I can't believe it! I just graduated with my Bachelor's degree in Music Performance from Western Carolina University. I could not have done it without the amazing support of the people in and around the School of Music.
Caroline Long took these amazing graduation pictures of me around WCU's campus.
I wrote individual notes to most of these people with more heartfelt things than what I'm going to say here. But I want to thank these wonderful humans again.
Dr. Adam Groh
For always supporting my dreams, even if it meant running you over occasionally as I ran around from project to project. For introducing me to the wonderfully diverse community that surrounds us. For listening to me play glockenspiel for a year without too many complaints. For encouraging me in my adventure of finding the perfect school to pursue my Masters. And for so much more.
Dr. Diana Loomer
For introducing me to the world of Steel Pan, an essential for my Masters studies. For introducing me to the possibilities of Melodic Timpani playing - an instrument I refused to play until you opened my eyes to the possibilities. For telling me about the Womxn in Percussion facebook group that has changed my perception of what kind of percussionists can be and will be successful. And so much more.
Dr. Christina Reitz
For teaching me that Music History is not just Cis-White men but is actually beautifully diverse from race to sexuality to gender identity to all kinds of different things. For helping me get a job as a student tutor and allowing me to ramble for hours to your glassy-eyed non-major students about protest music/minimalism/and so many other topics they could care less about. For encouraging my brief fling with composing. And so much more.
All other faculty throughout my four years in Cullowhee that have changed my life.
Most importantly thank you to the percussion studio that I have had the pleasure to get to know for four years. Countless people have come and gone, each leaving an impact on me and my career.
To the six womxn and female-presenting individuals who were in the studio during this past year. You all are powerful. You all are beautiful. You defy the stereotype of who can be a successful percussionist every day. I could not be more proud or thankful to be fighting the patriarchy alongside a better group of humans.
NCUR and RASC
I not only will be presenting my research on the Electronic Music of Steve Reich at NCUR in a few weeks, but I also recorded two presentations for Western Carolina University's Research and Scholarship Conference (RASC). This is a virtual conference where presenters can discuss any topic they wish to. I wanted the opportunity to research something that I had looked at briefly last semester: The Shining and the two powerful women behind its score. I did a deep dive into the lives of Carlos and Elkind-Tourre and their work with Kubrick on the movie. I ended up with a lot of information that got distilled into a 5 minute video.
Here is a link to WCU's website if you want to view the presentations by other researchers: https://affiliate.wcu.edu/rasc/
I highly recommend checking out Kendall Rhymer's research on Bata Drumming!!
Electronic Music of Reich
Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind-Tourre, and The Shining
Music In the American Culture
I also had the wonderful opportunity to fill in for Dr. Christina Reitz while she was presenting at a conference. While she was away, I taught a section of each of her Music in the American Culture classes during their protest unit. We discussed Bob Dylan, We Shall Overcome and the Civil Rights Movement, Childish Gambino's This is America, Michael Gould's A World Without Ice and a piece that I put together for a scholarship.
Both classes had wonderful insight into what they would protest, why they believe that people protest, and what it means to be human. I'll be sure to include some of the ideas from this discussion when I make a video about this or when I share the slides.
I am happy to announce that I have been chosen to present my research from last semester on the Electronic Music of Steve Reich at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research 2021. This year the conference will be virtual and I can't think of a more appropriate place to be presenting Reich's electronic music!
Here is a link to my essay and the powerpoint presentation that I used to present last semester. If anyone has any questions or wants to talk about my research I am more than happy to chat!
(The paper can be found at the bottom of the Squires tab of my website under research and compositions).
Things get kind of crazy for anyone involved in the music education system around this time of year. That’s right, it’s audition season. And with audition comes anxiety, questions about your ability, and a hundred other things. Not to mention the fact that every audition has its own rule and regulations that you have to follow. Whether auditioning for a band or for college there is a lot that goes into it, but I have some tips, tricks, and thoughts regarding the audition process.
I believe that I present myself as a better musician when the audition is face to face (rather than a blind audition). I guess this stems from the fact that with a face-to-face audition there is a human connection. In other words, I can see the people who hold my fate in their hands. There is also this idea in the back of my mind that if the judge, or person I am auditioning for, will see that I look professional and will automatically think higher of me than if I came in in sweat pants and a tee. There’s also the fact that I was raised in a household where you dressed professionally for something important such as auditions. For most everyone else that I talk to blind auditions are easier. Some people say they are easier because you can’t see the judge and their involuntary reactions to what you are doing and the fact that you are “by yourself, almost as if your are just practicing”. The one thing that I think is great about a blind audition is the fact that the judge doesn’t know who you are – they have no pre-existing biases before they hear you. You enter into an even playing field.
Just like anyone else who is auditioning, I have a routine that I go through as I prepare for the big audition. Leading up to any audition I try to put in a couple hours of practice. I practice and practice until I know the piece inside and out. This is what everyone tells you to do and it is the best strategy you can used to be prepared for an audition. The morning of the audition comes and I become nervous, so nervous that I won’t eat anything for breakfast without feeling sick. I put all these emotions aside and force myself through the motions that I have done at least once a year since 7th grade. I dress professionally. I put on nice earrings, my favorite necklace, and a comfortable shoes that give me a little bit of a height boost. After this I would take deep breaths and try to make myself eat, knowing nothing would be more embarrassing than my stomach growling in the middle of an audition. From there I would make sure I have all the right equipment and music. If there is a practice room nearby I will run through something that I’m nervous about (usually scales and rudiments).
Have something with you that gives you confidence – lucky mallets/sticks, something that reminds you of your abilities, a necklace from you favorite band.
Play something to boost your confidence.
Once I’m outside the room waiting to audition I begin freaking out and shaking with nerves. To help combat this I force myself to do something that makes me nervous every day, because I know how to combat those nerves. I talk to the other people who are auditioning. I’ve made a lot of friends, at least friends for a few minutes, because I put myself in uncomfortable positions. I remember cracking jokes, that I am sure were not funny except for the fact that we were all nervous. I remember when I auditioned here at Western Carolina University I met someone that I would grow close to. Of course I didn’t know that at the time but one of the girls in the percussion studio and I bonded that day over someone I had met a few years before in passing. Now that girl and I are close friends.
Battle the nerves how you know to.
Always arrive at least one person ahead of you.
I arrive at the room early and wait outside ready to go in and give the best that I can give. Sometimes the judges are running faster than the schedule says, sometimes someone misses their time, and sometimes the judges are running behind. I know that I know the music. I have attempted to cure my nerves. I’m ready. And then I enter the room and who knows how I actually do. I come out of the room feeling as if I’m the worst musician to ever set foot on planet earth – every single time. When I feel confident that I did well, I begin to worry, and return to thinking I’m a terrible musician. But I have come to learn that playing well is not the only thing that matters. I came into my college audition with all my music learned, my major scales, rudiments, and with the ability to sight-read. That’s all fantastic. But I also came in with some other things that I am proud to say I had. I had an amazing, tear-jerking recommendation letter. I had a thank you card thanking the Director of Percussion Studies for allowing me to take time out of his day. But the most important thing that I had was the ability to tell my judges that I was self-taught and hard working. Even if I had had an instructor or someone to teach me and prepare me for what learning actual music was I would still be able to tell the Director that I was (and still am) hardworking. I’m not afraid to “get down and dirty” – to lock myself in a practice room until I’m satisfied with my ability. From there I can only hope that the judges see the effort I have put in toward my goal.
Do your best.
Have a recommendation letter. Don't be afraid to pull some heart-strings.
Be honest. Be yourself.
The last thing I want to talk about is the actual judging. This year (2019) I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity that most music major college seniors want to get. I was given the opportunity to judge. I was given the opportunity to experience the opposite side of the event that I had participated in for more than five years. Every year the Western region of North Carolina hosts an All District Band Audition. The highest scoring students who audition are given the opportunity to participate in a band here on Western’s campus and play with some of the best musicians/clinicians from the area. Before college I had auditioned on Snare, Timpani, and Mallets every year (except for one) since my 7th grade band class. I was fortunate enough to make the band in 8th and 12th grade. My senior year I did well enough and scored high enough to be able to audition for All State. All State is where every student from across the state gets to compete to make a state band. I didn’t make the state band but it was a great experience. So when I went off to college I figured my chances of ever being near All District auditions were over. They were, until I got a phone call asking me to judge.
Life’s ironic, so I was placed as a judge in the 11-12 Upper High School Snare audition room. Of course this was the room I felt the least comfortable judging in. But it’s good to stretch your abilities so I was ready for the challenge. And I enjoyed the challenge that was presented to me. This year the way people auditioned was changed. When I auditioned on snare you had to play an etude, sight read, and play four different rudiments that the judges pre-assigned. This year the students had to play a snare etude, sight read, and play a snare/triangle etude. This was an amazing change because when you show up on Western’s campus that first day for the clinic, if you make the band, odds are you will play snare on one piece and some accessory instrument on all the other pieces, so that everyone has a chance on snare.
Having been on the other side of the auditions I had sympathy for the kids who came in shaking or the kid who ran in panting because they had just come from another audition across the high school’s campus. I also had standards. Some kids came in looking cocky and gave my fellow judge and I attitude. Others came in and were polite. Some came in prepared with their own music marked up and their own instruments. Others were not allowed into the audition room until they found a triangle and beater to borrow.
Don’t be cocky or have an attitude. You’re not better than anyone else and if you come in with an attitude, you have already set your bar lower than the people who come in and are polite.
All that to say that the judges are human as are those who are auditioning. Judges have to set aside biases, friendships, professional relationships, as well as anything from their personal lives in order to just judges someone’s musicality and ability. We set aside everything that could possibly get in the way of us judging you accurately and fairly because we wish every single one of you could make the band, get into the school, and be successful. We want you to succeed.
It was interesting being on that side of the table, and I can’t wait to do it again. I also can’t wait to take what I learned from all my auditions and teach my future students.
In schools today, the average student has to take a bubble test in almost every subject that is taught. Math, Science, History, and Math all have End of Grade/Course exams. At least that is how testing started. Prior to the 1980’s the government was hands off. In 1983 a publication was released called A Nation at Risk saying that the United States was falling behind the rest of the world in how it was educating its students. This prompted President Reagan to start the National Commission on Excellence in Education. From here Bush Sr, Clinton, Bush Jr, and Obama have presented their own plans on education. But it wasn’t until 2002 and the No Child Left Behind Act was passed that testing turned into a mandatory thing in every school in almost every subject.
I remember the day were I entered Third grade and was told that we would be having a cumulative exam on everything we had covered over the course of the year in English and Math. As a kid who struggled with math and thrived in English, I had mixed emotions. That was the beginning. As a child under No Child Left Behind, slowly the testing moved from just being two courses that were tested to every class being tested. Even classes where the subject material is subjective, such as Music, Art, and PE were tested.
If you think about it, the average person spends anywhere between _16,000 and 17,000 hours of their life in school. Schools, at least the ones I have attended, have around 180 school days per year. I was in school from Kindergarten to my senior year. That’s 13 years of schooling. 180 time 13 is 2,340 school days. With each school day being about 7 hours, that’s 7 time 2,340. That adds up to 16,380 hours or 2 full years (no sleeping, no eating - just learning) spent in the classroom prior to coming to college. That is a lot of time spent inside of different classrooms for me to feel like I didn’t learn much.
Do you know why I don’t think I learned much? I believe it’s because I was “taught to the test”. What do you mean by “taught to the test”? I mean that instead of teachers being able to elaborate on what they are supposed to teach, they have to speed through the material in order for us to pass the exam. I was an honors kid, so you would think that I would be able to learn at a faster pace and learn more. But because teachers stressed the test, and almost nothing else, I was forced to swim or drown. I was forced to learn the material well enough to be able to retain it for when I needed it on the test. If I had chosen to go more in depth in any my studies I might miss something more broadly that I should be learning for the test.
This is important in my own future classroom because I want my students to learn and dive deeper into their studies rather than just memorize something for the test. The nice thing about teaching music is that I don't have to test as often, and I get to create my own test, as my fellow educators, but I still have to test my students. The unfortunate thing about testing in music is that it is all subjective - there is very little that is set in stone, instead its other people's opinions.
For more on the subject of testing students:
For a class assignment we had to find a diversity event that would help us explore other cultures and the people that are a part of that. I had a hard time trying to find a diversity event that I could go to and have time to reflect on because of my busy schedule at Western. I was looking into events that I would be able to attend and came across some posters advertising The Drag Show. I didn’t really think much of it until I realized that it would help me experience a new culture that I had not been around. Once I chose this event, I started to get excited about going. Now that I've gone and had time to reflect on it, I'm really glad that I decided to go to this event and experience a new culture. I had watched Drag before on TV but I had never talked to a King or Queen or even been to a Show in person, so the whole event was new to me. I didn't realize until halfway through the show just how unprepared I was for what was going to happen. (explain the event and about Kings and Queens - then keep editing the rest of it)
The thing that stood out to me was the language that was used by the Drag Queens and Kings. I expected some cursing, after all it is a college campus and the posters said there would be explicit content, but I was not prepared for what happened. The two words/phrases that caught me off guard were the performers referring to themselves as bitches and hoes. I believe that these are perfectly fine things for you to use when referring to yourself (because its your body and you can do what you want with it as long as it doesn’t affect someone else), but I do not believe that it is appropriate to refer to others as bitches or hoes. I also don’t believe that those are appropriate words for men to use about women, so it was hard for me to listen to the Drag Queens and Kings refer to others in that way. All the Drag Queens referred to themselves as she/her, so they were women referring to themselves as those words. But knowing they are men under their female persona conflicts with my belief that those are words that only women should use. I feel this way because I've only ever heard men use those words in derogatory ways, especially when catcalling a woman. That is not to say that women can't use it in a derogatory way, but I've heard it more often from men. It was nice, however, to hear these kinds of things and have it explained to me that it is part of the culture. To hear the Kings and Queens explain it as a sign of acceptance into the culture.
Looking back on my experience I realize that this event was the best one I could've chosen that would relate to my future career as a teacher. As a straight white woman who has never contemplated doing something like drag, I was interested in pushing my boundaries. I have seen drag before and some of my best friends are gay, so interacting with people who are different from me isn’t new to me. But being in a room surrounded by this many people from the LGBT+ community and this many people in their different personas was a new eye-opening experience. Through this event I am more aware of the correct terms to refer to people of drag. Before this I had never heard of a hyper-drag, but now I know that that is where a woman dresses in drag as a woman. Being more aware of the people who are in different communities than I am and being aware of the terms that are appropriate to use will help me be an educator that can relate and communicate with my students more effectively. Experiencing new things outside my own experiences in the future will continue to make me a better, more accepting, educator. Through observing other teachers I have learned that it is important to do things, such as go to a Drag Show, in order to push my boundaries so that I can have a diverse class and cater to every student that I may have. For example, a student in today's society may choose to be referred to as a he/him even if they look like a female student. It reminded me I need to be open to new things and learning about other people.
Shea Coolie Image Source : https://twitter.com/sheacoulee
"RuPaul's Drag Race" Cast Explains The History of Drag Culture | Allure. (2018, February 08). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/MHlE3RIkRi0
What is Red4EdNC?
Red4EdNC is a movement started for teachers by teachers in our state. Teachers have created a movement to shape future legislation and future classrooms in order to better education future generations by fighting for their owns rights to be protected in the process of seeking a better education system.
As of July, 2018 the Red4EdNC advisory Board and Board of Directors have released a Declaration in defense of North Carolina’s Schoolchildren in order to bring to light what teachers have to go through and how it affects the children they teach.
“Over the course of seven years a hostility to the premise, the constitutional promise, and the provision of a high-quality public education for all, a decent respect to the citizens of that state requires a comprehensive list of the injustices that supermajority has inflicted upon its children and its teacher corps, as well as coherent vision for restoring that state to its former prominence as a leader in public education.”
In other words teachers have decided that the State has no upheld its promises to the students to provide high-quality education for all while having respect for those teaching. This is from the introduction to the Declaration. The first paragraph ends with something profound:
“We take as our standard, North Carolina’s proud motto: ‘Esse quam videri —To be rather than to seem.’”
To be rather than to seem, meaning that teachers want to state to not just look good statistically or be praised for its education system, but they want the praise and statistics to be backed by fact. They want their education system to mean something not just look like its doing okay.
A (not so) Brief History of Public Schools in NC
Public Schools have been around in one form or another since the settlers first came to America. In the beginning education came from the churches and private tutors. If your parent was rich, mainly plantation owners, you could be sent to England to be educated. If you could not go to a church run school or pay to be educated then you remained uneducated until the State’s Constitution was adopted in 1776. The State was now required to provide education (which people still had to pay for). By 1800 around 40 academies had been created for white males in NC.
In 1817, Archibald Murphey began a campaign for a State funded public education system. His campaigns lead the state to pay one-third of the expenses for 10 academies. Through his campaign, the State established a Literary Fund. This later became part of the State Board of Education, which passed The Education Act of 1839. The Act established the idea of financial support coming from both State and local funds. Progress was slow at first but by 1852 Calvin Wiley was appointed Superintendent of Common Schools and the State rose to the top in terms of school system by the time the Civil War broke out.
Fast forward to after the War and the Constitution of 1868. With the State in turmoil after the War, North Carolina adopted a new state constitution. This new constitution had a strong view on public education – a free public school from age six to twenty-one. It also allowed the Superintendent of Public Instruction to be elected by the people for a four-year term. As well as a four month (at least) school year, an education fund, and a State Board of Education. This went into effect in 1869.
With the election of Charles B Aycock into the position of Governor in the early years of the 20th century, an educational renaissance occurred. High schools were built in rural areas, funding was rethought and more money was out in place for schools, and the Compulsory Attendance Act was passed meaning kids had to attend school during at least four months of the year from age 8-12. Everything was progressing nicely until the Great Depression hit and schools were forced to close for lack of funds.
As the US entered the 1940’s, NC saw improvements in the schools. So much improvement that the 12th grade was added to high school and the school year was extended from 6 to 8 months. And with the Civil Rights movement came integration and better schooling/support for all students. Improvements to the education system continued through the 1970’s and into the end of the 20th century. With the start of a new century came new Presidents – each with their own plan as to what should be done with the education system across the nation.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s North Carolina set standards as to what should be taught across the State. They started making progress and bettering the education system by adding funding and creating Boards to direct how the education system was run. Then in 2008 the Economic Recession hit the nation, impacting education the most (in my opinion). Thus began the problems that Red4Ed is attempting to address.
In the Declaration that Red4EdNC presented they list some of the issues that the education system has. Below are just a few from that list:
Restorative Actions suggested by Red4Ed:
I present all this information to show that the North Carolina Education System has seen its share of setbacks, but it has always risen back to a higher standing. So why are we dismissing teachers demands for a better education system? If we can fix our education system every time that it has faced a setback, why can’t we fix it now?
For more information and other teachers thoughts click here.
Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.red4ednc.com/blog
Excerpted declaration with signatures and districts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/386962811/excerpted-declaration-with-signatures-and-districts?secret_password=ZvCk5DEskR3SwAxcDUEB#fullscreen&from_embed
Red4EdNC. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.red4ednc.com/
The History of Education in North Carolina, Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED369713.pdf, Accessed on November 29, 2018.
I recently listened to and read a podcast about desegregating our schools entitled The Problem We All Live With. The podcast caused me to stop and think about whether desegregation was actually successful or if our nation just swept the changes under the rug.
Nikole Hannah-Jones looks into what will really help our nation’s education system become better. She believes that integration and desegregation is the key to improving our education system overall. This idea shocked me because I’ve always been under the assumption that we did a decent job desegregating during the Civil Rights Movement. Jones talks about how white students, the majority at my school, have better schools because they have better funding and usually come from a family above the poverty line.
I enjoy the fact that first thing that you see as you start the podcast is the Norman Rockwell painting by the same name as the podcast. This painting is important to this podcast because it is a depiction of the Ruby Bridges going to a white school/desegregating schools. The painting is titled The Problem That We All Live With. This painting represents the segregation and separation of the different races during the Civil Rights movement, but it doesn’t just pertain to that era. The painting is relevant to today and the segregation that is seen in today’s school system. Now every time I think about the school system I’ll think of the painting and its importance.
This podcast was an eye opener when it comes to society and its treatment of the different types of people. Coming from a small town where there are only two high schools and is mainly made up of white families it’s hard to imagine a school with a lot of diversity, but going to school at Western, I feel like there is a lot of diversity. With that said, I could never imagine doing what Francis Howell did. The parents present some legitimate concerns such as class size, but it was all undermined by the fact that they were refusing to talk about race and confront the real issue. The parents are willing to stand there and shout into mics about how the issue has nothing to do with race when everyone knows that is the only real issue.
Maybe I’m not worried about race and integration because my parents raised me to appreciate the differences that everyone brings and how they benefit society as a whole. Listening to Marea talk about the meeting makes me feel disgusting. I wish that Marea’s mother had gone to the mic to talk about how the students from Normandy “could be the doctor that saves one of their lives”. And then Marea went to school and the students and teachers accepted her, which is a great way to show how our school system contrasts/clashes within itself.
Now that I know that race and integration is still a problem in today’s school system, the question becomes what do I do with this knowledge and the reality of this knowledge. When you are aware of what is happening in the school systems is when you can start making a difference. Coming from the kind of school system that I went through I know, now, how important it is for there to be a very diverse setting in schools. I hope that as a teacher I will be able to help my school system see the errors of their ways if we provide the kind of education system that Normandy has. I hope that if I find a job in a school system like what Francis Howell has become, that I can continue to help my school get better when it comes to segregation and failing students. After listening to the podcast, I'm willing to do almost anything to help our students integrate and become more diverse.
I was wary about the topic of segregation and its role in the present time, but the more Nikole Hannah-Jones talked, the more what she was saying made sense. The idea that our schools are still segregated was a shock to me. I may not have come from a very diverse school but through this podcast and our discussion I now have a better understanding of what I need to do as a future educator to continue to diversify our education system.
Here is the link to listen to the podcast and some links to read further into it desegregation and its impact on school systems:
A Performer with a passion for Percussion.
Current News and Things I Find Interesting
On this Blog you will find 'not-so current' percussion topics that I think are important, as well as things that I find interesting and helpful. Maybe some education things will creep in?