you have to make decisions- you are allowed to pick the members of your group, the repertoire you play, and you can request a specific coach. Once you have those things determined, your group is required to rehearse multiple times a week and have a one-hour coaching with the selected professor once a week. Each group must attend and perform in chamber music class, which meets every Friday from 1-2:30, starting toward the middle of the quarter. I have played in trios with violin, piano, cello and with clarinet, piano, cello. I have played in a string quartet that accompanied a clarinetist, and I have played in the traditional string quartet.
So that is a brief overview of the main courses undergraduate performance majors (in particular, string players) must take during their time at DePaul. I hope it helps paint a picture of what your experience at DePaul would be as a music student! Each class has been extremely helpful to me, and although a lot of them required a lot of work, it was all worth it. I feel like a well-rounded musician because of it!
“Okay—everyone say, ‘Pants are useless’ as we take a bow!”
The violinist in my trio, Andrew, had been joking about how uncomfortable men’s dress pants were for the past three minutes that we had been standing backstage, waiting for our turn to go on and perform two movements of Debussy’s piano, violin, cello trio in the DePaul String Chamber Showcase.
As the group before us finished their final movement of the night and the applause began, my heart raced faster all of a sudden. Although I love playing in chamber groups and feel more comfortable performing an in ensemble than by myself, I definitely still get nervous each time I walk out on the Concert Hall
stage for the Chamber Showcase that is held toward the end of each quarter.
Once the previous group came backstage, and we congratulated them on a stellar performance, the stage managers quickly asked me if I would prefer a cello chair or a bench; it was suddenly a very huge decision that was difficult for me to make. After going back and forth in my mind about which would feel more comfortable, I decided on the cello chair and waited for them to return and open the door for us to walk out onto the stage.
I was the first person to walk onto the stage, and I immediately noticed that there was a decently sized audience clapping for us, and the lights were very bright! Once I was near my seat to bow, I also noticed how close our seats were to the edge of the stage, and that scared me a little bit. I bowed anyways and told myself the strange saying Andrew had come up with as I bowed forward and rose back up.
We sat down, and I adjusted my endpin multiple times before I tuned to our pianist, Ryan, and let Andrew tune to me. Then, we were off! We played the cute Scherzo
movement, beginning and ending with pizzicato
. We then glided through the graceful third movement, a gorgeous Intermezzo
with a stunning melody that the cello begins with and then passes off to the violin. We ended the third movement with a final G major chord that was held by a fermata, and Andrew and I both slowly took our bows off our strings, keeping eye contact.
Once we put our bows down, it took the audience at least 4 seconds to clap. When I was on the stage, I was worried that the audience wasn’t sure if we were done performing, and I felt extremely awkward. But when I talked to people afterward, they said that the performance was beautiful, and I realized that they didn’t want to ruin the moment shared between the audience and us as the final chord hung in the air. That is the mark of a successful performance for me!
As I am writing this, I am listening to the recording of us for the first time. And while I had some intonation and slight ensemble issues that I wish I could have fixed with my own part, I feel very good about that performance. I thoroughly enjoyed the chamber group I chose to participate in this past quarter, and we had a blast learning a piece that not many people have actually ever heard. I was able to fight through the nerves and completely enjoy myself on the stage, and we were able to emotionally connect with one another and with the audience, which was full of both our peers and strangers. And that’s all I could ever ask for in any performance I ever give!
Thanks for a great quarter of making music, Andrew and Ryan, and just remember, everyone: Pants are USELESS.
Confession: I am a retreat addict; just a complete retreat junkie. Ever since I went on a couple of retreats with my church in high school, I was hooked. And once I got to college and life got busier and busier, I realized that I consistently need time away!
As a college student, you have a lot of freedom with your schedule. By junior year as a music major, you can choose if you want to take all of your classes in the morning and be done with school by 10am each day, or you can choose to save your classes for the afternoon. The infamous three-hour night classes are also a great option for those who enjoy sleeping in and are busy during the day. I have indulged in all three types of class schedules throughout my time here, but no matter what time of day or how many gen. ed. (general education
) classes I have scheduled, I have always been super busy. This is because I have a tendency to fill up every hour in my day, all seven days of the week. Whether it's scheduling meals with friends, teaching lessons, doing homework, practicing, or working in the admissions office, I keep my schedule crammed. Don't get me wrong- I love all the things that I do and the way I have lived my life in college; but after having such long days every week, my mind, body, and soul are screaming for a break every month or so.
So that is why in the middle of the quarter and during the most bleak and cold month of winter, I was more than happy to drop everything for 24 hours and go on a retreat with InterVarsity
, the Christian group with which I am a leader. The retreat was open to all InterVarsity members and was held in a cottage in the suburbs. I had been to this cottage on another retreat (yes, ANOTHER...this may have been my third retreat of the school year...) in September, and there were a few things I was extremely looking forward to: the fireplace, the cozy and beautifully-decorated bedrooms, the peace and quiet away from the city, and the HOT TUB. Aside from greatly desiring time to pray, read my Bible, and just "be",...that hot tub was calling my name!
So on Friday night after all school obligations ceased, a group of 10 of us headed off to the cottage for our one-day retreat. Our group consisted of Cello Performance majors
, Theatre majors
, Art majors
, Health Science majors
, Business majors
, and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies
majors. It was a great mixture of students from all years in college who all craved some peace, quiet, and rest.
Once we arrived to our temporary home, the majority of us spent the night warming up in the outdoor hot tub and then watching a movie. We then woke up early the next morning to start the day with meeting and hearing stories from much older DePaul alumni who were part of our same group when they were students at DePaul. It was a great time to reflect on both the issues and encouragement we have all encountered as DePaul students. After a wonderful, hearty breakfast, we headed off to my favorite part of the whole day: a two-hour retreat of silence.
I have actually never set aside time to have an extended time of silence, without talking, listening to music, or moving. I simply sat by the fireplace, read, and prayed. As someone who doesn't usually make a lot of time to be by myself to just think about everything that has been happening in my life, those two hours were precious to me! I went through the rest of the day feeling refreshed and very peaceful.
The time flew by after the study and dinner, and before I knew it, our large group was heading home, all bundled up to brave the windy city! And now, as another busy week starts, I am very grateful for that time away and for this group of which I take part.
For me, I was greatly interested in growing in my faith as a Christian when I entered college. I desired to learn what I believe and have my faith be genuine. And especially when life gets busy and stressful, I try to take time to continue to grow in those ways. I am very grateful that DePaul has given its support to an organization that can help me do that.
So no matter what you are looking for - whether you want to grow in what you already believe, explore new beliefs, or seek and grow in other areas of your life during college, DePaul can help you do that, if you take the time to look for and invest in the different groups and events on campus. And whether it is for spiritual reasons, or it is because you just desire emotional and physical rest, I highly recommend attending any sort of retreat DePaul offers!
There is this terrifying vision that consistently runs through my mind whenever I sign up to perform in cello studio class: I walk onto the stage with cello in hand; I start playing, and my hands can’t stop shaking. I start missing all the shifts. My bow can’t seem to stay on the string. And then, all of a sudden, my endpin slips, and my cello is sliding all over the place in my lap. And there it goes, falling off the stage and into the audience as pieces of wood chunks shower my studio mates. The lights start to get unbearably bright, and everything is so loud that I can’t hear any of the cues with which my accompanist is trying to help me. And I don’t even have a cello anymore - so what do I do?? Sing?!
Okay - that may be a little more dramatic than what I actually think or what actually happens, but the images in this nightmare are actually some of my most irrational, ridiculous fears that really do taunt me when I think about performing in studio class. So when I agreed to perform in the cello studio class last Wednesday at the very last minute, I instantly broke into a flushed sweat, just imagining getting on the stage in front of my 18 peers and my professor to perform. The image of sitting above everyone else with bright lights on me did actually flash through my thoughts.
When you talk to a variety of music majors
about performing, you will often get very contrasting views and feelings about it. Some music majors absolutely love every minute of performing. For them, the best days of their life are when they can get on a stage and share their music with others. Others develop a lot of anxiety and constantly have to battle with their natural tendency to feel extremely nervous and insecure when they perform. And some are somewhere in between - it is scary and stressful, but they still love performing the moment they get on that stage. I also think these approaches vary by how a musician feels on a certain day and by the music they are performing.
For this studio class, I played a piece to which I deeply connect. It has a very mellow, graceful, flowing mood, and I feel like it expresses significant parts of who I am when I play it. So getting on that stage was not as nerve-wracking for me this time. However, I definitely felt nervous in the day and hours leading up to it. Although studio class is meant to be a time to present a piece that is a work-in-progress, I often put pressure on myself to have a perfectly polished piece that is ready to be performed in a recital that very moment. I think this is a feeling that is mutually felt by many music majors. Getting on a stage to show everyone what you have been working so hard toward can push performers to place unrealistic and unnecessary pressures on themselves. I think the goal should always be to prepare as much as you can and then simply get on that stage, confident and ready to share your music and hard work with others.
So that’s what I did. I got on the stage in the DePaul Recital Hall this past Wednesday, feeling a sense of peace and knowing that there is nothing I need to prove to anyone; all I was doing was receiving helpful feedback from my peers and professor and pushing myself out of my comfort zone to take part in the celebration of music we all choose to partake in every day as music majors. I performed with my heart and was then coached by my professor for the remaining time I had left in my thirty minutes in the hot seat. My cello studio mates then flooded my chair with studio class comment sheets with their critiques and encouragements. I always greatly appreciate and value my professor’s and peers’ input and will continue to work to make this piece, and all the music that I am working on, my own! And that is all we can ever strive to do.
Now that multiple days have passed since my performance in studio class, I am laughing at myself, as I always do after I perform in studio class. I tend to build up the stress of it all so much, and then the moment I get off that stage, I realize that yes, it is scary, but I am in such a loving, supportive environment in which I can grow and truly embrace who I am as a cellist; there is nothing to fear! So although I will most likely always feel a little terror before any performance, I can always look back on my many studio class performances and remind myself that the lights never did blind me, my cello only slipped a couple of times (and never actually reached enough distance to fall off the stage), and I may have made plenty of mistakes I wasn’t expecting to, but it has always been worth it because I get to do what I love and be surrounded by others who support me and have that same love.
As a student worker in the School of Music Admissions office
, I have been fortunate enough to see how DePaul's School of Music
is run from behind the curtain. Although there is no crazy scientist who is trying to be a large, powerful wizard back there, I have discovered some pretty cool things about my school! In fact, I have realized that DePaul's music school offers a lot of great job opportunities for its students, and through that, we have all seen how efficiently our school runs.
Here are some positions around the DePaul School of Music where students work: Front Desk Worker
- The front desk worker is essentially the face of the School of Music. These workers sit behind the main desk, answering telephone calls for the school, directing people, and answering their questions. They also handle the sign-out sheets and keys for the different studio rooms and classrooms, giving out keys to students who have permission to access those rooms. Front desk workers also sort the incoming mail on a daily basis and handle the lost and found bin.Admissions Worker
- I will warn you- I am extremely biased about this position because I love my job! Admissions workers learn to do many things: we answer emails and phone calls about admission-related questions, handle admission materials- which involves scanning, uploading, and updating the documents sent to our office, give tours to prospective students and their parents, and send mail. We also work on audition days, when applicants are auditioning for the School of Music! Set-up Crew Worker
- Set-up crew is a more labor-intensive job. Workers are assigned to set up and tear down all the chairs, risers, and stands for the rehearsals and performances of different ensembles. Workers show up before and stay after the rehearsal or concert, making sure everything is in place and ready.
Stage Managing Worker- Stage managers act as both backstage managers and ushers during performances. They often work student recitals. They are in charge of controlling the lights during the performance and changing the stage setup when needed. For ensemble and other larger performances, workers can be ushers and pass out programs in the front of the hall and make sure the concert will not be disturbed. Stage managers are also in charge of locking and unlocking the two performance halls within the School of Music throughout a given day.
Students do not need to be eligible for work study in order to have these on-campus jobs; once you arrive as a student in the School of Music, you may apply for any job that has openings and decide how often you are willing to work. Student workers are paid minimum wage, gaining important work experience while making some extra money!
Before college there were a few things that came to my mind when I pictured my future school: big lecture halls with nice desks, nature and beautiful architecture around the campus, decent cafeteria food, and a really nice freshman dorm. Except for being in a big lecture hall (yeah...the biggest music academic class I was in probably had 25 people!), all my other wishes for a school came true. Living in a nice dorm my freshman year and a great on-campus townhome my sophomore year definitely had a very positive effect on my overall college experience.
Something I love about DePaul campus housing
is its amount of options. Although on-campus housing is not guaranteed, especially to students after their freshman year, there are plenty of selections from which to choose. When I made the decision to attend DePaul, I immediately started researching the dorm options that I could apply for. I knew that I wanted to live in a newer dorm that was close to the School of Music
and in the center of the campus. I knew that I did not want to live in a dorm with communal bathrooms, and I did not want to share a room with more than one other person. I went through the search and was placed in University Hall.
For those who don’t know what University Hall
is like (affectionately deemed “U-Hall”, which can create confusion due to the U-Haul storage building being a block away!), let me paint a picture for you: sitting in the center of the campus and separated from the DePaul Richardson Library by the “Quad”, U-Hall is four floors of greatness. Each floor has the same layout, with rooms nestled in pairs and a bathroom shared between the four people in those rooms. The bedrooms are spacious with a modern feel. I was particularly lucky to live on the top floor in a corner room, so I had twice the amount of windows to let the sunshine through when I woke up!
My roommate and I each had a bed, desk, chair, bookshelf, and closet, and we shared an end table. Our bathroom had a very large shower and a separate room for the toilet with two sinks in between the shower and the water closet. My dorm was very quiet and was kept pretty clean. I spent multiple times in our dorm study lounge on our floor when I needed space to study. U-Hall had plenty of laundry machines in the basement and a tv/entertainment room with a keyboard (which I definitely used to practice for my group piano class!) and a handful of computers. It was a great dorm. I spent some Spring nights in the Quad
right outside my dorm, laying in the grass. I could then simply get up and walk a few feet back to the dorm lobby. I also loved the location of my dorm in relation to the rest of the campus: it was a 10-minute walk to the School of Music and a 3-minute walk to the Student Center (where our cafeteria and mail room is).
By the time I began to think about sophomore year, I knew that I wanted to have a different environment with a little more freedom. I didn’t want to make the big move to living off-campus, but I wanted to feel slightly closer to adulthood than I had been before. Because of this, I chose to live in Sanctuary Townhomes
with 4 of my other music major friends. We were placed with two other girls, totaling 7 of us in one townhome. Although there were so many of us, I felt like I really only had a couple roommates because we had three entire floors to ourselves. Our townhome overlooked a lovely, small quad with picnic benches and trees that Sanctuary residents often enjoyed. Upon entering our townhome, there was a door that led to our family/living room, which was extremely spacious. We had two couches in there, a sofa chair, two bookshelves, and a dining table. Beyond that room was our kitchen, which contained two refrigerators, another dining table, a dishwasher, sink, microwave, and plenty of counter space and drawers.
The second floor had two double bedrooms and two full bathrooms and a laundry room for all of us to use. And the third floor- my home- had a single bedroom and a double bedroom with one full bathroom for those three residents to share. I had the single bedroom, which was pretty tiny, but I decorated it and cherished it so incredibly much! It was the first time in my life that I had had a room to myself, and I have now discovered that once you go for a single room, you can’t go back. On top of the 7 of us having our own laundry, and plenty of furniture and space, my two roommates and I on the top floor had the most amazing bath tub. And I am not even exaggerating- this tub was huge, with counter space surrounding it. Such a beautiful creation! We also had a shower and closet in our bathroom, and the whole bathroom had a wonderful tile in it. I really loved that townhome!
The only thing that I disliked about living in the dorms was having to swipe my DePaul ID to “check in” every time I came in or had guests. However, I understand that it is for students’ safety, which I know is very important for college students in such a big city. Even with that understandable and small hassle, I had an extremely positive experience living on DePaul’s campus both of my lowerclassmen years. After sophomore year, I felt ready to move off campus, and taking that “big leap” wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I even found a house that is still practically on campus, so that helped a lot!
I had the great privilege to not only attend, but to also participate in my twin sister, Rachel's senior recital this weekend. She is a viola performance major at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and her wonderful performance was a huge milestone in her college career. As a music performance major, your junior recital is a big deal, but your senior recital is on a different level. Although she doesn't graduate until May, her recital being over is a strong representation of how much she has learned and grown as a musician during her undergraduate studies.
Rachel scheduled her recital for Sunday at 4pm, which was the perfect time for my parents to travel from Detroit, for my sister and brother-in-law to travel from Lansing, and for me and my boyfriend to drive from Chicago. We set out for Cleveland on Friday night after orchestra (which ends at 5:30 every Friday) and arrived around 2am on Saturday morning.
Rachel and I decided months ago that we would love to perform together at one another's recitals, so we selected the "Eyeglasses Duo" for viola and cello by Beethoven. It was a great idea that excited both of us- we love making music together, especially because we naturally communicate on a different wavelength than most chamber music performers- but we also knew it would be a bit stressful. Because we only saw each other during winter break for a couple of weeks and for one day before her recital, we had to crunch in a lot of rehearsal time at the last minute.
Saturday was full of lots of music making. Rachel and I practiced our piece together and then drove over to CIM for a lesson with her viola teacher. After our lesson, we had a dress rehearsal for the Beethoven on the stage of Mixon Hall, a gorgeous glass cube, where her recital would be. After our thirty minutes on stage, trying to learn and change everything we possibly could 24 hours before the performance, we both realized that we had a lot of rehearsing to do. But at that point, the late night and long drive had hit me, and her pre-recital stress had taken a toll, so we both rested for the afternoon and rehearsed later on in the night.
The rest of my family arrived on Sunday in the afternoon, and we all reunited just an hour before Rachel's recital. Many family selfies were taken, and we all stood in the back of the hall as we watched Rachel light up the stage as she rehearsed.
Soon after, Rachel and I walked out onto the stage, sat down, gave each other nods and smiles and were off to nervously playing through the Beethoven. Before we knew it, we had survived, and people seemed to be clapping. We got off the stage as quickly as we could and celebrated pulling off such a stressful task in such short time. I hugged her and wished her luck as she continued on in her program. I gladly joined the audience and sat with my family as we watched her and reflected on how far she has come.
After she received a standing ovation for her recital, Rachel joined us audience members and hugged and thanked every person who attended. Once she gathered her bouquets of flowers and I retrieved my things, we hurried out to enjoy a meal as a family at her favorite Italian restaurant nearby before we all dispersed to our respective cities.
My boyfriend and I enjoyed the road trip back, but we were both extremely thankful that we made it through the snowstorm that had hit Cleveland yesterday afternoon and could finally rest after such a hectic weekend.
I am so proud of my sister for all of the hard work she has done. Recitals are so significant for a music major. It is a time to put your all into something- to work with all your heart and motivation to make it great. It is a special moment where all your family and friends come together in one place to celebrate this hard work that you have done because of your love for music. It is a time to also celebrate all the joy and love in your life and enjoy those who have supported you through it all. It makes the music even more significant and special.
Something I love about winter is the fun dates. For those going on their very first one, or the long-time couples who have to make a point to go out and do something new, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the winter season. Instead of being discouraged by the negative-degree temperatures and slick sidewalks that could easily be the death of anyone, we Chicago inhabitants try to embrace the snow, ice, and sharp cold. So what is the best way to surround yourself with all these aspects of winter- the snow, the ice, the slick surfaces that will most likely cause you to slip and fall? Ice skating!
My boyfriend and I made it a goal to go ice skating at Millennium Park as soon as we got back from Winter Break. However, the quarter started in full speed, and it just felt like too much effort to put on an extra pair of tights under my jeans, find my thick gloves and skates in the back of my closet, and take that oh-so-long twenty-minute train ride to The Bean so we could skate right in front of it. So finally, here we were this past Sunday. We had both finished all our work for the weekend, and the temperature was almost 40 degrees. It was time. I discovered my skates were not actually as far back in my closet as I had thought, and I found mittens that would get the job done. Before we left for the park, my roommates reminded me about the new ice skating rink set up directly behind Millennium Park. It is called the Maggie Daley Plaza Silver Ribbon, and it is the same cost as The Bean rink. I had been to the other rink before, and skating around a winding course seemed to be different and interesting to both of us, so off to the Silver Ribbon we went!
We arrived just in time to get in line for my boyfriend’s skates and watch the Zamboni sweep the ice for its last twenty minutes. We stood, watching The Ribbon become transformed into a shimmering, sleek river of ice. We took plenty of selfies together to pass the time. Once my boyfriend rented his $12 skates, we picked out a locker, got a legitimate picture of us in our skates (and no, we did NOT use a selfie pole!) and set out to the ice. So you know how I said earlier that the zamboni had transformed the ice rink into this flowing, idyllic river? I took those thoughts back as I stepped onto the raging river of doom for the first time. I had not skated in over a year, and I forgot how terrified I feel wearing sharp footwear on intentionally slippery paths, while being surrounded by other people with equally sharp footwear and crazed looks in their eyes as they speed past you. I clung to the wall the first lap around and didn’t even last the second lap- I ended up taking a break halfway through, sitting off to the side of the rink in conveniently-located picnic benches that were most likely placed there for the tired, trembling, terrified, and totally scarred. I watched plenty of children and adults fall. The toddlers bawling their eyes out made me realize that that would be my future if I were to fall on that ice.
I let my boyfriend do a lap by himself (of course, he was thoroughly enjoying himself!), and he persuaded me to give it a try, stop clinging his hand (or the wall...or both!) and skate faster. I actually ended up enjoying myself, and I skated for another thirty minutes! And did I fall? No. Did he? Oh, yes. Victory! All in all, I had a fantastic time. He and I both agreed that we loved the rink layout; it was a great design because it keeps the traffic flow of crazed skaters going, it isn’t extremely boring, and it gives you different views of the city as you softly glide through each turn.
We returned to our locker, which held stable, non-life-threatening shoes, and made our way back to the El. The walk was not far and was enjoyable, especially the first time around. And then we got to the platform, went past the turnstiles, and were waiting for the train when my boyfriend realized that he had forgotten to exchange the locker card he had been given back for his ID! So he ran back to the rink as I slowly followed, and we reunited at the rink entrance. We finally set out for Lincoln Park, where we had pizza and a movie calling our names.
There is a force within us that strengthens throughout our years in college and inevitably clashes with our desire to be good students by the time we are in our senior year: senioritis. I keep trying to fight it because I know that winter quarter just started and there is still another quarter to go. But looking back at my past three years in college, I have put in a lot of time; now, it is time to enjoy myself, especially in my classes. The days of music theory and history and group piano are long gone. Bring it, free electives! Because of my desire to actually graduate with enough credits while still not having to do quite as much work as I have had to do in the past, I decided to join a friend and sign up for an International Wine Education and Management class. And boy, did I make a good life choice!
My wine class meets once a week for three hours in the Loop campus downtown. Here’s a secret: unless you make an effort, as a music major, you will never have a class in the Loop. And although it’s more inconvenient to have to take the train those fifteen minutes at night in the winter, I knew that I had to experience having a class downtown in the beautiful DePaul Loop campus facilities.
However, I can’t seem to hide away and pretend to have a more conventional, “normal” major in this 40-person class: I had to receive permission from my professor to be able to show up thirty minutes late to class each week because of my orchestra rehearsals. Thankfully, my professor’s daughter was a music major in college, so he completely understood and was even interested to hear about my studies as I emailed him so I could miss part of class!
My professor, Michael Lynch, seems to be one of the best I have had at DePaul. He is one of those teachers who you can tell just loves what he is doing. He believes that fine wine is an art and that it is meant to be studied, shared, and appreciated. Educating young people of this generation about wine is his passion, and I could see it in the way he discussed topics with us and how he treated the class. He already explained a lot of interesting facts about wine to us in the first class, while cracking plenty of jokes and keeping us engaged.
Before the lecture portion of the class began, Professor Lynch wanted us to go around and say who we were and why we were taking his class. I was one of the first people to go, and I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I ended up starting with, “Hi, my name is Ruth, and I only began drinking alcohol a few months ago [because I turned 21 in August]...” and then he interrupted me and said, “...and you just never stopped!”. We all laughed, and it was fantastic. I went on to explain that because of that, I don’t know much about any alcohol, especially wine, and that I wanted to learn more about it. A lot of people said they would like to learn about wine so they can know what to pair with different foods at dinner. Others were just frank and said that they were seniors and wanted an easy, fun class. He laughed and said they chose the right class, but that they would still learn a lot!
The lecture was full of fascinating information about how wine is made, its history, and the characteristics of different grapes used in wine. We then all sampled three different types of wine and put into practice the techniques we had just learned in order to identify what type of wine we are drinking. For this first class, we tried $3 white, orange, and red wines. Apparently, the wine will get more expensive (and hopefully better tasting) as the class goes along!
I am really excited to learn in such a relaxed, passionate environment. If it has to be about something other than music, learning about the fine art of wine works for me!!
Something that I love about DePaul is the quarter system. I know that none of us like having three sets of midterms and finals each school year, but I love the fast pace of each term. I also really love the extremely long winter break we get!
Having 6-7 weeks off in the middle of the school year can be both a beautiful and difficult thing for a music major.
What are the top 5 best things about this long break?
1. Finally taking time to slow down and really learn music.
Something unique about being a music major is learning new and more challenging music as you reach higher levels of technical mastery. This is both exciting and exhausting. By the time the quarter ends, it is really nice to have almost two full months to change your practice routine and take the time to refine your approach to how you learn music.
2. Taking a break from performing after juries and final performances.
As you learn new pieces and skills, you are also constantly working on and polishing your approach to performing. Getting up on a stage and playing for others does not come naturally to many of us music majors, so it is a skill that must be developed and practiced. By the end of the quarter, you will have most likely performed in multiple studio classes/master classes, chamber music performances, large ensembles, and even in a solo recital and/or jury in front of your professors. By the time you finish that last performance, you can walk off the stage knowing that you are able to take a mental and emotional break from performing in stressful environments. If you go home or have a gig over break and desire to perform, that’s great- you can do it on your own terms and get to practice those skills you developed throughout the quarter! But you can also feel free to relax, if you so desire.
3. Learning how to be your own teacher.
If you don’t have a teacher you can go back to over break to keep up with lessons, fear not! That is common for many music majors. It can be tough to keep the pace going in your practicing when you don’t have lessons to work toward, but if you develop the sense of inner motivation to stay diligent, not taking lessons can be a really great way to be your own teacher. After studying with your fantastic professors at DePaul, you can take everything you’ve learned from them and progress on your own. It is also great practice if you are ever interested in teaching your instrument privately someday. You’ll feel so good coming back from break and knowing that you were able to work hard and learn, all by yourself!
4. Getting feedback from other teachers.
If you do have a teacher or a fellow musician who is willing to listen to you and help you during break, this is a great way to mix things up and receive feedback from someone different. As much as you may love your DePaul professors and feel like you have progressed a great amount studying from them, getting opinions from other teachers can strengthen you as a player and teach you new things, showing you different approaches and points.
5. Being able to play for your family and friends.
The best part about being a music major is being able to share your passion with other people. Music majors often have a love/hate relationship with music: it’s something we are gifted with and love most of the time, but it is also our career and is a lot of hard work. Being able to share your music and perform for loved ones and people who have helped you achieve your dream of being in a music school is a special thing. It is also a great way to see how far you have come. I have had people tell me to never take my time in college for granted, not just because it is a fun time of social and academic growth, but also because it is a special time for great musical growth. The years you spend earning a degree in music are filled with a lot of advancement and learning; take the time to look back at how far you have come, and share that joy with others!
There are many things I love about being a music major. Developing my skills as a musician while forming deep bonds with my cello studio mates are a couple of reasons why I love what I do. My favorite thing, however, is being able to put all my hard work and practice into what I have been working so hard toward- a spectacular performance. This weekend, I was fortunate enough to play in two performances!
My first performance of the weekend was on Friday night, and it was slightly different than the concerts in which most classical cello performance majors play. It was a show with an indie rock band called The Diving Bell. I have been the cellist for The Diving Bell since last year around this time, and I have thoroughly enjoyed expanding my musical abilities in such a unique way! I got involved with The Diving Bell after playing with many of its members in the worship band at my church, Ethos, every Sunday. One day after church, the leader invited me to join their band for one of their songs in an upcoming show, and after that performance, I recorded two songs with them for their upcoming album release in a professional studio. This Friday night performance was also the night that our album was released….and it was so cool! I showed up early for sound check, spent time with the band backstage, and got up and enjoyed playing my part of the set with the band after two other bands opened for us. During my time playing with The Diving Bell and with the worship band at church, I have come to enjoy making music in a whole new way. I am able to nurture my listening and creative improvisational skills when I play with the bands, which I love! It is something that is often rare for a classical musician. I also love the rush of being on stage in front of a crowd- especially because it is a very different crowd, musical genre, and venue type/setting than I am used to. I really respect the musicians I performed with and am excited to continue to work with them!
Saturday night was another exhilarating performance in a completely different way- I performed Stravinsky’s Firebird with the DePaul Symphony Orchestra. I walked on that stage feeling extremely excited and slightly nervous to play such a hefty, famous work, and I walked off the stage still feeling excited about the accomplishment of what we had done. The performance was, in my opinion, the most captivating and energetic performance our orchestra has done this year, and my friends in the audience agreed. I think the repertoire choice affected this outcome, but I also felt like the members of the orchestra really communicated and enjoyed the music more than we have in the past. My stand partner and I agreed that we both felt very satisfied, musically and emotionally, after performing that piece, which is an incredibly exhilarating feeling. I will always crave that feeling I get when I finish the last chord of a very intense, building piece and stand up to thunderous applause. Nothing beats that!
Although this weekend kept me very busy, it was a great time of simply enjoying creating music. I love having different outlets to do this, and I really appreciate seeing the many sides that this art encompasses. No matter what type of music I am making and with whom, I love working together as a team to create something great to share with other people as we share with one another.
Something that may seem unfamiliar to people upon entering music school is the concept of a studio. Not like a physical art or dance studio, as many non-music majors have asked me, a music studio is a collection of people who play the same instrument and often study with the same professor at their school.
Every studio varies in size and personality, but the cello studio numbers 19 people this year, and it is a studio that is admired by many. Why, you might ask? Partly because many people secretly wish they had chosen our instrument. Also, because the people in the cello studio are fantastically awesome!
What makes a good studio? First of all, the professor who leads it greatly affects the atmosphere within the studio. If you respect your teacher and who they are, both as a person and player, you can bond with your fellow studio mates over how much you love your teacher. A good studio is also characterized with having strong musicians who are passionate about what they do, but who also respect one another as musicians. If people who play the same instrument are able to bond over that similarity instead of working against one another in a form of unhealthy competition, the atmosphere of the studio is greatly affected.
In my experience, the music studio's personality is dependent on each individual's personality and excitement for playing the instrument. As you enter a music school, it is important to recognize that you are now part of a family and are just as important a member of that family as anyone else. If you have a good attitude, are caring and kind toward others, work hard, and show that you enjoy being with your studio and teacher, you will be making a significantly positive impact on the studio environment.
So as you approach this very unique environment, embrace this opportunity to develop very special relationships with people with whom you will be working very closely your whole time at school.
I have thought long and hard about every season and why I like each one. I have decided that I love the beginning of every season- when everything feels new- because it is always nice to have a change, both in the temperature and in the way things look in the world around us. Fall is no exception. I love seeing the trees change colors; leaves become the reflection of fire, with their burnt orange and hot red appearance. The air has a slight sense of winter coming in it, with its crispness reflecting the crisp crunches of the fallen leaves beneath our feet. There is something so beautiful about the way the DePaul campus looks in the Fall, which makes me especially excited to walk to the School of Music building every morning. The trees that inhabit the School of Music parking lot are some of the grandest, most inspiring around Chicago. I love to sit at the table beneath those trees and eat my lunch or just sit for a second. In addition to simply enjoying the beauty of the DePaul campus in the Fall, there are other great activities I enjoy doing in the Fall at DePaul.
1. Going for walks to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool.
There is a gorgeous, serene pond full of lilypads, a 10-minute walk away from the School of Music. The benches and rocks placed around the pool are perfect places to sit along the winding, rocky path encircling the pond. The Lily Pool is a great spot to go sit alone for a while or with a friend, especially as the trees hanging over the pond are also a beautiful array of colors this time of year.
2. Drinking Bourgeois Pig hot chocolate.
“The Pig” is one of my favorite cafes in Chicago, especially because it is 3 minutes from the School of Music, and there is great oldies jazz music played through the speakers! The Pig serves a variety of food and drinks that are all very unique and delicious. One of my favorite things to order as the weather gets colder is a maple bacon scone and some Mexican hot chocolate, served in an inviting, homey mug.
3. Going to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
One of my favorite things to do when I have a few free hours any day of the week during the Fall is to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo. The zoo is a 15-minute walk from the School of Music, and get this...it’s free! Completely free. Going in the Fall is always the perfect time to go because it is neither unbearably hot, nor unbearably cold. I love Instagramming the various farm animals, monkey, and seals. So if you are missing your pet at home and need an animal fix, go to the zoo!
4. Drinking Starbucks chai tea latte.
Yes, two of my favorite Fall activities is centered around drinking warm beverages! In addition to stopping by the Pig cafe, I also always enjoy going to Starbucks and ordering a warm chai tea latte. Chicago is home to many-a-great Starbucks, two of which are within 5 minutes from the School of Music. I love sitting down with my tea and journaling or reading before my day starts. It is also incredibly likely that I will run into a School of Music friend while I am there because it, along with The Pig, is one of our main spots!
5. Exploring shops around Armitage.
Armitage is a train stop right by DePaul and is a 15-minute walk from the School of Music. It is full of a lot of cute, unique shops that are very fun to wander through. There are shops with fun accessories, clothing, and items from all over the world. Armitage also has an amazing chocolate shop and multiple Italian ice places!
So whether you are looking for a relaxing day full of warm drinks and quiet places or are craving adventure and sightseeing, embrace all that DePaul has to offer in the Fall!
1. You have class on Friday.
If you didn’t already know, most majors at DePaul do not have classes on Friday’s, with the exception of science, theatre, and music majors. Whether it’s piano, music theory, or ensemble rehearsal, you will most likely never get that three-day weekend- or at least not your first two years of college!
2. No matter what social setting you’re in, you always end up discussing music when you are around other music majors.
You just can’t help it. Your major isn’t just your major- it’s a way of life and a part of you. So whether you are out to dinner or having a party with your studio mates, chances are, you will end up talking about different famous performers you aspire to be like or etudes you all loathe.
3. You spend more time in a practice room in the School of Music than at your computer desk at home.
And people think this means you don’t have a legitimate major, but what they don’t realize is that practicing and making music often takes a lot more effort and energy than writing a paper or doing reading. Although you may not have a lot of academic homework, you usually end up working harder and having less free time than 90% of your non-music major peers.
4. You always have a pencil on you.
If you are in rehearsal without a pencil, you are preparing yourself to endure the wrath of public shame and disappointment. You know that having a pencil is a vital part of being prepared, so in turn, you often carry it around with you wherever you go.
5. You are always humming music and/or listening to music.
Whether you are listening to the repertoire you are currently performing/desire to play or are just calming yourself with a beautiful symphony or solo piece of some sort, you tend to walk around with headphones everywhere you go. And whether you are listening to music or not, you sometimes randomly burst into song or hum your favorite classical melodies.
6. You know how to maintain good posture.
Siting up straight is a natural part of how you compose yourself because any musician- from vocalists to wind players- knows that how you sit and stand greatly affects your abilities to perform your instrument.
7. You can’t enjoy any sort of music without analyzing it in some way.
Listening to pop songs without tearing them apart requires great restraint, and you may find yourself coming off as a music snob to non-musicians. Enjoying classical music performances also usually includes some sort of criticism or analysis of the performance and/or the music. You can’t turn it off or help it, which are both a curse and a blessing.
8. You might have a hicky, thumb callous, or permanent lip swelling from your embouchure.
You may have gotten strange stares from people on the train or have been asked what happened to your face, hands, or neck, but you eventually learn to just embrace your violin/viola hicky or the marks on your lips and hands.
9. Being sick or having any physical pain is a way bigger deal than it is for most people.
Being sick is infinitely worse, no matter what your instrument is. Vocalists avoid getting colds or sinus infections like the plague, and instrumentalists avoid anything that involves soreness and joint pain. And goodness forbid if we get tendonitis, carpal tunnel, or muscle pain!
10. Your whole life revolves around music, and you’ve fully accepted and embraced it…because you know that most people don’t get to create art on a daily basis.
Although it gets overwhelming sometimes, you still love what you do and wouldn’t trade it for any other major.
In my last post, I talked about being a senior and going through change. I also mentioned how much I have grown my past three and ¼ years in college. A huge time of growth was my freshman year at DePaul, and I wanted to take you all on the journey and time travel back to meet “freshman Ruth”.
There is one unique thing that greatly impacted my freshman year experience: I am an identical twin. I had never been apart from this best friend, and other half, for more than two months (and that was summer camp…). I entered college not knowing much about who I actually was/wanted to be or how to function as an independent, sole being. On top of this, I am a music major, which is very different than other college majors.
I lived on the top floor of University Hall in one of the corner dorm rooms my freshman year. It was a great room and a great dorm. I had a music major roommate and Theatre School suitemates, so we art-related majors were kept together. I will never forget the friends I made from my dorm (one of whom is one of my best friends to this day!), and I will also never forget having to say goodbye to my parents as they drove back to Michigan the day they dropped me off. I knew I was ready for college when I was able to contain my complete breakdown until I walked away from the two of them and got back to my dorm room. The homesickness subsided as I continued to develop friendships and experience the greatness of being in college. I went to cookouts at Lake Michigan, I went to the gym, I ate so many meals with new friends in the beloved Student Center (I really do love that place!!), I explored downtown, and I joined clubs that were perfect for me.
Musically, DePaul was all I had hoped and never dreamt it would be. I went to an arts boarding high school and had already experienced the intense rigor of being a music major, so it was a fairly easy adjustment for me my first year at DePaul. I quickly adapted to the schedule: music history and theory, piano, orchestra, chamber music, general education classes, studio class. Something that I did not expect, however, was the friendly environment in the School of Music. Coming from a high school where students from all over the world are there to study and strive to get into the top conservatories in the world, I expected the atmosphere at DePaul to have a similar sense of unhealthy competition and social norms. But I was pleasantly surprised to suddenly be surrounded by friendly, well-adjusted, encouraging, yet talented musicians- people who love their art, but who also love to get to know their peers and their studio. I entered the cello studio of Steve Balderston, the kindest, most inclusive, and encouraging teacher I have ever had. I became a part of a cello family and noticed a similar feeling within other instrumental studios. I befriended vocalists, performing arts management majors, wind players, percussionists, composers- all different types of music majors. I loved being able to continue my studies in an intense, serious musical world while making incredibly great friends who genuinely love their peers.
At the end of my freshman year, I also got involved in the church that I still attend, and joined their worship/indie rock band that has pushed me to expand my way of thinking about music and has made me a better-shaped musician. I also discovered the music education program I am applying to get my Master’s in (El Sistema) because I saw a poster in the School of Music my first month of college. I began volunteering with a Chicago afterschool program that is structured around the El Sistema method my freshman year and eventually became a paid cello teacher there. After all of those experiences, I have discovered that I want to use my music to give kids who normally do not have many opportunities a chance to dream and achieve their musical hopes- all because of a poster I saw as a young, wandering freshman!
So, as I wrap up my final Fall quarter at DePaul, I cannot help but think about how much that first Fall at DePaul shaped who I am and where I am now. The changes were difficult, and it was not pretty a lot of the time. I had to adjust to being on my own, away from my twin sister and my family, being in a big city, and so much more. However, it was such an exciting time of growth and discovery, of excitement and fun, and I often tell prospective freshmen this when I meet them and will tell you the same thing: I am so excited for you to go through the craziness and coolness of being a freshman. In its own way, it is often the best and hardest year of your college career. Embrace it!
Now that I am in my final year of college, I have a handful of years at my disposal to reflect on and remind myself of how far I have come- educationally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I think that the older I get and the more that things change, the more often I need to reflect about who I have become and how.
There are a few big things happening in my life right now. First off, I am applying for graduate schools. And when I say “schools”, I actually just mean a single school. Although I entered my freshman year determined to never go to grad school, I completely changed my mind the past three months. Being a student at DePaul as well as traveling abroad and teaching in Peru has really shown me that there is so much I want to learn about music and teaching. I want to be the best I can possibly be at my craft so that I am able to help others more effectively. I am applying for a music-teaching program in Los Angeles to get my Master’s degree and be certified in something known as El Sistema, a musical education movement that began in Venezuela in the 1970’s. As I go through the application process and prepare to make recordings for my audition, I still can’t believe that I am a senior, am graduating, and am actually applying for grad school. I never thought this day would come!
While I am preoccupied thinking about my plans for the next year of my life post-graduation, I am still trying to focus on where I am this year. So far, my senior year has been full of many new experiences and lessons. I am finally discovering how to cook (oops…the secret is out!), how to budget my money better (after a few-too-many shopping trips), how to take risks and do scary things (such as recording an album with an indie folk band I have been involved with in college…something I would have never thought I could do before DePaul!), and how to learn how to present myself as an actual adult to society. This last one has been the toughest one- how does one go from being a kid who still greatly relies on their parents to an adult who is responsible, independent, and sure of themselves? Well, if I have learned anything, that sense of feeling sure of one’s self is not every fully attainable…so that is a relief! But I have learned a little bit about how to achieve the other two characteristics of being an adult. I have discovered the key to being a grown up: fake it ‘til you make it. Seriously! The more you view yourself as a mature 20-something (instead of a teenager), the more other people will view you the same way. I have gotten this act down so well that people even sometimes wonder if I am in my mid-20’s. Whoa. That is the age of a college graduate who is in the real world already- cool! As I have been teaching more and interacting with more adults than I ever have before, I have practiced this concept repeatedly, and it has worked without fail.
In addition to that, big changes are happening in my family. One of my sisters is expecting her first child (yay!), while my other sister is planning her wedding (double yay!)- and both events will be happening this summer. My dad is celebrating being half-a-century-old in a couple of weeks, and I am applying for graduation, making plans to hopefully move to a completely different city and possibly leave the country again within the next few years.
So in addition to learning how to act like an adult, I have also learned how to better adjust to these huge changes that are happening, both in my life and in my family and friends’ lives. What is the key to this one? Fake it ‘til you make it….again!! It helps me so much to reflect on who I was my freshman year. I entered college, ready to discover who I was and what I loved. I learned that I love children, traveling, Hispanic culture, and social justice. I learned that I could combine all of those passions and chase a wild dream. Although this year will be full of a lot of changes, I know that it will help me grow into the newest version of me- “college graduate Ruth”. I will no longer be a “DePaul student” or “undergraduate”, and I can’t wait to see what the next phase of the journey is! So, even when I am completely terrified and cannot handle the idea of me leaving this wonderful experience in my life, I know that if I continue to look back on the amazing experiences I’ve had and hold onto hope that the exciting reflection-worthy moments won’t stop here, it will be okay. It will be more than okay, even; it’ll be the next step in the adventure of life!
No matter what stage or year you are in in your life adventure, continue to embrace all that college (or high school, or graduate school, or work!) has in store for you and continue to enjoy the change. All we can do is keep discovering the way of the path laid before us this next year, this month, this week- and follow it with a smile on our face, excitement in our hearts, and a willingness to fake it until we know what we are actually doing and why on earth we are smiling.
Hi, everyone! My name is Ruth Hogle, and I am a senior cello performance major in DePaul’s School of Music. Welcome to my DeBlog page!
There are many things I am passionate about and love writing about, and one topic that I still love to talk about is my experience living and working in Peru my past two summers.
When I entered my freshman year of college, I never thought I would travel outside of the country during my four years at DePaul. As a music major, it is very difficult to find a study abroad program that allows me to earn credits at a different school during the school year. Because my major is so focused and requires a lot of specific classes in order to earn my degree, taking time away during the quarter was not an option. And I was okay with that; I accepted it.
And then sophomore year happened. All of a sudden, I craved adventure. I felt a strong desire to travel to a foreign place on my own before I became an upperclassman in college. So I began looking for missionary programs around the world, including trips to Asia, Europe, and Australia. However, around the time I was looking online at these programs, a friend from my cello studio told me about a program he had volunteered with the previous summer…in Peru.
My first thought? “Peru?? What exactly is so cool about that place?” I had actually never heard much about South America as a whole, let alone this country on the west coast of the continent. I vaguely knew what Machu Picchu was, but that was it. However, soon after, I met with my friend and learned about the program and instantly became very interested. Hearing his experience and seeing the deep love he has for Peru really inspired me. I could hear a new word screaming at me in my head” “Aventura!!” I ended up applying the next day and was accepted as a music teacher with this nonprofit organization, Vive Perú, two days later!
So my first summer, I taught cello lessons five days a week at a local music conservatory in Trujillo, Peru and traveled on the weekends. It was incredible to learn about Peruvian culture, to travel to other places, and to make music with people from an entirely different place.
This past summer, I returned to Peru to work with Vive Perú as an in-country coordinator. My job entailed running errands, visiting other volunteers at their work sites, taking photos of the volunteers, updating our organization’s social media, and helping lead workshops and medical campaigns. This summer taught me a lot about how a non-profit organization runs (which was so fascinating…and overwhelming!!), and I learned even more about Peruvian life, as I developed strong friendships and grew close to my Peruvian host family.
Whenever I reflect on the total of four months I spent in Peru, I always smile. My time in South America did actually change me. There is something about living in a completely different and new place, away from everyone and everything you know that really pushes a person to grow exponentially. I experienced once-in-a-lifetime things and will have stories to tell for the rest of my life!
Some highlights of my trip: bungee jumping and repelling down a waterfall in Ecuador; practicing and speaking Spanish; petting multiple llamas, pigs, sheep, and hairless Peruvian dogs; sand boarding; performing in a fourth of July concert with the Trujillo Symphony Orchestra and being the only American on stage; forming friendships with Peruvians, with whom I still talk; and playing with children from a severely impoverished neighborhood multiple times a week and seeing them smile and laugh.
If you have an adventurous spirit and crave to see the world, consider studying abroad! If you want to learn a lot about a different place and about yourself, take the plunge (like I did when I jumped off that Ecuadorian bridge!) and climb that mountain (similar to the Andes mountains I visited multiple times the past year!). The world is literally yours to discover.