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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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

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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to dma or not to dma? (#2)

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 the first installment, click here!

This time around, my sweet friend Grace Huang volunteered her thoughts! Having finished her other degrees in Taiwan before coming to the USA for a DMA (which is now close to the point of completion), she offers a uniquely helpful perspective for international students. Continue reading

applying for grad school: timeline and resources

So you’re thinking about taking the next academic step in pursuing a musical career! Good for you! There are some big factors to keep in mind when deciding to apply for a master’s degree in music:

  • applying during your senior year of undergrad allows you to take advantage of the momentum you have while still in school.
  • taking a gap year allows you to prepare for auditions/work and save some money/explore new things. As my friend Emilie says, “Applying is a long process of both physical and mental preparation. Taking a gap year is okay because it might make your audition way better and you won’t be so pressed for time. But don’t force yourself to apply right now just because you decided you wanted to go to grad school.” 
  • money for grad school–both applying and attending–is a very real and practical concern, and grad school may present some different financial situations. Emilie: “Different for different people, but maybe it’s more expensive (like if you go from public university to conservatory, or move out, or parents stop paying for your tuition). Application process is expensive – $85 app fee + prescreening fee = over $100 per application – choose wisely!

Once you’ve decided to move forward with your decision to apply (exciting!), here is a general timeline, list of documents you will probably need, and resources to make your application process a little easier (i.e., keep you from tearing your hair out and sinking into a puddle of depression and Doritos).

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