I had this sugar-coated idea that second semester senior year was a time to relish those around you, soak in the memories, and brace for the next step. And I think it is a time to do that, but that doesn’t mean everyone gets to.
This idea started to crumble back in January. Weighed down by the problems with my technique, I thought it best to retract all my applications to grad school. What was the point? I convinced myself that I wouldn’t be accepted with the problems I had; it would be a waste of money and time. My stomach nagged at me though — isn’t there always a chance? After some hard conversations with my parents and my teachers, I decided I would try to audition at only two of the schools I had originally planned on (after not making it past pre-screens at two of the others as well).
January was spent hiding out in my practice room, partially due to -50 degree weather and also due to my desperate attempt to fix my technique. Determined not to completely embarrass myself, I decided to push for the best possible result.
Boston Conservatory was my first audition: It was bitterly cold, my playing was sloppy, and I had to perform my rudimental etudes on a drum set snare. I walked away grateful for the experience but doubtful due to what felt like a generally subpar performance.
I had then about a month till my next audition at The Frost School of Music. Continuing the work I had done for Boston felt tedious but seemed to be paying off. Down in Florida, the weather was wonderful, I played way better than I thought I would, and I was taken around town by a new friend.
Auditions finished and I tried to put all my expectations on the back burner. Suddenly, the first half of second semester came to a close and it dawned on me that in a measly five and a half weeks, I had to play my senior recital: a senior recital of which I had barely started learning music for. My focus had been poured so hard into fixing my playing that I gave no attention to the biggest showcase of work as a musician at Wheaton.
So I took a deep breath, and poured more of myself into this project than into anything I had before. From March 11th to April 24th, I lived in Edman Chapel. I arrived at 8 am and almost never left until 10 or 12 pm with the exception of food or coffee. If I wasn’t practicing, I was working. There was no time for going out with friends, no time to spend with those I loved, no time to devote to the other hard working musicians around me, no time to try to enjoy my last days as an undergraduate.
This semester was the most painful I had been through. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating well or enough, I was grumpy, anxious, and sarcastic 24/7, I was unreliable — but I pulled it together.
Through sheer passion and drive to do what I love, I played my senior recital after learning eighty percent of it in five weeks. In the middle of learning all this music, I played as a soloist with the Fox Valley Concert Band (on a piece not on my recital), as a soloist at the Illinois Day of Percussion, and recorded and a full piece I had written for a friend’s studio project.
And I found out I was invited to get my master’s at the Boston Conservatory.
I’m not saying all these things to brag. My performances were far from perfect, I had a lot more I wanted to do with every piece I played, there was a lot I wish I could have known going into this season, and I wish I could have been better to those around me. But I list these things because I got to do all of them and loved every moment.
While I never got to soak in the people or the experiences, I tasted a small bit of what my future life could be like. This future seems feasible and a bit like a dream.
As this era of my life comes to a close, it reminds me that this blog was started not to highlight accomplishments, but rather to share the road to what these big wins or losses. This semester was a victory for me, but it certainly did not comes without its pains and sacrifices.
Now that the storm is calming, I am soaking in that I walk in five days, in a month I tour with the Heartland Marimba Ensemble, in two months I fly to Poland, and in three months I move to Boston.
Here’s to a new school, a new life, and countless new, insane, scary opportunities.