Much to my surprise, life in choral music publishing is full of things that keep me busy on any given day in the office. In my day-to-day work, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with the very talented composers and editors in the Fred Bock Publishing family. I learn so much from these people every day.
I consider it a blessing to be gaining this experience at such a young age. Preparing myself for a future in music has proven to be no small task. Part of that preparation is, of course, my education. For the last two years, I have studied music at Glendale Community College. Music education at a community college is a very generalized education. My instrument is the voice, so my education consisted of voice lessons, singing in choirs, and rigorous training in music theory. But at Glendale Community College, there was not really any such thing as a “Choral Music Major” – which is what I wanted to be.
That meant that I would finish out my general education at GCC, and then I would transfer to a larger university to focus on my specifically chosen path of musical study. I absolutely loved my time at Community College. It was a great way for me to develop a deeper appreciation for music, meet some wonderful people, … and save a little money. But there comes a time when the intern has gotta leave the nest. (And by that, I mean my community college.)
This week was my first week as a Choral and Sacred Music student at the University of Southern California. It is an incredible honor to be attending this school with such an amazing reputation for their faculty and staff (one of whom is a composer published with Gentry Publications – our very own Cristian Grases.) Fred Bock himself was an alumnus of USC!
It is USC’s incredible faculty that, in part, helped me decide to attend USC Thornton School of Music. From the day I auditioned, I was made to feel right at home. The faculty reached out to me on several occasions to check up on my decision process and offered to help in any way they could. I’ve always admired USC’s rich history – and as a native Los Angelino, I was raised with a deep respect for the school. Being accepted into USC Thornton was a dream come true for me, and I was so excited to get started.
But being thrown into such a big pond is not easy, especially for a little choral nerd like myself.
My first week has come and gone, and here are a few things I learned from the madness:
1. You can’t control everything
I had psyched myself up pretty high on my first day. There’s nothing quite like sitting in rush hour traffic and blowing your vocal cords on Broadway show tunes to get you in a good mood. I pulled into USC and found a parking spot in approximately 3.5 seconds. The day was off to a fantastic start. But pretty quickly, things began to fall apart. I was met with a pop quiz in my very first music theory class. I was out of practice and unprepared. That shook me a bit, but I was determined to push through. And then …
I was rejected from the choir that I worked so desperately hard to get into.
This wasn’t an easy way to learn a lesson, but it needed to happen. Eventually, things worked out and I placed into another choir. I’m not sure why things happened the way they did, but I learned that some things are just beyond my control – and that’s just the way they need to remain for the time being. I would go absolutely insane if I handled everything on my own – and I would probably also seriously mess things up.
2. Ask people for help
Right off the bat on my first day, I realized that there was a lot I didn’t know. I was surrounded by people who had been doing this stuff for a couple of years. There were certain ways things were done that I simply did not know. I didn’t even really know my way around campus! (Still working on that.) So pretty early on, I learned this valuable lesson: talk to everyone you can. Professors, advisors, colleagues, random people sitting around campus – they were all once new students just like me and they were able to learn the ropes of things over time. And usually, people are pretty willing to help a helpless freshman.
On my way to my very first class on Monday morning, I had to stop and ask someone sitting near the music building if she knew where the room was that I was looking for. She directed me right to it, and it turned out that she was on her way to the same class!
That first encounter gave me the courage to ask other people throughout the day when I had questions or couldn’t find my way around. Everyone was always very friendly and helpful, and all it took was a little courage the first time.
3. Be the first to introduce yourself
Now, this last point remains the hardest for me to follow. I’m not an exceptionally friendly person, and I don’t like to be presumptuous. But this week I learned that maybe the best way to learn the ropes of someplace new is to simply talk to the person sitting next to you. It can be hard for many people – myself included – to talk to someone you don’t know when you’re sitting in a room full of strangers. But chances are, the person sitting next to you is just as culture-shocked as you are. It only takes a second to introduce yourself. Talk to them about the professor’s funny glasses or whether or not you’re excited about the material that will be covered this semester. Even if you think you don’t need friends, you might find that it is incredibly convenient to have an ally in every class that you can share notes with or ask questions to.
I was lucky enough to sit next to a very yuppie girl during my second very stressful audition. She immediately began chatting with me about all sorts of things, and her friendliness made it easy to introduce myself and continue to make conversation. I realized that just as her friendliness put me at ease, my friendliness could put others at ease (and also help me make some friends).
Being a new student in a new environment can be scary, but I have already had many good experiences that will shape who I become as a musician. I am incredibly excited to make music with a group of some of the most talented up-and-coming musicians in the world. And each step I take on this journey instills in me a greater love for choral music and the opportunities I have to sing with a community of like-minded musicians. I am so excited to see what is in store for me as I further my education and continue to gain experience in choral music and choral music publishing.
Fight on! Sing on!