Category Archives: Being a Productive Student

Polar winds v. Tropic thunder


And so my winter break is coming to an end. Next Monday I start my second semester of graduate studies, where I shall immerse myself anew in music, music, and music (and the midwest weather). Between a musicology course in twentieth-century music to twentieth -century musical analysis, choral conducting, graduate musical composition, and ensembles. This semester will be challenging, but rewarding, I’m sure. Let’s see what this semester brings. Up until now I will be a part of the IMEA in Illinois, and there might be a slight (very slight) possibility that I can get enough funds to go to the ACDA convention this year. If I get the chance, it would be amazing. It’s still somewhat incredible and humbling coming back to the island and meet again my professors and peers. The pressure is still on when the hint, again, that I am the “new guinea pig” because before me nobody has done a Masters in Music, specially Choral Conducting. I just have to work harder this semester. As we say in the Choral Department (thanks to me) “If you try hard enough and believe in yourself…”

On the twelfth week of Grad School, my baton said to me…


On the twelfth week of Grad School, my baton said to me: ‘member all that’s happened to thee…

  1. I am stronger than I look, wiser than I know, and a hell lot a braver than most people I know.
  2. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, sometimes it just means your dead.
  3. Show the ictus, my child, then they will rejoice in the Lamb…
  4. No matter how awesome you thing the idea for a section in your paper is, chances are you WILL NOT know how to put it into words, hence the frustration cycle begins.
  5. can work under pressure *dum dum dum duru dum dum*
  6. The number of scores/things you have to do for a specific week will be equivalent to the motivation you have in NOT doing it. This is multiplied by 9 for when you get your weekly breakdown.
  7. If I think I don’t have an Independent study class, maybe it will go away.
  8. And now I started to sing Meldelhson’s Octet
  9. with a rhapsody of Lully’s Laudate Domino
  10. You really know you love X musical period. In my case, Romantic music. Because let us SHOW YOU HOW MANY FEELINGS WE HAVE WITH THIS CHORD AND THESE DYNAMICS!
  11. You may have nightmares of losing your assistantship because of reasons…
  12. Realizing that you do want to be a Doctor in Music is epic.
  13. Bonding with fellow graduate students is cool.
  14. Sometimes having alone time is needed.
  15. Sometimes saying “NOPE. Not doing anything today!” is necessary. Be prepared for having a little meltdown the following day because you procrastinated. Notice how the graduate student comes back to his natural habitat, made out of choral scores, scholarly articles, and Doctor Who references. This scholarly igloo made out of responsibilities, will keep the graduate student (who’s not form the United States) warm from the upcoming winter.
  16. Practice, young Padawan, Practice.
  17. Christmas Carols are hard to memorize, but huge pieces of Masterpieces can be memorize in a one, a two, a three, let’s go!
  18. Everything is a song cue.
  19. Even though I may not notice it, I am getting better.
  20. Stop being a perfectionist. (Easier said than done).
  21. To every family member, when your son/brother/sister/sibling says he/she want to go to Graduate School, give them a crockpot.
  22. Crockpots are good for pianists.
  23. No matter how much you try… the Ole will never vanish. It is called HERITAGE. Sorry.
  24. Having a tour, a paper due, and a presentation on the same day will make you crazy, but… it will make a Man out of you. *cue Mulan music*
  25. Yes. This post may not be very coherent. Sorry. This graduate student hasn’t slept in a while.
  26. You will start to lose count on how many coffee cups or caffeinated beverages you drink in a day.
  27. There is power in numbers. For example, let’s count how many scores you have to give a graduate student so that he/she can cower in fear (and be more nerdy than before).
  28. When your first undergrad mentor is recognized by your hometown, it is totally acceptable for you to Skype with a fellow friend, and for her to basically go everywhere so that you can talk to everyone. Including your three mentors from undergrad, more than 15 choristers, more than 5 teachers, and so much more.
  29. Going to Chicago for Thanksgiving, makes this guy very excited.
  30. Hoping that when this degree is over, I will have made life-long friends and colleagues.
  31. Knowing that when I finish this degree, I’ll be even better and stronger that I was gives me hope for my career.

Write, though your hands are aching


This week is going to be a very hectic week for me. These past weeks have been ok, but every single thing that occurred, was in preparation for this week. In this week, I am going on tour with the Western Illinois University Singers  tomorrow (Monday), Tuesday and Wednesday. For this tour, whom my very awesome peer gracefully arranged, we are visiting parts of Illinois and Iowa. This is exciting because I will get a first hand experience in going (for the first time) to a High School in the United States, and can truly start comparing the organization, curriculum, and musicality of this system to the ones I had.

Nevertheless, this week is also very demanding for I have two big projects to hand in. I have to due a presentation on Pergolesi’s The Magnificat and hand in my first draft of “The French Smuggler: FrenchInspiration in Henk Badings Trois Chansons Bretonnes “. Up until what I have written now for both things, I don’t really like, because it feels sloppy and not as polished as I would like, but it is a first draft. Now, the “problem” is finding the time (and space) so that I can work during tour. It will probably happen after we finish every night, which will be exhausting, but as Chris Martin wrote “Nobody said it would be easy.” Something that is funny? I’m actually taking a break from working today and continue to write in the form of this blog entry. I believe that I have been fully emerged into the Academia life. Maybe other graduate students around the world do the same? Maybe I am the only person who is somewhat crazy and is doing this? Maybe. Maybe not.

All that I know is that I have to keep writing until I can’t write anymore. Just keep swimming!

Nobody said it would be this hard


In the music world, everything is simple and complex at the same time. When you start to think about grad school, well… it’s just plain complex. You need to take  the GRE & TOFEL (for those of us who English is not our first language) pre-audition, then submit the graduate admission essay (or Goals Statement as some universities call it), submit a thousand letter of recommendations, then the audition (if the pre-audition doesn’t cut it), then do everything everybody else does. In short: one big crazy roller coaster and by osmosis a big crazy me.In all this craziness, people transform in two categories. cheerleaders or nagging-antagonists-who-try-to-sunk-you-into-depression (a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth!). Generally the people who fall into the first category are friends, co-workers, and professors. The latter? Family and some of the people who call themselves “friends”.

I won’t post the pre-audition video I submitted to three universities (Florida State University, Westminister Choir College & Western Illinois University), but I will share my graduate admission essay. Why? Just like River Song says in Doctor Who: “Spoilers, sweetie.” Just sit back and use this as a pre-screening for my next post!

Without further ado, my Goals Statement!

Jose Clavell
Goals Statement

When I was 12 years old, my parents took me to a recital of the Ponce Municipal Band where I saw Ruben Colón Tarrats, conductor of the Ponce Municipal Band and the Concert Choir and Chamber Choir from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, for the first time. From that day on, I have made it my life’s goal to become a choral conductor.  Since this experience, I have devoted all of my time and energy into studying music. After seven years of studying in the Juan Morel Campos Music Institute, I started my bachelor’s in music education where professors such as Prof. Rubén Colón, Prof. María Ondarra and Mons. Abel Di Marco helped me polish my abilities in choral conducting, voice, harmony, and counterpoint, respectively. It was there that I discovered a new, profound passion for choral conducting. In the past five years, I have learned that a choral conductor is far more than just that. Choral conductors, along with their choirs, recreate and celebrate moments from history in order to captivate and mesmerize their audiences.

 To study my master’s in such an important institution would give me the opportunity to focus my energy into my life-long dream. The Puerto Rican government perceives the arts in general as insignificant in comparison with the core subjects, as well as unnecessary for the integral development of the island’s students. Currently, the Department of Education of Puerto Rico has enacted a policy that authorizes school principals (of both elementary and secondary level schools) to decide whether or not they wish to offer music, visual arts, and even physical education classes to their students based on two criteria: first, if the principals deem the classes necessary to the integral development of their students, and secondly, if the school’s budget allows space for teachers specialized in fine arts and/or physical education. We are living in times in which the idea of “education” here in Puerto Rico is, in my opinion, not extensive enough to produce truly well-rounded individuals who can then contribute their talents to the improvement of the island’s conditions, in every aspect. After completing my master’s degree in choral conducting, I plan to come back to the island and work to repair the damage done to the fine arts programs in the schools here.

This is why finishing a post-graduate degree in Choral Conducting would give me the chance to effect change in Puerto Rico’s Music Education programs in secondary and post-secondary institutions. The opportunity to study in an acclaimed institution would allow me to share my cultural background, as well as my knowledge from my bachelor’s and embrace the latest methodology, assessment, and vocal coaching techniques. It would also give me the chance to work with a project entitled “The Art of Musical Poetry”. This project is a book in progress, a personal endeavor of mine, the aim of which is to marry the processes of musical composition and creative writing into a single form of art.

My vocation in life is that of a teacher, but I fear for the future of the fine arts programs here in Puerto Rico. To better the programs is to better both my students and myself, and in doing so, I will help to build a culture of peace here on the island.

As the song states… Nobody said it was easy!!

How to achieve a state of mindfulness & relaxation when you’re a musician.


Let’s face it, if you’re a musician you may be in a constant state of stress. This may be because of too many rehearsals, deadlines, concerts, too many scores to learn, and or teach. Sometimes we even have to bring our work home! To everything that may be happening in our professional lives, we have to add this to the stress we may encounter in our personal lives. So what can we do to relax and achieve a state of mindfulness? First of all we must properly define those two terms.

  • Relaxation (noun): the state of being free of tension and anxiety.
  • Mindfulness (noun): inclined to be aware
  • Aware (adj): having or showing realization, perception, or knowledge

If we were “normal people” (and I use this term for non-musician or artsy people) we would do what “normal people” do when they want to be stress-free, turn up their music and drown the world. Now, I’m not saying that this works, because sometimes it does but this may be counter-productive. Why? Because as musician’s a chord progression, motif in a song or a bands name may remind us about all our stress from our work.

How to achieve mindfulness

In zen, the way to approach mindfulness is by breathing and in quietness. So what we must do is to stop, before or after a rehearsal or project and do the following

  1. Find the silence

    As musicians we know what the power of silence can do. It can create tension or release, it prepares for a new theme, in short, silence is good. If you’re like me I over think things (a lot) and these random (and not so random) thoughts can hurt us more than they should. We have to stop, and “look” or distance ourselves from our thoughts.

  2. Balance

           We must achieve a balance between our personal and professional lives. We have to start asking ourselves: am I biting more than I can chew? Do I have too many projects running at once? What are the pros and cons of each project? What is the priority right now? Remember to do this objectively and distant. As you were an observer of your own life, instead of actually living it. To achieve body balance also helps. I remember my choral conducting courses and Prof. Ruben Colon always told us that as a conductor you must align your body so that you feel no tension anywhere. To achieve this I always think of being as relaxed as a rag doll and slowly widening and stretch my back.

  3. Breathe my child! Breathe!

           I’m an asthmatic. I am also a singer. When I get in stressful situations I feel like I’m about to drown! When I feel like this I always curse (inwardly, of course) and ask “Where the hell (or other nouns) is my inhaler?!” Then, just when I’m about to drown I listen to that annoying little voice in my head, and he screams BREATHE MY CHILD! BREATHE! Allow yourself to breathe! I’ve noticed that if you’re a musician, even know that we KNOW the importance of breathing, when we’re not what I like to call “musician mode” in a magical way we forget that we have to take deep breaths. We have to permit ourselves to breathe and connect our body, mind, and soul.

  4. Accept what we can and can’t change.

    In this year where I have  called “The year that Never was”, where I made plans and every single one of them failed, I realized that I have to learn to accept things, life and it’s difficulties. I have to learn to accept what we can and can’t change professionally as well as in my personal life. I had to acknowledge my failures as well as triumphs, the sorrow, pain, sadness, happiness. We must put (want to or not) some things past us so that we can grow.

  5. Accept resistance

    You may want to kill him/her because they don’t do their job. You may want to think of all the negative aspects of your life and the dreadful “What if?” All of this may happen but life is full of resistance. We must always try to make a conscious choice as well as try to maintain that distance between thoughts, especially when you’re going to make important choices in your life.
  6. Hobbies

    We must, must, must, MUST find a hobby that is non-music related. In this year this has “evolved” in devouring series such as Doctor Who, Survivor, Merlin, Sherlock, and many, many more. Try to do this with friends. Maybe go out on a walk. A friend of mine started to do 10-mile bicycle runs (a little extreme for me), but find something to do when you’re not in “musician mode” or just want to relax.

If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers


**This is a guest post from Study Hacks** (the Url is in the bottom of the post**

 

The Berlin Study

In the early 1990s, a trio of psychologists descended on the Universität der Künste, a historic arts academy in the heart of West Berlin. They came to study the violinists.

As described in their subsequent publication in Psychological Review, the researchers asked the academy’s music professors to help them identify a set of stand out violin players — the students who the professors believed would go onto careers as professional performers.

We’ll call this group the elite players.

For a point

of comparison, they also selected a group of students from the school’s education department. These were students who were on track to become music teachers. They were serious about violin, but as their professors explained, their ability was not in the same league as the first group.

We’ll call this group the average players.

The three researchers subjected their subjects to a series of in-depth interviews. They then gave them diaries which divided each 24-hour period into 50 minute chunks, and sent them home to keep a careful log of how they spent their time.

Flush with data, the researchers went to work trying to answer a fundamental question: Why are the elite players better than the average players?

The obvious guess is that the elite players are more dedicated to their craft. That is, they’re willing to put in the long,Tiger Mom-style hours required to get good, while the average players are off goofing around and enjoying life.

The data, as it turns out, had a different story to tell…

Decoding the Patterns of the Elite

We can start by disproving the assumption that the elite players dedicate more hours to music. The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50).

The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice — the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability.

 

This might not be surprising, as the importance of deliberate practice had been replicated and reported many times (c.f., Gladwell).

But the researchers weren’t done.

They also studied how the students scheduled their work. The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day. A graph included in the paper, which shows the average time spent working versus the waking hours of the day, is essentially flat.

The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods. When you plot the average time spent working versus the hours of the day for these players, there are two prominent peaks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

In fact, the more elite the player, the more pronounced the peaks. For the best of the best — the subset of the elites who the professors thought would go on to play in one of Germany’s two best professional orchestras — there was essentially no deviation from a rigid two-sessions a day schedule.

This isolation of work from leisure had pronounced effects in other areas of the players’ lives.

Consider, for example, sleep: the elite players slept an hour more per night than the average players.

Also consider relaxation. The researchers asked the players to estimate how much time they dedicated each week to leisure activities — an important indicator of their subjective feeling of relaxation. By this metric, the elite players were significantly more relaxed than the average players, and the best of the best were the most relaxed of all.

Hard Work is Different than Hard to Do Work

To summarize these results:

  • The average players are working just as many hours as the elite players (around 50 hours a week spent on music),
  • but they’re not dedicating these hours to the right type of work (spending almost 3 times less hours than the elites on crucial deliberate practice),
  • and furthermore, they spread this work haphazardly throughout the day. So even though they’re not doing more work than the elite players, they end up sleeping less and feeling more stressed. Not to mention that they remain worse at the violin.

I’ve seen this same phenomenon time and again in my study of high achievers. It came up so often in my study of top students, for example, that I even coined a name for it: the paradox of the relaxed Rhodes Scholar.

This study sheds some light on this paradox. It provides empirical evidence that there’s a difference between hard work and hard to do work:

  • Hard work is deliberate practice. It’s not fun while you’re doing it, but you don’t have to do too much of it in any one day (the elite players spent, on average, 3.5 hours per day engaged in deliberate practice, broken into two sessions). It also provides you measurable progress in a skill, which generates a strong sense of contentment and motivation. Therefore, although hard work is hard, it’s not draining and it can fit nicely into a relaxed and enjoyable day.
  • Hard to do work, by contrast, is draining. It has you running around all day in a state of false busyness that leaves you, like the average players from the Berlin study, feeling tired and stressed. It also, as we just learned, has very little to do with real accomplishment.

This analysis leads to an important conclusion. Whether you’re a student or well along in your career, if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you’re chronically stressed and up late working, you’

 

re doing something wrong. You’re the average players from the Universität der Künste — not the elite. You’ve built a life around hard to do work, not hard work.

The solution suggested by this research, as well as my own, is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you’re done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day.

(Photo by RKHawaii)

**This is a guest post from  http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/11/11/if-youre-busy-youre-doing-something-wrong-the-surprisingly-relaxed-lives-of-elite-achievers/

Cynicism is Easy, Optimism Takes Guts


This is a Guest Post from http://www.scotthyoung.com/

 

Just about every way you can measure, the world is a better place today than it was before. Life expectancy is up, poverty down, even most environmental indicators aside from greenhouse gases have improved.
Yet this is never the story. The story is always how the world, despite the nearly consistent progress over the last millennia, will deteriorate in our lifetimes.
Why Is Pessimism Fashionable?


My hypothesis is that pessimism is the safe, easy stance for most beliefs. If you are optimistic, and wrong, you’re a fool. If you foresee doom that never occurs, nobody bothers to correct your errors.
It’s easier to see why pessimism is fashionable, if you think in terms of game theory. The pessimist, if wrong, suffers little public humiliation. He may even be praised for alerting society to possible danger. The optimist is a fool when wrong and receives little praise for correct predictions.
Given these uneven outcomes, it benefits people to appear overly pessimistic. After all, better to seem overly cautious than to be later made a fool.
The Danger in Pessimism


The problem is that pessimism isn’t without costs. Being overly cautious about some risks exposes us to other dangers. This was the case in Africa, where hysteria over GMO foods resulted in more people starving.
The safest thinking is the most rational thinking. Optimism can be dangerous, but so can pessimism—in causing us to choose “safe” options, which cause more problems than uncertain choices.
Riskless, Cynical Attitude
There’s a parallel between pessimism, believing bad things will happen, and cynicism, or general distrust and jadedness. Once again, there’s a lop-sided risk to the publicly stating your beliefs.
Being enthusiastic about a goal or project is risky. If your goal fails, or your hopes dashed, you are naïve and foolish. Before I started this venture, I tried making a computer game (and failed) in high-school. People around me still like to joke about how precocious and naïve that was.
But whether I had the skills or ability to become a computer games developer is beside the point. This business required 5 years of unsupported enthusiasm before it became successful. The same cynics don’t take back their original skepticism, they just pretend they knew it would have worked all along.
Shut Up and Do The Math
The solution isn’t to always be optimistic and never look for the possible downside. Just because you can believe it, doesn’t mean you can achieve it and phony systems like the Law of Attraction are completely divorced from reality.
Unwarranted enthusiasm and optimism have dangers. But so do pessimism and cynicism. The ideal is to be rational about the future, not to be knowingly biased in one direction.
I can already imagine the objections. “Knowledge is impossible!” you say, “we can never escape bias or make accurate decisions.” This is complete garbage. Yes, perfect rationality is impossible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a realistic assessment.
Let’s say you’re starting a new business venture. You could follow societal cynicism and say that 80% of businesses fail. Or you could follow self-help charlatan’s optimism and believe that faith and persistence alone will make you a success.OR—you could do some research. You could figure out what the path to success typically requires. You could calculate what the start-up costs would be, and see if there is any way you can make small calculated experiments to gain more knowledge of future success. At the very least, you could determine the worst-case scenarios in both decisions and try to minimize potential future regret.

Yes—the future is unknowable. No—predictions will never account for all uncertainties. But this doesn’t mean that cynicism is the default rational choice, simply because you’ll never look foolish.
The Guts to Be Optimistic
Sometimes the math does make cynicism the best guess. I think people getting mortgages they can barely afford for investment properties are idiots. The math doesn’t support their enthusiasm.
But in other cases, the math makes enthusiasm a better choice. When I first started this business, the chance of success was probably low. However the worst case wasn’t bad at all. At the very least, I’d learn something and maybe become a better writer. In the best case, I have a career as a writer. Even if success is unlikely, that’s a gamble I’d like to take.
If your goal is to never look foolish or naïve, cynicism is a good strategy. If you’d rather have an awesome life, shut up, do the math, and ignore the dire

 

Go to http://www.scotthyoung.com/ for more articles devoted on How to get more from life. 

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