Category Archives: Life Lessons

School’s out for the summer! (not really)


 

As the song entails, school is officially over. But, not really.  As the end of the semester windles down, I decided to take the nerdy way out and register in a summer course. This semester has ben a hectic one. I’ve had a lot of stress, mostly papers to write, concerts, and not to mention, more papers. It has been a good semester. I wasn’t fond of the grading I received, especially in my music history course, but you can’t always get what you want. In this semester, I have also pondered on the two possibilities I have after I finish my Masters. I could stay here in the United States or go back to my home country, Puerto Rico, and search for a job there

As the song states, schools out for the summer so I won’t think about it… too much. ‘ve also toying with the possibility of pursuing a Doctorate degree in Musicology (a PhD), instead of a DMA in Choral Conducting (for all of you who do not know the acronyms a DMA is a Doctorates in Musical Ars).  The root of this moral, career dilemma, is that with a PhD in Musicology, I can assess Latin American repertoire and unveil the mysteries and all of the inaccuracies that’s out there (this is technically called ethnomusicology. With a DMA, I would just focus on an ensemble and how to create a professional sound out of them. Both of the things I would love, but time will tell which one I will choose.

 

Speaking of  musicology and the mysteries it implies, specifically ethnomusicology, my independent study will focus on what ethnomusicology is, how it has evolved, and how it has been reflected in Latin America. I will hope this new adventure provides itself to be truthful! Also, in this summer I will add to my agenda to update this blog (more than I have been lately). So I will stop with my binge watching of anything that is on Netflix (although Scandal Season 3 is really tempting, I kid you not) and focus on maintaining this blog in tip, top shape.

That will be all for now!

-MP.

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Polar winds v. Tropic thunder


And so my winter break is coming to an end. Next Monday I start my second semester of graduate studies, where I shall immerse myself anew in music, music, and music (and the midwest weather). Between a musicology course in twentieth-century music to twentieth -century musical analysis, choral conducting, graduate musical composition, and ensembles. This semester will be challenging, but rewarding, I’m sure. Let’s see what this semester brings. Up until now I will be a part of the IMEA in Illinois, and there might be a slight (very slight) possibility that I can get enough funds to go to the ACDA convention this year. If I get the chance, it would be amazing. It’s still somewhat incredible and humbling coming back to the island and meet again my professors and peers. The pressure is still on when the hint, again, that I am the “new guinea pig” because before me nobody has done a Masters in Music, specially Choral Conducting. I just have to work harder this semester. As we say in the Choral Department (thanks to me) “If you try hard enough and believe in yourself…”

Sweltering heat, Frigid Winds


Finals are done, and I’m back home in Puerto Rico for the Winter Break. Coming back home is good. I’m still not accustomed to the change in temperature. Living in twenty-something degree weather (that feels like ten-something because of the wind chill) to the drastic eighty degrees with seventy percent humidity is… taxing. Nevertheless is good to be back, at least for two weeks or so to say hello to the family (in person and not by FaceTime) and see some familiar faces. So far, I crashed a choral rehearsal from my undergraduate. Saw my highschool/undergrad voice teacher, and my choral conducting/literature/methods professor. It’s been good, but bittersweet. It has put a lot of things in perspective, such as family, friends and what I want to do in my life.

Flamenco Beach. Culebra, Puerto Rico

Flamenco Beach. Culebra, Puerto Rico

I’m still debating coming back to the island after I receive my Masters degrees. In one side it would be returning to my comfort zone. On the other, it would be returning to a place where I know I could find a collegiate work opportunity, because of my networking. I don’t know if the job opportunity would be a stable one, but with the way things are back here, it is… daunting. When I came here, teacher’s went on strike, and the overall teaching opportunities/lifestyle are light and day in comparison of what I’ve seen in Iowa and in Illinois. These past six months of actually living alone, in a place where no one knows me has made me seen life in a different ways, and I’ve remembered and learned new this. Some of these are…

  1. No matter where you come from, people judge you (or should judge you) for your actions and how you present yourself.
  2. Everybody should deserve a chance for every job opportunity.
  3. Don’t tell everybody that you don’t have something, do something and find something similar.
  4. Family is only a phone call/text/FaceTime session away.
  5. Family can also be your close friends.
  6.  If you try hard and believe in yourself… (inside joke)
  7. Everybody can pass through a storm, they maybe unresponsive and not believe your words, but they can appreciate (or so you think) that you are a phone call/text away.
  8. No matter what happens, you have to work hard, because in the end it’s your future. Your life.
  9. Pick people’s advice like a grain of sand.
  10. Only the past is set in stone, the present is a gift, and the future as the sea’s wave. Even though the past is set is stone, do not throw it to the sea for the waves will carry it back to shore.
  11. Drink wine.
  12. Graduate School helps you use the most obscure and random scholarly words just to make your argument that more… scholar.
  13. It is in our scholarly duties to make up words so that other scholars can use them, and so the scholar circle begins.
  14. Personal style evolves. I still laugh when people say I have good fashion taste, if they could see me in my undergrad…
  15. Mozart is in fact from the 54th, later 45th century. He was possibly a woman, and he did in fact use non-human technology. He may have been indeed a reincarnation of The Doctor.
  16. The Doctor Donna is a professor of mine, also she is hardcore. Also, she loves French stuff so when you do a research project in French Chansons, you better werk if not she will shred you to pieces. Good for me, I rocked my paper AND presentation.
  17. Musicology might be a career move for me, or at least be a minor in my doctoral degree
  18. Always hope for the best, even when things seem dark.
  19. Just as in BBC’s Merlin. “The Darkest is just before dawn“. And, Just as Dumbledore said “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light”
  20. Yes. I am a huge nerd.
  21. Study hard, but nobody can part-ay like happy choral grads who laugh so hard that they fall from their chairs, and then laugh harder. (looking at you, yes you.)
  22. IF you put  three choral grads in the same hotel room, they may or may not start laughing. This laughter would be loud (in harmony, with a certain counterpoint), and it WILL last for AT LEAST 30 minutes. The undergrad in the room would later tell you, “I though you guys were going to be all serious.”

In short… if I’ve learned or re-learned some of these things in a short amount of time, I know that I have so much more to learn. All you can be in life is a sponge, learn from everything.

 

Happy Holidays from Puerto Rico
-Musical Poetry

Untold Stories


The ground, the occult, and the savior.


Wow… it’s been more than 10 days since I’ve updated from the grad school tag. Grad school is… still intensive. Not as intensive as before, ’cause I am getting the hang of it, but intense nonetheless. At least, I am getting better in my conducting, in internalizing this harmonic system, and getting to be “myself” in front of the choir. Things I need to finally get into my head…

  • nothing will be perfect or go as you think it will.
  • Just like Wagner stated in his article “Art takes time”
  • nothing will change in a day
  • Keep practising, done? Again.
  • I’m here for a reason
  • I am good at what I do and I should just stop self doubting
  • If the University gave a fall break, it’s because it’s NECESARRY. Stop overthinking and doing and give yourself a free day!
  • have more fun
  • Musicallity cannot be taught, it comes from within

 

 

I feel it’s going to rain (paperwork)


This week that passed on grad school…

  1. You may mess up completely in your conducting and may have to meet your professor for further assessment.
  2. The day feel ready to meet your professor is the day he’s not on campus.
  3. That’s not the way you hold a baton… in your case you should ’cause that baton is like a Harry Potter wand. My response… CRUCIO!
  4. Handel composed “And the Glory WRATH of the conductor shall be revealed”. A song specially dedicated to all conducting majors in the world.
  5. When you think you don’t have enough work, think again.
  6. How many grad students does it take to move a speaker?
  7. Are we on key? Is that a C? a C #? C flat? whut? My thought process when we Glory the anna
  8. Britten concert was a cool experience as a birthday.
  9. You can fall asleep on your couch after a skype call, while your friends wait for you in their house to celebrate.
  10. You will start missing people the day before, during, and after your birthday. (Specially those who are in the moving process).
  11. You all did well, but you still have to take another test of the same material next week (this Wednesday).
  12. My abstract was French with a touch of Dutch… I think I can roll with this… if I can ACTUALLY get the dissertation and scores I asked for… 3 weeks ago?
  13. Lully and Mendelsohn are cool… so cool that I listen to their pieces for basically an hour on repeat and then say WAIT I need to annotate things on these scores. Process may be repeated at least three times this weekend.
  14. J. S. Bach is a cat. With fluffy ears, which I want to pet (if he doesn’t kill me first or tries to escape, and succeed.)
  15. Starbucks Colombian coffee is NOT good enough. I need my Puertorrican coffee.
  16. That moment when your harmony professor calls you and tells you “if you migrate from our harmonic system to theirs (US system) I will disown you. Hey, here’s my email. Anything you need call me, text me or email me (specially for scores).”
  17. Choral Literature Jepordy:  Here… listen to these 3 obscure passages from the 16 pieces. They have no text. Who wrote it?
  18. Something as simple as assisting in giving a midterm may be reassure yourself that you want to be a professor.

 

Grow flowers


50 thousand reasons to sing and conduct


In the past few posts (these to be exact: Nobody said it would be this hard, One Winged Angel, and  Caught in the Storm)I have shared my Goals Statement, what I want to do with my carer, some of the people who have inspired me & the obstacles that I’ve had in this past year. While I had this whole post defending why I want to do what I want to do, I’ve realized that… they will continue to put me down, try to shut me out or appear as if they are going to help. I realized that people will continue, no matter what you do, try to make you unhappy. Life sucks. Life throws a lot of obstacles to “test you on how strong you are”. One thing is certain I won’t back down. I will continue to fight for myself, and for the person I love.

A family member asked me a while back… “you do realize that if you want to do this you will have a debt of $50,000 in your ribs, right?” I simply replied: YES. I don’t need to defend my lifestyle, my carer choice to anybody. I have one life, and I’m going to live it the way I want to. I have 50 thousand reasons to sing & conduct. Some of those reasons are:

  1. Laugh.
  2. Love.
  3. Smile.
  4. Make high quality music.
  5. New experiences
  6. New places, people, and things.
  7. Your smile.
  8. The way you when your proud.
  9. The way I feel when I do a good job.
  10. To be brave in all aspects in my life.

Start being happy. Truly happy.

Nobody said it would be this hard


In the music world, everything is simple and complex at the same time. When you start to think about grad school, well… it’s just plain complex. You need to take  the GRE & TOFEL (for those of us who English is not our first language) pre-audition, then submit the graduate admission essay (or Goals Statement as some universities call it), submit a thousand letter of recommendations, then the audition (if the pre-audition doesn’t cut it), then do everything everybody else does. In short: one big crazy roller coaster and by osmosis a big crazy me.In all this craziness, people transform in two categories. cheerleaders or nagging-antagonists-who-try-to-sunk-you-into-depression (a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth!). Generally the people who fall into the first category are friends, co-workers, and professors. The latter? Family and some of the people who call themselves “friends”.

I won’t post the pre-audition video I submitted to three universities (Florida State University, Westminister Choir College & Western Illinois University), but I will share my graduate admission essay. Why? Just like River Song says in Doctor Who: “Spoilers, sweetie.” Just sit back and use this as a pre-screening for my next post!

Without further ado, my Goals Statement!

Jose Clavell
Goals Statement

When I was 12 years old, my parents took me to a recital of the Ponce Municipal Band where I saw Ruben Colón Tarrats, conductor of the Ponce Municipal Band and the Concert Choir and Chamber Choir from the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, for the first time. From that day on, I have made it my life’s goal to become a choral conductor.  Since this experience, I have devoted all of my time and energy into studying music. After seven years of studying in the Juan Morel Campos Music Institute, I started my bachelor’s in music education where professors such as Prof. Rubén Colón, Prof. María Ondarra and Mons. Abel Di Marco helped me polish my abilities in choral conducting, voice, harmony, and counterpoint, respectively. It was there that I discovered a new, profound passion for choral conducting. In the past five years, I have learned that a choral conductor is far more than just that. Choral conductors, along with their choirs, recreate and celebrate moments from history in order to captivate and mesmerize their audiences.

 To study my master’s in such an important institution would give me the opportunity to focus my energy into my life-long dream. The Puerto Rican government perceives the arts in general as insignificant in comparison with the core subjects, as well as unnecessary for the integral development of the island’s students. Currently, the Department of Education of Puerto Rico has enacted a policy that authorizes school principals (of both elementary and secondary level schools) to decide whether or not they wish to offer music, visual arts, and even physical education classes to their students based on two criteria: first, if the principals deem the classes necessary to the integral development of their students, and secondly, if the school’s budget allows space for teachers specialized in fine arts and/or physical education. We are living in times in which the idea of “education” here in Puerto Rico is, in my opinion, not extensive enough to produce truly well-rounded individuals who can then contribute their talents to the improvement of the island’s conditions, in every aspect. After completing my master’s degree in choral conducting, I plan to come back to the island and work to repair the damage done to the fine arts programs in the schools here.

This is why finishing a post-graduate degree in Choral Conducting would give me the chance to effect change in Puerto Rico’s Music Education programs in secondary and post-secondary institutions. The opportunity to study in an acclaimed institution would allow me to share my cultural background, as well as my knowledge from my bachelor’s and embrace the latest methodology, assessment, and vocal coaching techniques. It would also give me the chance to work with a project entitled “The Art of Musical Poetry”. This project is a book in progress, a personal endeavor of mine, the aim of which is to marry the processes of musical composition and creative writing into a single form of art.

My vocation in life is that of a teacher, but I fear for the future of the fine arts programs here in Puerto Rico. To better the programs is to better both my students and myself, and in doing so, I will help to build a culture of peace here on the island.

As the song states… Nobody said it was easy!!

One Winged Angel


Lately, I’ve been overthinking. More than usual. I’ve been pondering in my relationship. I’ve ben pondering in my relationship with peers, friends, and professors. I’ve transported myself back to the time where it felt just like this one. I call it the Great Depression of 2008. But (there is always one, isn’t there?) it’s not.  The circumstances are not the same. Many things are similar, financial problems, for instance is one of them. Also, it reminds me when I started in studying music in 2002. In short, I rediscovered or should I say reaffirmed that everything is a cycle. The good things and the bad. But in everything that has happened to me. In all these almost 24 years, there has been one single common factor: Music. My One winged Angel.

One Winged Angel

When I started studying music in 2002, I was bullied. I never wanted to accept it (as many things about myself, my reality or my life), but I did struggle with it. My defense mechanism is to over-work. So I became more of a workaholic (if it can be possible). I also became (more than ever) distant with my reality and the people who were close to me, and acted as if everything were peaches & cream. My family (who I believe never noticed anything, I am a good actor when I need to be) finally let me take music classes. So, I poured myself into the only thing I could. Music. I also did my academics, but who cares! I had MUSIC from 4:30 to 6:30 from Monday to Saturday. I made my own little universe of pitch, tones, harmonies and I stayed there. I did it so much that it was the only thing I could think of from when I got woke up until I would fall asleep. I attended Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, Plucked Strings Orchestra, Guitar. Cuatro, Theory Classes, in short everything and anything I could musically. I also founded a Music Club in my school so that I could think about music at school too. After doing all of this, did it work? Did it seclude me from my reality, and most important my problems? I can say yes. Did I learn from it? Yes. Did it help me? Absolutely. Was it maybe a bad way to manage my problems? Yes. Which is why I have tremendous empathy for people who have battled with depression. Everybody deals with depression, rejection, and anxiety in different ways and every case differently. My escape is (and always will be) Music. Sometimes it frustrates the hell out of me. Hell, sometimes it gives me a migraine! Sometimes I take it very, very, very personal when other musicians do a crap job (or don’t care). Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me but I can’t help it. Music has giving me so much, that I just want to do the best.

I struggled, but survived High School. I thought that everything would get better, and for a moment it I was under the aloofn

This time I wasn’t really that good at acting. Mainly my brother was the one who noticed. I lashed out on everybody in my family, but kept a happy face and my strong demeanor in my college life. I have basically no social life so (I believe) they didn’t noticed. I was the same (even more) nerd that I was on my freshman year and continued to do so. My bachelor is in Musical Education, so I majorly focused on my studies and vowed to “get out of this place and promised myself I wouldn’t do what I was living to myself or to my loved ones”ess that everything would. Untill 2008 rolled in. I was in college. I had a good freshmen year. I was getting to know my peers, making new relationships, new friends like Sheila, Glorimar, and Yolimar. And just like “The Last Airbender” scene: “Every thing changed when the fire benders attacked”. Everything that was dear to me changed, was grabbed like a lolly from a baby and I was down, again. And I was on the floor receiving kicks. Life intervened again, and just like that self-defense mechanism did too. I had to move from my house (to my sisters and then to the apartment where I currently reside). I had to basically sell (most) of everything I owned, because it was “no longer mine”. Everything changed, and so did I.

During my passage through the Music Institute I was always keen in Conducting (especially to Choral Conducting), and my musical mother Fombe, noticed. She basically took me under her wing for the past decade, and she made me a chorister, a singer but most important a teacher. When I was in college my passion for Music Investigation was Prof. Laracuente. My love for writing flourished tenfold thanks to Doctor Mercedes Torres. My love for Choral Conducting (and the one who gave me as much opportunities to cond

uct) is thanks to Prof. Ruben Colón Tarrats. But  there was one professor who taught me the most about musicianship. That was Professor Freddie Feliciano (AND) Aponte (because I have a mother!).

Professor Freddie Feliciano (and) Aponte is the one who basically told and taught me to believe in myself. He was the one who told me that if I have a talent I must share it, the one who told me one day that I must love and let myself be loved. The one who basically flat out told me (very sassily) that I have all the passion, talent, but “most importantly the drive, and motivation” to do anything I want in my life is Prof. Freddie Feliciano.  Freddie is an amazing person.

Professor Freddie Feliciano

Prof. Freddie Feliciano (AND) Aponte

Freddie (because that’s one of the things I love about my music department, the professors encourage you to call them by their name) showed me who a musician is, how a musician should act, and how a musician reacts to to the world around him/her. Freddie taught me not to give a damn about what other people think about you. Freddie taught me and rekindled (just as did Kevin) my love for languages, especially the French language. It never occurred to me HOW much he taught me. And the only thing I can think about is the same question I have to all the professors mentioned above… “You’ve taught me so much. More than I have ever imagined. How can I repay you?” I read an article a week ago. In the article Dr. James Jordan from Westminister Choir College asks this to his mentor. Her reply was “Light a candle in every student you meet. That is more than enough.” I can say that I met Freddie in a crucial part of my life. And I can say that he’s another One Winged Angel I have in my life.

When I finished my bachelors’ degree I knew I learned a lot. From my personal life to my personal life. What I can say from both is that no matter what may happen to me, how I feel or what life can throw at me… I have Three One Winged Angels: Music, Freddie, and Kevin. In my life, these two people and music have done so much to me that they can’t even imagine how they have changed my life for the better. Kevin, Freddie, and Music literally and figuratively they have saved my life. I only wish Kevin, and Freddie have One Winged Angels as I do. As for Music? I believe she’s an angel who has saved many and still has more people to save.

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