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!!
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. ;)
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.
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.
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!
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!!
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.