Blog Archives

Always have this in mind…


Always have this in mind...

The Silent Sniper: Sleep is a Solstice


Warning: This post may not be 100% coherent. Why? Not much sleep, coffee depravation (one cup of coffee does not suffice), and because Daleks/Cybermen/The Master want to exterminate my Research assignments by throwing it into a fire pit.

This week in  “Chronicles of Graduate School Living”, we can view ze graduate student recognizing that sleep is fleeting or while sleeping he wakes up at 2 am scared he missed a deadline. This week has been…. long. I’ve felt that everyday is a new Tuesday (for some reason I hate Tuesday’s more than Mondays. Weird. I know). Maybe it’s because I did not have as a productive last weekend as I thought I would have. Also, I noticed that the books, articles, and scores I have to read, read and write, and analyze, respectively are adding up. Every time I finish one, two more appears. So, it’s like Pokemon (nerd alert). It’s when you are running through the grass and just when you’re about to get out 100 Weedles appear or if in you’re a cave 1000 Zubats come and attack you with confuse ray (wow. I reached a new low… I shake my head at myself). But, in the midst of this there has to be something good, right? Right.

Some of the good news are that I’m finally “recovering myself as a conductor” which means…? I’m finally loosing up in my conducting course. Which is amazing and awesome. Why? Because… it’s good. Another thing that’s good is that some of my fellow professors have asked me about my research topic (which you can read a slight intro here). The good thing is that I’ve researched a bit more in the subject, and I get more excited about it. The bad thing? The actual information I need to further my investigation is still in Washington, DC. This irks me, scares me, and… downright terrifies me, because if I don’t get Dr. Klemme (aka the only HUMAN in  the United States of America who has done something with Henk Badings, the dutch composer I’m researching) I have to do everything from scratch, and… I really don’t want to do that. I have enough score analyses to do (and so little time).  Another epic, amazing, and awesome thing that may happen in my life (next semester) is that I can enroll in a graduate composition course. Notice the adjectives that evoke the happiness that is resurging from my heart. I am extremely excited because I’ve always wanted to take some composition courses and I now I can! *insert happy dance* *insert solemn dance* *insert breakdown, because that’s next semester and I still need to do so many things until that happens (hurrah! Run-on Sentences!)*

A good thing that I liked about this week (I still have tomorrow, but I hope it continues in the same vibe that I’ve had, so far, today) is that I had the opportunity to conduct University Singers. I conducted Lauridsen’s Ave Maria, which is a beautiful piece and I love it. It was pretty cool because we had students from Illinois District IV, and they saw me conduct (yay me).  Now I have to recollect my belongings which are thrown all over this table, and prepare myself for choir rehearsal. After this I’ll throw myself into the neverending paperwork (and drown dramatically while practicing my conducting, baton and all).

Trying to study at WIU's Library

Trying to study at WIU’s Library

 

 

 

Grad School Haiku


Oh my God,
Too much work! I need sleep,
Jesus, take the baton!

Stop, review, and rewrite


So. The moment has come.  Between tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday I have two Graduate Advisory Exams on Musical Theory and Music History. On Monday I begin my first semester as a Grad Student and Graduate Assistant for Choirs at Western Illinois University. You may ask, how do you feel? To that, my dear Watson it’s Overwhelmed. A good and a bad kind of overwhelmed. How is that possible you may ask well, let’s be all Grad Student and use points *insert CNN news music here*

  1. I think I’m not in Kansas (Puerto Rico) anymore. When I say this it’s awesome and terrifying at the same time. I’m alone. Nobody knows me (yet), my professors, advisors, and  supervisors don’t know how exactly I work.  So this is a chance to prove myself that I know my stuff and that I can grow.
  2. The School of Music is big (at least to what I’m used to). I’m used to a small (intimate) Music Department so when you show me a list of… 20? 30? music professors and that you have minimum 100 students in a specific program in the School of Music you get shocked (in a good way). It’s refreshing to see the School and know that you may be teaching/assisting in the Professors in what you love.
  3. You can’t geek out to your friends and family about everything you see (in person).
  4. You are (somewhat) terrified for you don’t know what is going to happen, but you know that you must face the storm and deal with it.
  5. I have a lot to do and… I LOVE it. (That’s what he says now. Let’s check in Mid September and in October.)

In these past two days, I’ve been in and out of Faculty reunions & Graduate Orientations. Now, all of this is really … how should I put it in words… epic. Why? Because it’s all new to me. And what my friends and family know is that I love the Academia world. I live for it. That’s what Third grade Jose wanted to be when he grew up and now where is he? In an hands on opportunity in being in the Academic world, and in the hopes in becoming “Americas Next Top… Choral Conductor”. (Who wants to be on top? Me. Sorry. Too much Netflix and reality TV).

In all these commotion and reunions, some doctors have said things that have inspired and stuck to my brain. These are :

  • “Receiving a post graduate degree (Masters or Doctorate) is an opportunity, not a right. We as Doctors are very, very territorial & protective of our field. You, as a new graduate student, need to show us -your faculty- how much you want this degree. You must be proactive in your education, not reactive. You must show us that you want to be as good or better and greater than we are. Only then, will you receive that degree. If not, you will be in that group of people that don’t achieve their dreams.” – Doctor who’s name I couldn’t jot down for they spoke to quickly.
  • “… We need to grow our way out of the recession. Hence why we should look for a way to better our curriculum, better ourselves (as professors and teachers) from within so that we can give our students the best experience they can receive for their Higher Education” Dr. Ken Hawkingson, Provost & Academic Vice President of WIU.

After all it’s said and done. What do I, Jose Clavell, want out of my Higher Education. What should everybody want out of  Higher Education. Sure, you can say jobs, money, prestige. What you should say is. Reinvent myself. We all come for different backgrounds, faiths, walks of life. When it comes to our education we want to reinvent ourselves. We don’t to be ignorant about a subject or a field. We want to know. For ourselves and (here enters the beauty of academia) to share this information. To share what we love, what gets us passionate to somebody. To shed light in a subject people can’t grasp. I want to share my love for literature and choral music to as many people I can.

With a Masters degree (or doctorates) we transform ourselves into experts. Into Scholars in our community. And in this era, where information runs faster than the speed of light, we can diminish the incorrect information that is out there.

“When we learn we can therefore teach. When we teach we ignite curiosity. When you ignite curiosity you ignite a revolution. I believe this world needs a revolution. Let’s start an educational revolution, shall we?  ” -J. Clavell

Si vous plait?


Si vous plait?

Wow. I’ve been away for a little while. How quickly time changes! I’ve been in the middle of settling in my new apartment in Illinois, as well as getting ready for my first semester of grad school. Sorry I’ve been away for so long. I’ll be posting further this week!

50 thousand reasons to sing and conduct


In the past few posts (these to be exact: Nobody said it would be this hard, One Winged Angel, and  Caught in the Storm)I have shared my Goals Statement, what I want to do with my carer, some of the people who have inspired me & the obstacles that I’ve had in this past year. While I had this whole post defending why I want to do what I want to do, I’ve realized that… they will continue to put me down, try to shut me out or appear as if they are going to help. I realized that people will continue, no matter what you do, try to make you unhappy. Life sucks. Life throws a lot of obstacles to “test you on how strong you are”. One thing is certain I won’t back down. I will continue to fight for myself, and for the person I love.

A family member asked me a while back… “you do realize that if you want to do this you will have a debt of $50,000 in your ribs, right?” I simply replied: YES. I don’t need to defend my lifestyle, my carer choice to anybody. I have one life, and I’m going to live it the way I want to. I have 50 thousand reasons to sing & conduct. Some of those reasons are:

  1. Laugh.
  2. Love.
  3. Smile.
  4. Make high quality music.
  5. New experiences
  6. New places, people, and things.
  7. Your smile.
  8. The way you when your proud.
  9. The way I feel when I do a good job.
  10. To be brave in all aspects in my life.

Start being happy. Truly happy.

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.

%d bloggers like this: