I have decided to start a blog! This was not an easy decision, as I tend to be an intensely private person, only imparting my inner most thoughts with a very small circle of friends. By it’s nature a ‘blog’ implies that personal information is shared with many, and that concept has always scared me away. It’s not as if I am new to a public forums ‘about me,’ as I have a professional web page, and maintain a Facebook account. However, the way I use those mediums (as I believe many other do) is to 1- share professional information and 2- share random short musings about life. My public image is not a true reflection of who I am or my core philosophies. Rarely do I relate my inner most thoughts and feelings beyond my safe circle. Yet, recently I find that I desire to express my beliefs and experiences.
For the past four years, I have been working on a doctorate degree in Choral Conducting at Arizona State University. I am very happy to say that I am officially ABD (all but dissertation) as of this week and I’m very much looking forward to the end of this stage of my career. My educational journey has been everything from joyful, exquisite, and enlightening to painful, exhausting and at times even devastating. I know that I’ve grown as a teacher, a conductor, a singer, a researcher, and writer. I also have a much keener understanding of my own weaknesses, tendencies and self-defeating behaviors.
I have worked harder than I knew I was capable of, and my family has made enormous sacrifices. I constantly strive to be an active part of my children’s lives, including homework, hopes, dreams, laughter, struggles and activities for developing their talents and knowledge. I burn the candle at both ends knowing fully that I do not want to miss out on my children’s lives just because I am in an intense doctoral program. I pick them up from school daily, spent all afternoon with them for homework, activities, dinner and evening routines. The moment they are tucked away into bed I hit the books, and the papers, and the lesson planning, and the scores etc… But nothing comes without a cost and I have lived with heavy doses of mommy guilt for missing a myriad of ‘little things’ like field day, Halloween parties, Christmas parties, bedtime stories and sick days.
Many people have asked me how I do it and tell me I appear as if I have it ‘all put together’, I have a ‘calm demeanor’, and that I’m ‘super organized’. Truthfully, I usually feel that I’m one step away from a major catastrophe, emotional breakdown or crisis. I’ve had significant trials over these past four years that have been, and will continue to be areas of perpetual worry. However, through it all I have had one saving grace… my quiet majority. My husband is my advocate, my motivator and my unyielding supporter. He, more than anyone, understands how important this degree is for my career, but more importantly for my well-being. I have always felt that I was ‘meant’ to be a musician and honestly… many of my best opportunities were the ones I did not seek, but quite literally ‘fell into my lap’. As I nourish these precious opportunities, my husband never fails to take on the role of ‘father extraordinaire’ (and I do mean laundry, dishes and making kids school lunches), and continually encourages me in my pursuits.
Unfortunately, motherhood does not always match up with some of the more subtle expectations of a DMA degree. There were times I had to gracefully bow out and decline multiple events. Even though there might have been an ‘understanding’ for my obligations as a mother, it wasn’t always understood. I weathered many an awkward conversation or situation as I stood up for my belief in being a dependable, available and valuable parent. The often led to misunderstandings and unfortunate perceptions about who I am and what I stand for. I have been told that it will be an area in which I may continually struggle as I move forward in my career.
As late as just last week, I questioned why I am even doing this. There are so many negatives to this profession: working on late nights and weekends, ugly politics, hours and hours of score study and logistical planning, and the famous musicians decry of “ridiculously low wages.” It is a hard career to balance close friendships, family life and philanthropic work at church. Nevertheless, the answer to myself is always the same, and it really is quite simple. I absolutely love what I do. I love making music. I love teaching. I love sharing the beauty of music both with those under my ‘baton’, as well as the audience in a live concert and those that may hear recordings in the future. I love how through music we can foster communication, relationships, and communities. I love how music is universal and doesn’t require a linguistic language to express a mood, or make a listeners arm hair stand up on end. I love to see people grow, change, improve and appreciate the art in the process of rehearsals and concerts. I love to help people feel good about themselves, their accomplishments and confident in their performance. Although I know I am meant to be in this profession, and I ‘need’ it as a part of my life, my participation in this career not about ‘me’. It is not about the ego, the exposure, or the reputation of the conductor. It is about the people, the humanity, and the sharing of all the joys, sorrows, love, and loss of our collective spirit.
Has my schooling been worth it? For my personal growth and edification… absolutely! I wouldn’t trade the progress I have made for anything in the world. My journey on this path is only just starting, so I can’t say for sure if the degree is really worth it for my career. I certainly hope so! I can say this. It is important to me that my children see their mom as someone who sets a goals and attains them, as someone who knows their purpose, as someone who believes that the term ‘impossible’ is absurd, and as someone who doesn’t let anything stand in her way to achieve her dreams. Do I make my kids proud? I think my daughter answered that question tonight when she enthusiastically announced at the dinner table, “My mommy’s a musician! … a singer and a conductor!”