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On Applying Myself

My last few months have been consumed with applying, practicing, auditioning, and begging* for graduate school in music. I’m finally done. While most people might view this as a perfect opportunity to take a break from extracurricular activities, I completely disagree with this approach and have found innumerable other worthy pursuits. For example, last night I ran out of fuel while about 60 feet up in the air on a connector ramp in the middle of what is quite accurately described as ‘the maze’. Believe me, spending your evening contemplating the potential effects of an earthquake while gently swaying from side to side with each passing truck is a thrill to be envied.

But what I really want to talk about is grad school. The experience of auditioning, especially, contained some notable moments. To protect their privacy and my chances (admission decisions are on March 15), I will simply refer to the schools by general geographic location.

Audition: 3 professors, me, 15 minutes, 3 pieces (and sightreading). The playing went quite well, but when I finished, a professor asked if I had any questions for them. My reply: “Ummmm, I’ve been so focused on this audition that I haven’t thought about potential questions I might have for you.” I believe that was literally my reply.
Pros: Well-known school with good rep. Tuition much less than the other two. Overall, I got a feeling of midwestern sincerity and goodwill, although this school is in the state that gave us Blagojevich, so I’m a little suspicious of the feeling.
Cons: Bitter, bitter cold (5 degrees, 15+ mph wind, windchill of i-don’t-want-to-know). Each block of walking required at least 30 minutes of defrosting in a coffee shop, and some blocks didn’t even have coffee shops! Practice pianos were mostly grands, but appeared to have an average of 5-6+ decades of experience in practice rooms. They looked demolished.

Audition: 3 professors, me, 12 minutes, 3 pieces. I scrambled to prepare and remember a few potential questions for the professors, and consequently (they must have known) they didn’t say anything other than ‘next piece, please’ and ‘thank you’.
Pros: The most life I’ve ever seen in a music school. The practice rooms were all full, and the hallway contained an impressive cacophony of sound. The audition piano was likely the best (action & sound) piano I’ve ever played.
Cons: Also very cold and blustery. Random people (in the city, not the school) offer “hey, i’m going to f*&%king punch you in the head”. Observed serious road rage on some city streets.

Audition: 4 professors, me, 15 minutes, 3 pieces. It was my last audition, and also my worst. Luckily, I did not actually crash and burn in the flames of memory loss, but just had hiccups now and then. This probably had something to do with the fact that the East and West auditions were on the same weekend.
Pros: Very nice (brand new) school facility, library, practice rooms, and performance spaces. Felt more relaxed than the first two. It’s in the west!
Cons: Slightly more costly than the first two, especially including cost of living.

Now I have a few days of calm (last night notwithstanding, I hope) before facing a challenge much harder for me than applying and auditioning: deciding what I will do if I’m accepted.

*it can be very, very difficult to get a musician-type to accomplish something in anything close to the originally estimated time. imagine a musician trying to get letters of recommendation from other musicians

3 comments to On Applying Myself

  • Cheers mate! Sounds like a wild ride. I just started pursuing PhD programs so there is a little comfort in knowing that there are others out there knocking on the doors of higher edu.

  • Currently it seems to me that anyone contemplating graduate school is crazy (perhaps that person who offered to punch your head would have been doing you a favor?), but I wish you luck nonetheless.

  • Earthquake Evangelist

    Did the time in the maze involve contemplations of any other sort? All joking aside, congrats on all the auditions. Back to the joking–glad it wasn’t a professor who’d offered to punch you in the head.

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