Well, I've been long overdue to make a post in this thing. A lot has happened, so I apologize. Here we go:
I spent the summer living in Baltimore, working at RadioShack, practicing, and getting ready for my grad school adventure in Kansas. I spent most of July working at a rock day camp called "DayJams", where I taught keyboards and coached bands comprised of 8-15 year olds. It was certainly exhausting, but still a wonderful experience. In addition to these things, I spent a great deal of time performing with my band, Medicine Lake. We're currently in the process of finishing an EP, which will be released at the Recher Theater in Towson, MD on December 11! Go see us!
The day I moved out of Baltimore, my car was broken into and my laptop, sound card, external hard drive, wireless keyboard/mouse, Wacom tablet, Seinheisser headphones, laptop mount/usb hub, and 8gb microSD card were stolen. Silly me for putting them all in the same backpack. My dad's backpack was also stolen, he lost a pair of prescription glasses and some books. Who was I to think I could live in Baltimore without sustaining some sort of loss!
Anyway, I live in Lawrence, Kansas now. I'm a grad student at Kansas University, studying percussion with Ji Hye Jung and working for both her and Dan Gailey (head of the jazz department) as a graduate teaching assistant. In addition to my own homework and practicing, my responsibilities include teaching private students, a percussion methods class, coaching a few jazz combos, and general clerical work. It is also exhausting--much more so than teaching 8-15 year olds how to play rock music. However, I do believe the rewards of this experience will far exceed the rewards of teaching at DayJams.
Lawrence is a really beautiful place. It's this weird isolated sort of oasis in the middle of Kansas... it seems to have everything. You get a street like Mass St. where the night life happens--bars, clubs, restaurants... people are always out. Then, you head to the opposite side of town and find yourself in complete suburban paradise--the type of place I would want to raise a kid. Head south and you're immersed in absolute commercial overload--Best Buy, WalMart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, car dealers... pretty much everything. Of course, in the middle of all of this is Kansas University itself. Thanks to all the variety, Lawrence seems to be a really interesting cultural mix. You get plenty of liberal wierdos akin to what I lived with in Baltimore... but at the same time, plenty of the more grounded, conservative middle class that I'm so used to from living in West Hartford.
I really do enjoy studying at KU, despite how busy things are. Ji Hye is basically two people to me. During the day, she's 100% my teacher (and boss)--I get nervous for lessons, she kicks my ass and I really feel like I have to work hard for her if I want to be successful. Yet, we'll all go out somewhere and suddenly she's the same Ji Hye I was friends with at Peabody. It's really nice to have both Ji Hyes here, especially considering I basically up and left everything I had become familiar with to move out here to Kansas. If nothing else, it's one thread of consistency I have to hold on to. In fact, considering the theft of pretty much my entire electronic identity, it's one of the only.
Classwork is pretty demanding. They take musicology pretty seriously here, and it's really hard to keep up. I came to the frustrating realization here that I really don't have time enough to do as well in everything I'm responsible for as I am possibly capable of. If I want to excel in one discipline, something else is going to have to give. In other words: if I have to chose between necessary homework or necessary practicing, I have to chose practicing. Earlier in the semester, I didn't practice for about two days just to study for a midterm--which I aced. But I could've practiced and gotten a B+ on it. Hmm.
Yet, through all of the changes, one thing I'm still trying to hold on to is my participation with my band, Medicine Lake. Looking back at my previous entries, I don't think I've written much about them. Here's what's up:
Medicine Lake basically started over the summer for me, even though I had been rehearsing with them sporadicly throughout the school year. It wasn't until the summer we had our first big show, which was opening for another band at the Recher Theater in Towson.
I play keyboards and percussion for these guys--namely vibes, marimba, and malletkat (which for our live engagements generally plays the role of marimba), and sing back-up vocals. I've always wanted to be a rock star to some degree, and it's nice to really make that dream become a reality (to some degree). I also feel like it's a step closer to bridging the gap between the stigmas of classical music and rock music. It's not every day you hear vibes and marimba in a rock band, and the only reason I can do that is because I went to school for classical music. I just hope it's an idea that catches on to more people. As much as I love playing with them, it does make me realize how much music there is out there that I want to make. Playing jazz, playing in an orchestra, playing chamber music... I just hope I have opportunities in these worlds like I do with Medicine Lake.
We spent most of the summer recording an EP, and are going to be releasing it at a show on December 11 (also at the Recher Theater in Towson!). I've sacrificed both my fall and Thanksgiving breaks (as well as a great deal of money) to fly back to Baltimore just to rehearse with these guys. If you're in the Baltimore area then, come see us perform! The show starts at 7, tickets are $10 each (+3 at the door if you're under 21). If you can't make it, it's okay--that's why we're releasing the EP! I don't know how much we're charging for it yet, but it won't be that much. Let me know if you want to purchase either thing! I will hook you up!
A few weeks ago, a bunch of us drove through the night from Lawrence to Indianapolis to go to the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, aka PASIC. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. Ji Hye was playing there, along with a doctoral percussion student at KU named Cory Hills. However, Peabody won the chamber music competition last year, so they were playing as well! Peabody ended up playing Threads, and (you guessed it,) Village Burial. It was great getting to support all my friends who were playing.
In addition to catching up with old friends (as well as making some new ones), I had the opportunity to play in a snare drum clinic with Joe Petrasek, one of the percussionists in the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. Miguel, the other teaching assistant for Ji Hye, played too, as did two other people I hadn't met before. I ended up playing Scheherazade (third movement) and Shostakovitch 10 (second movement), while Miguel played the fourth movement of Scheherazade. There were many more people than I originally anticipated, which was a little unnerving, but it was a great experience overall. I hope that next time I go, I can play in more workshops like this one!
And here I am, back in Baltimore, spending Thanksgiving break getting ready for a show with Medicine Lake on Saturday. My family actually came here to celebrate Thanksgiving! We all ended up at my aunt's house, and by some fantastic coincidence, all of my mom's side of the family ended up there. It was great to be with everyone again, we very seldom have gatherings like that. This was also the first time I've seen my mom or sister since June, so getting to see them again is really nice. I have a lot of work left to do before this semester is done, and ended up spending a lot of my time here frantically trying to finish a 15-page research paper for my bibliography class that's due on Wednesday. Thankfully it's about video game music, so at least I get to enjoy working on it. Once that's done, I have a writing assignment and a transcription project to turn in for my renaissance music history class, a jury to play, and then a plane to catch back to Baltimore!
I don't know about you all, but I'm full of food. Hope you all have had a happy Thanksgiving (those of you who celebrate it)! Hopefully my next update will be quite a bit shorter--and sooner--than this one!