the BC Years

Subtitle- How to make the most out of your MM

Let me preface by saying this straight off- i loved Brooklyn College. The faculty there are top notch. i never in a million years would have become the musician i am today without those professors.

And now for the most important piece of advice ever for someone looking at MM programs in the academic areas (i won't speak on performance, as it's not my bag...)

You get what you put into the program.

Brooklyn College is a great school. There is one area that i did not like, and still do not like in some of my classes- combining undergrad and graduate students. I've had 2 classes at UMKC like this and almost all my classes at BC were like this. They get double listed as 400 level undergrad classes. In some cases, this isn't so bad- some specific topic type classes where the grad students may not have a leg up as far as understanding of the material. other classes, such as orchestration, must be insanely intimidating for those undergrads being surrounded by doctoral students waxing poetic and making comparisons to pieces they may never have heard of.

For teachers, this poses 2 problems. first off, you have to set-up 2 different sets of criteria and hold people in the same class to 2 separate grading levels. having taught (and am now teaching) i would find that horrendous. Also, you have the problem of "how do i get these undergrad students to participate?" Honestly, i think they get a ton out of listening to the grad students go on and on.

For a student, it poses another problem. As the teacher attempts to find that happy zone where he is challenging grad students but not losing undergrads, it often tapers a bit toward catering to the undergrads. And i don't mean this as an insult at all- they haven't had the time and experience often to have the same breadth of knowledge as a grad student. And they deserve to have that knowledge presented to them.

So, when you're presented with that situation, take it as 2 things- 1) a teaching moment. seriously. I do it quite often in class, but then i'm geared toward that. and 2) a chance for major personal growth.

in an MM, you're expected to write. a lot. you're held to a higher level (well, i wasn't held to a higher level than DPU but DPU is kinda crazy, i think...). Take the opportunity to really pick your professor's brain. Pick interesting topics. Take classes that interest you and you will want to do research. Send drafts to your prof, ask questions, go to office hours. You may not get to hit a lot of the subject matter in class, because they're going to be splitting the difference between two (or three) different levels of experience

Again, I loved BC. I wrote some awesome papers, did some awesome projects. almost all my classes were joint grad/undergrad, and i took it as chances to just sit in class and work on my projects. Yeah, i was that guy with my head in his laptop, clicking away, then saying a couple choice nuggets, then clicking away again. lol.

Anyway, i spent the time really working on projects. I wrote some major pieces, spent a large amount of time writing a 21 minute chamber opera. It was a solidly good time. There were some awesome papers that i was able to get amazing feedback regarding.

My MM was magical, not because it was NYC (i dislike NYC.) or because Brooklyn College is some ridiculous crazy bubble type school where everything happens in a vacuum. that may be what i loved the most- we all worked, we all lived. we did things in the city as much as or more than campus.

So, i'll sum it up in this way, when hitting the ground running for your MM

1) hopefully you did your research and picked a school where you have teachers in the areas that most interest you. Hook up with those teachers and get the most out of them as possible.

2) don't get caught up in the insanity. It's going to be a ton of work, especially at first. but you'll get accustomed. remember to eat, remember to sleep, and, for goodness sake, when you get sick (which you will) go to the campus health center!

3) If you haven't figured out general areas of research you like, now's the time to try out some hot topics and advanced theory. You don't have to decide upon your MM thesis right off the bat, but you should take a couple semesters to figure out what paths interest you, then hit them

4) plan for your doctorate, but don't let it get in the way. Seriously. I was planning on applying for my DMA right outta my masters. then, life happened. There was this thesis thing, and school, and work. Taking a little time off between MM and DMA/PhD isn't a bad thing at all. in fact most DMA students i know took a little time off.

Now, i would tell you about my amazing DMA quest, but, it goes like this...

I was living in Jersey. The job market was terrible. I lost what work i had and couldn't get any job. i ran out of money

I moved home. i got kicked out of the house because my dad was quite ill and definitely was not himself. So, i lived with friends, worked at a music store for minimum wage, and begged for a reprise from paying my loans (since i could barely afford to eat...). I was applying for DMAs, had the schools generally picked thanks to research and professors. The list wasn't overly large:

SUNY Buffalo, UMKC, Bowling Green State University, Princeton, Cornell. I ended up at UMKC because

1) i was in a bad situation and was desperate.
2) they had an opening in the spring.
3) i got in

Seriously. I took the first offer to get the hell outta dodge

However, i got DAMN lucky. UMKC was my top choice. talk about freakin lucky. beyond lucky...

Yeah, that wasn't as much of a fun story. and now, for lunch and KcEMA concert set-up!

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