What we Wish you Knew: An Open Letter from Music Students

 

Dear University and High School,

I was fortunate in high school to have had a wonderful arts department. The faculty, students, and facilities were excellent and I was well-prepared to be a college-level musician. Now, I am studying at a conservatory among talented peers under the direction of stellar professors.

But something is missing.

Support.

My high school music program and college conservatory were and are both incredibly supportive…internally. Within the arts departments, students and professors know each other well, building friendships and mentorships that will endure a lifetime. We cheer each other on in concerts, accompany each others’ solos, give each other advice. We pray for each other, share in the joy of each others’ accomplishments, and listen to each other practice the same piece for what feels like the millionth time.

But this is all internal support. “Intra-conservatory” if you will. Outside the walls of our halls, there is little understanding of who we are or what we do, causing music students to feel unknown and undervalued. This is not something that can be resolved overnight; however, it is vital to not forget what the arts contribute and, in turn, how you as a university can show your appreciation.

For instance, we as a conservatory or high school music program…

  1. …are there for youThe symphony orchestra played for a ceremony honoring the construction of a new science building. The chorale sings for all-student-body chapels. We as a department are there for you, the school as a whole. We love to see other departments benefit and want to lead the rest of the school in worship. However, this supportive relationship cannot be one-sided; we long for appreciation beyond a casual “thanks” in return.
  2. …earn scholarships too. Every time an athlete signs on with a university team or earns a scholarship, the school newspaper writes an article about it. I wonder if the school or the paper realize that music students also are recruited and offered large scholarships to attend and perform in ensembles, just like a sports team… Recognition of these awards equates to recognizing the excellence of the conservatory and the honor of being selected to participate in its ensembles.
  3. …are a tool for recruitment. The chorale tours every year, even when it is least convenient, in order to ensure that recruitment and enrollment at the school continue to increase. However, although members love to sing and to share their gifts with potential students, it is discouraging to go through all this work to serve the school and not receive any acknowledgement.
  4. …open our home to you. During large university events such as conferences, the conservatory opens its doors to all students, welcoming them into the hall that has become a second home for music majors. However, these visiting non-music students and faculty disregard this kindness by bringing in food and drink, leaving behind trash, and acting unruly. Please treat our building with respect! It is old, overcrowded, and falling apart enough already! (We don’t seem to be getting a new one any time soon.)
  5. …provide a community for anyone. Even if you are not a music major, if you are willing to be a team player, have a heart for music, or simply want a wonderful group of friends who will be there for you through thick and thin, the conservatory will welcome you with open arms. Ensembles open to everyone are offered, allowing those who might not have the desire (or insanity) necessary to be a music major to still enjoy the tight-knit and loving community that musicians offer.
  6. …are diligent and dedicated. What other major requires 4-6 hours of study every single day for only one class? And yet, we love what we do and chose to do it. Music majors are among the most dedicated and motivated students you will ever meet. They love what they do, even when it is stressful, and will push themselves to the maximum to ensure that they do it with excellence. Now, doesn’t that sound like the type of student a university would want to encourage and prioritize?
  7. …showcase the school’s strengths. Our university is full of talent, not just in the music department. However, the conservatory showcases these talents on stage for anyone to see. Community members not affiliated with the school often attend concerts and praise the program for its superior quality. Shouldn’t the school be more interested in the program that is drawing in outsiders and showing off the school’s strengths?
  8. …are more than musicians. Within the conservatory are writers, actors, dancers, artists, photographers, and athletes. There are future teachers, authors, businessmen, administrators, and missionaries. Music students are interested in a wide array of fields. However, in not investing in their lives as music students, the school is not investing in their wealth of other opportunities as well, which have the potential to benefit the school and the future of their chosen fields.
  9. …serve other departments. Composers write scores for the film department, pianists play for administrative events, and chamber ensembles perform for art shows. We even started a chapel to serve the more traditional people at the school. Whenever there is a need for music, the conservatory students are thrilled to help, in spite of their already overloaded schedules. We want to team up with other departments and thus foster greater cross-campus unity. However, it is difficult to continue doing so with the university seemingly providing only limited resources and support.
  10. …want to share our passion with you. The biggest thing to know about this issue is that we want to share with you. Any time we complain about being ignored or undervalued, we are expressing a deeper sadness that we are unable to share our gifts with our university community. We work from sunrise to midnight to create operas and concerts, eager to share the fruits of our labor with the school. But how are we to do this with an empty hall, or -worse- an audience that leaves at intermission?

We are pleading with you, our fellow students (and especially our administration), to come to our concerts, to experience for yourself the beauty of the music we love. Yes, we would love a new building with enough practice rooms and working facilities. We would love increased funding so that we can put on more lavish events or purchase the supplies we need. We would love to be included in the headlines of the school newspaper. However, the most meaningful way you as a university can show us your support is also the smallest: simply come and listen. 

Requiem: a short story for a conservatory 

Note: any resemblance to real places and people is probably not coincidental. 😉 Enjoy!
                              Requiem



“Are the rumors true? Are they?” Trent, by far the youngest of the ghosts that inhabited Rowell Hall, rushed through a closed door and into the conservatory’s storage attic. His eyes were translucent yet pleading as they looked about the room for answers.

“Rumors?” the phantom of a tall man in a tuxedo, coat tails and all, stepped out from behind a moth-eaten curtain. Mr. Marvin, prior to becoming the eldest of the conservatory ghosts, had first been the eldest faculty member, ruling his orchestra with a baton of iron and a kind heart. “What rumors?”

“Don’t you know?” asked his late wife, Marie, peaking her nose through a cardboard castle from in a long-forgotten production of Camelot. “They are finally giving us that new building we asked for- I don’t know- fifty years ago. Or, at least, they’re giving it to the current students and faculty.”

“Yes! And that’s not all!” Trent all but shouted. “They’re set to demolish this building-”

“Next week,” cut in a smooth voice. The reigning concert mistress of the late 1970s floated in, her slight figure moving as gracefully in death as her bow strokes had in life. “About time, too. Finally the university cares enough to build a new music conservatory. When I went here it was already out-dated. Now- well-” she made a face of disgust “well, it’s practically demolished anyway.”

“Now you stop right there!” cried Mr. Marvin. “An attitude like that never flew in my orchestra and you know that quite well, Miss Nora! And for your information, they are constructing a new building, not a new conservatory. We were and always will be the foundation stones of the conservatory. We, the daring artists who have worked and studied here, are the conservatory; we created its legacy and remain its pillars.”

“Yes,” agreed his sweet wife, flicking away a tear which evaporated into the air. “It’s not the building; it’s the people.”

Another ghost had ascended from the stage below as the orchestra conductor was speaking. She let out a soft “harrumph” of disagreement as she rose from the floorboards. Trent started at the sound, still adjusting to the haunt life of having people appear where least expected.

“What?” he asked upon seeing the disagreement written on the newcomer’s face.

“Well,” began the ghost, a girl in a dark dress that, had she not been translucent, would have been black, “all that you two were saying is nice, but in case you haven’t noticed, we are all still here. In this place. When we could have been anywhere else. If it’s really just about the people, we wouldn’t be here again.”

“But could we really be anywhere else?” countered another ghost, who had been sitting quietly beneath a shelf in the corner. He emerged and stretched to his full height. In his hand, he clung to the score of the symphony he had died composing. He floated to the center of the room and continued his speech.

“Complain as we might have about the cramped practice rooms, the rats in the forgotten attic, the creaky stage, the overbooked performance hall, the drafty doorways…were was I? Oh yes. Complain as we might, this place has a hold on all of us. It shaped us. Sure, it’s small, but it brought us together. It’s old, but it connected the generations. It’s quirky, but it matches its residents. We worked and studied and performed here, but even more than that, we lived here and- even now- still do, in a way. We met our best friends here. We had fights here. We laughed and cried and danced and napped here. We suffered heartbreak and fell in love, all in this very building! All in this old, creaky, run-down, over-crowded building. Perhaps even because of it.”

“We are the legacy of this place, but it’s bricks built us,” whispered Marie Marvin in agreement.

The harrumphing ghost stared at the floor and, after a moment, gave a little nod. “I wore black nearly every day I was a student here, but it wasn’t because I was unhappy. I was just an accompanist.” She rolled her eyes humorously.

“Come to think of it, I was happy here. Busy, but happy… Anyway, do you think the pianos will be alright when they tear down the rest of the place?”

“I wouldn’t worry about the pianos, dear,” said Marie, her hand hovering over the accompanist’s arm to console her. “They can move them without any trouble. The organ, however…”

“What about the organ?” bellowed a voice that surrounded them. It might have been coming from below on the stage or above in the forgotten attic or the too-thin walls on all sides. But only Trent was surprised, for everyone else knew where the speaker’s ghost was hidden: inside the sixteen-foot principal pipe that sat nestled behind the stage among its dusty ranks. The organ itself had not been played since its former professor (now resident) had passed away, three decades prior.

“What about my pipe organ?” demanded the spirit of Dr. Humphrey again.

“W-well, sir,” stammered Trent when nobody else had the heart to answer. “They’re getting a new building, you see…so this one’s got to go and- well- it’s hard to move a full pipe organ and nobody really plays anymore so-”

“So the organ has to go down with the building like a captain with his ship. I suppose it’s fitting.” Resignation resonated in every word that Dr. Humphrey spoke. It was as if he had seen this coming long ago and ceased fighting, instead content to surrender with dignity to the loss of his building, instrument, and the era that they represented.

“A captain with his ship,” he repeated once more. The organist was not heard from again and the gathered ghosts knew that he had retreated deeper into his instrument, loyal to the end.

A thick silence fell over the room. Trent, in the habit of a lifelong brass player and percussionist, found himself counting rests as if afraid he might miss an entrance.

“Missed your cue!” shouted a short ghost with an impressive mustache, popping out behind poor Trent.

“Snap!” Trent flitted across the room in surprise. “Mr. Keller, you can’t do that!”

“What’s the fun of being a ghost, then?” chuckled Mr. Keller. He hovered crosslegged over a crate of old, probably-rotten stage makeup.

“How can you joke at a time like this?” The accompanist was biting back tears.

“How can you not?” he retaliated. “A good laugh and a long sleep make everything better. At least, according to the old Irish Proverb they do.”

“Long sleep,” laughed the composer. “As if anyone in this building has ever had a long sleep.”

The others laughed, but the tension settled quickly once more.

“So when do we go down?” asked Mr. Keller.

The concert mistress shot him a look of annoyance, bother by his tactless question. “You mean: ‘when does the building go down?’”

“Either way works, for I imagine we and the building are rather a packaged deal,” Mr. Marvin said. “And you yourself answered when.”

“Next week,” whispered the concert mistress. “That’s not long for the living, but for us- that’s scarcely the blink of an eye!”

The accompanist looked as though she could no longer support herself, despite being weightless, and somehow, she had turned a shade paler.

The violinist was right. Before any of them could process what was soon to happen- before a lament could be sung, an ethereal violin played, or a single, sorrowful note composed- the day arrived.

Gathered once again in the storage attic, the spirits of Rowell Hall reached for each other. Their hands, all yearning for the touch of their instruments, to take comfort in keys and strings beneath their fingers, settled for the cold fingers of their fellow phantoms. Silent, they swayed to the memory of a requiem they had all performed during their various times at the conservatory. They watched as the ceiling crumbled beneath them, revealing the splintering stage below. A small gasp rose from the bending organ pipes before the building, once so full of scales and songs, was consumed by the awful, cracking, screeching noise of its own destruction. It drowned out all else. All except the silent, fading requiem of the silent, fading conservatory ghosts.

T.G.I.M.- Some thoughts on Rest

Okay real talk. I hate Fridays.

A lot.

And, to be even more honest, I am not a huge fan of Saturdays either.

But I do LOVE Mondays! Fresh start, strict schedule, etc. I often possess more of a “Thank Goodness It’s Monday” (hence the title of this post) mentality than the more normal “TGIF.”

You see, I love to be constantly working; being busy holds me together. Too much down time and I become frustrated. Relaxing is not restful for me because I literally feel guilt when I am not being productive. It is a problem and I know this is not healthy.

A year or so ago I published an article titled “Rest and Laziness: They are Different!” (https://abookishcharm.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/rest-and-laziness-they-are-different/) Well I am guilty of, as they might have said a decade ago, “talking the talk” but not “walking the walk.”

I am quick to encourage others to take breaks, but I do not easily take them myself. I work so hard and constantly throughout the week that by the time the weekend comes around, I am physically unable to keep up with my pace. I still try and work, but because I am so exhausted I end up not accomplishing what I wanted to and becoming angry at myself.

This is unhealthy and I know it. This messed up workaholic mentality  has been my biggest struggle for a long time and I am finally having to confront it.

My ever-wise dad, who has long fought with the same tendency as me, offered these words:

“Sis, you are me. We are the same in this. And you are learning the hard way that you need to take down time. You have to introvert. You need to say no to doing more and just schedule rest time into your day. Find Bible verses on rest and dwell on them; God rested on the seventh day as an example for people like us. Now let me pray for you.”

As always, Dad was right. My hands feel weird not practicing piano right now and my mind is fretting as I write this blog post instead of a homework assignment. But I need to follow the steps my dad suggested.

  1. Introvert: I realized last night as I zipped out of my dorm for an event that I have not really had any time to myself this year. I love my friends, but I finally am at the point where I know that some time to myself is going to help me recharge. So I cancelled some plans and curled up with a book.
  2. Say No: I overcommitted myself this weekend, as usual. But another way of “saying no” is to say no to myself and my consuming perfectionism. This morning, I woke up later than I planned and was determined to go practice extra hard to make up for it…but then I said no. Instead, I called my mom and did some quiet time and feel much better for it.
  3. Schedule Rest Time: One of my friends schedules an hour into her day for chill time. I need to do this. I forget that doing honors institute reading is not down time, even though I enjoy it. As weird as it sounds, I think I might need to make Netflix more of a priority!
  4. Dwell on Truth: I love verses that encourage hearty work. I write them down in my notes and highlight them in my Bible. However, God mandates rest as well and I need to meditate on these passages in my heart. My faith encourages physical rest and, by pondering these truths, I will also find spiritual rest! I have found Psalm 116 to be especially comforting.
  5. Pray: Having my dad pray for me over the phone was wonderful; I was filled with such a peace. I often forget to pray, but this is a spiritual self-harm. Prayer leads me to lean on God rather than myself, granting rest to my soul and direction to my outer life; in short, I need to stop overlooking it.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” – Psalm 116:7

Before I conclude and have hot chocolate and introvert time with my amazing roommate, I am going to jot down two final thoughts:

  1. My favorite animal is a sloth. I could learn a few things from their chillness.

Image result for sloth
2. One of my favorite Bible stories is of Mary and Martha, but I have always sympathized more with Martha, who is always bustling about preparing her household. Jesus says to this hardworking woman:

“Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed…or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:41-42

Mary knew when to rest, taking a break to listen to truth with her whole heart. I am naturally a Martha, but I am committing now to following the steps above so that I may learn to be a Mary…

…and also a little bit of a sloth. I mean, come on, look how adorable they are!!!

Image result for sloth

In the Image

I just finished reading St. Athanasius’ On the Incarnation and my heart is full as I ponder the awesomeness of its subject: the Word of God made flesh. I especially am captivated by the beauty of the Son of God as the Image of God and the restorer of humans created “in the image of God.” 

Athanasius uses an analogy of a painter restoring his image on corrupted wood. The passage resonated with my soul and I recommend you all read it in Section 14 of On the Incarnation. 
For now, though, perhaps you might catch a glimpse of this wonderful idea in this little poem I scribbled during class: 

I am an image of myself

Yet formerly One greater.

Soiled, smudged, and shadowy,

An icon turned to traitor. 

Ruined of mine own accord,

In need of Perfect Painter,

Who shall restore with loving skill

The art of the Creator. 

Just a little reflection through rhyme. I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have. 🙂 

“Goodbye Home, I’m Going Home”

I hate packing, as I said about a million times today. And yes, it’s true that I loathe sorting through sweaters and deciding which jeans to take and DON’T get me started on trying to figure out how to carry all of my books. (I used two messenger bags and two backpacks and I’m still leaving behind so many favorites!) However, while packing is probably one of my least favorite things ever, it has two plus sides:

  1. It is a valid excuse to binge watch Netflix. I must have rewatched at least twenty episodes of The Office today.
  2. It provides a rare opportunity for reflection.

The second plus is much more intriguing than the first. Not only does packing make me evaluate what I really need, it causes me to reflect upon myself. Admittedly, though Michael Scott & Co. were getting up to shenanigans in the background, I was not paying them much attention. Rather, I was looking through my books, old journals, stuffed animals, decorations, etc. I was learning the meaning – no- the feeling of the word “bittersweet.”

I may be twenty years old, but I still had my dad come help me pick out a couple stuffed animals to come back to college with me. And, looking through them all, I remembered their names and the games I had played with them growing up.

Then I stumbled upon binders full of scribbled maps of the imaginary country I had made up for myself and my brother when we were children. All of our adventures seemed so real at the time and now, looking through the remnants of our creativity, it still seems incredibly real to me.

My journals of course are full of the major events in my life, but, more than that, show my personal evolution. My handwriting matured, the ink colors changed, and the topics I chose to write about shifted. Friends came in and out of my life and a few stuck around. I can look back on moments of fear and laugh.

I scanned over my walls and bookshelves next. I rested my eyes upon postcards from family vacations, paintings I used to be proud of, the glow-in-the-dark stars that still are stuck to my closet ceiling, the typewriter picture above my actual typewriter. And my bookshelves, two floor-t0-ceiling models that are my pride and joy…covered in books of all shapes and sizes, in front of which are tiny crystal pianos, a tiara, teacups, and a magic wand.

And then, as I continued packing, I realized I could hear my mom downstairs, making dinner, and my dad watching sports in the other room. My brother’s room was oddly silent since he went to camp for the weekend. My dog would bark periodically and my mom then shout at her to either “get off the table” or “drop it!”

Overall, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of home.

The memories made, the souvenirs collected, the family members who were always there, all of the people and things that have made me who I am… Surely this was home!

But then, not five minutes later, I remembered with a thrill of excitement that tomorrow I am driving back to college in California and was shocked to realize that my cozy dorm and roommate, my music friends,  a certain person whose smile I miss greatly, my favorite practice rooms, my little church with its stained-glass windows and adorable choir… All of these make Biola as much home as my house in Arizona.

It’s confusing, realizing that home can be divided between two places, and I have written my share of angsty poetry because of it. But it is comforting to think that one can both leave home and go home in the same one-way trip. As I said at the beginning of this ramble, it is a bittersweet experience; though the departure from either place is never easy, the homesickness for one is softened by the anticipation of arrival at the other, and both places are all the more dear for this.

 

A Lesson from a Hat

I remember Meg Ryan’s character in one of my all time favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail, saying of a wayward butterfly, “I believe he was going to Bloomingdale’s to buy a hat, which will turn out to be a mistake, as nearly all hats are.”

giphy.gifI recently learned from a particularly unique hat that this is not necessarily true. On New Years Eve, as a joke, I dressed up as Janet Snakehole, a character within a character from Parks and Recreation. Described as a “wealthy widow with a nasty secret,” Janet wears a vintage black netted hat, which I was able to purchase for $5 on Amazon. I was dared to wear it all day, including to a pottery place, Starbucks, the Phoenix Symphony, and the grocery store.

“I am going to look ridiculous,” I said, grimacing into the mirror.

My mom, in response, simply said, “Own it.” (Imagine her snapping sassily if that helps the image.)

“Own it” turned out to be the lesson of the day and one of my resolutions for the new year.

53040709This hat was a joke and I felt like a major dork (“Major dork!” *salute*). But I stood up straight, added a fancy black dress and fake pearls to the ensemble, and faced the world. I tried to pretend I did not notice heads turn and people point it out. I felt my cheeks burning, feeling as ridiculous as I had expected to. Until….

An elderly woman and her friend stopped me. “You sweet young thing, wherever did you get that hat? You look right out of the 40s! I wish more young people dressed so elegantly.”

“Oh,” my eyes widened, surprised. “Thank you!”

Not two minutes later, a young couple stopped me and asked where they could purchase such a hat.

Then more women stopped me to ask about it.

Best yet, as I walked through the grocery store, a butcher came running out from behind the counter to shout at me, “You look like you’re from Paris!”

Um. Um. Um. What?!img_6017

I wore this hat as an inside joke! And yet, somehow, it seemed to have started a small fashion riot.

I figured, in accordance with the You’ve Got Mail philosophy on hats that this little number would be a mistake, but I had not factored in feigned confidence. Act like it is intentional and people cannot help but believe you! Standing up straight makes any outfit work and owning it turns into true confidence.

This philosophy, realized through a ridiculous hat, extends to so many other areas of life. All of them, really. For instance…

In high school, my friends and I were music nerds and I remember being pressured by a couple “cool” friends to ditch them because the “popular” girls would think I was weird. But you know what? I’d rather spend my lunch hours playing improv games and singing along to musicals than gossiping. To all you teenage music nerds, OWN IT.

In elementary school, I hated sleepovers and always left them early. I know the other little girls thought it was strange, but guess what? I got more sleep! To you introverted little girls, OWN IT.

In junior high, I spent more time practicing piano than hanging out at the mall. And when I was at the mall, spent most of my time in the bookstore. To you bookworms of all ages, OWN IT.

All through my life, my mom has emphasized the “Own it” mentality, saying things like, “You’re taller than most people. Who cares? Own it. Stand up straight and be the tall girl.”

However, in college, I lost a bit of the “Own it” philosophy during my first year. Bless this bizarre hat for helping restore it.

I mean, I play the pipe organ. That might be the nerdiest thing ever.

SO OWN IT and play Phantom of the Opera at midnight!

Rather discuss books than go out?

OWN IT and work that copy of Plato like it’s a Kate Spade purse!

Don’t like contemporary music?

OWN IT and blast that KJazz!

Want to wear a modest dress to prom?

OWN IT and work that dance floor! (Or, in my case, ditch the dance floor and go play boardgames.)

Quirks?  OWN THEM.

Fandoms? OWN THEM.

DISCLAIMER:

DO NOT own hindrances:

Don’t own your mistakes; own up to them and move on.

Don’t own your anxieties; face them and own your victory over them.

Don’t own your temptations; own your strengths.

But overall, learn from the hat and own what makes you you! My favorite things about the people I love are the things that are most unique and “weird” about them and, once they themselves own these things with confidence, everyone else comes to admire them too!