Category Archives: the business

you are not alone

never underestimate the importance of community.

i just came back from a fabulous talk by my professor George Lewis (it was Columbia University’s University Lecture, which one professor gives every year) and it was great but what was even more of a highlight for me was meeting people that i had yet to meet before. a whole community of african-american colleagues was right there, waiting to be found. they were all incredibly nice, interesting and welcoming. but the thing that struck me the most was the lack of feeling within myself that this community was forced. for the first time in, possibly, my entire life (most assuredly my scholarly one) i don’t feel alone. but i didn’t feel alone when i arrived. Columbia felt like the perfect environment for me, one in which i was not constantly reminded of my otherness (a feeling that was magnified by my time at Peabody).

when i talk to people about what i do, i brace myself for the looks that accompany “you study opera/British music/etc.?” as if i should be doing something else, as if they expect me to do something else. that is not encouraging but it’s nothing new. tonight, i spoke about my interests with a little more confidence, as if i had no fear of being judged. when i was home this weekend, i had a talk with my young cousin who is a freshman at the University of Virginia. she expressed to me all of these feelings, feelings i’ve known for years. it was hard to see what i’ve gone through happening to her, that feeling of loneliness and sadness at the fact she had no one with whom to relate. i hope that i was able to reassure her that she, too, has a community. a family filled with strong, intelligent, black women who are there to help her when it gets rough.

as President Bollinger said tonight, the academic life is a lonely one. and more so, it’s a life that is difficult to describe to those who are not a party to it. couple that with the very plain fact that it is not the most diverse and that this brings about its own sets of challenges makes it even more difficult for several of us. and that is why, in the end, what matters most is community.


who are the musicologists, anyway?

(before i begin, just a note of apologies for my absence. the past couple of months have been, well…that’s a story for another blog.)

this entry has been long in the making because several things have come up to influence how i feel about this topic. a few months ago in one of my seminars, the question of musicology vs music came up. i noted how we as musicologists are so quick to judge others from other disciplines who write on musical/musicological topics. but on that same note, we also judge musicologists who value their musicianship. so the question is, who are the musicologists?

i’ve never been a fan of that “those who can’t do, teach” adage. i can do and quite well. and my many encounters with musicologists have made it clear that in order for me to have turned to musicology, i must have failed at my musicmaking career. is this some way of passing on past failures? i know many musicologists who are active in their musicmaking and i genuinely feel it makes them the better for it. some would say that there are many reasons for this somewhat irrevocable split. if you read Suzanne Cusick’s article in Rethinking Music, it comes from the battle between the academic and male musicology and the feminine act of musicmaking. i definitely give this idea some credence. but is that all? for some reason, i believe it goes deeper than that. i fear it might be a real hatred of what performing is or is made out to be.

the other day i had a revelation. yes, there is something very physical about performing but there’s something else. your blood is pumping, there’s sweat on your brow (if you’re doing it right) and you’re filled with endorphins. and the best part is the connection your brain feels with your entire person. there’s a wholeness that comes from practicing and performing that is hard to find anywhere else. i realized that my brain has felt disconnected from the rest of my body. uncovering secrets, relating facts, proposing topics are all amazing feelings but not quite like the rush playing provides. how could anyone be against that?

somewhere and somehow, we need to find away to connect the two divided halves of ourself. we need to listen to music in our seminars (because honestly, how can we question and analyze if we don’t listen?) and try to not denigrate our colleagues. believe it or not, insight can come from the strangest places and it’s time for us to accept that. this may be a futile argument but i, if anything, am convinced that in order for me to be the best musicologist, nay, musician that i can be that i must keep cranking out those Bach suites and Vivaldi sonatas while reading manuscripts and writing abstracts. and if i fail, then i fail but i’m not too concerned about that.


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with him, it’s all or nothing

i know i’ve been noticeably absent…immediately after i graduated i was taken up with the task of preparing for my first academic conference as a speaker. two weeks ago, i gave a paper at the Britten in Context conference at Liverpool Hope University. this has become, already in such a short time, a momentous event in my life. as RG said to me, it’s great to have these experiences that remind us of the reasons that we do what we do.

maybe i’ll talk about the conference later, maybe not. right now, this is a good place to be.


how i gave up and learned to love powerpoint

(and keynote)

i find it strange that someone like myself who has been so involved with the visual arts for so many years, especially as a medium of conveying scholarly information, would be so against powerpoint. but here i am, trying to understand how to make this thing fit in my career.

and believe me, i will have to.

the last few colloquia we’ve had have hinged on powerpoint and even when the presentation was about archival research at the Bach-Archiv with Dr. Michael Maul, i still thought, “all these presentations make me think of is sixth freaking grade.” i mean let’s face it, in its infancy, MS Powerpoint was filled with star wipes, flying bullets and clipart. and i was young and impressionable, determined to make up my mind about my aesthetic beliefs right then and there. the result? no powerpoint. and to this day i’ve hated it in in presentations, at conferences, basically at every turn.

who decided that the only way to disseminate mass information to a crowd was through a slide show? i mean, i acknowledge its efficacy but can’t we have something a little more interesting? pantomime? interpretive dance? anything?! i’m in the process of working on my paper for a conference i’ll be speaking at in june and i dread the fact that i must use powerpoint (Mac’s Keynote, respectively) to play things and show things — the nature of my paper is very visual. and you better believe that it will be the most ingenious presentation ever given.

or maybe it’ll have a star wipe. sigh.

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it’s a rich man’s world

so in my post money, money, money, money, i talked about the financial disparity between musicians of my generation and that of those before us. but there was another part of it that had been on my mind that caused me just as much grief. just how much of a part does money play in getting a good education, or the right one?

here are my experiences and takes on money and higher education:
after the folderol of auditioning for Master’s programs, i sat and waited for the eventual rejections and acceptances. at the end of the day i had three acceptances, one from the Hartt School (University of Hartford), one from Peabody and one from Northwestern. to my parents, the choice was easy: i was to go to Peabody, regardless of the fact that Peabody gave me no money. for me, who has always been focused on finance, it was not so simple. Hartt offered to pay 90% of my tuition (it would have been 100% had i been accepted into their 20/20 program, something i’m still a little bitter about), a bassoon teaching assistantship and a stipend right there on the spot. sounds pretty good, no? that’s a hard set of numbers to turn down, especially considering the huge difference in tuition between Hartt and Peabody (several thousands of dollars). but i knew, deep down, that Hartt wasn’t the school for me. that helped in making the decision but you better believe i agonized over that amount of money.

three years later, i can’t imagine what my life would have been like had i not gone to Peabody and i’m glad that i don’t have to think about it…at all. in the midst of this Ph.D. nonsense, one of my professors told me that “i shouldn’t pick a school based on the money”. had this statement been made when i was finishing my Bachelor’s degree then, yeah, sure but let’s face it. i would be foolish to not think about money at this state in my life. luckily for me, the program into which i’ve been accepted is right for me and the money just happens to be a VERY happy bonus.

so at what point do we take money into consideration? every student does as the price of higher education steadily rises. i’d like to look at it as an acknowledgement of one’s abilities but not to take it personally when a school doesn’t offer you money. when i entered Peabody in 2007, i came in with another Master’s bassoonist student as well as one GPD and one DMA. that’s a lot of graduate bassoonists. and Peabody made it up to me…eventually. and though i was shocked when i recently received my “you’re leaving Peabody, here’s the ridiculous amount of money that you owe” letter, i’ve come to terms with it.

it’s tough to think about families who have to face these decisions where money is the only thing on which they have to go. the world of academia leaves very little option for many. my parents made it clear that they would do everything possible to support me in my education because it mattered that much but not everyone is so lucky. and let’s be clear, the last eight years have been a real struggle for me but i was able to make it through. no one should have to make a less than satisfactory decision because they don’t have the money to go where they would like. we need to educate our students to the world of scholarships, fellowships and responsible lending/borrowing. but sometimes, i just wish America would just man up and make all public institutions free.

a girl can dream, can’t she?

how the iPhone has made me a better musician

(and student, and teacher, etc.)

so those of you who know me know that i am obsessed with my iphone. i won’t lie, i can’t, it is a fabulous piece of machinery. and while i love it for all of the ridiculously goofy things it can do (and that whole phone business) i’ve tried to incorporate it into my life as fully as possible. now considering that i am a full time musician, student, graduate assistant and teacher, those are the things that need the most help. so how do i do it?

imani’s favorite, can’t live without iphone apps:
so of course, i couldn’t work without the first page apps from Apple: Safari, Calendar (i’ll talk more about this in a sec), Camera, Weather, Maps, Calculator, Settings and Contacts. these are all on my first page and are opened pretty much every day. in my dock i have iPod, Phone, Messages and Mail (which at last count has six email accounts in it). the one probably used the most would be Calendar because if i don’t schedule everything very carefully, well…CRASH! i am using MobileMe right now which i love mainly for the calendar sync. I have a MacBook, an iMac and my iPhone all with calendars on them. syncing between the three is vital.

i am always on the hunt for great music apps which, i think, are few and far between. but the ones i have, i have totally embraced. this includes stuff for performing, practicing, listening and music reference.

  • Tempo is possibly the best metronome i have ever seen. it has a beautiful interface and is, possibly, more functional than my other metronomes. it goes up to 300 bpm, you can choose from a variety of time signatures (unfortunately only meters of 4 and 8 but if you want something like 5/2 or 8/16 just do the math), the accent can be placed on any beat and the beat can be subdivided into eighths, triplets and sixteenths. it also has a visual element (it flashes) which you can remove. my favorite part came with the new update. you can add specific tempi to a setlist. so if you’re working on multiple pieces you can save each one and then come back to them without having to reset the metronome. it has pretty much replaced my lovely little Korg and now that i have multiple instruments, i can keep one in one case and just carry my iPhone. i always have a metronome.
  • all the same can be said for Cleartune, a beautiful chromatic tuner. it has a great interface, works extremely well (i use it with my baroque bassoon), the calibration can be changed (i keep it always on A4 = 415.0) and you can change the temperament! as i enter into the world of early music, i have found this extremely handy. i keep my other tuner in my modern bassoon case, set to A4 = 440 and i never have to worry about re-calibrating.
  • Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music pretty self explanatory, the dictionary boiled down into app form. while i’m waiting for a much more comprehensive dictionary (i’m looking at you Grove! you got my email!) this is definitely worth it. i, myself, have the Oxford in book form and pretty much rely on that but i have played on this app and it’s easy, well designed and has all of the terminology any student might need.
  • Reverse Chord Finder a beautifully designed handy little chord dictionary that allows you to play the chords on the piano and then gives you a list of chord names with inversions, etc
  • Composer of the Day a cute little app put together by the folks at Wittenberg University with, you guessed it, info on composers each day! it includes audio samples, a short little bio and not as well known composers.
  • Ghostly Discovery and now for something completely different. i found Ghostly in an App Store “music discovery” list and figured i’d try it out. i pretty much use it every day at this point. it creates a playlist based on variables that you enter (laid back, agressive, etc. then followed by tempo) from their catalogue. so no, it’s not all of the music in the world, but the music on their label is diverse, interesting and now takes up a big chunk of my recently played playlist (as i bought three albums from them in the first week) find some new music, it’s good for you!

now these are a mix of music things and general things, stuff to help organize your life and make teaching lesson plans just a little bit easier.

  • Here, File, File! this app just hit the App Store and i am totally in love. HFF lets you view your computer’s files remotely from anywhere, not just on your local network. the interface is GORGEOUS (the best is your computer sits on a desk with your current wallpaper), it’s intuitive and allows you to look at (and play) all of your files. by favorite-ing them, you can go right to files and folders directly and the search is clean. let me give you an example of when i could have really used HFF: last fall in the Faustus class, RG asked me if i had a recording of Mahler 9 on my iPhone. i, of course, did not. but had i HFF, i would have connected to my iMac (also known as my giant repository of music) and we would have been set to listen to the last movement, and cry. a fabulous way of accessing all of your files and necessary if you have more than one computer. may need a little technical assistance setting up, depending on your router but totally doable. get it now while it’s 30% off at $6.99!
  • Dropbox the same can be said for Dropbox — i use Dropbox and HFF in completely different ways and for some people, all they may need is cloud storage. well i find Dropbox to be the best, especially when it comes to sharing files. during my intersession class, i created a Public folder with all of my videos, articles, etc that my class was able to access (since i did not have access to WebCT) and it was much easier than printing out everything.
  • iTranslate a universal translator that really translates! there is the free version and then iTranslate Pro, the difference between them being no ads, landscape mode and a favorite phrase list but both versions have text-to-speech add ons (which i don’t use but look good). i have used iTranslate for my German translation work and it has done quite well, having words that some of my dictionaries don’t have. if you don’t mind ads, just get the free version, they’re pretty unobtrusive. also, if you turn on the keyboard for the corresponding language (Settings –> International –> Keyboards), the iPhone will do Auto-Correct in that language (with corresponding diacriticals!)
  • Google/Inquisitor both really great search engines (Inquisitor is from Yahoo!), Google has a voice search option that works very well. both search engines search through all available engines and have very clean, useable interfaces.
  • 2Do this app has earned a permanent spot on my first page. a checklist app with more than checklists, i use this to organize all assignments for classes as well as my everyday tasks that need to be accomplished. it is full powered, again, with a beautiful interface and syncs with iCal (thankfully! i lost everything on my iPhone but the 2do backup was there & ready) while there is a free version that works if you have minimal task needs, i strongly recommend the full version that comes with unlimited groups/tabs and push notifications.
  • Things for those of you with more intense GTD needs, there’s nothing better than Things. i think the screencast explains it better than i ever could but i couldn’t live without it. granted both the iPhone app and desktop app are pricey ($10, $49.95 respectively) one could do with just the iPhone app if necessary. the integration between the apps and iCal, however, make it well worth having both.

other apps that i love include WorldCat, Pastebot, Simplenote, and Wikipanion. keeping everything on all of my computers synced and having access to everything keeps me prepared for, well, anything. could i get along without all of this? absolutely! i still rely on my handy Moleskine notebook. but if the technology is out there, why not take advantage of it? i mean, as spacey as i tend to be in conjunction with my intense OCD, i need it.

please list any apps that you think fit into these categories or that you just love!

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an introduction.

i’ve been blogging for a long time, about various things, but a professor of mine suggested that i start blogging about the process i’ve been going through recently — that of writing my master’s thesis, applying to Ph.D. programs, teaching, etc. 

so here it is, take it as you will, and enjoy.

 (Adrian Leverkühn gives it two thumbs up.)