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Sunday, September 27, 2009
Last weekend of Freedom
School starts on Tuesday. This week was a haze of meetings about teaching and Doctoral requirements, and every time someone said, "This is only for Doctoral candidates," I had to remind myself that I was in that crowd. Of course, embarking on a new program, and facing ALL of the degree requirements of a PhD makes me feel both excited and anxious/scared at the same time. You see two full pages front and back of just courses to take, and then you add the three major exams before you even get to the dissertation stage, and it seems all a bit much. However, as my thesis taught me, you have to take it one semester/exam/requirement at a time.

Entrance exams were also last week: music history, written theory, and aural skills. All of these started at 3:30pm and went until 9pm after a morning full of meetings. Aural Skills came first, and while melodic dictation went well and sightsinging went ok, harmonic dictation was a complete and utter bitch. It didn't help that I hadn't done harmonic dictation in YEARS, and that the example was played as a midi file, with the soprano turned WAY up (hello, flute players' ears go up easily....not down, and it's fairly difficult to do a chordal analysis without the bass line). After half of the harmonic dictation I seriously just wanted to hand the exam in and walk out so that I could focus on the music history portion, but I sucked it up, and did pretty well on written theory (part writing w/chordal analysis, some basic phrase structure questions, and roman numeral analysis). So after two hours of trying to convince your brain to focus and spell out the chord (I've found theory is like riding a bike....you never really forget how to do it, but you're certainly not as good or as fast as you were when you first learned), I grabbed a quick bite to eat and came back for the music history part of the exams. Listening identification (probable composer, 50 yr probable date range, and title/genre/form as it is evident--they had an aria from Orfeo by Monteverdi that I actually did a project on....which made my night), Short Answer term definitions (they had troubadour on there.....yay!!!), Composer identification (I actually found this one way too easy, because they asked for country and period associated with each composer and nothing else), Score identification (probable composer, probable period, probable title/genre), and then two essays (as opposed to one because I was a PhD musicology candidate.....I ended up picking history of the polyphonic mass and history of opera). Let me tell you, writing two essays with a TMJ headache and after a day full of meetings and other exams is not a fun one. My essays were probably the worst part of the exam. We had to wait two days, but I ended up passing everything except Aural Skills....which doesn't really surprise me.

I also met some really nice people. Piper Colleague met me at the bus station (we live less than a mile away from each other), and we rode over to the big faculty meeting together. I was then introduced to everyone (faculty and grad students), and I've been asked for at least three copies of my thesis, which is completely and utterly terrifying. I've met some cool people, a PhD flute candidate I knew previously in MS/TN and a PhD Theory candidate from a university in Big Red State. And I also was recruited for the Collegium, which is run by one of the instructors I studied with in Vancouver summer before last. Evidently it hadn't gotten back to him that I was coming, and he ran up and recruited me. It was also really cool to hear, "So and So's been saying you were coming. He's really been looking forward to it!" Both from Trad friends and Early Music friends, and I have no doubt that I would not feel nearly as welcomed if I had gone to the other school that gave me a full ride + stipend.

My schedule for this semester looks really good with the exception that I'll have to take classes at 8am 4 days a week. I'm taking Aural Skills review, Research Methods (for the doctoral core), Music & Gender, and Intro to Musicology (required and featured highly on the doctoral musicology area exams). In addition I'll probably be in collegium, but I'm not sure how the hours will work as I have a class conflict on Tuesdays (the professor said I'd probably just come in on Thursdays).

Anyway, I've got to get started on my goals for the day (biking to campus without getting lost and cleaning my apartment!).

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

posted by Mac Tíre at 2:30 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 1 comments
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Game On
Game on.

This week starts off with a meeting with my dept. chair, to figure out my first semester of my terminal degree. Wow. It seems surreal, that (hopefully) in three to four years I'll be done with the receiving end of my formal education and will be on the other side. It is similarly surreal that I am being paid to go to school. This was mostly true at FPU, but my paycheck and tuition costs kind of crossed each other out. At UWC, tuition (with the exception of less than $300 of fees) is free, health insurance is free thanks to the TA union (yes that's right....we have a UNION), and I get PAID. Definitely a positive step in the right direction financially.

In addition to my meeting with my dept. chair, I have orientation meetings all day Tuesday and Thursday and entrance exams all day Wednesday. Entrance exams are always scary....not so much the theory ones as I'm not a theory major, and I haven't really taken a lot of theory in the four years I've been at FPU. Basically if I bomb the theory portion I won't feel too bad about it...the history portion however is different. I will be disappointed in myself if I don't pass the history portion because I'm a history major and I want to represent my program and my teachers well. Only time will tell, however.

I want to start a recording project. I have no clue how to do this, or even if I'm ready to do this, but I want to start working towards the goal of making a record. I have several options for repertoire: originals, traditional songs, trad flute tunes, or different combinations of each of three. The benefit of each of these repertoires is that they a free to record...they're either mine or public domain (although some of the traditional stuff has to be checked to make sure). Flute tunes might be a problem because I don't really have any backup players that I know out here...although it is possible to make a recording completely of solo trad flute, I'm not sure that's what I want. I feel a pull towards originals and traditional songs....because all I need is me on vocals and guitar. I feel really confident with my traditional songs (at least on the vocals), but I really WANT to record some originals. However there are some incredibly seminal folk recordings that combine the two. Anyway, other than starting to think about repertoire, I have no idea how to proceed, so any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Anyway, I'm off to get ready for the week, and for a new program.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

posted by Mac Tíre at 5:00 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 0 comments
Thursday, September 17, 2009
School's Almost Here
Let me start by saying, that I'm not exactly sure what group produced the first recording I ever heard, but odds are very, very good that it was Peter, Paul, & Mary. Thanks Mary Travers for providing the soundtrack to my childhood.

So the past month has been spent getting used to living out here on the West Coast/Pacific Northwest. I am addicted (after less than two months) to Trader Joe's, I have found an incredibly good cup of coffee, and I've also visited Major City and found an AWESOME bookstore. Basically I've gotten into a schedule, which makes any place feel more like home. On Saturdays I've started getting up really early to go to this breakfast cafe that serves this AMAZING french toast made from Challah bread. I have also visited the university library, on a campus that is gorgeous. Occasionally it dawns on me that I'm about to start my last academic program, that hopefully in three to four years I will have my PhD and be competitive for a job. Speaking of jobs, I managed to get a job at a local arts institute that I'll call the Shack.....which is remarkably close to it's actual name. The great thing about teaching lessons through them is that all I have to do is show up and teach.....no worrying about money or scheduling....just show up, teach, and get a paycheck. The bad thing about teaching there, is that they want me to teach in some of my (very) secondary areas....ie beginning saxophone lessons.

Unfortunately the trad scene is just as bad as I expected....I had coffee with Piper Colleague and he confirmed the level of playing around here. He also offered to get together and play tunes some time. This situation, however, has made me consider my options. I have been mentored by people who came to similar situations and have changed them for the better. When Coyotebanjo and Dharmonia came to FDP, the trad scene was basically nonexistent, yet I believe last week they had 22 people dancing the sets, 4 people teaching, and a bunch of musicians ready to play, in addition to the weekly sessions that are some of the best around. Being part of a tradition, means that at some point you start to pass it on. Do I try and make this scene better? Do I have time to make it better? No one offers a slow session right now, but when I asked about it the "leader" of the session scene here seemed kind of offended. Anyway, it's just something I've been thinking about.

Next week I have a meeting with the department chair to figure out my schedule and ta for this term. Next week also means orientation meetings and the dreaded entrance exams. I've been studying, but it always seems kind of hopeless....know everything about everything.....ready--GO! Anyway, I'm building bookcases, studying, practicing, and thinking about things. Back to it!

Peace, Love, and Tunes,

posted by Mac Tíre at 1:48 PM ¤ Permalink ¤ 2 comments