things I wish I’d started doing earlier.

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Oh, the things one could do with a Time-Turner… (photo by Victoria)

Hindsight is 20/20. With age comes wisdom. The greatest teacher is experience. Whatever your adage of choice, they all emphasize that life is a learning process. Here are some little things that would have made my life easier if I had started doing them earlier:

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on pre-screenings

Photo by Will Fisher.

It’s that wonderful time of year again: the air chills into a November crisp, bakeries and cafés are flooded with the scent of pumpkin everything, students with book-laden bags shuffle across campus through flurries of gold and crimson leaves–and graduating music students hole themselves up in dank practice rooms till ungodly hours, start losing copious amounts of hair, and consume indecent amounts of caffeine.

It’s APPLICATION SEASON! Hurray!

One of the most important parts of your application as a music student is your pre-screening recording, which is a requirement for most reputable music schools across the United States. Now, recording is a very different creature from live performance. The good thing about recording is that you can start over if you mess up during a piece. The bad thing about it? You can start over if you mess up during a piece. “Maybe I should just re-do it” can be a hideously distracting thought that nags you for the whole piece after even the tiniest slip, and giving in to that thought too often will lead to frustration and a dozen unusable takes. So, here are some of the things I like to keep in mind when recording:

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how to make the most of grad school

This is my first year out of school, having completed my masters degree in music (oh my!), and it’s definitely nice to be out of school (no classes to break up practice time! No bank-breaking tuition to be paid!). As graduation approached this past May, I often found myself reflecting back on the lightning-quick two years I spent as a masters student. It’s been incredibly rewarding, and since I know many people who will be starting grad school soon (or have started their first year already!), I wanted to write down some of the simple but essential advice, given to me by older/wiser friends, that has really helped me to shape my grad school years!

1. Take fewer academic classes.

Hold up–hear me out before writing me off as an under-achiever. I love learning, and a good class is invaluable, but if you’re a performance major, grad school is all about focusing on the refinement of your craft. Academic classes can be wonderful and eye-opening and enlightening, but they’re also time-consuming, especially when you take into account the time needed for homework and class readings. In my undergrad, I was very much focused on the number of credits I was taking, but this becomes less important in grad school. A great guideline is to take no more than 2 academic classes per quarter/semester (although your ability to do this may depend on which school/program you’re in). “Academic” classes would be specifically any class with readings/homework–I wouldn’t include classes such as accompanying or continuo in this category. Also, on a practical level, much of the knowledge you would acquire in an academic class could be gained through self-study. So prioritize your time for practicing and making music with other people! Which brings me to my next point:

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“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

Each of us has our own unique story of how we came to choose music, and the struggles and victories we’ve had as we’ve walked down that path. This week, one of my closest friends, Lauren Tokunaga, shares some of the lessons she’s learned from her own timeline.


Coming from high school and entering undergrad, I thought I had it all figured out. I had a meticulously-crafted plan for the next four years of my life–until I realized I’d probably, most likely, with 95% certainty be completely and utterly miserable and sleep-deprived pursuing my major of choice, architecture (clerestory windows and flying buttresses, anyone?).

Cue mid-college-life crisis come end of sophomore year. Continue reading

to dma or not to dma? (#4)

Source: PHD Comics

To DMA or not to DMA? In response to my own uncertainties about the future after I finish up my master’s, I wanted to start a series where I ask my older, wiser, cooler friends about their experiences with and opinions on the DMA. And then publish these responses in hopes that they will help others asking the same question. To read previous installments, click here!

This installment comes courtesy of Dan, the boyfriend of one of my good friends! I thought he would be a great interview candidate because he’s wrapping up his dissertation, and he comes from the perspective of an orchestral player (because in case you haven’t noticed, the previous interviews have all been a little piano-heavy)… Continue reading

31 days to better practicing

Looking for a way to refresh your practice routine for the new year? A friend sent me a link to this free ebook ages ago, and I just realized recently how great a resource it would be to share on this blog. The author, pianist Chris Foley, takes you through 31 mini-chapters discussing various aspects of practice, such as working backwards, memorizing, and structuring practice time. He’s clear, concise, and practical, and a review of the basic and not-so-basic concepts he discusses is great inspiration for anyone looking to structure their practice time more efficiently!

Get the book here.

to dma or not to dma? (#3)

Source: PHD Comics

To DMA or not to DMA? In response to my own uncertainties about the future after I finish up my master’s, I wanted to start a series where I ask my older, wiser, cooler friends about their experiences with and opinions on the DMA. And then publish these responses in hopes that they will help others asking the same question. To read previous installments, click here!

This week’s installment is contributed by my good friend Tom Lee:

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