Now we enter the more interesting point in my life: How i got into grad school.
There are tons of questions i'm sure people are DYING to know: what happened during my "lost" year, where did i apply, how did i choose where to apply, how i got into Brooklyn College (i may not have an answer for that one.), and why i chose Brooklyn College, in the end.
First off, I had applied to grad schools during my senior year at DPU. However, i was in and out of my mind, addled, stressed out, and basically going a more than a little crazy. So, i missed 2 deadlines of schools because i had them written down as the wrong deadlines. Yep, i swapped the dates for Brooklyn College and Bowling Green. Now, there was only a 2 week difference, but at the time, Bowling Green was higher on my list. could get an assitanceship, get things paid for, has a new music festival. seemed like a happening place. But, alas, it was due the 1st, Brooklyn the 15th. about the 4th i realized i had the wrong date for BG. But i thought that BG AND Brooklyn were the first. wrong again...see, brain addled
The other school was SUNY Stony Brook. They lost all my "supporting" materials. They had been signed for. I read the name of the person to the lady on the phone. She asked that i resend them (this was a month after the due date, of course.) I answered "Sorry, i don't have enough money to reprint, rebind, and resend all my scores overnight. Unless you want to cut me a check for your mistake, i can't do it. Also, i refuse to attend a school that looses my paperwork. I have dealt with this for 4 years, i will not continue to deal with it."
I was a dick. I admit it. And i don't care one little bit.
For the record, the three schools i looked at the most were Brooklyn College, Bowling Green, and SUNY Stony Brook. Brooklyn College came highly recommended by several people. Carlos thought it was a great school and wanted me to go study with Tania Leon. I met Kevin James (the composer/trombonist, not the comedian) who had also gotten his MM at Brooklyn College and highly recommended it. Two somewhat pivotal guys in my deciding to composer, telling me to go to BC? yeah, i'll put it on the list.
Bowling Green interested me because it was somewhat close to many of my friends, has a good reputation for new music, and seemed like a good program. the doctorate interested me more with its emphasis on contemporary music only. Still, it seemed like an interesting school. and the allure of a possible assistanceship was nice.
SUNY Stony Brook also came recommended by Carlos. I checked it out and listened to some music done by the faculty. Daniel Weymouth's music somewhat blew my mind, even though all i heard was Rare Events for Bass Clarinet and Tape. Still, after the debacle my senior year, i definitely was not going to apply again.
So, after not getting into grad school, mostly my own fault, i was going to drift for a year. I knew it was going to happen, and accepted it. My girlfriend at the time suggested we move to South Jersey and live at the beach. Well, i didn't have anything else going on and i had other skill sets i could try. I had previously worked as a lube tech and mechanics helper, i had done retail, and knew a thing or two about the production business and audio recording. Still, my (ex)girlfriend found a job months before me. LOL. just goes to show, ya just never know what'll happen.
I hooked up with a production company doing live events. I was a technician/driver. My job: Prep the order, load the order, drive it to the location, set it up, run it, tear it down, load it, unload it, check it. Seriously, i did everything except take the order. And, considering how much revising those orders went through I might as well have. the business did not have any sort of "inventory tracking." So, when we were out of something, i had to go upstairs, tell them, they had to call the client, and then figure out a substitute. yes, i'm serious...
Anyway, i cut my teeth doing lighting, sound, and video. I worked in a warehouse that had no AC and only had a few heated portions. I knew i wanted to go grad school.
So, i did research, looked at schools. I decided since i didn't do an undergrad in comp, the big names were out. Princeton, Yale, Cornell, Stanford were crossed off immediately. Brooklyn College was on the list with Bowling Green. I figured i should look for more options
That's when i found out Columbia College of Chicago was starting up a film scoring MFA. sounded AWESOME! i love film scores, love the whole process, and had been learning more about video and film the past year. I knew of Columbia because my oldest bro had gone there for a few years for a degree in audio recording.
I printed, bound, and sent off my meager portfolio to Columbia and Brooklyn College. I spaced on Bowling Green, as seemed to be a normal thing for me. My portfolio was...pathetic.
1) a piece for trombone and piano, incredibly tonal, a little rhythmic interest, i guess...Not bad for my second real piece, i guess. The piano writing had some amazing moments for sure
2) Aegean Straight Down for trombone, string orchestra, and timpani. It is...well...a fun little piece, i guess. I wrote it for the DPU Chamber Symphony's 2006 tour. The conductor felt bad because he had chosen a Haydn symphony as the large piece...so, for 25 minutes, i sat backstage and snored. He had suggested i learn an unaccompanied solo, like Mippy II or something, but Carlos suggested i write something. The conductor, Orcenith Smith, agreed, as long as it was relatively easy for the strings (we only had 2 weeks to put it together, after all.) It is...The basses hold an F
for 5 minutes
3) Two Gray Songs- two art songs with poetry by Kelsie Gray. It was my first foray into art song. I presented them in a masterclass with Jake Heggie. he hated them. i felt discouraged. Carlos loved them. I felt better. And, now i write for voice quite often. and i bet Jake Heggie would hate all my pieces. LOL
4) Things That Go Bump in the Night. It sounds like the title. seriously. I don't remember the instrumentation at all...
It wasn't much. looking back over, in retrospect, it wasn't bad. After meeting people from UMKC finishing their BM in Comp, i am surprised i got in ANYWHERE, but i met some amazing composers here. I went back over them over the summer, just as nostalgia, from the trombone quartet through my masters, and some of it wasn't bad at all. different from what i do now, but i can see it starting, in the piano parts to the piece for Trombone, and in Two Gray Songs...and some of the trombone licks in Aegean. Anyway, i digress...
That's what i sent out. Three pieces, all three were midi-realizations. i had no recordings, even though two had been performed. What i got back from Columbia College was "We like your music. We think you'll be a great composer. but you didn't submit any film music. do you have film skills at all? You're one of the strongest candidates musically, but think you're not a good fit for the program."
Yeah, they were right. lol. still, i was disheartened. But, somehow...
I got into Brooklyn College. I don't know how really. The faculty said it was my originality. They could tell i was willing to take giant leaps, try new things, go outside the box, even if the base skills weren't all there. I got the same answer from the folks at UMKC as well, actually. I always felt i just needed time, and i'd get better.
So, here are the nuggets to gleam out and some real advice
1) start planning early and be willing to take time off to find out where to go. There are millions of schools.
2) ask people in the know. This means your current professors, other students, friends, professional contacts, anyone anywhere. try and get some information!
3) GO VISIT! i didn't do this. I should have. if they know your face and know who you are, it'll go better. E-mail is great, phone calls are nice, but nothing beats showing up and shaking a hand!
the above three are very important. Many schools have a particular style. some teachers exist to create replicants of themselves stylistically. This can work if you want to write in that style. Get to know the programs. some are a lot more open and want varied backgrounds and interests (such as BC and UMKC). Others just want people "that fit." I am not judging either style, but obviously, one of them works much better for me as a student.
4) apply to multiple places, but don't have "fall-back schools." If you don't want to go there, DON'T GO THERE!
5) if you can, get a sample lesson with a teacher. don't go to a school "just because you like the teacher's music." Seriously. You can learn a great deal from people who have completely different styles and approaches than you. In fact, you may learn more. I hold to this. Some of the greatest advice I've gotten from composers whose music i don't particularly like.
6) be willing to move. it's nice staying in your safety zone, but, sometimes, there's just nothing there. take Indiana. There isn't a program in Indiana that suits me for composition. The closest is Bowling Green, really. Even the Chicago schools might not fit well, especially since Augusta Read Thomas is no longer at Northwestern.
7) don't give up. ever. If it's what you really want to do, DO IT! if you don't have the drive and determination to fight through a couple rejection letters than, well, you may not have the drive to make it all the way through.
being an artist, any type of artist, is not easy. It's not all sunshine and lollipops. Be prepared for that.
I loved the process. I switched production companies in Jersey right before my MM started, but i stayed with them for those 2 years doing audio for some amazing bands. I wrote a great deal of music at BC. I learned electronic music. I had known the software, done recording and editing before, knew live sound, but never used it for music. It was pretty awesome to go that direction.
but BC years are for later. for now, I am off! byebye