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Ready? BREAK!


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.)
    Advisor: Exactly

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!

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!!

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