Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Leadership Institute

If you didn’t know, I’m a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia – the world’s oldest and largest social fraternity in music. I believe we are the third fastest growing fraternity of any kind – which is crazy! This is an organization that has given me so much throughout my years here at Northwestern, not only in the form of great brotherhood among the brothers here at Iota Chapter, but also through meeting many other brothers of Phi Mu Alpha across the country. One of the opportunities for making these national connections is the annual Leadership Institute, held in Evansville, Indiana, where our headquarters is located. Having participated last year, I was excited to be a part of this experience again – but this time, I registered for the parallel, more music-focused Ultimate Musical Experience (UME).

I knew that the UME would entail singing in the Men of Song Chorus, as I had done last year, but this year it was different. The music was more challenging, we had more time slotted for rehearsal, and the other lecture and seminar type activities were all geared towards becoming a better musician instead of general leadership. Many were specifically geared towards becoming a better music director, which was perfect since I’ll be taking on that roll in the upcoming fall with my own Iota Chapter.

I especially enjoyed being able to participate in the choral conducting masterclass run by the amazing Chase Moore – one of the co-directors of our choir this year who also happens to be an unbelievably talented piano player. I had fond memories of us getting to know each other last year and I was very excited that I had been selected to participate in his conducting masterclass. In fact, it turned out that this masterclass was exactly what I needed at this stage in my music directorship, as I was able to mostly hold my own in directing the choir with Chase alongside me giving me some specific tips and possibilities for improvement that I could really latch onto and work on in the future. At the end of the institute, I even got a chance to conduct all of the leadership institute participants in a fraternity song that I quite enjoy!

Overall, I had another fantastic year at Leadership Institute/UME. These are definitely the types of experiences that stay with you to better you not only as a musician, but as a person in general. Here’s a photo of me along with our national president, national executive director, and a few other friends from my province!

On and ever upward!

The Fun That Is Pep Band

I walked into the band room last night for the last Pep Band game of the season, and was greeted with this from my band director:

“Hi Joon! Do you want to conduct a bit today?”
I must have looked quite ridiculous at that moment, a half-eaten bacon cheeseburger in one hand and decorative caution tape in the other, complete with a slowly but surely appearing grin on my face. Conducting? How could I say no?
Turns out that our trumpet section was quite thin last night, and it was enough of a problem that our band director decided to play trumpet instead. Whatever the circumstances, I was just grateful for the opportunity. And what an opportunity it was! I stumbled over some things like cutoffs, but I think it was a good learning experience. I noticed quite a few differences as I conducted: for one, I could hear the whole band from where I was standing. That’s usually not the case when I’m standing in the saxophone section during a normal Pep Band game. Also, the tempo that I set seemed to feel slower to many others. Maybe that could be attributed to a bit of nervousness (I was so scared I would mess up during the Star Spangled Banner), but nonetheless an important thing to keep in mind. Oh, and I learned that your arms start hurting after conducting fast tempo songs for two hours (conducting “a bit” turned into the whole time). I can’t imagine how our band director does this every game.
Unfortunately, it was the last home football game of the season, making it our last Pep Band game as well. When our band director asked all the Seniors to pose for pictures at the end of the night, I suddenly realized how much I’d miss Pep Band. And I’m not just saying that as a “last game” thing; I genuinely am going to miss four years of rocking-out, crazy-hard, voice-losing, caution-taped fun.
Well, we still have the parade at the end of the year. Go Pep Band!

MIT Splash

This past weekend, I had a chance to attend MIT Splash. It’s a program hosted by MIT students for middle and high school students from all around the country. For the whole of Saturday and Sunday, students take one to three hour long classes on numerous topics ranging from organic chemistry and quantum physics to conducting and even internet memes.

I took courses about mathemagic, black holes, special relativity, combination locks, and conducting. Not only did I learn a lot, but I had my friends there to enjoy the experience with me.

But I wouldn’t be posting about this event if it wasn’t related to music somehow. Two of my classes were related to music: Intro to Livecoding and Conducting and Interpretation.

Livecoding, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, describes the composition and performance of music in real time through the use of programming languages. While it definitely is not the traditional style of “music composition” that I’m used to, its possibilities are endless. I could, for example, sit down with a computer and a friend, and we could emulate the sounds of an orchestra all by ourselves. There are things in music that no machine could ever substitute, but there are also aspects that could be greatly enhanced by the capabilities of computers. The class showed me how much fun I could have with these programs.

Conducting and Interpretation, on the other hand, taught me about the long-practiced skills of conducting. We went over beat patterns, cut-offs and cues. We went through the steps of score analysis, and ended by watching some great conductors perform. Conducting is surely a skill that can only be bettered through diligent practice. What makes conducting differ from practicing other instruments is that while you can bring home a saxophone, or a flute, or a clarinet and practice, you can’t bring home an orchestra to practice conducting. But hopefully I will get more opportunities to conduct as the future presents itself. The teacher of the class certainly encouraged me to find some. Apparently according to him, I have potential. Yay!

But all in all, both musical and not-musical, I learned a lot. And MIT Splash just goes to show how well students can learn if they are motivated by their own interests to do so. I plan to attend again next year, and perhaps I’ll even bring along more friends.

Conducting the Band

I had an interesting experience today in band. Our director was out sick, and had asked a student conductor to conduct in her substitute plans. Minutes after walking into band, the band president asked me if I wished to conduct. And of course, I accepted.

By no means am I a great conductor, but I love conducting and would take any chance to do it. After all, how would I learn without these experiences?