My Alma Mater’s New Alma Mater

A good friend of mine and a recent graduate of my high school composed a new alma mater for the high school as his WISE project (That’s right, it’s the same program that I myself completed a year ago!). I had heard about his project when I visited the high school during my winter break, and I was very excited to hear that he was taking on this much-needed musical update, mentored by the much-praised new choir director. You can check out an interview with Michael, the composer, done by the Ithaca Journal here.

It’s truly great to see my high school get an alma mater, and one composed by a friend at that. I’ve always known that our high school lacked in the spirit department, and after a year at a Big Ten university (not to mention being part of the marching band), it was quite evident that this was certainly true. While I couldn’t expect a public high school to have the same amount of school spirit as a world-renowned higher educational, Division I institution, I’ve always thought that our high school could take better steps to better our school unity. A new alma mater is a huge step in that direction, and I’m very happy to see it done by capable hands.

DCI 2014 Tour Premier

I can’t believe I almost decided not to go to this.

For half the price of a normal DCI event ticket, two of my musician friends and I (one of which is a fellow marcher and the other being a percussionist) went to watch the DIC 2014 Tour Premier at the local cinemas. And boy was it a show!

For those of you who don’t know, Drum Core International is to marching bands as NFL is to football. In fact, their tagline is “Marching Music’s Major League.” If you’re ever been impressed by a college marching band’s performance (You’ve most likely seen some Ohio State Marching Band’s videos floating around on YouTube) or been part of a marching band in your life, DCI is something you should not skip on checking out. Each summer, these drum corps from around the country put on some spectacular shows that only become more and more creative as the years go on.

This season premier showed many of the top-level corps performing at a very high level, especially considering the early stage of the season. I was very happy to see that my favorite corp, the Cadets, went home with the 1st place title with their incredible show built around the music of Aaron Copland (especially Lincoln Portrait, a piece that lies close to my heart) and the legacy of U.S. presidents. My props for creativity goes to the Bluecoats, for their interesting use of the concept of “Tilt” to produce a strange yet extremely visually intriguing show. Carolina Crown and Phantom Regiment, a few of the old favorites, also put on spectacular shows.

I’m planning on attending another nearby show, this time to see it live. The setlist on this event looks just as good as the season premier, and to say I’m excited would be a huge understatement.

And in the distant future, my own marching season looms… but until I am called once more to band camp in August, I’ll enjoy DCI from the bleachers.

The Dual Degree Journey

Now, when I graduate from Northwestern University four (that’s right: four, not three) years from now, I’ll have two pieces of paper to frame, not one.

This means that not only will I have to pay an absurdly large sum of money for an extra year, but I’ll also have to spend twice as much money on diploma frames than most of my fellow graduates.

As you may have figured out by now, I was accepted into the dual degree program in Music Composition and Physics. This means I’ll be receiving a BM in Composition and BA in Physics when I graduate. And as pretentious and cynical as I may have sounded, I am truly grateful for the opportunity that this dual degree program gives me. In fact, grateful is an understatement; the magnitude of it all hasn’t hit me yet. I still wake up in the morning and have trouble believing I’m a “music major.”

And the quotes matter. Not so long ago, being a “music major” was something that I thought would instill some great change inside my very soul and would make me feel like a musician to the core. But nothing has changed. Does that mean I’ve been a “real musician” all this time? Next year, I’ll be taking all the courses that every single “real music major” doing their BM would take. Now, this field of study is no longer something that I revered in high school as an untouchable honor. Back then, I was certain I couldn’t be a music major. To be one you had to be able to push yourself to practice every day. You had to be disciplined, you had to manage your time well, and you had to have musical skills that left your peers in the dirt. I didn’t qualify for any of that. The words “music major” didn’t even sit in the same shelf with words like “physics” or “engineering” or “business.” Those two words, even though I didn’t quite realize it at the time, were being crowned and given their own throne in some corner of my brain.

But here I am, now a real music major. There aren’t any quotes around that phrase, nor are there any myths about not being good enough or it being something that’s not for me. I am a music major, and apparently, some qualified and experienced faculty in one of the most prestigious musical institutions in the world think I’ve got at least half a shot at being a decent composer.

You bet your firstborn child that I’ll put forth every inch of effort I have within me to not let them down.