Ok--it was a long, hard journey, but I finally did it. I can finally say I am a Master. Of. Music.
School never really got easier. Okay, I take that back--it got easier as soon as my recital was over with. But up until that point, it started hard and only got harder. It amazes me that this level of work is, in many cases, the bare minimum required to be a professional percussionist. It amazes me that this degree, for many of my percussion comrades, is not the final degree one pursues. I may decide to pursue another degree down the road. Who knows.
I will say, however, that Kansas University and Ji Hye Jung enormously exceeded my expectations. I guess you can consider this my public thank you letter to the University of Kansas. Never did I expect one of the most important influences on my career, musicianship, and personal life to be in the middle of the Midwest, in a state that two years ago, I would have trouble finding on a map. The opportunities and funding presented to me by the university, coupled by the fantastic instruction I received from all of my professors (not just Ji Hye), left a lasting impact on my confidence and leadership skills, and really helped me shine a light down the previously dark tunnel of my career. Especially in the last year of my studies, my musicology professor turned classical and romantic era music history from a surface level review of past events into a study of patterns and insightful reflections that finally bridged the gap between what I want to do with my career and how that relates to all of the music that's happened before me. I had my first experience playing in a upper-level wind ensemble (as opposed to the entry-level wind ensemble at Peabody) and got to watch my professor receive a standing ovation after performing a concerto with us at the brand-new Kauffman Center in Kansas City. I never thought I would love playing in an orchestra in which half the string section were volunteering non-music majors, but the passion of the director made me have no choice but to love the music we were playing as much as he did. And for the first time since high school, I finally feel like a real jazz player again. I moved past my greatest concerns in jazz being keeping the form and catching all the chord changes to much deeper pondering of the greater picture of a performance and the relationship between my ego and my instrument.
Of course, the person who had the single greatest impact on me was the person who brought me to Kansas, Ji Hye Jung. I'm even a little hesitant to try to type anything, because I don't really know if I can adequately put into words how much gratitude I have. Ji Hye went far and beyond what her job required of her to do for me. She didn't just teach me, she developed me: not only as a musician, but as a professional and as a person. She was harder on me than anyone has ever been when I needed to hear it, but was still sensitive enough to help me through my most vulnerable moments with care and understanding. It was as if making me a better musician just wasn't enough for her, and I don't know many other teachers who are willing to invest the amount of time and energy it takes to completely change somebody's life. For that, I'm deeply indebted. I really don't know how to repay this level of generosity... I guess I can only hope that I can do for somebody else what she's done for me.
This summer, I will be returning to Germany for my second (and most likely final) run of the Neue Eutiner Festspiele. I had a great time last year, and am looking forward to going back. I don't know too much about it now, but I'm optimistic that this year will offer many new opportunities for me. In the mean time, I'll be spending a good bit of time working on my professional front (such as the design updates to this blog!), including hopefully getting an actual website up and running. I've also got a number of musical projects I'm working on--most recently, I've finished uploading all of the videos I can (minus one that has technical difficulties) from my recital, as well as all of the videos of the KU Jazz Combo I performance at the Lawrence Arts Center this spring. I've done recording sessions for Peter Klatzow's Variations on a Theme by Paganini and Joseph Schwantner's Velocities since my recital that I hope to have edited and uploaded soon, as well as video for Brian Scarborough's second album recording project. I'm also working on my first film score! It's a very short film, but I'm happy to finally collaborate with Doug Horak for the first time in many years.
From here on out, I really intend to try to update more often. Now that school is over, I'll have a lot more time to think, and with time to think comes time to write. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or YouTube to keep up with my updates.
Once again, thank you KU. I had no idea how big of an impact you would have on me. Special thanks to Ji Hye Jung, of course, as well as Dan Gailey, David Neely, Paul Popiel, and Alicia Levin for being a big part of my transformation here--I couldn't have done it without you. I never thought I'd say it (and I still feel really uncomfortable saying it), but I guess I'll just get it over with: