New Student Orientation

Last week was New Student Orientation at Eastman.  It feels a little surreal - I am so, so grateful to be back.

Orientation Week generally includes advising sessions, placement exams, meet-and-greet events, tours, and a few special events for all the new students.  For me, the week looked like this:

  • Day 1: a meeting with my advisor to discuss course options, an appointment to get my new ID card, and an info fair on local organizations
  • Day 2: breakfast with the deans and a TA meeting
  • Days 3 and 4: placement exams (and three more meetings)
  • Day 5: registration day

Amidst the flurry of excitement, there were a few stressful moments.  First, those dreaded placement exams. 

A little back story: I've been studying Renaissance music history (in great detail) and counterpoint (Renaissance through Early Classical) for a month now.  (You see, when I started my masters at Eastman a few years ago, I passed both the music history and the theory placement exams.  Now, as a returning student, I was only required to take certain portions of each test.)  I was ready for the tests but it's still a lot of pressure.  If you don't pass these tests, you're required to take extra (remedial) courses before graduating.  Not only does that add hours to your schedule but it also costs more than a pretty penny. 

Anyway, I walked into the history exam on Wednesday and got a copy of the test.  Because I had taken it before, they included a copy of my previous scores in the packet but I realized right away I was looking at someone else's scores.  Come to find out (after taking the test anyway), I passed everything the first time and didn't need to take this test at all.  They had the wrong placement exam on file the whole time.  Seriously.

Naturally, I treated myself to a lemon cookie from my favorite bakery on the way home.

The second most stressful part of the week - course scheduling.  I walked into my first advising meeting of the week bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with a 3-page list of courses I wanted to take with credits, days/times, and teachers already written out.  Yes, I'm that girl.  The problem was not my level of preparedness; the problem was that most of the courses on my list were already full.

I won't tell you how many times I rewrote my schedule in five days.

By Thursday, I finally had four classes that were still open and did not conflict with my TA schedule and I had approval from the dean to add an additional credit to this semester.  Then, I went to register.  One of the courses I had chosen was only open to theory majors and another course had waaaay too many projects and assignments.

After a small meltdown, Steve and I looked through the list one more time and found a course that was still open.  Thank goodness.  In the end, it's an eclectic mix: theories of human development, sacred music, studio teaching, and 19th century music history.  It's a perfect sampler of everything I am hoping to incorporate into my program of study.

Year 1 starts today!

The Next Chapter

I am so excited to finally write this post! Sometimes, it’s difficult to know where to start and so I’ve been writing and rewriting these opening sentences for longer than I care to admit.  Done is better than perfect.  It’s time to acknowledge the hard work and celebrate the successes.  It’s time to share this exciting new venture.  This is my next chapter.

I will be beginning my PhD in Music Education at the Eastman School of Music this fall and I could not be more excited!!

When I graduated from Eastman with my master’s degree in 2010, I thought I was done with school forever.  Who needs a doctorate?  I have enough skills to get out there, teach, perform, create opportunities, build programs, and make a living for myself in music.  For the last two years, I’ve done just that.  Being the young, fiery, go-getter that I am, I had high expectations.  I thought teaching would be rewarding and I thought I’d learn a lot about myself in the process.  It is and I did.  But here’s what I didn’t expect: These experiences lit a fire in my core – a desire to learn more and a passion for not settling but actively trying to be the best I can be.

After nine months out in the “real world,” Steve and I had a heart-to-heart over a bottle of red wine and a box of chocolates.  “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about going back,” I said.  I hardly recognized the words as they came out of my mouth.  “But that’s normal, right?  Everyone thinks like that after graduating.  It’s all we know,” I quantified.  “I don’t think like that,” he said, smiling.  “But you should do it,” he said after a moment.  From then on, I knew this was the point of no return.  I knew what I had to do.

Over the next few months, I spoke with a few close friends and several of my professors to gauge their reaction.  Everyone was extremely supportive.  “I told you you’d be back,” one professor said.  Eastman was my top choice but I did my research and compared programs at a few different schools to increase my awareness of what’s out there.  Amidst wedding planning, preparing for the choir year, and lesson planning for school, I compiled a teaching portfolio, wrote personal statements, and requested letters of recommendation and transcripts.  Two weeks after returning from our honeymoon, I submitted my first application.  I visited Teachers College at Columbia University, my other top choice, just before Thanksgiving and had a great day meeting with a few of the faculty and observing a graduate class.  It felt so right.

Just after the New Year, I received an invitation to interview at Eastman at the end of the month.  It was a full 12-hour day: convocation, five one-on-one interviews with the faculty, three research presentations by current students, cocktail party, and dinner.  I gave 110% of myself through the entire process and I was exhausted afterward.  I felt like things had gone well but after meeting the other candidates, I began to doubt whether or not my best, my 110% was enough.  Do I have enough experience?  Do the faculty think I would be a good fit?  Did I make a good impression?  What if all of that is just not good enough?

February felt like the longest month of my life.

I kept my phone in sight at all times in case a call came in.  I skipped to the post office every day to check for the obligatory “thick envelope.”  I checked the school websites for updates from the Admission Offices.  Finally, on March 1, I received a call from one of my former professors at Eastman.  “Consider this your unofficial acceptance,” he said.  I couldn’t wipe the silly grin off my face.  I was over the moon!  The formal paperwork followed a few weeks later and after several weeks of negotiating, I signed my name on the dotted line and sent everything in on the very last day.  Since then, I have received many warm, congratulatory notes from Eastman teachers and friends.  I am so very thankful to be returning to such a wonderful community!

Of course, rejoining the Eastman community means leaving the community we’ve been a part of for the last two years: The community where we’ve had so many great opportunities to grow as teachers and musicians.  The community that celebrated with us when we got engaged and when we got married last year.  The community where we built the Westminster Chamber Music Workshop.  I’ve learned so much about myself since moving here.  I grew as a teacher.  I found my authentic voice in writing.  I developed a passion for community music education.  Though bittersweet for sure, I know that this new adventure is the right decision for me and for us.

What does this new future hold?  Well, the PhD is a 3-year degree program and I’ll be enrolled full time.  Because I recently completed my master’s degree at Eastman, I’ve already taken many of the required courses for the PhD program, meaning I have a lot of flexibility in really tailoring the program to my research interests.  I know I am a complete nerd but I can’t wait for my first week at school when I’ll have the chance to sit down with my advisor and plan out my course schedule for the next three years!  In addition to class work, I’ll also be working at the school as a teaching assistant (TA) for a few music education classes and as an administrative assistant in the Music Education Office and the Institute for Music Leadership.  I’m excited for these opportunities because they combine so many of my interests – so grateful to do what I love!

The journey continues.  Let the games begin!

Image Credit: personal, Eastman School of Music (here and here)