And so, Thanksgiving break is upon us in Western Illinois University. Now. If you’re a graduate student you realize that “break” is something that is found in mythology. As the semester starts to close you can observe graduate students with less hair, irritability, frustration and perfumed in desperation. Deadlines close in, projects and papers are due. First or Second drafts are received, in a nutshell lots of paperwork. Before you start eating that turkey, remember that:
- The organ point does indeed mark the end of a phrase.
- The first draft will always be the crappiest crap you have ever crapped. No worries, it can’t be that bad, right? RIGHT?!
- When deadline approaches, you can see the graduate student drinking coffee and different types of alcohol. Remember you’ll sleep when you’re dead so, drink alcohol to get ideas, drink coffee to actually finish your ideas because WRITE CHILD! WRITE! THIS IS DUE!!! *please read capitalized words in the “THIS IS SPARTA” tone*
- Remember to TRY and rest.
- If you’re an avid coffee drinker, do NOT go a day without drinking it. You will crash. It will not be pretty.
- Meet friends that are life family, it will make this passing week better.
- If your advisor says that you can do certain things it’s because they can see something in you. I have found that if they actually say something, it’s because they mean it. As in:Me: So… about my paper. I know it sucks.
Advisor: Jose. You’re paper does not completely suck. Remember it’s the first draft.
Me: (thinking)Yeah, it kind of does. Well… I think it is that is the crappiest crap that has ever been crapped, but I think I can improve it by the final deadline.
Advisor: Yes. It has much potential, and again your motivation and organizational skills are excellent so I am assured that you will work hard.
Me: Yeah. I will. All I want to know is… does it has potential?
Advisor: OF COURSE IT DOES! Your perspective in how Debussian style piano arrangements in comparison to a four voice harmony with polytonal perspective and how these mesh with pointillism and French Impressionism from the 19th century is very interesting. You only have to talk as if you’re talking to non-intelligent people. Aka: people who know nothing about your topic.
Me: Ok. I just have to take the reader’s hand and take them on a journey (thinking of “I can show you the world” from Aladdin.)
As you can see, my advisor is awesome. Also, I am just stressing myself too much (it has to be something in my genetics…). I just need to breathe, try to relax and do this. You know what world? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!
On the twelfth week of Grad School, my baton said to me: ‘member all that’s happened to thee…
- I am stronger than I look, wiser than I know, and a hell lot a braver than most people I know.
- Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, sometimes it just means your dead.
- Show the ictus, my child, then they will rejoice in the Lamb…
- 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.
- I can work under pressure *dum dum dum duru dum dum*
- 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.
- If I think I don’t have an Independent study class, maybe it will go away.
- And now I started to sing Meldelhson’s Octet…
- with a rhapsody of Lully’s Laudate Domino
- 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!
- You may have nightmares of losing your assistantship because of reasons…
- Realizing that you do want to be a Doctor in Music is epic.
- Bonding with fellow graduate students is cool.
- Sometimes having alone time is needed.
- 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.
- Practice, young Padawan, Practice.
- Christmas Carols are hard to memorize, but huge pieces of Masterpieces can be memorize in a one, a two, a three, let’s go!
- Everything is a song cue.
- Even though I may not notice it, I am getting better.
- Stop being a perfectionist. (Easier said than done).
- To every family member, when your son/brother/sister/sibling says he/she want to go to Graduate School, give them a crockpot.
- Crockpots are good for pianists.
- No matter how much you try… the Ole will never vanish. It is called HERITAGE. Sorry.
- 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*
- Yes. This post may not be very coherent. Sorry. This graduate student hasn’t slept in a while.
- You will start to lose count on how many coffee cups or caffeinated beverages you drink in a day.
- 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).
- 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.
- Going to Chicago for Thanksgiving, makes this guy very excited.
- Hoping that when this degree is over, I will have made life-long friends and colleagues.
- Knowing that when I finish this degree, I’ll be even better and stronger that I was gives me hope for my career.
And this week passed… It was a very intensive week for me. 4-5 hours of sleep, 30 pages of a paper that was due, a presentation for my choral literature class, 7 schools visited, 2 Church Concerts, 3 days of Recruitment Tour with the Western Illinois University… let’s just say you have 1 very tired graduate student. Nevertheless, I enjoyed each nervous breakdown, screaming because WHY WOULD I WANT TO INVESTIGATE 9 SCORES, each time we got to sing, in short I liked the experience.
In this week, the choral grads got a lot of time together, and we noticed that we can actually relate to many things, one of them being our love for choral music. Overall, this week as been intense, but good. Just another test so that I can show if I can handle the stressful life of Academia, specially the life of a Choral Conductor.
A good thing that happened in this week is… the culture shock (educational shock) that I had when we visited all seven schools. I was constantly reminded that I am not in Puerto Rico anymore. The sheer size of the auditoriums, theaters and students in each choral program was a minimum double of what I am accustomed. It is nice to know that somewhere people actually support the arts, even more than what they do back home. Here in the United States they say how much they are cutting money from the arts, but from coming from a Department of Education where everything has to come from the conductor (scores, renting a space for concerts, etc) this Educational System is, well paradise. I’m still on the fence if I want to go back to Puerto Rico to teach, but the fact that going back home means, leaving good choral programs that have at least twice as support as the programs they have in Puerto Rico is tempting…
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!
I’ve apparently been learning a lot about life lately. Which is funny, because I never really realize it until I get here; sitting at my computer trying to compose another blog post.
Among lots of other things this week, I managed to watch an entire season of How I Met Your Mother in two days. Despite the fact that the episodes are only twenty minutes, I still went a little overboard in such a short amount of time. Which I completely expect of myself. What I didn’t expect, was for HIMYM to teach me anything, ever.
(SPOILER) Barney proposes to Robin. And when he did, I cried, a lot. This is no surprise, but what was surprising was that while I was crying I was also coming to some pretty amazing realizations.
I’m not sure exactly at what moment I came to any realizations, but when i did I…
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Thin this silver cord like wisp of smoke
mere brush of breath against the face
I know I do not know…
and smile grateful into light
(mild clouds of myrrh the eagle soars
and hyms the heart of god)
and smile grateful
Text: Susan Palo Cherwien
Music: Aaron McDermind
Preformed: The National Lutheran Choir