Thursday, March 27, 2008

The View From Within

I am often amazed at the deep insights of composers as they discuss their music and their lives. I love to read about what was going on in the composer's life while he was writing a particular piece, what he had to say about it, and what he had to say about music in general. It always increases my understanding and appreciation of a piece, even if I don't particularly care for the music itself.

Such is the case with Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony, written between 1888 and 1894. The entire symphony is meant to illustrate man's struggle with the idea of death bringing either salvation or destruction - we don't know which. As I was recently studying the background of this work I came across the following commentary by Mahler describing the third movement:

"What is expressed in the Scherzo can only be illustrated like this: if you watch a dance from a distance through a window, without hearing the music, the gyrations of the couples seem strange and senseless because the key element, the rhythm, is lacking. That is how you have to imagine someone who is destitute and unlucky: To such a person the world appears as in a concave mirror, distorted and mad. The Scherzo ends with the terrible outcry of such a martyred soul."

Later he wrote to a friend on the same subject:

"When you finally wake up from this melancholy dream and again have to face this confused life, then this endlessly moving, never resting, never-to-be-understood hustle and bustle of life may seem dreadful to you, like the surging of dancing figures in a bright and illuminated ballroom into which you look from the dark night outside - from so far away that you can not hear the music that goes with it! Senseless is how life seems to you then, a cruel nightmare from which you might jump up with a cry of disgust!"

While it is sad to even think of feeling this way, reading Mahler's comments reminded me of the great privilege it is to enjoy the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. As members of Christ's church, we are the ones inside the ballroom dancing and blissfully enjoying the blessings we have. To the rest of the world we look strange doing the things we do. But we can hear the music. We know that death will bring joyous salvation to all who remain faithful. We know exactly why we do the things we do, and we are happy because of it. Perhaps we should look out the window more often to lend a hand to those helpless souls outside, crying in anguish because they need so desperately what we have.

(quotes taken from MUSC 312-Music in Modern Western Culture course packet, Dr. Alan Houtchens, Texas A&M University, Spring 2008.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Just Another Manic Monday

7:00am - Alarm rings. I'm tired! I hit snooze.

7:05am - Alarm rings again. Snooze again.

7:10am - Alarm. Snooze.

7:20am - Second alarm rings (across the room). Time to really get up.

8:00am - I rush into work. On time - barely!

1:00pm - I walk out the door from work. I check my cell phone. A missed call! (202)... (202)... I know that area code... Thats Washington DC!

1:01pm - I dial my voice mail. "Hi Ruth. This is--at The Washington National Opera. I'm calling because I'd like to offer you the HR Internship for this summer...." What? Did I hear that right? Me?Really? HOLY COW!!!!!!!!!!

1:03pm - I do a happy dance in my car and say a little prayer of "Thanks" and "You're amazing."

1:05pm - I call mom to tell her. No answer. I leave a message for her to CALL ME BACK!

1:20pm - I arrive home from work. My roommate isn't there. ARGH! I'M DYING TO TELL SOMEONE!

1:22pm - I sit down at my kitchen table with my planner and call them back to say yes. No answer. I leave a message.

1:50pm - My roommate comes home. I tell her. We do a happy dance together. I leave for school.

1:55pm - Mom calls me back. I tell her. We do the phone version of a happy dance.

2:30pm - I go into rehearsal with my accompanist/voice coach. I tell her. Anther happy dance (more reserved this time because we must be professional). She picks up the phone and dials the Department of Performance Studies office. "Hello Dr. [Department Head]. I have Ruth --, one of our Music Majors here with me, and she just received news that she has got an internship with the Washington National Opera this summer in Arts Management at the Kennedy Center in Washington..." From across the room I hear a shreak of joy on the other end of the line. She hands the phone to me. "Congratulations Ruth! I will always remember the day you auditioned for our program. You were the very first audition that day and you arrived thirty minutes early. I was very impressed and knew from that moment that you came prepared and were capable of doing something like this. I am so happy that they noticed that in you as well." She then asks me to send her an email telling her more about it so that she can inform the faculty in their meeting on Wednesday. Wow, do you think this will make any of them want to give me an "A"?

3:02pm - I leave my rehearsal and head for the library. My phone rings. 202 again. I answer. Its her! We talk some details: I am the first intern to be selected and informed this summer. They would like me for as much of the summer as they can have me. Wow, I feel special! We nail down the dates: May 12th through August 15th. My exact availability dates. I will be working full-time hours (subject to change if I decide I can't survive without a second job -the stipend will really only cover gas to get there). She tells me more details will come as they select the rest of the interns and get things organized.

3:10pm - I get to the library, sit down at a computer, check my email, log into blogger, and start writing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Summer Plans??????

I have applied for three internships this summer, all in the Washington, DC area:

  1. Wolf Trap Opera Company
  2. The Washington National Opera
  3. The National Symphony Orchestra

All three are in the field of Arts Management. Basically this means taking care of business, planning, coordinating, etc. for a performing arts organization such as an opera or symphony orchestra. It just may be the perfect meld of my professional experience and education.

Wolf Trap, which was my first choice, did not accept me. They had over 550 applicants and only hired about ten, so I don't feel terribly crushed.

I haven't heard anything from the National Symphony Orchestra since the "we received your completed application" email.

I had a phone interview on Thursday with the Washington National Opera in their HR Department. Even though I would be working in the HR Department, I would still get to attend symposiums and other educational workshops to be trained in Arts Management. The interview seemed to go well, but its very hard to judge over the phone. The entire interview was only about 15 minutes long and the interviewer very concisely asked all kinds of questions that no one really likes to answer. "What do you consider your greatest weakness? If I were to ask your current employer about you, what do you think he would say? What areas would you like to improve in?..." They are only hiring one person in that department, and I don't know how many they interviewed. I should find out next week!

I am excited at the very thought of getting one of these internships. I will make basically no money (only a small stipend to defray cost of living is offered), but it will be a great career move. I will learn if Arts Management is really the direction I want to go, and it will look great on my resume no matter what!

Many thanks in advance to my sister Nancy, who has graciously offered her basement for me to live for the summer. Even if I don't get an internship I will go live with her and work in the area for a few months, just for fun. I am very excited for lots of hang-out time with Nancy, getting to know Richard better, developing strong bonds with Naomi (who is now old enough to remember "the summer Aunt Ruthie came"), becoming fluent in Asher's two-year-old language, and watching Isaiah grow up.

What will the final result be? Any predictions?


I'm afraid I've been feeling terribly left out lately. All of my siblings (except the one who lives in a submarine) have fabulous blogs! Its become a great way for us to share our lives with each other. However, I have to confess I'm terrible at keeping up with them. My life has drastic sudden surges of insanity, and I tend to drop off the face of the planet every once in a while. I do my best, promise.

...An excellent introduction to my very own blog! Things are starting to get exciting as I begin my Senior year at A&M. Career planning is getting serious, so I thought it time to start documenting the progress. There will probably be long postless periods. When that happens just assume I'm preparing for, in the middle of, or recovering from one of those weeks when I really think my Professors are trying to kill me.

I hope this will be a good way to keep everyone informed of whats going on, and some day the title will become slightly satirical as my "music career" evolves into mostly motherhood.