Autobiographical Essay for Intro to Music Ed.


I believe that most music educators can say that music has always been a part of their lives, and I am no exception among them. According to my parents, I was singing before I was talking, and I can’t recall a time even in childhood when I wasn’t in a choir or taking private lessons. If I did not want to practice, or go to a rehearsal, my mother gently reminded me that I had a special gift, and tough cookies if I didn’t want to go to church choir. To study something other than music in college seemed preposterous, and I finished a degree in Vocal Performance at DePaul. Even before I graduated, I knew that a life on the opera audition track or graduate school track was not for me. There was no use turning around and studying something else, and my other interests, such as Georgian Folk music, were even more obscure than classical singing. After graduation, I felt bitter and empty. The bitterness came from my seemingly worthless degree and not having a nice job after college. The gnawing feeling in my brain and stomach from constantly worrying what to do next created the emptiness. The cure for my worries and woes: go to China to teach English for seven months. I came back from that experience knowing that music needed to be an ever-present force in my life, and that I really enjoyed my short tenure as a teacher. A year after leaving for China, I’m enrolled in the teaching certification program at DePaul. All that is in between the events that I just summarized are the reasons I’m embarking on this journey as a music educator.

    As a child, I never imagined myself to be a teacher. Being the best at everything singing in a small suburban town outside of Chicago made me a little diva. I envisioned the glorious life of a famous opera singer for myself, and I thought I was way above the rest. Somewhere around my sophomore year of college I finally got some sense knocked into me. Enough teachers told me that I did not have a big enough voice to sing in the big leagues, and to repeat the DePaul opera theatre director Harry Silverstein’s sage-like words of wisdom: one is more likely to be eaten by a shark than to make it in the opera world. After that bomb of a statistic, I started to pursue other opportunities in the school of music. Those opportunities mainly came from Dr. Clayton Parr, director of choral activities at DePaul.

    Dr. Parr spent a year in the Republic of Georgia, and brought back with him a plethora of Georgian folk music. The songs he shared with me and other members of the DePaul A Cappella choir were unlike anything I had heard before, and I loved singing them. I began to realize that the music world is so much bigger than opera, and I wanted to explore the whole world through its music. In 2008, I met Patty Cuyler, founding member of Vermont-based Village Harmony, and went on a three week tour of Ukraine with her and other ethnomusically-curious people. It was soon after that trip that Dr. Parr asked me to lead a woman’s folk group and teach them the songs I learned that summer. It was a trial by fire, sink or swim experience for me. I had never led an ensemble before, but I never questioned whether or not I was capable. Our concert that fall went great, and in the spring quarter the next year I directed the women’s folk group again. December 2009, I directed a small caroling ensemble for the DePaul Presidential Christmas dinner by the graces of Dr. Parr. These concerts are Dr. Parr’s greatest lesson for me. He gave me the opportunity to try and to learn from myself and these experiences. By that December, I should have known that this was a new path worth following, but my head kept telling me to go somewhere and to disappear for a little while. And so, in mid February 2010, I left everything behind, including my music, to go to China.

    Of all places, why China? The seed probably first planted itself when I began dating my partner Daniel. He’s half Chinese, and my love second to music (and Daniel) is learning of new places and people. Senior year of college I managed to squeeze in a year of Chinese language, and a good friend from home had already lived in China for two years and loved it. So why not go to China during the pique of the U.S.’s economy slump and get myself a job that only requires the employee be a native English speaker? That was my reasoning anyway. Another reason was I simply wanted to get away from everything and not be a musician for a while. Really, I had been planning this experiment for over a year and I convinced myself that I had to go in order to find clarity to my life.

    Generally, I find my life spent in China hard to explain. First of all, it’s impossible to describe accurately because most people have no frame of reference to a place like it. Second, I look back on my life there more fondly than when I was living it. There are a lot of things about China that I didn’t like, but I’ll never regret my time spent in the classroom. I had a lot to learn about teaching on my own, and there were plenty of classes that did not go well or as planned. At first, I thought that I would be better teaching older kids in classes that were more conversation based. Actually, it was not until I left China that I realized my strengths were geared more for children, and the classes I would miss most were the beginning English classes with kids as young as three years old. Fun was the emphasis of all the classes taught at my school in China. The requirement to be a “fun” teacher upset me at first. I thought kids should be learning English, and it is my responsibility to be a teacher, not a babysitter. But in a school system where kids go to school for eight or nine hours a day and then go to a supplemental English class because their parents make them, games and fun activities are the only way to keep their attention. I quickly learned a variety of ways to make my lessons more enjoyable for my students. The more classes taught, the better I became at thinking of activities and implementing them. Activities and games that I created also needed to be quickly adaptable to accommodate the various number of children in a given class. One time, I was responsible for teaching almost 80 kindergarten aged kids! I had a lot of help in managing the group, but the sheer volume of my class was kept a surprise until the start of class. SURPRISE!!! That’s reason #49 why I didn’t like China, all those lovely little surprises.

    In my self-imposed exile from music, I didn’t anticipate how much time I would think about my future and how music would be a part of that. I found myself regularly telling people that back at home I was a musician, but having to use the past tense bothered me. It began to annoy me that my peers in China did not think of me as a musician, but as just another English teacher. Being a musician was an important identifier to me, and I couldn’t just erase that part out. In China, I was finally coming to terms with myself as a musician, and that was the main goal of the trip. There was still a large hurdle for me to cross, though. Spending countless nights alone, I questioned myself about why I did not pursue a performance career straight out of college. What kind of music did I want to perform? Should I focus on folk or classical music? Should I be a performer or a teacher? Should I stay in China longer to teach and try to make a music career here? I still haven’t answered all these questions, but I did come to one important conclusion. Music has always been the force that leads me on my path of life, and I’ve always liked where music has taken me. The real question was then, What do I need to do to make my life of music satisfying and sustaining?

    I left China after seven months of teaching English. There were many reasons why I left, and my explanation to my friends over there was that I needed to finish some things in Chicago, and then hopefully soon I will return. By that time, in the end of September 2010, I knew that returning to DePaul for my music education teaching certificate was most likely my next step. This now brings me to present day.

Being a music educator just seems to make sense now; combine what I love most with what I do well. In the time since returning home, I created a voice and piano studio out of my little apartment in the lower west side of Chicago, and in the suburbs. Most importantly, I love teaching these private lessons, and I wonder why I didn’t start them sooner.  My level of musicianship and pedagogy hasn’t changed since graduating from DePaul, but I suppose earlier I did not have the confidence that I do now. A confirming moment for me came when discussing my new occupational status with one of my friends and fellow vocal performance graduate. She said, “I would have no idea where to begin with a student.” Her lack of confidence in her own abilities struck me as sad, but I also know that it has taken me a lot of work, patience, and faith to build what I have today. Every experience I have had leading to the present will make me a better teacher, and I look forward to the trials and tribulations ahead to make me a stronger, well-rounded teacher.

Before concluding, it is appropriate to reflect on what kind of music educator I would like to become. This metaphor or vision I have for myself as a teacher is not yet clear, but the more classes I take the more it will develop. Already, I know that my strengths are more suitable for teaching younger children. I do enjoy singing with and teaching adults, but only so far in the private setting. Also, I know that to be a high school music director requires working more hours than are in a day. Perhaps saying this is selfish, but I want variety in my day and time to myself. I want to be able to go home and not be consumed by all the other extracurricular activities at school. Another thing, as musically talented as I am, I have never been a musical perfectionist. While directing the women’s group, it was hard for me to hear the errors of my colleagues. This skill will develop over time, but so far the desire to conduct an older ensemble is not in me. Knowing this about myself, I can conclude, at the present, that a career in general music education may suit me best. With my strong background in folk music, I am particularly excited to learn about the Kod├íly method, and would love to someday teach a world music class. One vision I can clearly see is teaching a song much in the style of Ella Jenkins. I am calling and the students are responding with their voices and instruments to a song like Toom-Bah-Ee-Lero. I agree with other music education philosophers that exposure to different types of music helps children develop a larger world perspective. By studying songs from different cultures, we simultaneously create a community amongst the students and induct them into the global community. I find this is music’s greatest power because I can attest to it. Music has made me a citizen of the world.

All those years of practice and rehearsals have led me to this point. I thank my parents for their undying support and encouragement, and now those tough cookies (all those unwanted church choir practices) taste delicious because they are the fruits of my labor. My gift is music, and my music guides my life. Though I am treading on a new path, the path of a music educator, I know that my destination(s) will be satisfying.


Happy Birthday ya Bastard

There was a FIBS celebration last night. It was part birthday party for Ike and his lady Nia, and unofficially post-FIBS-reunion-rehearsal-fuck-yea-we-did-it-let's-get-the-band-back-together party. Lucky for me, the party was held upstairs from my apartment, so Dan and I went in our comfy clothes. Oh yeah!
I'm writing about this small party because I actually enjoyed myself.  Before I moved in with Dan, I had to clean up the result of five dudes and a messy cat living in one giant room. It took a long time and a lot of hard work from me, Dan, my mom, and everyone else who helped to get this loft apartment back into liveable conditions.
So much cleaning to do
This photo is actually towards the end of the cleaning process.
Admittedly, it's taken me a long time to warm up to Dan's friends, and I would normally feel like a huge awkward classical-music-nerd among them. But last night, I finally felt assimilated. I didn't need Dan by my side all night because I know these people. They know me. And that brings me a profound comfort. It helps that more of the posse have girlfriends now. Brandon brought his lady-friend Heather, who's from out of town, and that was really sweet. I should have taken pictures. Oh well, next time.
To sum up the party, I list my favorite keywords/phrases in chronological order:
  • Old Fashions
  • Night Riding to 7/11
  • Broker's 7 hour chicken pot pie
  • Gorilla Dick
  • "Michael Jackson is perfect!"
  • "Fuck yes" Whole Foods chocolate ganash cake (beautiful!)
  • Sloppy Mess
  • Dan's Flash Dance sweatshirt


Hats are an unappreciated accessory

As a young female, I'm obsessed with fashion and vintage. I'm super cheap when it comes to buying clothes, but if it's the right piece, if it I think it compliments my identity, it's gotta be mine.
I just stumbled upon Oh!Nena via PSFK all thanks to the new Google Reader explore tab. AND I WANT ONE OF THOSE HATS NOW!!! (not necessarily the one pictured though) Hats/hair pieces are sort of a forgotten lady's accessory. You'll never grow out of them, and they typically keep in your closet forever. Hats are bold and fun. I loooove wearing conversation pieces, which is one of the reasons I adore Lady Gaga, but that's another discussion...
Admittedly, I subscribe to the American Apparell wearing hipster club, and I've faithfully read this one's blog for a couple years now, so I think I know what cool is. But I can't help myself. I am an impressionable young women, and I'll wear whatever for as long as I can get away with it. I've made some progress. I've retired this for this. (Haven't taken a look at the old Buzznet in a looooong time!)
In short, if you're reading this, get me a Venezuelan Oh!Nena hat.


A welcome back?

I haven't written on my silly little blog in ages. When I go back to read old posts, I blush a little and think how juvenile. But now, I don't have much to do. So why not write some silly little posts while I'm on my couch with my cat Mikey sitting next to me and licking himself?
Just recently, I've done some interesting traveling, graduated college, and moved in with my boyfriend and our cat. It's been a big year for me. But like every post-graduate of this era, I have a lot left to figure out.

I think I'll start this new age of posts with a meditation on the neighborhood I now live in.

In September, I made the big move to my boyfriend's apartment in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of Chicago.  I love it here. I like the apartment, the community, the art, the FOOD!
My dad won't step foot in my apartment because he thinks the neighborhood is too dangerous. There are gangs here unfortunately. My block has the Party People and all their emblems. But recently, the cops have cracked down and raided some places. I'm oblivious to these raids because I always end up hearing about them from my boyfriend or neighbors. I'm glad security is getting tight, but what I really want is someone to clean up the broken Modelo bottles on our front stoop. And as tough as these Party People try to be, they're just kids. Kids with guns. But kids nonetheless. They are scary, for sure. Especially the dude I see with the gang emblem below his right eye, but they stay out of our business, and I sure as hell don't go messing with theirs.
I make my neighborhood sound like the hood. But it's not. Honestly. I love that on every corner there is a small grocer, or an eloteria. My neighborhood super market is two blocks away. Chinatown, Little Italy, and Bridgeport are the next neighborhoods over. I ride my bike everywhere, but there are buses that can take me anywhere when it gets too cold. Little art galleries are marked with circular black signs, or the orange and blue PodMajersky rectangles. But there are signs of white invasion everywhere. Everyday I see fresh businesses pop up and more young white people walking down the sidewalk. Everyone knows that my neighborhood is the new hipster hotspot, and in the next 5-10 years have unaffordable housing for poor artists like me and the Mexican families I live around. The gangs will be pushed further south or west, and that is just how Chicago does things. At least we won't have the Olympics to deal with!
Living the American Dream



I'm having a really hard time believing that Heath Ledger is dead. Seriously. Dead? Crap. I really liked him. Not only was he nice to look at, but I really liked his movies too. Fuck. Dead?

The sad thing is that when I go and try to rent my number 1 guilty pleasure movie, 10 Things I Hate About You it will be out of stock for weeks because millions of girls, worldwide will have the same desire. Part of me really hopes that it was a suicide because that will just make him more appealing. People will say, "We had no idea he was suffering so much," and a new layer of depth will be added to the already interesting actor. Do you realize that Brokeback Mountain will reach astronomical popularity because Heath is now dead? It will become monumental. It's sad, but death really is an artist's greatest achievement, especially when they go young.

Dammit Heath, WHY?!?!? I could accept that you had a fiance and a two-year-old kid, but why death? I hope you're happy, you son of a bitch. You had YEARS of movie-making left. I was excited to see you grow older and develop as an actor. Now you're dead and I'm supposed to watch Jake Gyllenhaal? Is that what you wanted? I really thought the movie Candy sucked, but that didn't keep me from watching it, or watching your subsequent films. Oh, wait, there won't be an subsequent films! (I realize the Batman film will come out this summer and there's another film in production, whatevs!) I thought you were the best actor of my generation, and now you're gone. Ass!


My date with The FIBs

Last night, I went to my boyfriend's band's concert. They are known as the FIBs. I've been avoiding this for a long time now. The FIBs are all about punk, irresponsibility, under-age drinking, pot smoking, yelling, moshing, bleeding, and making their own T-shirts... In other words, things I'm not really fond of. And yet, I found myself at their concert last night.

Most things associated with punk concerts: dancing, beer-spilling, and deafening music, I expected. I did not expect fearing for my safety, although perhaps I should have. The FIBs started playing, and the mosh pit began. Really, there was just this one guy (who had the craziest look in his eye and the WORST dance moves I have ever seen!!!) that started smashing into people and getting violent. Honestly, he was trying to start fights with people because he was ready to cause some serious damage, but he masked most of his sadistic desires by violently gyrating.

Then the cops showed up. I wasn't worried because I was 21 and wasn't even drinking, but all the underage kids (and there were many) slipped out the back or hid in a bedroom. Surprisingly enough, crazy dancing guy was no where to be seen either. I would have liked to see him get clubbed. Anyway... One of my boyfriend's buddies got handcuffed because he was mouthing off to the cops, but they didn't arrest him, or anyone else. Cops just like to put on a show, like the FIBs.

The boys did put on a good show, though. They're energetic and like having a good time playing music. But I just don't like punk. In fact, I can't stand it, and it's all that my boyfriend listens to. But for one night, and one night only, I pretended to... care. I didn't grimace, and I tried to not plug my ears. Perhaps I should have done some last minute cramming and learned a song or two to sing along with, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Punk rockers can always spot out a phony anyway. Now, I've done my time, and I don't ever have to go to one of their shows again.


Breaking up with your (gay) boyfriend is hard to do

You know your relationship status has changed when your gay boyfriend, husband, whatever moves out, and you can't help but feel cheap and used.

Alex, my long time gay lover and companion is moving out. I'm mad at him for doing this, even though his reasons are completely reasonable and he has no intention to hurt me. It's not really my place to say what's going on in Alex's life, but I just wish things could have happened differently. I wish things didn't have to happen so soon. I wish I weren't mad at him and could enjoy the time we still have together. I think Alex knows I'm mad at him because he hardly comes out of his room (a new phenomenon that's been happening since last summer).

Not only am I mad, but resentful too. A few days ago I was cursing about him for not getting his shit packed up so the new guy can move in. Part of me can't wait until he's gone to spare me from the awkwardness. Part of me doesn't want the 14th of this month to come so I don't have to say goodbye to him, and say, "See you around," and not really know when I'll see him again, or if I'll even to see him.

A new guy moves in on the 15th. He's nice, responsible, and makes a lot of money. But he won't be my Alex. He won't stay up with me until 4 a.m. watching Queer as Folk and then decide to go jogging on the Lake Shore path just because we can. We won't burn shit in the fire place or play Boggle, and he certainly can't make grape leaves.

I know it's not really breaking up, but it is. We're going our separate ways. Other friends who I've told this story to tell me to not take it personally, but I am. Even though I knew Alex would move out someday, part of me really did want our arrangement to last forever. But like a lot of relationships, we've grown apart the last year or so, and now he's moving on to something else. Eventually, I'll be happy for him and see his new place and hang out more than we did while living together...Eventually.

We'll see what happens on the 14th.