Saturday, September 15, 2012

Professional Portfolio Class: A New System!

Orientation at the Royal Academy of Music is over, and yet the daily routine itself hasn't quite started yet; I'm in a limbo period, but the material we covered during that week is enough to keep me busy thinking for a month!  In my opinion, the highlight of the welcome period was the first of four "Professional Portfolio Classes," which introduce the possible structures of the Masters program at RAM.  I say "possible" because, believe it or not, the students actually have control over how their academic and musical life at the Academy will take shape.  I walked out of the classroom feeling incredibly inspired and could literally feel my mental motors running at a million miles an hour as I thought over the words of our speaker, the head of the RAM graduate programs, cellist Neil Heyde.

First of all, RAM follows a tutor system, whereby each student is assigned to an academic tutor, who works closely with the student in formulating a program that is, in a sense, customized to the needs of that student.  Furthermore, while flexible in its content, the program can take on certain "pathways," which is the term they use to describe the focus of the coursework and projects.  Concert Workshop, Analysis and Aesthetics, Contemporary Music Workshop, and Issues in the Economics and Business of Music are just a handful of the incredibly interesting and relevant topics to the 21st century musician.  To paraphrase Mr. Heyde, the purpose of this program is to identify, challenge, and expand each and every student's unique development goals, both on a personal and professional level.  In this way, the school serves the students by preparing them for their unique career paths, engaging in projects and assignments that are relevant to their individual goals.

WHAT a change from the academic structures I have known!  While some might feel concern at the thought of so much "freedom" in the system, I think it is brilliant in its ability to switch gears between the abstract and the specific - two fundamentally essential concepts if one is to achieve a holistic understanding of what it means to be a  21st century artist.  We live in a time when thinking outside the box is necessary, where all things conventional have been done before (perfectly, I might add), and a program like this really seizes the opportunity to expand our understanding of what is possible - as Mr. Heyde puts it, "you have to be willing to go over the cliff a few times before you really know where the edge is."

All I can say is, thank goodness I don't have to choose just one pathway!

All for now,

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Here it is, my very first video blog!  I apologize for the audio/video synch problem - if you think you know the reason and can help, send me a message PLEASE!  :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Arrival in London!


After all this time - I started toiling on my Marshall application in July 2011 - I am finally here in this phenomenal city and getting ready to start school!  It was an incredible summer filled with many trips, including concerts in Montreal and New York, a lake vacation in Kentucky, three weeks at the amazing Banff Centre in Alberta with the Larchmere String Quartet, and then five sweaty concerts with the LSQ at the beginning of August (we performed in 90+ degrees!).  And even though I found myself getting a bit sentimental about leaving the states for 12 months, now that I am here I am looking to the future and seeing quite an endless list of possibilities for the next year of my life!

My Masters program doesn't begin until the 10th, so luckily I have some time to get my bearings first.  I live in a stunning place called Goodenough College (see picture above of the quad), where everyone is an international graduate student - automatically giving us all something in common.  The Queen herself came to visit for its 80th anniversary last year, so I now get to enjoy many of the improvements that were made on campus to prepare for her giant, gorgeous trees in the garden.

The neighborhoods each have a street named after the neighborhood with the word "High" preceding it so that you can always find the places of high activity (restaurants, shopping, etc.)  The tall, blinking lights on the sidewalk indicate that the right of way belongs to pedestrians, who I imagine are still in the right even if they are hit by the speeding red buses.  There is no such thing as Walmart, but the UK does have Argo's, where you fill out a card with numbers corresponding to the items you choose in a catalog the size of 15 Complete Shakespeare books put together, and then someone goes to the back and brings everything back for you - no aisle searching, just Walmart in a book.  But most of all, I love that history follows me everywhere, even in the most unassuming and quietest of streets.  Here at Mecklenburgh Square, one house was the home of Virginia Woolf, another was where D.H. Lawrence wrote one of his novels, and the Charles Dickens Museum is one block away.

All for now - updates to continue!