The daily life of a music major at Meredith College

Moving Up, Moving Out

Hi there! I know it has been a very long time since I last posted, but things are changing in my life. I am writing today to close a chapter of my life and begin a new one. I graduated from Meredith this weekend and am working on moving back home for a while until my fiance and I find a place (and jobs).

I have truly enjoyed my time at Meredith as a music major, from running into friends during late-night practice sessions, to learning new things about each other on recruitment tours, to hearing a lot of talented people’s musical gifts on a regular basis. That is what I am going to have to get used to the most, I think; I can no longer just walk down the hallway and hear many of my friends playing fantastic pieces, I can no longer sit in rep class every week and hear how others progress with their repertoire.

However, I will not leave Meredith very far behind me. I am coming back in August to play for The Mikado with White Iris Light Opera – though on clarinet instead of the instrument I just earned a degree in – and many of my friends are still going to be working on recitals, competitions, and projects which I hope to have the opportunity to come be a part of.

As I turn my Onyx ring to face the world (which I am still getting used to; it looks so strange!), I keep the friendships and lessons found at Meredith in my heart.Image


Guess What? :-)

Guess What? :-)

Andrea graduated from Meredith College on May 11, 2013 with her Bachelor of Music!

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Networking and Why It’s So Great

Hi there! It’s been a little while since I had time to write here because I am in the midst of preparing for my senior recital! :-) Which I will be sure to write about next week.

For now, I want to talk about networking. That’s one of those business-corporate buzzwords that a lot of us – especially introverts like me – aren’t sure what to do with. It’s really pretty simple: talking to people makes connections, and connections yield opportunities. So if you talk to new people and share information, they might eventually hook you up with performance opportunities, jobs, or other networks.

Let me give you an example. As a music performance major, I was in orchestra with a violinist named Hannah, who was a music education major. We got to know each other pretty well and when she graduated, we were still connected on Facebook and through mutual friends. Last month she asked if any of her musician friends were available to judge a competition she was helping with in her school district. I checked the date and told her I was free, and so I was offered the job. Turns out, I had agreed to judge a Fiddler Convention in Moore Country, an annual event that draws hundreds of people to play in bands, sing, play instruments, and even dance! It was a one-of-a-kind experience and even though the competition lasted until after midnight, I had so much fun (and was paid well and given free dinner)!

Networking can be scary, especially if you are like me and not much of a social butterfly. I envy the people who can just walk up and be friends with people within an hour of meeting them – however, it’s not too hard to start. All you really need to remember are the following tips:

  • Starting a conversation doesn’t have to be like a Jane Austen dialogue. You can simply ask, “What’s your name?” and “Where do you work?”
  • It can be hard to talk about yourself; we are all built to be modest. Remember that when someone asks about your life, they genuinely want to know, so it’s OK to talk yourself up a little bit – especially if  a job is on the line.
  • Never miss an opportunity to give/receive a business card. Many times I find myself forgetting new people’s names pretty quickly, so it helps to have a physical reminder in case you want to contact each other.
  • Don’t burn bridges that could help you later. It’s good to stay on good terms with people you meet and do business with. This includes being polite at rehearsals, lunches, and before and after performances. Anywhere people can see you is a place where they can make assumptions about you, so put the best you forward.
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“A Little Night Music”

Hello again everyone! It has been a crazy couple of weeks!

We just closed Meredith’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, a very scandalous show about some people in 1900’s Sweden who get into a lot of trouble between their spouses, secret lovers, and – stepmothers? It was so hard to keep from laughing every night in the pit. I played the flute and piccolo, while the other flute major played flute and alto flute. Typically, pit musicians double on different instruments – at least in New York, one woodwind player might be equipped with flute, piccolo, alto flute, clarinet, and saxophone! This is why I love going to a small school like Meredith; I get the experience to play in all of these different types of productions and gain performing experience that is specific to what I want to do once I graduate!

Today marks the end of a second event we had on campus today, Scholars’ Weekend, during which high school seniors come on Sunday afternoon for auditions, interviews, and information sessions about the school; then on Monday they get to attend classes. The Music Department held a small recital of current students this morning so that our visitors could get a taste of the kinds of things we do here. Today’s recital featured flute, violin, piano, and vocal soloists, with Encore! to wrap up the morning with “Here Comes the Sun” (appropriately enough as it is a sunny day that is melting away some snow)!

What a fun and eventful few days it has been! :-)

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Off We Go…into the…What?

Thesis Signing

Here is a photo of me signing the final copy of my thesis before sending it off for binding!

Well, good news: I got my thesis in the mail yesterday! I am so happy to have it finished! I am glad that I had the opportunity to write one through the Honors Program here at Meredith; I learned so much about playing the flute in a physically healthy way and now have a document that can back up my research – and that I can share with students and possible employers in the future. So, if you need to know anything – and I mean anything – about the physical demands of playing the flute and how to meet them, just ask me. :-)

Now, I am working on finishing up a scholarship application. I was nominated for the Alma Dark Howard Memorial Scholarship, which will (if they choose me!) give me an financial allotment towards graduate school. I plan to apply for grad school after taking a year off, which I highly recommend. Psychologically, I feel that I need a break from school, tests, deadlines, and research. I will spend my “free time” practicing, studying for theory entrance exams, history exams, and the GRE – which is not required for applicants for the Master’s Degree in Music Performance, but is highly encouraged.

I also plan to move to Winston-Salem with my wonderful fiance. He starts student teaching next month, as he is a music education major, and hopefully next fall he will have a job teaching music classes at a Winston-Salem elementary school. I will try to establish a flute studio and start making connections with ensembles in the community, beginning my life as a freelance flutist. I hope to be accepted into the UNC School of the Arts for the Fall 2014 semester. Here we go, Last Semester of Undergrad!

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Tips from a Time Management Pro

Being a music major, you probably really enjoy music. You probably also are very dedicated to your profession and will do whatever it takes to succeed at it, from practicing at all hours to volunteering to play kazoo for your school’s New-Age musical. You have probably come to the realization that, if you are not a teacher or a touring soloist who is already wildly famous, you will need to do a lot of things to keep your dream – and your livelihood – afloat.

You are probably also, if you are anything like me, incredibly busy. I am a full-time student involved in three performing ensembles that tour at local high schools, as well as three part-time jobs and any extra gigs I can dredge up. In fact, I just played my first Christmas Eve mass last month, and it was a great experience!

 What you need to remember are a few key tips that will make scheduling your life a lot easier. Here are some things I have learned over the last few years as a freelance musician/student:

  • Be patient. You may end up feeling rushed and stretched thin between your commitments, but if you don’t enjoy yourself while you are in the moment, it won’t feel worth the trouble!
  • Schedule yourself more free time than you will need. Things will come up, rehearsal times will change, and you may find that you have filled up so much time that you have no “wiggle room.” You may also, like me, realize that you haven’t left yourself time to eat lunch or even go to the bathroom! Even a few minutes between jobs can allow your mind to relax so you are more stress-free.
  • Be organized. If you don’t have some kind of calendar, agenda, or list, your poor brain will probably be hard-pressed to remember everything. I write everything down three times and still sometimes forget things I agreed to a long time ago if I don’t keep up with my calendar daily. Find some kind of system that works best for you: Google Calendar is a great electronic resource that you can sync with a smartphone or tablet if you are so inclined.
  • Say no when you need to. Some opportunities are worth a little extra stress because of networking potential or sheer cool factor, but if you don’t have time, politely decline! Remember, one gig isn’t just a two hour performance; it’s also rehearsal time, travel time and gas money, practice time, and time away from your other commitments. At the end of the day, fewer excellent performances do a lot better for you than many mediocre ones!
  •  Did I mention that you should remember to eat? Try to eat smart. Bring snacks with you in case you are pressed for time. Eat things that will fuel you well; McDonald’s is easy, but a banana and a granola bar will make your body run better.
  • Above all else, be positive! Enjoy playing, working, or whatever you fill your time with. Make friends with your co-workers, your employers, and your classmates. Meet other people who play your instrument and be nice to them. They may just ask you to fill in for them on some gig they’ve had to say no to, and you want to be first on their recommendation list.

If you are having fun doing whatever you are doing, you are succeeding. Don’t get too concerned about the money because it will just stress you out. However, if you plan well and keep your time organized, you should be able to manage just fine.

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Caffeine, McDonald’s, and Why the Flute is So Great

After finally recovering from last week’s food coma (and working a really fun, open-mic-style Black Friday at the music store where I work) it’s the last week of classes before exams and Winter Break. This week is going to be really busy and stressful, but I’m trying to see it in a positive light.

One of the worst things that you can do is worry. Yes, you should make sure to stay on top of things so that you don’t lose track of assignments, studying, rehearsal, etc. However, that should not come at the cost of your health. Stress leads to all-nighters and lots of fast food, which sometimes you can’t help! Remembering to eat and to stay hydrated (no matter how much coffee you think you need) are true secrets to staying in good health during finals week. My most important advice for prospective music majors is to know that, yes, sometimes it can be really stressful – but remember that this is your passion!

This weekend I got to play duets with my uncle, who is an amateur flutist in his own right; I also improvised some harmonies to Christmas carols with some co-workers at the store while we tried to convince people on the street to listen to us and come into the store. I have two Christmas church gigs coming up, as well, both 2-hour Christmas masses (that I just got the music for and look more challenging than I was expecting!). These are the kinds of things that I want to do for a living. I feel so alive when I get to play for others! Seeing how much fun my uncle had playing with me, how much more meaning people get from music in church services; it was all through my music and I wouldn’t trade anything for that.

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What Are You Thankful For?

Whew! It has been an absolutely crazy couple of weeks. Aside from digging in on my thesis and my Honors project (I contracted my music history class for Honors credit, which means I get  to explore an interesting topic in more detail and do an extra project on it), we had a Sigma Alpha Iota official visit from our Province Officer, which was quite fun!, and I have started getting a cold. Luckily, all my teachers are adamant about my feeling better – including my clarinet teacher, who excused me from my lesson today! Because coughing into clarinet reeds…that’s just nasty.

Because next week is Thanksgiving, I just figured I would try to focus on some of the positives: I have a wonderful fiancee and we have our wedding date officially set for next October. I have decided to take a year off before going to graduate school, which will help me to center myself and have plenty of time to make the transition. I also went to this awesome Flute Fair, hosted by the Raleigh Area Flute Association last Saturday, where we met Project Trio, featuring the famous beatboxing flutist Greg Patillo (if you haven’t heard of him before, please Google him – it will blow your mind!). We got to learn how to improvise, work on some beginning beatboxing, and hear a fabulous concert that night.

Also, and finally, I am so thankful to have the support of my loving family, who live conveniently in Apex (about 20 mins from Meredith). They are a very strong support system for me, emotionally and mentally – and they are not above bringing me leftovers when they know I am forgetting to eat. I know that even if they were across the country, they would help me however they could; I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you keep in touch with your friends and family when you are in college. Remember, although you are in college for your own education (and that’s what it really is all about!), you should always try to show your family how thankful you are for just being around and giving you their love. <3

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Recruitment Tour and CORNHUSKIN’!

Hi again – sorry for the delay in posts, but this past week has been a whirlwind of activity. We are busy getting ready for our Music Department Recruitment Tour, which will last from this Sunday through Tuesday and take us to four high schools and an alumnae concert. Most of the school ensembles will perform samples of their work – I will be playing with Sinfonietta, Flute Ensemble, and Encore! It’s really exciting to get to take our work on the road and share it with people across the state – from Charlotte, through Burlington, and back! – and get to connect with everyone in the department (not to mention getting out of class for two days!). This is the kind of thing we will hopefully be doing for the rest of our lives and I think it’s great to be able to have to opportunity to experience it as a part of our education.

The other big thing that happened this week is Meredith College’s annual Cornhuskin’ celebration. It’s very hard to describe, and the catchphrase is that “You just have to experience it,” but it’s basically our version of Homecoming, only without the football. Each class decides on a theme, and must design a skit, a can art design (soda cans laid out into a huge design in the main quad), a “tall tale,” and a few other categories. There is also a traditional corn shucking and apple bobbing contest. It’s all a lot of fun and it was bittersweet to watch my senior class participate for the last time. We didn’t win overall (yes; it’s a big deal and there are actually judges who score the classes’ performances), but we got the Spirit Stick for the third year in a row, which says a lot about my class.

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This week we had our Sinfonietta Fall Concert, featuring two staff members who performed solos. The concert went really well but took a lot of work, because our director likes to challenge us by programming “real” repertoire for us, like we might play when we get out into the world. Dr. Neal, one of the voice faculty, sang two Mozart arias from Cosi Fan Tutte and La Nozze De Figaro, while Dr. Lyman, pianist and music history teacher extraordinaire, played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 (it has really just been a Mozart kind of semester!). In fact, we had a music major Amadeus movie night a few days before the concert, just to get ready! :-)

We also played a couple of Debussy songs, in order to get ready for our Debussy Festival next week, which should be really cool. Each year  we have a long weekend full of concerts that highlight the work of the composer we’ve chosen for that year. This year is Claude Debussy, composer of Claire de Lune and other tunes that you would recognize if you heard. I’m playing this really cute song called La Petit Berger (“The Little Shepherd”), as well as two songs with the Flute Ensemble, on the student program.

There are two more concerts this weekend – one I’m performing in on Sunday afternoon at 3pm, which is the Fall Choral Concert, and one that a couple of our other instrumental majors are playing in on Sunday evening with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra. Both should be fantastic and I can’t wait to hear them!

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