I will lump my undegrad into one short entry. there is some wisdom here, i think...
I entered college. I had a major, was declared from the get-go. Was gun-ho. I even practiced every once in a while
I spent more time getting acclimated to the climate than i did studying.
Everything was going quite smoothly, actually. I was getting good grades, made Dean's list a few times. I enjoyed my classes, most of all my education classes. really felt like i had found my calling. It wasn't until half-way through my sophomore year things started to change.
It started with trombone. I hadn't practiced much, and it showed. There was no challenge to the music. I played Morceau Symphonique, some piece i've completely forgotten, and a couple sonatas by Galliard (originally for bassoon.). I hated them all. Got into a fight with my professor, Jim Beckel, about how i was playing "lame music" and i didn't practice "because i didn't need to." Yeah, i wasn't playing them to their fullest, but i was invested, so 80% was good enough.
He challenged me, said bring in a piece i worked up ON MY OWN, to prove i could handle harder literature. I worked my ass off on Concerto for Trombone by Launy Grohndal. I proved myself to my teacher. We started to get along much better after that. It was a big experience for me, and definitely in the relationship we shared. I didn't feel like he respected me as a performer. I know he didn't. and he didn't have any reason to. I didn't practice, didn't try. But i'm the type that NEEDS something to try. I don't always do things just because it's right. like practicing. i know i SHOULD all the time, but i don't.
Junior year, i was having doubts about my major. I was studying conducting more seriously and found out i had a knack for it. I was also writing music a little more seriously on the side. I hadn't ever done anything other than mess around, but for a final theory project, we had to write a piece. I wrote a trombone quartet. Beckel, after our butting heads and now new found understanding, programmed it. Yes, my true opus 1 was a trombone quartet written for a theory assignment. wanna fight about it? lol
People liked it. Genuinely liked it. So, i thought i could write on the side, work on my conducting...January, Junior year...
At DePauw they run a 4-1-4. during the "winter term" as they call it, there are fun classes on campus. i had previously taken a class over the Ring Cycle and one for performance and wellness. Now, i approached Prof Beckel, who is also a good composer, about doing a winter term with him. I would churn out a 5 minute piece for full orchestra.
I knew nothing, formally, of writing music beyond theory. That's...not much to go on. He drilled me hard. I learned about all sorts of forms of development, about counterpoint, fugue, orchestration. in 4 weeks. i wrote a 5 minute piece for orchestra.
It is now buried.
And my life changed forever.
I was urged to take composition...with some guy named Carlos Carrillo. at the same time i was taking 20th century history and theory. my mind was blown. I took in everything "new" i could find. I was voracious, listening to Strauss and Debussy to Schoenberg to John Cage to Morton Feldman to Bang on a Can. I had previously gone to talks by living composers. DePauw does a "composer's of the 21st century" series (though, sometimes the composers are really 21st century. Sorry Samuel Adler, but your time has definitely passed.)
It was all downhill from their. Carlos opened my world up. I grew more and more doubting of wanting to teach MS or HS band. I wanted to be a conductor. I wanted to be a composer. I wanted...
to go to grad school.
It all came to a head my senior year, with Elementary Methods, Materials, and Curriculums. It made me a chain smoker. I worked with kindergarten and 4th graders. it was hell. i snapped.
the last week i could, i quit my major. i had been having arguments about missing time to go to grad school audition days. Seems you can't miss more than a few days and pass student teaching. I pulled out. I got a general music degree. i wrote a piece for trombone and orchestra that went on a west coast tour with the DePauw Chamber Symphony.
I visited U Washington. I wanted to go get my MM in conducting. I met with the conductors and the grad students.
I changed my mind. It was nearly impossible. they expect you to have already been conducting to get in. Most people come in with 2-3 years of public school conducting. i didn't WANT TO CONDUCT HS! no one seemed to understand that. i wanted to be Daniel Baremboim, or Pierre Boulez, or Eugene Ormandy, or Michael Tilson Thomas...not a HS band director, and then hopefully get into conducting a college wind band. i wanted something BIG!
I applied to schools in composition. I either got rejected or had my materials lost...
but i knew what i wanted to do.
I still curse Carlos to this day. LOL. no, i thank him, continuously. He opened my eyes to such a wider world of music, beyond DePauw, beyond Indiana. he showed me the universe of sounds, introduced me to composers i never would have known otherwise. Feldman, Takemitsu, Lutoslowski, Fernyhough, Tania Leon. he had me reading books by Joseph Straus, Morton Feldman, John Cage. my eyes opened to this world. I studied the art, got into Robert Rauschenberg and Lichtenstein. I learned about Laurie Anderson, Yoko Ono (not the "Beatles" but her performance art) and other performance artists.
We all have that moment i think. The moment when, click, we know what it is we're meant to do. I never had that moment before. It was always a "well, i could stand to do this, i guess, if i have to choose." It clicked for me, my senior year, as i sat there on the porch drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade, chain smoking clove cigarettes, reading James Joyce. i wanted to be a creator. I wanted to teach, but not little kids, not high schoolers, but the world.
It was the pivotal moment. Then came the hard part- how to make it happen
Next time? how did i get into Brooklyn College, and what happened to my mind?