Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back to school

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I had a cold throughout the weekend (as did Kristi & Eli), but had a good holiday anyway. Luckily, I've not been working that much, so I was able to get well pretty quickly.

Not much is going on in the opera. We've had a run of pieces that don't have interesting trombone parts, but a real surprise for me has been Puccini's Manon Lescaut. I've played it a couple times before, but for some reason I didn't remember how good it was. Two nights ago was my second performance for this run, and I enjoyed it immensely. Many times it's hard to pay attention to the content of an opera the first few times you play it, especially if you're performing it without rehearsal. It takes so much concentration to play (or NOT play) at the right time, and sometimes I don't actually 'hear' the music until I have some performances under my belt.

Well, in the absence of exciting things going on now, I thought I would share with you something coming up in the future.

As many of you know, when I auditioned for my spot here in Vienna, I was pursuing my master's degree in trombone performance from the University of North Texas. And ever since I interrupted my studies to come to Austria, people have been asking me if I would ever be interested in complete my degree. I think most people in my situation would just forget about it. After all, the end goal of a master's performance curriculum (theoretically) is a job just like the one I already have. I don't 'need' a degree to do what I'm doing.

But I feel differently about it. To me, a graduate degree is not about putting letters beside your name or earning a diploma, but rather continued learning and becoming more of an expert in your field of study. I've written and talked a lot about the fact that in my first couple of years here I had to put my head down, work hard, and learn how to survive in a major professional orchestra. When you come in the way I did, with no prior experience and from a different continent, it's almost all you can manage to simply make it through the season without massively embarrassing yourself. The mantra becomes: "Don't lose this job! Don't lose this job!"

Well, I'm ready to start challenging myself again. The timing and circumstances are now such that I can poke my head out of the foxhole and begin to cultivate a broader musical existence outside the orchestra. I believe that finishing my master's degree would be a great way to kickstart that.

Some other major reasons I want to do this:
- I'm already SO close! As I look back at my transcript, I only have four more courses remaining.
- There's a huge 'finish what you started' component. This is a life value that was instilled in me, and that I would like to pass on to Eli.
- A little bit of pride. It would feel nice to hang a master's diploma up in my office. (My brother Jacob is currently working on his MBA, so I just need to finish before he does!) :)
- A little bit of school pride. I think it would also be great for me and for UNT for me to be an alumnus rather than just an attendee.

So, how do I accomplish this goal? Well, first off, with a lot of help and cooperation from the UNT College of Music. I began discussing this idea with Vern Kagarice (my trombone teacher at UNT) several months ago, and he put me in touch with Dr. Warren Henry, who is a high-ranking administrator in the College of Music. As luck would have it, Dr. Henry, who is also a Professor of Music Education, had planned a visit to Austria in late October. He brought 20 UNT music education majors to visit the Orff Institute in Salzburg, and then they came over to Vienna to sightsee.

The whole group had tickets to an opera I was playing, so I met with Dr. Henry beforehand and discussed how exactly I might be able to finish my degree while living abroad. We worked it out so that I will complete special projects on my own time, working under the supervision of several UNT professors, and each special project will then count as one of my remaining courses. I could not do this without the help of Dr. Henry, as he is able to cut through most of the red tape so that I don't have to try and deal with it from another country. I am planning on doing two classes this Spring semester and two more next Summer.

I really enjoyed spending some time with Dr. Henry and the UNT students. I got to meet them all after the performance of Salome, and I invited them to watch one of our Philharmonic rehearsals on the third day they were here. I think they really enjoyed it. I remember in particular a couple horn students that I watched melt in their seats every time our horn section played something awesome.

Me and Dr. Henry at the Musikverein

With the students at the opera.
No, we don't have malformed hands. That's the UNT Eagle Claw!

I actually registered for my first two classes today, so I guess it's official. I'm a college student again! I'll keep you all posted on my progress, and by this time next year I'll be a North Texas grad!


  1. This sounds awesome Jeremy! I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor and I'm sure you will finish in no time!

  2. "...a couple horn students that I watched melt in their seats every time our horn section played something awesome." That's pretty much spot on, it was amazing. Thank you SO much again for that experience, I will never forget it! Glad to hear you're one us again and best of luck. Come visit, we'll have to all get together and eat schnitzel.

  3. I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity you gave us by getting in to that rehearsal. The full run of New World Symphony is my best musical experience to date. Never before has the sheer beauty of something brought me to tears like that. Absolutely unforgettable. I still get chills telling people about it =]. Good luck finishing your degree, man!

  4. Thank you so much for the wonderful glimpse of what you get to experience on a regular basis! We were all so fortunate to get to share that. I hope the completion of your degree goes smoothly, and you get many more chances to show the Eagle Claw in Vienna! Best of luck to you!