Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Arrangement

Brahms' Intermezzo No. 3 Op 117
Clicking the above link will take you to a Youtube video.

This is the piece I'm arranging for a final project in my instrumentation and arranging course.

I'll upload the video of the students that are playing it as soon as I have it.

(Arranging for trombone quartet/small trombone choir)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

That Feeling

Last week I spent a good hour talking with Professor Julie Ashworth.
Woah, woah, woah, let me back up a bit.

At Augustana there is an honours program (only about 4 years young) wherein the honours students can choose to take courses in place of certain generals. These courses are generally work intensive, mentally fatiguing, and (in my experience), you never leave one at the same level you were at to begin with.

My freshman year (2008-2009) I was in a course that would have been labeled in the English department. In said course I read texts varying from The Double and The Cave by Jose Saramago to The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman to Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut to Freedom of the City by Brian Friel.

And everything in between, it felt.
The course discussed compassion. What is compassion? How is it different from empathy? Is it good? How do we show it? When and where should we show it? And a whole slew of other questions alongside those. Needless to say, I look through the texts from that course regularly, especially when looking for something that will make me think.

That same year I took a course that would also be labeled an English department type course. The title was Eleutheria, which in Greek means "Freedom". That course was tag-team taught by Prof. Patrick Hicks and Prof. Joel Johnson, both inspiring professors in their own right. This course was once again a heavily writing and reading based course, but my mind was pushed to consider what true freedom was and how the word itself is so abused in pop-culture today. (If you're curious, our texts mainly consisted of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and The Magus by John Fowles - although there were plenty of other supportive texts (ie; Walden, etc).

Last year (my sophomore year of 2009-2010) my mind and my emotions began to be pushed in the honours course I took entitled "Immersion into Autism". Not only was this course a course dedicated to autism, identifying it, the varying degrees, and different therapy methods, but each student also had a "client" of sorts that they would work with a few times a week trying different therapy methods. I was paired with a little boy named Bo who had autism and was non-speaking. The details of that experience are the sorts that warm your heart when you think back on them. For anyone who may actually know me and want to hear about it, please ask. I loved this course and what it taught me.

Alright, back up done. Fast forward to now.

Every student in the honours program (which is entitled Civitas) is required to do a sort of project of an honour student calibre showing what they've learned and how they are going to apply not only their Bachelor's degree education to real life, but how they are going to apply what they've learned in their honours courses to real life. Each student can apply for up to a $1000 grant from the school to do their research/project. When the project is all said and done, the student must then present at the college's symposium or another public presentation of equal or greater degree.

I have spent the past two years pondering and fretting over what I might do for the project when one night when I was out camping by myself this past summer I was struck by an idea.

My heart goes out to the students who live and learn on reservations and I hope some day to teach on one for a while. Simultaneously, I believe strongly in the importance of arts education in schools.

Back to Professor Julie Ashworth: I was discussing with her my idea to do something involving reservation schools and the arts. She called some people for me and found out that the school on the Lower Brule reservation has no music program. At all. The secretary that she talked to made the comment that, "It's kind of hard to have a band when you don't have any instruments".

She hung up the phone, told me what she had found out, and I had one of those moments. Those moments where, in your heart, you know that you've just been given a job to do and if you don't do it, it will never get done.

Needless to say, herein follows a rough outline of the project that I plan on doing for my Civitas honours.

We're looking at the 4th or 5th grade level, perhaps earlier:

Throughout the winter and early spring I will work with the local Public School system, my college, the local instrument stores, various pawn shops, and multiple churches, in order to get instrumental donations for the students on the reservation. From there, hopefully I can cut some sort of deal with the local music store (that benefits greatly from Augustana students) and have them do a discounted or free basic repair on all of the instruments.

Next spring I will take a trip out to the reservation alongside whatever other instrumentalists and music majors I can find at Augie and give the students a performance. Hopefully from there I can do a sort of "break out session" wherein students can go to whichever instrument drew them the most.

Once the students have decided whether or not they would like to learn an instrument and which one, hopefully there will be enough of that instrument to loan it to them. The rest of the weekend will then be spent in giving basic lessons.

Throughout the rest of the spring and summer I will go to Lower Brule around every other weekend (once again, perhaps with other students from my school or perhaps even students from the nearby "caucasian city" of Chamberlain) and give lessons to the students with instruments.

The final goal? Have them give a small concert at the beginning of the fall school year.

It's rough. The idea is rough. I need to talk to some people.
But I want to do this. It needs to be done.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Schooling

Here I am.

I am sitting in my dorm room, the same room I dwelt in last year with the same roommate that I lived with last year. Were this the only aspect to my life, things would be swell, for I have no problem living in Stavig with Chelsea. We get along well.

I was looking through some quotes on school, hoping to find some push or inspiration to keep me going strong throughout the year.

Let me not advise this to anyone thinking the same.

I was amazed at how many quotes great people had said about school and what a waste the formal education portion of it was (note: not the socializing part, and I agree, I think teaching social skills via groups at a young age is incredibly important).

The biggest kicker of a quote is one that I have heard many times before and merely never stopped to think about: "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school."

Albert Einstein.

Please don't misunderstand me. I understand that there are some people that truly love schooling and going to classes and doing homework and learning. I was one of those people from the Kindergarten age up through my freshman year of college. Then something clicked and I realized that I was learning just as much outside of school with my personal interactions than I ever did in those previous 13 years of schooling.

It's beyond me that I will have spent 17 years of my life in a school by the time I have graduated college with my B.A. I will be 23. And suddenly I will be acceptable to society as an adult? Suddenly I will know how to make all the right decisions and I won't have to worry about money?

I hate to point this out, but I will proceed anyway: I've been making the "right" decision since junior high. I haven't stepped one toe out of the responsible pathway since then.

Which is probably why taking a break and going traveling for a year sounds so impressive and desirable right now. Will it occur? Probably not, though I will be taking a trip again next summer for a bit greater length of time (more on that later, I feel).

So for anyone out there that may stumble across this public journal, do you regret your education? How far did you go with the formal education process?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


"Such a large sigh is forwarded in advance" - Johannes Brahms

On a completely shallow note, if I were to have fallen in love with a composer, it would have been Johannes Brahms. What a man.
His music is "full of sex appeal, only, it is, at the same time, so full of many other important qualities, that the former is not obtrusive. his work is like a super-vital person, well fused and balanced, splendidly sexed, but also endowed so richly in all sorts of other ways, mentally and emotionally, the the sensuous is forced to keep its appropriate place in the scheme of life."(1)

See how my mind rambles. Now let's think about the focus of sensuality and the erotic impulse with its effect on the arts.
Admit it, today's society seemingly has sex on their mind 24/7. At least, that's what the media would have you think, and perhaps it's true. I, personally, do not (think about sex 24/7) - however, I'm told that I am an oddity in many ways (at the age of 20 I neither drink nor smoke, this is a topic for a different blog post I feel). Would I consider myself a passionate person? Completely. Everyone should find themselves impassioned with something, whether it be travel or coffee or biking or some other seemingly ubiquitous activity. The direction of this seemingly primal force need not be emphasized purely physically, there are other outlets. Perhaps it's the true Masters that have learned how to focus that seemingly instinctual energy in other ways.

There is a seeming loss of appreciation for the true beauty that is love and the actions that may accompany it. When the terminology or the phraseology has gone from "making love" to "doing it" or "banging" there is a serious loss of respect that I feel should be given to the action. Making love is truly a creative process, hence the phrase "making love". Love, one of the world's most powerful and driving emotions is being created (supposedly).
For some reason, I feel as though I have digressed.

Passion. Driving passion. I've got it, I'm merely learning how to properly direct it.
Do you? Are you?

1. Schauffler, Robert Haven. "The Unknown Brahms." Vail-Ballou Press, Inc. November, 1933.