Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lessons from college

After writing on this platform for almost 3 years, I took a couple month hiatus from writing in order to focus on school work. However, I am happy to come back to writing in order to share some of my experiences and lessons from this semester.

To preface this, I am studying saxophone performance with a duel degree in film scoring, with a minor in writing for television & new media at Berklee College of Music. In addition to lessons, I wanted to share some influential music, from both jazz and film genres.

Lessons from this semester 

1. Social justice

This semester at school I had the immense privilege of being selected to go on Berklee's Cultural Leadership  Retreat with the Diversity and Inclusion Department. This retreat brought together a small group of Berklee students from different backgrounds to talk about social justice and ways to improve our communities. We focused on learning about oppression, identities, intersectionality, and privilege. This experience taught me to think differently, to approach scenarios in new ways, how to actively listen to someone, how to be an active bystander, how to celebrate differences and how to be inclusive to different viewpoints and backgrounds.

One exercise we did was having two silent circles of people. We would rotate and look each new person in the eyes while a moderator said things such as, "see the struggles this person has been through to get here," or "see the joys of this person's life." This activity made me deeply realize that while we all came from vastly different lives, the depth and types of emotions we all feel is similar. I want to continue learning from these social justice and team building exercises, and share them with my peers whenever applicable.

2. Proactively focus on the root of the problem 

This semester I realized that in order to solve problems I need to be proactive about the root of the problem. For example, procrastination can come as a result of poor time management or anxiety can come as a result of not utilizing stress management techniques. The question is, how can I move forward so when I get to these points I have the skills to react calmly, to manage my time? How can I move forward in a way that can be proactive when these problems are bound to happen? In this way, planners, color coding, scheduling my time, taking breaks, setting realistic expectations, and chipping away at work over a length of time are all skills that are proactive. I want my New Year's Resolution to focus on this: to become more organized by being proactive.

3. Hobbies are interdisciplinary 

This semester I continued with my hobbies of studying Tai Chi and karate. Studying these martial arts is a great way to relax and learn interdisciplinary skills. While karate seems distant from music, the underlying concepts are the same and this has taught me how to "learn how to learn" again. Practicing slowly, repeating areas that you have trouble with, focusing on fundamentals, following through with movements, breathing effectively, etc. are all ideas I learn in these classes. Also, traits of respect, honor, patience, integrity, humbleness, strength are emphasized.

This carries into music, especially in jazz, where my saxophone teachers emphasize similar ideas: practicing scales slowly, focusing on areas I have trouble with, being humble while you assess what you need to work on. This mental focus and courage is applicable to any career path.

4. Start with yourself

This semester I learned to solve problems as an individual. For example, in the past I have talked about how veganism has positively changed my life: I am healthier, more compassionate towards animals, and my carbon footprint is much lower. This decision has led me to be empowered so when I see something I do not like, I can make a choice solve that problem in my own life.

In addition to animal rights, I feel strongly about unfair labor, and realized that buying clothes second-hand is better for the environment than fast fashion and reduces the demand for clothes from sweat shops.

I also feel strongly about elevating jazz as a musical community. Many people, musicians included, feel that jazz is an exclusive club, and this concept frustrates me as jazz is supposed to be built on a sense of community. In response to this, next semester I will be starting a club at Berklee College of Music, The Women in Jazz Collective. The club hopes to create this kind of community of diverse musicians, composers and business people in the field, as well as a space for those interested in jazz, of all levels, genders, backgrounds, etc. to learn from each other by promoting diversity.

5. Filter through feedback

At music school students get a lot of criticisms from conflicting viewpoints and sources. I have learned to be skeptical of intentions and to focus on what will help me grow. I have learned to filter through feedback and assess what I think is true for what I want to do, as a musician and composer. This is different from completely ignoring feedback: it is consciously deciding what I think is worth my personal investment to commit to practice. For example, a rude comment from a peer can be ignored, but well-intentioned feedback from a teacher will be used to grow.

Listen to Bernard Herrmann - North by Northwest Theme

Final Thoughts: 
This semester was especially fulfilling and challenging. I am excited for what next semester has to bring! 

I included film music and jazz music in this post, as film music is a huge part of my life. I hope that you can hear the intersection between jazz and film music from the selections I shared. 

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Since September 2015 I have been the JazzBoston newsletter writer-editor. Please sign up for the monthly newsletter to learn more about the Boston jazz scene.   

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