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!
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. ;)
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.
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!