Sunday, October 2, 2016

What Speaks to You?

What Speaks to You?

It’s the beginning of the school year, and I was going to talk about setting goals or organizing
your schedule, but some crazy things have happened in Baton Rouge this summer. You have
probably heard or read about the shooting deaths of both Alton Sterling and law enforcement
officers and the historic flooding that wiped out over one hundred thousand homes.

Thankfully, I was not involved or even near any of the shootings and my house escaped any
damage from the floods. But I know people, and know people who know people, who have been
affected by these events. Having lent a hand to a couple of households damaged by the floods
and volunteering at church, I can tell you some really amazing stories about the people of
Louisiana. I was floored by how many people came from surrounding areas, and New Orleans
especially, because they knew people needed help. My eyes get watery just typing this. It’s
beautiful to hear people say “y’all had our back during Katrina and now we’ve got yours.” There
is nothing like a natural disaster to bring out the hero in all of us.

No matter how hard a day I might have had, perhaps even in spite of it, when I see people being
selfless and coming together it helps remind me that there is so much beauty in the world. That
is what speaks to me. That is what moves me. That is why I am drawn to music. All kinds of
music. In order for music to even happen, people have to come together, support each other,
and work toward a common goal. It’s one of the reasons we grow such strong bonds with other

My students and friends can probably tell you that I think there are two things that can save the
world: better education and music (or visual art, literature, film). It is so amazing to me to be an
educator and watch kids from every race, nationality, and economic background get together
and make music. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor or what color you are once you have an
instrument and a common goal. You want people to enjoy what you’re doing, to be entertained
and, most importantly, to feel human. Everything else goes away.

I know plenty of people who are not moved by music and that is okay. It usually makes me want
to play my favorite recordings for them and see if I can get them to feel what I feel, but it’s okay
if they don’t. They will usually say, “but I really love cooking/reading/film/art.” Great! If you don’t
know or feel like you don’t have anything, find it. It is what keeps us going and helps us to
bounce back from failures or the horrible and depressing things that happen around us. It’s what
helps us see the light and the beauty in the world around us and to not give up hope. So, before
you get swallowed whole by your undoubtedly busy schedule, find the pieces, memories,
movies, or meals that speak to you and enjoy them. Revel in them until you feel recharged and
ready to tackle tomorrow. Your sanity and your humanity depend on it!

What Speaks to Mirari

Part of what makes Mirari what we are is that we are human and we laugh and cry together and
care about each other. Being in a group where the members are spread across the country is
hard work and it takes so much advance planning and individual sacrifice. We can sometimes
get bogged down in administrative or financial tedium and by the sheer act of attempting to unify
five individual opinions and ideas. Then we play together and everyone remembers why we do
this. Making music is what allows the individuals in the group to come together and share
something truly special. I think I am safe in saying that making music together with people you
care about, for people you care about, is what speaks to Mirari.

Beyond playing together, we share our passions and ideas with each other. For some of us it’s
running or yoga and for others it’s musicals and singing at the top of our lungs in the car. Each
tour we are all very excited to share new music that we have stumbled across, and our group’s
travel playlist changes ever so slightly each time we’re in the van together. I’d like to make you
part of it and show you the video below. Some will say it’s cheesy, and perhaps that’s true, but
right now this is something that speaks to me and I guarantee you I will make everyone listen to
it on our next tour. Good singing, great production, an interesting arrangement, and, most
importantly for me, a beautiful message.

Maybe this will speak to you too? If not, good luck on your search!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

10 Tips for Success [in your First Year] in Music School

Whether it's your first year or your fifth year, these tips from trumpeter Alex Noppe will set you up for a great year of exploration, learning, and growth!

1. Go to class and do your homework 
Most students that fail classes do so because they don’t show up and they don’t turn in assignments. Too many of those end up paying for 5th and 6th years of college! Don’t let one missed class or assignment spiral into many more.

2. Use your professors for help 
That’s why they’re here – they like teaching and helping students!
Never be afraid to ask questions, whether it’s about class material or anything else.

3. Use your fellow students for help
As much time as you spend around the faculty, you’ll spend way more around your peers. Learn from them. Ask questions. Practice with them. Most older student love to help out freshmen with advice and ideas.

4. Practice. 
A lot. Every day! This is your job right now – to become great at your craft. Nothing else is nearly as important. You don’t get to take weekends and holiday breaks off from practicing any more. The best thing you can do is actually put your practice times in your calendar, and plan on multiple shorter sessions throughout the day. Mental fatigue leads to poor practice and very few people can remain mentally focused on one thing for hours at a time.

5. Use the little breaks in your schedule
Most music majors have tons of shorter classes and rehearsals, often with 20-40 minute breaks between them. You’d be amazed at how much you can accomplish in those short breaks, whether it’s a hyper-focused practice session, theory homework, or meals.

6. Be a good person to everyone around you 
This one is really important. Music school isn’t a competition – it’s collaborative and we all can get better together. Your reputation building begins right now, and many of the connections that you make while in college will be critical to your professional life down the road. Don’t gossip. Don’t cut people down. Assume that anything you say about somebody else will probably get back to them. Both positivity and negativity are extremely contagious, but positive people have happier lives!

7. Try out new things 
One of the best things about college is the incredible variety of opportunities and experiences that you will encounter. This is the best time to explore new fields, take new classes, learn new skills, and do things that will challenge you. I can guarantee that you will leave college a different person than when you started, and you never know what unexpected opportunity might set up you on the path towards the rest of your life.

8. Be smart about money management 
Remember that you have the rest of your life to work a job. This might be your only chance to be a college student. Save money on the things that don’t matter so much (fancy coffee, expensive cars, the newest cell phone) so that you have it for the stuff that does (extra lessons, a study abroad trip, high quality instruments). Small amounts of student loans are probably worth it if it means that you don’t have to spend your precious practicing/homework time working a minimum wage job.

9. Be healthy
Go outside. Drink more water and fewer energy drinks. Exercise. Don’t eat Taco Bell for every meal. Try to find some time to take care of yourself.

10. Remember that your worth as a person is not measured by your music 
In music school, you’ll experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, sometimes within the same 5 minutes! You’ll have successes and failures, but you don’t have to define yourself by either. Every audition or performance is only representative of just your music making at one specific
snapshot in time, not a value judgment of you personally.

As music majors, you get a tremendous opportunity to spend a few years (or your entire life) doing
something that is deeply meaningful to you and those around you, and making our society a better place to live in. Enjoy it – it’s going to be an exciting ride and tons of fun. Have a GREAT year!!