The ground, the occult, and the savior.

Wow… it’s been more than 10 days since I’ve updated from the grad school tag. Grad school is… still intensive. Not as intensive as before, ’cause I am getting the hang of it, but intense nonetheless. At least, I am getting better in my conducting, in internalizing this harmonic system, and getting to be “myself” in front of the choir. Things I need to finally get into my head…

  • nothing will be perfect or go as you think it will.
  • Just like Wagner stated in his article “Art takes time”
  • nothing will change in a day
  • Keep practising, done? Again.
  • I’m here for a reason
  • I am good at what I do and I should just stop self doubting
  • If the University gave a fall break, it’s because it’s NECESARRY. Stop overthinking and doing and give yourself a free day!
  • have more fun
  • Musicallity cannot be taught, it comes from within



I feel it’s going to rain (paperwork)

This week that passed on grad school…

  1. You may mess up completely in your conducting and may have to meet your professor for further assessment.
  2. The day feel ready to meet your professor is the day he’s not on campus.
  3. That’s not the way you hold a baton… in your case you should ’cause that baton is like a Harry Potter wand. My response… CRUCIO!
  4. Handel composed “And the Glory WRATH of the conductor shall be revealed”. A song specially dedicated to all conducting majors in the world.
  5. When you think you don’t have enough work, think again.
  6. How many grad students does it take to move a speaker?
  7. Are we on key? Is that a C? a C #? C flat? whut? My thought process when we Glory the anna
  8. Britten concert was a cool experience as a birthday.
  9. You can fall asleep on your couch after a skype call, while your friends wait for you in their house to celebrate.
  10. You will start missing people the day before, during, and after your birthday. (Specially those who are in the moving process).
  11. You all did well, but you still have to take another test of the same material next week (this Wednesday).
  12. My abstract was French with a touch of Dutch… I think I can roll with this… if I can ACTUALLY get the dissertation and scores I asked for… 3 weeks ago?
  13. Lully and Mendelsohn are cool… so cool that I listen to their pieces for basically an hour on repeat and then say WAIT I need to annotate things on these scores. Process may be repeated at least three times this weekend.
  14. J. S. Bach is a cat. With fluffy ears, which I want to pet (if he doesn’t kill me first or tries to escape, and succeed.)
  15. Starbucks Colombian coffee is NOT good enough. I need my Puertorrican coffee.
  16. That moment when your harmony professor calls you and tells you “if you migrate from our harmonic system to theirs (US system) I will disown you. Hey, here’s my email. Anything you need call me, text me or email me (specially for scores).”
  17. Choral Literature Jepordy:  Here… listen to these 3 obscure passages from the 16 pieces. They have no text. Who wrote it?
  18. Something as simple as assisting in giving a midterm may be reassure yourself that you want to be a professor.


What I’ve learned in Grad school is….

Wow.  I knew Grad School would be challenging and it has been more than I have ever imagined. Up until now I’ve been a grad student for  a month, and I love it.  So here you have the things I’ve learned in graduate school so far

  1. Everybody is on the same playing field, no matter if you peers have 10 years or more working or just out of their undergrad.
  2. Do not compete, you are there to better yourself.
  3. Every single one of your peers is a geek or nerd the “difference” is how much they show it.
  4. Your professors are nerds. Embrace it, one day you’ll be a nerd with a doctorates.
  5. One of the (many) reasons we want a Doctorate degree is so that we can have the same title as THE Doctor.
  6. Sleep is overrated.
  7. You may not have that much time to have that mythical thing called “lunch” if you’re a TSA, TA or GA.
  8. You will be in one, two or three ensembles at the same time if you want it or not.
  9. Your supervisor may and can send you an email at 5:30 am.
  10. You are expected to do so much more.
  11. If your professors don’t push you to be better something is wrong.
  12. Listen to ALL the music!
  13. Did you think you were fully bilingual?  Ok. Let’s ask you something very randomly in class. 😀
  14. It is necessary to go out with your peers on a weekly basis or somewhat similar to this. If you do not do this, you will die from frustration or drown in music scores.
  15. Print everything a week or two ahead. It’s better.
  16. Read, Review and Re-read anything you have to submit 3 or more times.
  17. Enjoy grad school!
  18. “Don’t think about it too much. It doesn’t have  to be perfect. Go out and have a drink with your peers.”
  19. The professors may remind you of TV show characters… DoctorDonna for example… or the Dean from Community.
  20. Your peers are really cool.

The French Connection

Second week of grad school. This week main title shall be “The French Connection”. Why you may ask, my dear reader? Simple. I have to do a research project, and since somebody very special to me reignited my curiosity for French Music, I want to research French Choral Music in the 19th Century. For the sake of this research project the CSI suspect is Henk Badings a dutch composer from the 20th century. The case: Did Badings have a 19th century inspiration or stylistic approach for his choral music compositions? If so, were they inspired by Debussy or Ravel?

Fairly exciting, isn’t it? The correct answer is YES! Now. I am loving Badings first “movement” or first chanson from his “Trois Chansons”. The Title? La nuit en mer. (The sea at night). Here I leave you the beautiful lyrics written by Théodore Botrel.


La brise enfle notre voile :
Voici la première étoile
Qui luit ;
Sur le flot qui nous balance,
Amis voguons en silence,
Dans la nuit.

Tous bruits viennent de se taire,
On dirait que tout, sur Terre,
Est mort :
Les Humains comme les Choses,
Les oiseaux comme les roses
Tout s’endort !


Mais la Mer c’est la Vivante,
C’est l’Immensité mouvante
Prenant d’assaut les jetées,
Dédaigneuse des nuitées
Et des jours !…

Hormis Elle, rien n’existe
Que le grand Phare et son triste
Reflet ;
A la place la meilleure,
Mes amis, jetons sur l’heure
Le filet !…


Puis, enroulés dans nos voiles
Le front nu sous les étoiles,
Dormons !
Rêvons en paix profonde,
A tous ceux qu’en ce bas-monde
Nous aimons !

Dormons sur nos goëlettes
Comme en nos bercelonnettes
Et demain à marée haute
Nous rallierons la Côte,
Triomphants !

The week in Heaven (and just a slice of hell).

The time has come. I have started my graduate studies in Choral Conducting, and to quote that famous phrase all I can say is “I’m not in Kansas (Puerto Rico) anymore.” How can I describe this? One word. Wow. It is completely different from what I’m accustomed, but that was the necessary change, right? The answer, of course is a big, bad, YES!

Now. There is a lot of work, but I’m surprised that the Faculty is very supportive, appreciative, and really wants to see you succed. From my experience back home, most of the Doctors’ perspective is: “I know more than you, you are beneath me. I have all my three degrees so, basically I don’t care.” It’s very refreshing in seeing that here is the exact opposite. Which leads me to the other (unspoken) fact. If they see you slacking, I am sure you will get a kick to your patootie (yes, I really used that word) and they will take no prisoners. Which is good, because as a Doctor told us at the Graduate Orientation:

Receiving a Higher Education (Masters or Doctorate degree) is not a right, it is a privilege. We, the faculty, are very possessive and protective of our field. We don’t want anybody in receiving the same title that we have, we want you to show us how much you wanted and how determined you want to be as good or better than we are.

Which is really true. If you were a professor, wouldn’t you want to make sure that the people you send out to the field are competent and can do their job? To send professionals out on the field, and maybe one day could possibly take your job? The answer or the answer should be yes.  In how I’ve been finding my place here, well that’s  another story. Day to day living is exactly what I’ve always wanted, peace and quiet, no reggueton (the devil’s music). Musically? It’s day and night. I prided myself that over in Puerto Rico, at least vocally, I was very good. I always learned my music in a fast efficient manner. In just this week alone I’ve felt that some of the undergrad students are ten times better than I actually am right now and their piano skills (a weakness I know and admit I have) are twenty times as better as I have. And I’m sure that my fellow graduate peers are even better in that area as I am. It sort of feels like heaven (and a little slice of hell).

Heaven, because I feel as in this is what I wanted as an undergraduate experience. What I want to see in Puerto Rico, where students have a great musical education and when they go to college you don’t have to go to a rehearsal and play notes all day. Students actually go home, study their music and come to the classroom to sing. But that puts me in a (very big disadvantage) because I have to work ten time as hard in everything, because I feel like I’m not “as in musical shape” as they are, holistically. I can express that my culture shock has been more artistically than it is, well in the other sense. Compared to the other international students, Puerto Rico has always had the presence of the United States over our shoulders. That’s why I feel as if it is moving over here is a natural (and necessary) progression I need to grow in every sense in my life.  After this first week, I all can say is that I really have my work cut out for me and that I need to hit the turbo to actually do what I want, what I love, but give that excellence I want from myself (which is more than other people want) and what my professor will expect from me. So just like in “The Wizard of Oz” “I’m not in Kansas anymore.” and just for that fact only I have to give 200% of me so that I can excel!

Ready? Set? Conduct!

And may the odds be ever in your favor. ” Said Effie Trinket in Suzanne Collins’s “The Hunger Games”. That’s how I basically feel. I’m starting my masters next week, and I have no idea how I should feel. Should I do a happy dance? Should I continue to run around (in my awesome apartment that I moved into) in circles? Should I continue to study for the GAE (Graduate Advisory Exams) I have on Saturday & Sunday? Should I start picking my outfit(s) for those first couple of days? I. don’t. know.  All I know is this (in points to be all professional like)
Continue reading “Ready? Set? Conduct!”

Everything’s a learning experience

Everything's a learning experience

Even though I couldn’t go to the audition, I learned how to cram this masterpiece in less than a week. Preparation is key. Pressure is what differentiates a coal from a diamond!

Caught in the Storm

Caught in the storm. This is the only way I can accurately explain the way I’m feeling these past two weeks or specifically 4 months. If you’re a constant reader of this blog, you might have read “The Year that never was part une & part deux” After basically losing everything I’ve worked crash and burn in my professional as well as my personal life, I haven’t well in every sense of the word. I don’t feel ~as bad~ since what I will now start calling “The Second Great Depression (2008 edition)”… it’s been bad. On top of everything that I’m passing through it doesn’t help in having more or less a family that supports you when they please or better yet say they support you and then stop.

Right now I’m in limbo mode. I have to start preparing to leave the island to start my masters. I can’t do as much as I would like for I have to visit where I’m staying to actually have an idea of what I can take and leave here. I’m equally utterly terrified and completely excited of being in a new place, new people, new experiences but at the same time I don’t want to leave home (mostly because of my friends). I don’t know what exactly I’ll be doing as a Graduate Assistant, but I’m most utterly grateful for the university in giving me the opportunity. So in these next two months I have to, go to the Open House, start packing, try and not get “the support system” to me (as I have done before and it’s not good), try and not get myself killed by two of my friends, try to move on and start living the way I would like to.

He told me I was in over my head, I didn’t want to say yes but I know I am. I’ve bitten more than I can chew (as I always do). Not going to lie, throwing myself like this to somewhere I’ve never been to, alone, with a very limited (to almost no) budget 2058.63 miles away from what I know… it’s not going to be easy. I know that if I come out victorious from this… nothing will stop me. I just have to wait for certain things to resurface, try and maintain calm and let this storm pass.

Hear it thunder
And I wonder
How long can I hang on

I’m caught in the storm
I’m caught in the rain
I’m caught in the rush that hides this pain

I’m ready to drown
But it’s coming down
But I feel so alive
Let me wash away
You can find me after the flood
Let me wash away

Caught in the storm

The year that never was part deux: “When reality ruins everything”

In the last post I reflected on what has happened in this past year. To recap, the expectations  were:

  1. Finish my Teaching Internship successfully, and show that I can actually be a music teacher (choral conductor).
  2. Finish my Choral Conducting course & (maybe) conduct in the Spring Tour.
  3. Go to France in the summer with my best friend (as a reward to myself for studying nonstop for five years)
  4. Start my Master’s in Music (Choral Conducting).
  5. Become more independent.

As a result, I finished the Teaching Internship successfully, I passed all my evaluations with very high percentage (yay me!) and so did my friend & peer Yolimar. I received one of highest grades in the Internship (at least from my supervisors group). I also finished my Choral Conducting course with flying colors. I am (for now) the only student from PUCPR who graduated with a full year in student conducting (pats self). I also conducted in the Spring Tour (New York & New Jersey). I had the honor of conduct in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York & in Saint Joseph of the Palisades Chapel in New Jersey. I graduated PUCPR with honors, and received the Mons. Di Marco Medal for musicianship and musical excellence. So far so good right? Wrong.

It’s amazing the way life changes drastically in a few moments. I was in an all time high, I was graduating as well did my partner and my better half. We were going to France in the Summer,and then I would start my masters degree. I got accepted into a very recognized School of Music, and I was on the runnings in getting a scholarship. I was going to become more independent. Things were looking up. That’s when everything came crashing down.

In the few months before graduating (more or less May/June 2012) I received the following information:

  1. I did not receive any type of scholarship. Since I didn’t receive any (extra) financial aid, I couldn’t start my masters in the program of my dreams for I couldn’t have managed financially. I could have started my master’s degree last August (August 2012), but that meant taking out Federal and Private loans. But this meant that I would have fallen in the death grip of financial decay at 22 years. I decided to not study (as any rational, decent individual would do). 
  2. I did not go to France for the summer with my best friend. Why? Because the loans (which were “tailored for the trip”) did not cover nearly half of the trips expenses. So no trip for any of us.
  3. Being independent: This, which was intertwined with the last to points, did not come into fruition. I know what you may think. “Jose, you do not need to go to leave your parents house to be independent.” I know this. I know that I do not need to leave my parents house to become independent. The dillema is that, here in Puerto Rico, there are no jobs. When I mean there are no jobs is that I have friend with two Masters degrees and she can’t find a job as a Teacher (her Bachellors), Administrator (one of her master’s degrees) or even in a Fast Food Establishment (because she’s “overqualified”). As I wrote in my Goals Statement essay:

    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.

    So this means that I can’t work as a teacher because in both, private and public, educational system in the island are not hiring teacher, what is a recent college graduate to do? (Other than to send resumes/C.V knowing that you won’t get hired, because there are no jobs).

  4. Social Media Insomnia/Netflix addiction: Since I couldn’t find a job my days these past year became a blur. I have spent hours in social media, such as Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Netflix watching T.V series, movies, documentaries and spiraling into what I call “The College Graduate Depression”. This stage is a really sad one, for you realize that you can’t go foward, because you can’t get a job and to get a job you need experience. What’s even sadder is that all of my friends got in this stage together and even more depressing? We couldn’t meet up and didn’t talk much (in person) because to meet up equals gas equals money equals no job equals no money. So this is a vicious and deadly cycle which needs to stop.

In this realization I started to look for methods of escaping. It sounds like a rivating tale of survival (which it is). The plan was the same: “how do I get out of here (the island)?” “how can I at least find a job, save up some money, and go to that first question?” I spent countles hours searching for “the escape”. I searched for other music programs and decided I would apply for Western Illinois University, Westminister Choir College, & re-apply to Florida State University. I got accepted into Western Illinois University’s Master’s in Music Program (Choral Conducting, Performance) as well as Florida State University (again). I also passed the first audition for Westminister Choir College (I still can’t believe it!) but I couldn’t go to their on-campus audition due to lack of money.

So what’s next?

After being accepted into both programs, interviewed by Dr. James Stegall, Director of Choral Activities from Western Illinois University and analyzing my chances in both universities. I decided to go to WIU and start my post-graduate education Illinois. As part of being a graduate student in WIU I will be a Graduate Assistant for Choirs. Since everything will be a brand new experience (leaving the island on my own for the first time, and studying “abroad”) I’ll be blogging regularly and sharing all my experiences in Illinois with you all. I hope you enjoy them as much as I know I will. I hope you enjoy this crazy ride you’re about to take with me. Please remember to have both hands and feet inside the machine at all times!


The year that never was: Reflection of this last year.

It’s May. Unfortunately this means that’s it has been a year since I graduated from the Pontifical Catholic University from Puerto Rico. In this year, which shall be named: “The year that never was.” has been a disaster in my professional life. Let’s review what the plans were:

  1. In January- May 2012 I was doing my “Práctica Docente” this was basically my Teaching Internship in a school in a nearby town, called Adjuntas. There I worked my prove that I had “what it takes” to be a music teacher/choral conductor in a high school.  
  2. In that same time frame I had my “Choral Conducting II: Advanced Conducting” where I had to conduct various (advanced) pieces” that had some sort of accompaniment. It was in this time where I had the opportunity to represent the island when we had our Spring Tour in New York & New Jersey. Some of the places where I conducted was in Saint Paul’s Cathedral in New York & Saint Joseph of the Palisades in New Jersey.
  3. In my last semester as a undergrad student I planned to go to France with my best friend to study French in La Sorbonne. The plan was go to take a student loan and go to France in June and come back mid-July.
  4. After I graduated, I had planned to start in August (2012) a Masters in Music (Performance) in Choral conducting. I had applied, and got accepted to Florida’s State University.
  5. (not really a fifth point but…) Be more independent. This is tightly in relation with the last post. I would be living in another place (with my best friend) and we both would start being independent and start our adult lives.

All of these were the expectations I had for the past year. In the next post I will reflect on what actually happened (aka. reality)