Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Some thoughts.

I know it's been a while since I have posted, but lots of things have happened in the last few months. Here is a little taste of some of the things I am going through right now.

After devoting six years of my life to the study of music and philosophy, achieving a Bachelors degree, philosophy minor, and Masters degree in flute performance, and now attempting to enter the professional world I have encountered many a raised eyebrow. Most people simply ask how I, a semi-professional musician, expect to be able to repay my student loans. They wonder why I would waste six years of my life on degrees that are unmarketable except to very specific positions: orchestral musician, collegiate music educator, freelancing musician, or private teacher. They argue that none of these positions have job security, high pay rates, or the potential to support me, my student loans, and on top of it all a car payment, insurance, rent, a phone bill, and food. What a mess I have placed myself in, they exclaim.

And lately I can’t say I haven’t had moments where I agree with them. Everyone suffers from moments of self-doubt, uncertainty, and to be completely frank fear. As a classically trained musician who is questioning whether that is the future she wants, I have definitely experienced many new doubts and worries in the last few weeks. But through this turbulence I can feel myself getting closer to my destination.


I have recently started hiking and “climbing” at Vedauwoo, an awesome rock formation near Laramie. I put climbing in quotes because I haven’t been throwing on a harness and climbing up sheer rock faces, but I also haven’t simply been walking around the awesome rocky outcrops. Instead I have been hiking up them, climbing over and under massive boulders, and fighting to reach the tops of the formations.

This is extremely rewarding both physically and mentally. Knowing that I’m capable of pulling myself up and over a giant boulder, climbing up a tiny crack and crevice, crawling under a huge rock, and essentially just exploring and having a good time at 8000 feet above sea level is a rewarding physical activity. But the mental rewards almost outweigh these physical ones. In my time at Vedauwoo I have learned that sometimes to reach the top you need to descend down the mountain, in order to get from point A to point B you have to walk in a roundabout manner and land at point C first. I have learned that you need to creatively assess the situation in front of you and sometimes, often in fact, take what looks like the more difficult path in order to reach the top. Sure the easy looking line might make it to the top, but it often hits a dead end at a cliff or sheer rock face, so rather than take that path, one might need to take the scary and impossible looking route instead.


I didn’t start climbing (yes we will call what I’m doing climbing despite the linguistic complications of the word) with the intention of finding some cliched sensation of inner peace, but this is exactly what I have found. I have realized that, despite taking one path up until this point there is exactly nothing holding me onto this path. I’m not saying music is a dead end, or a fatal drop to the rocks below, but I have realized that I can stray from this path and still make it to the final destination at the top.

My studies of music and philosophy have made me a complex and unique person with many different marketable skill sets. My 8+ years in the fields of customer service as a cashier at Fleet Farm, a cook, a server, and ultimately a bartender have given me invaluable insights and life skills that are essential for every field. All of the work I have devoted in the last quarter of my life has brought me to an interesting new place and I can go many places from here.

I have no regrets with what I have done with my life so far and I am definitely not limiting myself in any way to this field. I will continue to pursue music because I love it and maybe someday this will take me somewhere extraordinary and unexpected. But I will also start to pursue my passions in other fields: humanitarian efforts, cultural exchange and discovery, and environmental concerns are all things that I have been passionate about my whole life, so perhaps now is the time to tap into that passion and try to find a career where I can have an impact on these elements of the world.

Being a musician, a bartender, a teacher, and a student of philosophy all have one main thing in common: the desire to alter the experiences of others in a positive and impactful way. I have always wanted to make others happy whether through my music, my service, or my educational approach to students, and this desire is going to continue to mold my approach to the world.


So for now I’m going to make a list of what I have to offer potential employers. This is a first draft and will continue to grow as I reflect on my experiences so far, but it has been an intellectual exercise that has helped me find peace with my current situation. I have been blessed to be given the opportunities in life that I have and it is time to recognize what I have to offer the world.

Here it is:

·      Minor in Philosophy
o   critical thinking and the ability to take complex texts and reduce them down to easily understandable, less complex increments
o   openness to different ideas especially ones that conflict with my own, to analyze and understand them in order to either agree or find specific elements with which to disagree
§  creative and flexible mentality: able to suspend my own beliefs for a period of time as I attempt to first understand the other ideology and second to incorporate elements that I agree with into my own and to have clear, explicit reasons for disagreeing with the other elements
o   writing and editing skills: the study of complex texts, unique philosophical discourses, and other elements of philosophy such as the study of logic all combine to give me a unique voice informed by many different styles
§  also the ability to edit comes from writing dozens of large scale papers that need to be cohesive and clear while simultaneously expounding upon often complex philosophical ideas
§  the ability to point out inconsistencies and lack of clarity in my own papers is directly applicable to the editing and revision of other texts
o   the drive to understand different cultures and the willingness to acknowledge that my own perspectives and beliefs may be flawed
§  in our global world we are consistently confronted with differing cultural beliefs and ideas and it is essential for us to be able to not only understand and listen to others, but really make an effort to understand their viewpoints and question our own
§  to avoid narcissistic and ignorant conceptions of the world I think it is necessary to be able to question ourselves as well as others
·      Major in Flute Performance
o   Studying music has many benefits in terms of creativity, teamwork, organization, time management, cooperation, communication, and the ability to take a large complex task and break it down into doable smaller increments
o   The self-discipline required to succeed in music, working for hours behind the scenes for one brief moment of acknowledgement in a recital/concert situation, is directly applicable to the type of work that one needs to do in different facets of life
§  having the ability to see the future benefits of the hard work your putting in now—often work isn’t instantly rewarding so one needs to be able to look to the future where the hard work being put in now will pay off
§  the individual self-discipline to hold yourself to an extremely high standard in the music world has obvious applications to ones work environment
·      the advanced musician can’t simply expect their teacher and colleagues to hold them to a higher musical standard, instead she needs to force herself to continue to work hard in order to obtain her goals.
o   Teamwork is essential for all facets of music performance, except for the occasional solo instrument/voice piece
§  The construction of an orchestra or large ensemble piece is really a unique and extraordinary social phenomenon: taking dozens of individually talented and focused musicians and molding them all to the pursuit of one specific interpretation and task, which many of them may not agree with or have personally sought after, is an interesting social phenomenon
·      we are trained to have our own musical interpretations, we all have different musical experiences and goals, and yet when we are in an ensemble setting we are not only able but also willing to set our personal inclinations aside for the work of the whole shows a level of teamwork and emotional maturity that isn’t often awarded to such individually focused people
·      this teamwork is also present on the small ensemble (2-5 players) level and requires clarity of communication and willingness to listen and understand the perspective of the other musicians
o   Passion. Musicians are extremely passionate about what they do and what they are pursuing- this passion can be applied to many different facets of life, not simply music, and makes a musician an excellent employee for organizations with causes that the musician can resonate with and feel strongly about
§  this might also be why I, as a musician, am loathe to enter a workplace that doesn’t have a mission that I believe in or agree with. Working for a bank or something of that nature does not appeal to me nearly as much as working for a humanitarian organization such as the UN or UNESCO.
o   Education! As a student of music I have been effectively studying how to educate future generations of musicians while also studying music as a student myself. Music pedagogy courses, understanding creativity, and writing my Plan B paper for my masters degree on education and the ways in which to teach young students of flute have all enabled me to understand the complexities of music education
·      Working in customer service
o   I have spent the last 8 years of my life in the food service industry, thanks to my wonderful family and the purchase of a resort and the construction of a bar and restaurant. This means I have been in a semi-public eye for most of my life and have had to represent the family business in front of customers and strangers
o   Working as a cook, server, and bartender instills customer service skills of epic proportions: one must do the best that one can do in order to keep the customer happy and satisfied.
§  not only do we have to, but after so many years in the industry, we want to. Seeing a customer satisfied, making sure that they are happier when they leave than when they arrive, and doing your best to have a positive impact on the lives of strangers are all personal characteristics that are cultivated in the food service industry
o   Multi-tasking! One simply does not cut it as a server/bartender or as a cook without the ability to multi-task.
§  A cook needs to understand how different foods cook in different ways and balance out the timing, assembly, and presentation of many different meals in order to have them reach the customer at the same time and in a satisfying way
§  A server needs to be able to gauge each customer and be able to anticipate who will need something at certain times. The efficient server will make herself available when the customer needs her but leave him alone when he doesn’t need anything. When balancing multiple different tables at once this requires complex multi-tasking abilities: understanding who exactly was given what at what time from each table and making sure that each table has exactly what they needs is a complex process

§  A bartender often needs to balance all of these things, making sure each customer has the drink they want, mixing it to their specifications and to a high quality, being aware of all of the customers present as well as the new ones that come in. There is nothing worse than a bartender who is unaware of her surroundings and who doesn’t acknowledge you when you are a new customer at the bar: effective bartenders are extremely aware of their surroundings and capable of balancing the needs of everyone present.

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