While I'm indulging in such shameless self promotion, I might as well also mention that I was recently selected as a finalist for the YouTube Symphony Orchestra! The audition this year included an improvisation portion--two improvised solo sections were built into the piece (Mothership by Mason Bates), and YouTube offered an audition for these sections open to all instrumentalists. I auditioned for the rhythmic improvisation section on vibraphone, and was selected as one of seventeen finalists! If you can spare the time, I would greatly appreciate your vote: you can cast your vote by clicking here.
I learned a whole lot this semester, but probably the most important thing I learned was that no matter how busy you get, it's possible. This semester was unlike anything I've ever dealt with before, and you better believe that I complained about it all the time. I'm sure Ji Hye (my teacher at KU) was sick of hearing about how busy I was by the end of the semester. Sorry for whining so much.
I had to make some choices in order to make it work, and perhaps the most frustrating of them was the balance between homework and practicing. Now, at this point, understand that doing things for fun was out of the question. I gave myself Friday and Saturday evenings (pretty late) as time to not do homework or practice so that I wouldn't lose my mind. Other than that, I felt bad for my blossoming video game collection, and the nice TV and sound system that my old roommate gave me. I barely touched any of them.
In a normal day, I could generally find time to practice at least 2 hours a day minimum--which would always happen from the hours of 8am to 10am , before my first classes. After this, I was generally able to find another hour or two throughout the day to practice, but my constantly shifting rehearsal, teaching, and concert schedule proved to make finding consistent hours difficult. I had to do the best I could.
However, my classes had a great deal of work attached to them as well. Each meeting had some sort of reading assignment attached to it, I had frequent writing assignments, and the final projects were quite large and involved a great deal of preparation. Thankfully I didn't have very many tests to worry about in either class, but when I did there was a fair amount of studying involved.
It was the midterm for my renaissance music history class that made me begin thinking about this a lot. I began studying for that midterm about, say, a week before the test. The day or two immediately preceding the exam, I spent almost all of my "free" time (which included practice hours) to studying for this midterm. I even cancelled my lesson for the week in order to prepare.
I got a perfect score on the midterm. 100%. All of that studying paid off. Except... I could have practiced and probably pulled off a B.
Don't get me wrong, I was ecstatic to see my score. Being at Peabody taught me how hard I need to work in order to make it in this industry, and I've certainly learned how to apply that to my academic studies. Learning about the history of music is hugely important to a music student. But, at the same time, I'm a percussionist. While it's great to know where the orchestra repertoire I study evolved from, I will rarely ever have to deal with renaissance music in my percussive career. Maybe if I transcribed a motet for marimba, sure... but since when was I going to be playing solo marimba renaissance transcriptions? Doesn't seem very likely.
So was it worth it to cancel my lesson and stop practicing so that I could get an A+ on my renaissance midterm? You tell me, I'd certainly be interested to open this question for discussion. The solution that I came up with was this:
I drove halfway across the country to study percussion with Ji Hye Jung. Not to be a musicologist.
I always thought the quote "don't let school get in the way of your education" was funny, but now it's hitting pretty close to home. I will still strive to get the best grades I can get in my academic coursework--but for now on, never again at the expense of my instrumental studies.