As I think ahead to auditioning for grad school next year, I've found myself having to explore more possibilities than just "I want to go to Yale." In fact, I'd say it's turned into something more like "I want to go to _____ so I can get ready for Yale." Yale is still my dream, and I know I can make it there someday if I have enough time... but how do I have enough time?
There are two ways that this year can end. I graduate, and get into Yale (or have reason to believe that I could be there very soon), or I graduate and don't get into Yale (or have reason to believe I couldn't be there very soon). Either way, I think I want to take a year off in between college and grad school. My arms are getting better every day, but I'm going to need to be playing way more per day than I am now. I'm just about caught up to what I consider to be the "Peabody average", or the amount of time you need to practice to stay on track here, but I know Yale will add a good 2-3 hours at least to whatever that is. A year off would give me a lot of time to prepare for the physical demands grad school will have.
If I get in to Yale this year (or if Bob recommends I wait until next year to audition), I'll spend my year off in Connecticut. Before school starts, I'd want to try to find work and be able to start building/rebuilding all of the Connecticut connections that I could have. That means playing jazz gigs again, trying to work more closely with the school systems, possibly doing the ARC program (Alternate Route to Certification) and becoming certified to teach, continuing to try to build a teaching reputation around the town and getting a steady job--music related or not. Of course, I'll be practicing throughout all of this, possibly even getting lessons from whoever I can...but without the stress of the regular playing commitments being in college presents.
If I do not get into Yale (or Bob recommends that I don't audition), I just began seriously considering doing my (first!) masters at the University of Miami in jazz vibraphone. Svet Stoyanov, who taught me for two years at Peabody, just started his job as the professor of percussion down there--in my last conversation with him, he remarked about how serious the jazz program seemed. The more I think about it, this could be a great opportunity to really polish my jazz chops and re-identify with that part of my musical personality--but still keep my classical chops in place by taking lessons with Svet. Plus, who could say no to two years in Miami? If that all goes well, I could audition for Yale after those two years and possibly be in even better shape for the audition than I would be otherwise. If I go down this track, I'd want to spend my year off in Baltimore--I've got so much work lined up here, as well as a great apartment, it would be silly to leave it and start the job search all over again in Connecticut. I'll also have more flexibility to go home more often throughout the year.
Of course, this could all backfire in my face, and I could end up at Yale next year. Or I could end up with a real job next year. Or I could end up in another country for whatever reason next year. Maybe I'll go to school for composition. Maybe the band I just joined will make it big and I'll be a rock star. Maybe I'll develop telekinesis. Who knows.