It’s hard to believe that my time at George Mason has officially come to a close.
I somehow managed to extend my stay for a year longer than most full-time graduate students, but I am thankful for every moment that I have had on this vibrant, robust, growing campus.
Things have changed a lot since I first came in Fall 2013. Firstly, I started off as a masters in flute performance student, studying under the amazing Julianna Nickel. She was the main reason I chose to come to Mason, despite opportunities to attend the University of Oregon and the University of Akron (with a full ride to the latter). Never before had I been with so many flutes in one place, and I was honestly surprised at how nice and supportive everyone was. For an instrument where competition is high to get a minimal amount of positions, this studio only showed love and encouragement to each other. I’m confident to say I rather blossomed during my time in Nickel’s studio.
Besides the flute studio, I had some amazing experiences that fall. My music in research class had the opportunity to handle old, original manuscripts from the Middle Ages.
I also made some great friends and together we created wonderful chamber music – oh, and survived graduate level music analysis class. Those who suffer together, bond together, haha.
But what would change my life forever was joining the Mason Symphony Orchestra. I didn’t know it yet, but I was in for a lot more than I ever imagined when I came to that first rehearsal to play piccolo.
About halfway through the semester, people started asking me what my plans were for the future. When I told them about my dreams of starting a youth ensemble or opening a conservatory, the question I kept getting was, “Then why are you in performance?”
The first time it shocked me and I didn’t know what to say (very unusual, by the way). After I got it several times, I came up with some half-baked answer that I didn’t entirely believe myself. It wasn’t until I was leaving class one evening and discussing this situation with a classmate that I realized that God was telling me something.
I was in the wrong program.
After much prayer and discussion, I decided to drop my masters in music performance and applied to be accepted into the Arts Management program at Mason. Spring semester of 2014 was a fresh start, with new faces, new classes, and a whole new campus.
I actually found it harder here to make friends, because most people came for class and left directly afterwards, but eventually I connected with some individuals that have now become dear to my heart. Together we went on field trips to places like the National Portrait Gallery and NPR. Some of us volunteered at the Association for Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) in a frigid New York January. A whole squad attended the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) at American University to attend panels and experience art ourselves as a reminder of why we chose this field. Our Special Event class took us outside of the classroom as well by encouraging us to participate in events near us so we could have the experience of what working as an arts manager feels like in the real world. And of course, who could forget our culminating Capstone projects!
I was also blessed with the opportunity to do not one, but two international internships during my program: Summer 2014 in Niterói, Brazil and Summer 2015 in Berlin, Germany. I have written about both experiences in previous blog posts – be sure to check them out!
What I will always cherish the most, however, was the surprise of when I was hired to work for the same orchestra that just a couple of semesters ago I had been performing with. The previous orchestra manager had to leave suddenly in the Spring semester of 2015 and of all the candidates interviewed, I was chosen.
It felt like going back home, not only because of having once been part of the ensemble, but because I had worked for my orchestra in undergrad and felt comfortable in this supporting and managerial role. What I learned over the year and couple of months of my service to this ensemble and its director, Dr. Dennis Layendecker, will be carried with me for the rest of my life. The frustrations and joys, the tensions and celebrations, the overwhelmingly, ridiculously “proud parent” feeling I had at the end of each performance – I’m really going to miss that.
Managing this group not only became my job but my joy. I wish each and every member, especially those who are graduating, the very best in the future and many blessings from the Lord.
Speaking of graduation, I actually graduated in December, but stuck around to continue working with the MSO until the end of this semester. I had my sister do a graduation photo shoot to celebrate since I couldn’t attend commencement, and boy did they turn out nice. Check our her online portfolio to see some of her great work.
But now I feel like things are really over. The orchestra had it’s last concert, everyone’s done with finals and presentations, and then yesterday was a celebration of Fall and Spring Arts Management graduates. Once again, I was shocked, surprised, and honored to receive the Erin Gaffney award which, according to the GMU Arts Management website, “is named in honor of Erin Gaffney, MA in Arts Management in 2007, who was instrumental in advancing new programming within the College of Visual and Performing Arts, graduated with High Honors, and was the first recipient of the Dean’s Award. Erin Gaffney passed away on July 10, 2008. The award is presented to an outstanding student who exemplifies Erin’s respect for self, for others, and for the power of the arts to transform.”
Truly, I am overwhelmed. God has truly blessed me during my time at Mason and I could not be more proud to call this school my own.
Thanks for the memories, Mason. Now onward to the future.
PS – Keep in touch over the next several days as my mom and I will do a victory tour of Ontario, Canada in celebration of my graduation from GMU. We’re bound for some exciting adventures!