All posts by Stan

Music Entrepreneurship at the FSU College of Music in November 2017

More “Pop Up Concerts” at FSU

November 25, 2017

Again this fall, students from my “Introduction to Music Entrepreneurship” class at the College of Music at Florida State University gave a “pop up concert” in the Strozier Library at the heart of campus. The students served on two teams that were responsible for planning and performing the music, creating marketing materials, preparing and distributing audience surveys, and producing audio and video recordings to help promote the course’s next pop up concert, which will be given on December 6 — off campus at the Wesley Foundation.

Each pop up concert is a chance to practice basic marketing strategies, project management skills, and audience development approaches, as well as to draw attention to the College and to share information about the College of Music’s upcoming events as we engage with the audience members.

 

[All photographs courtesy of Michael Kimbrough.]

What I’ve Been Watching This Month (November 2017): Gilligan’s Island (seasons 2 and 3)

Gilligan’s Island (seasons 2 and 3)

As the second season of Gilligan’s Island commenced (1965–1966), the adventures of the castaways began to be presented in color. Furthermore, composer Gerald Fried more consistently prepared the episodes’ underscores in both seasons two and three, and in the early part of season three, there are longer cues with fuller textures. Some cues are even jazzed up a bit, and Fried used additional musical quotations of tunes from beyond the Gilliganverse, such as “Rule, Britannia,” to good effect. Sadly, the richer approach to underscores did not persist through to the conclusion of season three. 

There are many episodes in season two that I can clearly remember watching (and enjoying) in the late 1970s, particularly “Smile, You’re on Mars Camera,” “The Sweepstakes,” “Quick Before it Sinks,” “The Chain of Command,” “Don’t Bug the Mosquitoes” (I still enjoy the women’s musical trio), “Not Guilty,” “You’ve Been Disconnected” (a telephone cable washes up on shore), “Gilligan’s Living Doll” (remember the robot!?), “Forward March,” “Feed the Kitty” (don’t you love that lion?), “Operation: Steam Heat,” “Ghost A Go-Go,” and the “Friendly Physician,” with its mad scientist, Dr. Boris Balinkoff (Vito Scotti), and bizarre body swapping. As I rewatched these memorable episodes this past month, I enjoyed them again after the decades-hiatus but felt that season two had less charm than did season one.

Indeed, as silly as season one gets with its numerous other inhabitants on the island whom the castaways just happen to keep discovering, season two episodes such as “Smile, You’re On Mars Camera,” “The Little Dictator,” and “The Friendly Physician” slide into the realm of the absurd. Furthermore, while I remembered the nuclear explosion at the end of “Forward March,” it was far more jarring to me now, as was the boat explosion (and could-have-been murder of the castaways) in “Ghost A Go-Go.” At least in that episode, Richard Kiel plays The Ghost / Soviet Agent in such an over-the-top manner that one gets the sense that we’re not to take any of this too seriously. The same can be said for Dr. Balinkoff.

But in terms of being jarring, no episode matches “The Hunter” from season three.

In that episode, big-game hunter Jonathan Kincaid (Rory Calhoun) arrives on the island in search of his next hunting challenge. After discovering that there is no game on the island (where did the earlier apes and gorillas go?), Kincaid announces he will hunt Gilligan instead. Despite its laugh tracks, “The Hunter” is profoundly dark, and the dramatic (and realistic) reactions by both Lovely Howell and the Professor to Kincaid’s announcement (see picture below), as well as the new suspenseful musical cues for this episode, leave no doubt in my mind: this episode reached a level of seriousness unmatched by any other episode in the series. Unlike Dr. Balinkoff and the Ghost, Kincaid is not played for laughs. Indeed, Kincaid’s reaction to Ginger’s standard (feigned), manipulative come-on is also the most realistic response in the entire series because the kiss that Kincaid/Calhoun shares with Grant/Louise is the only one that suggests it is grounded in genuine adult sexual passion.

(Compare the realism of Kincaid’s kiss to the typically bashful or naive responses of Gilligan or the Professor to Ginger.)

All this creates an all-too-real villain in Kincaid who is far more believable than are the various Cold War Soviets who show up on the island. In short, “The Hunter” is a very strange episode, and I am left wondering what 1960s viewers thought about this episode. Did they feel that the writers had crossed a line, abandoning innocent comedic mayhem for representations of human cruelty about which I have never wanted to laugh? And speaking of the 1960s, what did viewers of the day think of that nuclear explosion? 

Still, the comedic elements of season1 that I like so much—disguises and costumes, slap stick by Gilligan and the Skipper, and dream sequences—continue in seasons 2 and 3. And while I still found the dream sequence in which Gilligan becomes a life-sized (political) puppet in “The Little Dictator” emotionally terrifying, I laughed heartily yet again during Mr. Howell’s wild-west dream in “The Sweepstakes.” The line, “I haven’t had a bath in forty years!”, delivered by Mr. Howell as a gold prospector, still tickled me, but with much more experience during the past two decades watching 70 years worth of Westerns, I enjoyed the collection of parodied Western characters more thoroughly than I could have done as a child. 

I was surprised that season 3’s episodes felt less familiar to me. I certainly remember “High Man on the Totem Pole,” “The Pigeon” (with its huge spider, an effect which has not aged well), and “All About Eva,” which I appreciated far more now than I did as a little boy — Tina Louise shines as an actress in that episode — but season 3 did not radiate as much familiarity as did season 2. That said, I vaguely remember the episode “Up to Bat”—with its Hammeresque dream sequence during which Gilligan is a clumsy vampire; that episode has now become my absolute favorite in the series! The acting in the dream sequence is especially good for Gilligan’s Island, the haunted mansion set is quite fine for 1960s television, and the affection that the other characters express for Gilligan in “the real world” scenes come across as heart-felt and true. Here’s a cast that seems to have hit their stride.

Finally, with seasons 2 and 3 of Gilligan’s Island, the series is no longer haunted by World War II. Instead, the Cold War presses in on its stories, and Japanese stereotypes give way to Soviet/Russian ones. Was this the result of the escalating violence in Vietnam between 1965 and 1967? I find myself wanting to revisit other American sitcoms from the late 1960s to see if I can identify similar changes within their patterns of storytelling that might also point to the growing shadow of Vietnam on American life.

Stan Pelkey

November 14, 2017

What I’ve Been Watching This Month (September 2017)

What I’ve been Watching

September was a good television month: I watched some new programs and revisited some old ones. I also managed to complete quite a bit of new research and writing, sometimes while allowing those familiar, old programs to serve as sonic (rather than visual) companions, but that’s a story for another time. 

This Is Us

I know this is not exactly a “new” series, but my wife, Heidi, and I decided to catch up on this very popular program by watching all of season 1 in September. There are two features of this show that I consistently enjoy when they appear in television programs: an ensemble cast with many well-drawn characters; and well-deployed, non-linear story telling.

I’d like to spend some additional time considering the theme of parental-child conflict inThis Is Us. That is a consistent thread running through much contemporary TV, and it’s a topic I’ve been exploring and will be discussing in several conference presentations this fall. But it will have to wait for fuller treatment another time, because what I want to focus on in this review is non-linear storytelling. This is an effective tool for holding the ensemble story telling together, since the ensemble’s members — in the case of This Is Us, all members of a single extended family — exist across several decades, with some only appearing in scenes situated in the earlier or later decades. As individual episodes unfold, the storytelling shifts back and forth between decades to explore parallel moments in the lives of the family members. We see parents early in an episode revisited later as grandparents, and children transform into parents, then slide back to earlier familial roles. In the process of placing the parallel experiences side-by-side within the narrative, the episodes tease out broad themes — sibling rivalry, the stress of balancing career and family life, the search for happiness in love, the formation of adult personas in the experiences of childhood — even as the first season pursues an overarching forward thrust, at least in its scenes set in the present. (Scenes set in the past are more disjunct, and several different years in the past are revisited.)

This Is Us uses non-linear storytelling in nearly the same way that the first two season of Dexter, one of my favorite television shows of all times, did, though the premises and the overarching plots of the two series are profoundly different. Nevertheless, the two programs are bound by a significant commonality: both examine the long-range formation of the individual’s character, personality, and outlook on life, and both raise doubts about the ability of the individual to live his or her adult life as desired due to the formative power of childhood experiences and parental choices (and mistakes). 

Ken Burns’s The Vietnam War

The highlight of September’s television offerings for me were the ten-episodes of Ken Burns’s miniseries, The Vietnam War. I consider myself to have an above-average knowledge of American history, but I learned a tremendous amount from the miniseries. I particularly appreciated the mix of new interviews with American, South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese veterans, citizens, parents, and children, who were eye witnesses to the decades of conflict. I also always appreciate archival footage. While there was ample footage of the principal politicians and generals, plus excerpts from classified documents and White House recordings, I appreciated being given access to the thoughts and experiences of people at many levels of the war’s events and at several levels of the decision making. History is an unfolding of decisions and actions taken by many actors, those remembered, those barely remembered, and those long-forgotten; it is precisely the fact that there are so many actors within any “historical moment” (let alone an historical era) that makes the unfolding of human history unpredictable, despite the efforts of leaders, bureaucrats, technicians, generals, and admirals doing all they can to plot the future.

I thought the series as a whole was compelling and that episodes 1, 2, 9, and 10 were particularly powerful. The focus on POWs in episode 9 was moving and illuminating, for many reasons. As I wrote on Facebook on the night of its original broadcast: “Grateful as allows for the fortitude of POWs like Senator John McCain, but also grateful to learn about lesser-known heroes, like Dr. Hal Kushner. Maybe if we reflect more on what these men and their families endured, we can find the inspiration to engage in more dialogue and less violent behavior, to listen to each other rather than just to react.”

My generally positive perspective is not shared by all: some people have expressed their opinion that the miniseries devoted too much attention to North Vietnamese perspectives and anti-war demonstrators. Of course, the telling of the past is always a matter of selectivity of evidence, and the stories we tell will necessarily be conditional. But more than that, every person comes to a story like this with filters and expectations. Some people may be more aware of those filters and expectations and attempt to watch both the miniseries and their reactions in light of that reality. Others may not do this. Given these expectations and filters, there inevitably was going to be disappoint (or worse) from viewers along the entire spectrum of perspectives and political persuasions. For me, the point of a miniseries like this is precisely to see past the American perspective(s), particularly those with less nuance that tend to be learned in secondary school; I, for one, believe that true peace between people and between nations (and within nations), if it has any chance of being achieved, can only come as people open themselves to hearing other perspectives, embracing other people, and allowing all stories to be part of the moral geography that is built up over time from the disparate and contradictory experiences of peoples on many sides of conflict. Yes, that is a political stance! But it is the only one that makes sense to me — as a historian and as a citizen — for an ethical and dignified way forward.

One last comment: During the first few episodes of The Vietnam War, we once again had non-linear storytelling as the narrative moved between parallel experiences of the French soldiers in the 1950s and the American GIs in the 1960s. The linking of similar experiences — past and present — highlighted common themes, but it also provided immediate access to the American part of the story for audience members who may not have known that much about the prior French experience in Vietnam and wanted the American experience in the 1960s and early 1970s to immediately take center stage in the miniseries. While I “live” in the 1950s as a fan of old TV and movies, and as I read voraciously from the critical and social science research of that decade for several current research projects, the 1950s probably feel like ancient history to those born after the Baby Boomers. Whether we recognize it or not, that past lives on, still shaping institutions, culture, and families.   

Gilligan’s Island (Season 1)

I used to watch old reruns of Gilligan’s Island back as an elementary student in the 1970s. As I recall, episodes ran in the hour or so before the local and national news programs each weeknight. There’s not very much non-linear storytelling in Gilligan’s Island, but I enjoy the mistaken identities and disguises; the occasional dreamscapes and elaborate hoaxes that shape plots; the performances of songs, dances, plays, and even a make-shift island orchestra; and of course, the slap-stick and physical humor (both Gilligan and the Skipper engage in it — I have to admire Alan Hale’s efforts, given that he was in his forties and literally threw himself into the physical demands of the part); the dozens and dozens of times the actors, and especially Bob Denver and Hale, get tipped into the water and even “quick sand”.

As a historian of American television culture, I certainly find interesting the subtexts of the program. While the series was broadcast in the 1960s, its peculiar gender dynamics are grounded in attitudes seemingly more at home in the 1950s. Nevertheless, some of the behavior of characters pushes well beyond that seen in the sitcoms of the 1950s. Furthermore, the series’ reflection of post-war American consumer culture exemplified in the representation of Ginger Grant and the Howells (just how many sets of clothes did the Howells really pack for a three-hour tour?) and its regular haunting by the memory of World War II draw my attention. But I’m most interested in the echoes of America’s post-war technological obsessions. As the first season of Gilligan’s Island unfolds, the Professor begins to construct ever-more elaborate appliances from bamboo! 

Gilligan’s Island is not 1950s television comedy, yet with its slapstick, body humor, and performance sequences, it is still closer in conception to I Love Lucy (both echo aspects of vaudeville) than it is to All in the Family from the early 1970s. This even includes the regular appearances of guest comedic stock characters from episode to episode, around whom individual weekly stories tended to revolve. That leads me to a final question: How big was this island, really? Three times in the first season, the crew discovery other people stranded on the island (who then become the comedic “guests”): a “jungle boy,” a World War I-era American pilot, and an artist seeking solitude. How in the world did these people never ran into each other, let alone not cross paths with the castaways much sooner? 

Stan Pelkey

Four Concepts Every Future Voice Major Should Know Before College

By Maddie Pelkey

The voice is an instrument, just like a trumpet, a violin, or a piano. There are certain technicalities that every vocalist has to master in order to control their instrument. But in order to be a good musician, not just a good singer, there are many concepts you need to be familiar with. These are just a few of the concepts I’ve found it’s important to understand in my first semester as a freshman vocalist.

1. Know your terms. 

Hopefully your high school teacher taught you solfège — which, by the way, is totally underrated in high school.  But you also need to know the more complex terms that pertain to your craft, like “passagio” and “tessitura.”  And you also might want to start familiarizing yourself with Italian words that describe the mood of music, like “grazioso” and “pesante.” 

I know that learning vocabulary like this sounds boring, but your college professors will throw these around in lectures, lessons, and rehearsals and expect you to know what they mean.  Of course it’s okay to ask if you don’t know a term, but it’s nice to have the background knowledge beforehand so you understand the context of what you’re working on that much faster. 

2. IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)

My high school chorus teacher taught our chamber chorus, and later his entire program, the basics of IPA. At the time, I thought it was cool, but I wasn’t really sure when I would use it besides writing the pronunciations of words in my music — which is handy, but not really ground-breaking.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that the first semester of my English/Italian diction class was literally learning the basics of IPA. Thanks to my high school teacher, that class is a breeze. I’m so grateful he taught me IPA before I came to college, because now I’m just getting reinforcement of what I already know. Thus the IPA will stick with me longer, and the prior knowledge certainly helps my grades, too. Learn basic vowels and consonants before you come to college — you’ll be glad you did.

3. Know the notes on the piano.

When I signed up for Piano 1, I was expecting to be able to play all my scales and a few songs by Thanksgiving break. Instead, I was assigned scales and a few songs in the first week.  Knowing the notes on the piano is probably the most important thing you can do before you go to college for music: not only will it refine your theory skills, it will also make sure you don’t cry in the practice room every time you try to do your piano homework. 

In all seriousness, learn which note is where. Knowing where middle C is and finding everything from that just doesn’t cut it. If your teacher is expecting you to play major scales with both hands in your first week, you need to know every single note. Flash cards are a beautiful thing.

4. Be familiar with the Circle of Fifths.

Again, knowing the circle of fifths is great for piano class, but you’ll really want it so you can pass theory with flying colors. Theory revolves around intervals, scales, and key signatures. When it comes down to it, that’s all Theory 1 really is: arranging intervals in succession in a way that doesn’t break the all-important (but sometimes malleable) rules of composition. If you know your circle of fifths, then you’ll start your first weeks of theory strong, which is super important in understanding the rest of the course.

The unfortunate tendency for high school vocalists is to think of yourself as solely a vocalist, not a musician. Avoid this pitfall by studying up on these things before college: take a theory class at your high school, or learn some basic scales on the piano. And if your music teacher goes off on a tangent during class about theory or the International Phonetic Alphabet, take note of what they’re saying. You never know how it’ll help you in the future.

 

About the author:  Maddie Pelkey is currently a first-year vocal music education major at the State University of New York at Fredonia. In addition to her interests in music, she is an avid writer and loves the French language. She is a regular guest blogger @ stanpelkey.com.

 

Learning to Push Back Against Life’s Unexpected Set Backs

My daughter, Madison, who has done some guest blogging on my website, has headed off to college back up in New York State, where she was born and where she spent her early high school years. She’s now writing a regular blog as part of her college experience. I wanted to share her latest, which is about what happened after one of the cars in which she traveled from Tallahassee, Florida, to Fredonia, New York, was broken into oWhy I've Stopped Dwelling On What-Ifsn her way to college three weeks ago.

I am proud of the mature way in which she has come to terms with the experience and the fear it initially caused, but I am also pleased that she’s able to continue to share her thoughts and ideas with others through her writing. I’m a proud Dad, and I think Maddie’s a gifted young writer. I hope you find value in her story.

Stan

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/why-ive-stopped-dwelling-on-what-ifs

(And in case you’d like to read something more humorous by Madison, check this out.)

How To Survive A Big Move (Like Leaving for College!)

How To Survive A Big Move:

4 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Fear the Change, but Embrace It!

By Maddie Pelkey

When people ask me, “Maddie, where are you from?” I never exactly know how to respond. I’ve lived in four different states and five different cities, ranging from upstate New York all the way down to Florida. Because of when these moves took place, I attended seven different schools from kindergarten to my senior year. It sounds like a lot, but moving around this much has made me way more resilient and has opened doors for new opportunities and friendships. Being a bit of an urban nomad, if you will, has changed my life for the better.

That being said, digging up your roots and moving somewhere new can be really tough. You leave behind people, places, and things that you love with all your heart. Some people are really good at adjusting to their first big move. Some people, like I was, are not so good at the whole transition thing. Until junior year of high school, I’d spent my most memorable years in the wintery hinterlands of Michigan and New York. Moving to Florida, the land of palmetto bugs and mosquitos galore, meant I was in for some culture shock.

So, whether you, a family member, or a friend is gearing up for a big move, here are the best pieces of advice I can offer to make the transition as smooth as possible.

1. Don’t dawdle when it comes to unpacking:

This is really important. When I moved to New York in eighth grade, it took me weeks to find the courage to get my bedroom unpacked. For most of summer, I slept in an abyss of ugly brown moving boxes. At least subconsciously, I thought that if I didn’t unpack, the move wasn’t real and I could go back to Michigan. My mom ended up unpacking my room for me, but to this day I wish I could’ve found the courage to do it myself.

Once you’ve moved, you’ve moved. No going back. Get unpacked. You will feel infinitely better when your new house is a new home. Plus, it’s fun to put together a new room! If you’re having a really hard time, consider treating yourself to some cute new picture frames or wall decals to motivate yourself to get your room together.

2. Have something on hand to remind you of home:

Sometimes the moving grief will hit you out of nowhere. To help ease the sadness, I like to have something in my purse or on my keyring that reminds me of where I came from. At the beginning of my move to Florida, I carried a tiny rubber duck around everywhere I went, whether it was in my purse or my backpack. Now, the same duck sits on the dashboard of my boyfriend’s car; somehow, it’s miraculously managed not to melt on those 100+ degree days, so I see it whenever we drive around town together.

The thing to be careful about with this tip is that your sentimental item shouldn’t cause your grief. Pay attention to your feelings and your thoughts: make sure that your item of choice isn’t making you dawdle on your sadness; rather, the purpose of this exercise is to remind you that home is something you can carry with you, not something you’ve left behind.

3. Accept that friendships will be fluid for a while:

The harsh truth: some people are really good at staying in contact over distances, but some people, like me, are absolutely atrocious at keeping in touch. You will have old friends who expect you to text every day, and old friends who are okay with a single snapchat every six months. It varies from person to person. While it’s good to maintain friendships, keep in mind that you ought to make new friends, too. Don’t spend all of your social hours trying to keep in touch with people far away.

That being said, your new friendships could be sketchy at first, too. Sometimes the people you first meet when you move won’t be your friends a year from now, let alone six weeks from now. That’s okay! It can take a long time to find the people you’re really going to mesh with, but it’s worth it. Trust me when I say you’ll want the time to find your new self before you make super close friends, anyway. (See next point!)

4. Accept that YOU may be fluid for a while:

You know that typical Hollywood-esque cliche: Moving is great because it gives you the opportunity to completely rebuild yourself? Well, glib as it may sound, that’s not entirely untrue. You will grow and change as a result of relocating, whether you’re thirty miles or a thousand miles away from your old home. I am a vastly different person in Florida than I was in New York, and from New York than I was in Michigan, and from Michigan than I was in Massachusetts. Embrace the change! Be comfortable in your skin. This is the perfect time to try new things and meet new people. Besides, keeping yourself busy will distract yourself from those pesky “I wish I were home” thoughts until you finally come to think of your new place as home, too.

Above all, moving is change. And people say change is scary, but it opens up worlds of new opportunity. So embrace it, and try to stay optimistic about what lies in store!

Maddie Pelkey

Reposted on June 30, 2017

Reflections on Collaboration and New Ventures


Networking.

Collaboration.

New Ventures.

Risk taking.

Now that my first year teaching music entrepreneurship at the College of Music at Florida State University has drawn to a close, I have been spending time reflecting on these topics — which have been major components of class discussion this year.

Throughout the year, I have been reading up on these topics and surveying other people’s ideas and experiences about entrepreneurship broadly and arts entrepreneurship more narrowly. But I’ve also been trying to live out these ideas–more intentionally–throughout the past year. Within the structure of my FSU course itself, I guided students through the development and implementation of a series of “pop up concerts” around the Florida State University campus. These pop up concerts offered many more opportunities to think about event marketing, audience engagement and development, community engagement with the arts, and project management generally.

At the same time, I’ve been engaged in two new (and interrelated) artistic ventures of my own. First, I’ve been writing, recording, and producing my audio novel / podcast. This has been my most important new venture since August 2016. (Thanks to those of you have been listening!) Second, I’ve been intentionally composing more, both music for the podcast episode and new recital pieces, particularly chamber music. While the financial risk producing these projects has been low, my investment of time has been substantial. (And time, as we all know, is our most precious personal resource.) Most importantly, both projects have inspired ideas for more new artistic ventures, and I also have some thoughts about how I will expand my podcasting efforts. I will be sharing more about that expansion soon.

Both the entrepreneurship course at FSU and my podcast production work have given me more opportunities to reflect on the powerful musical experiences that can occur when one opens oneself to the insights of trusted colaborers. Allow me to share an example that is very important to me.

Back in March 2016, I began composing a relatively lengthy duet for violin and saxophone. The piece was inspired by conversations I had been having with Sophia Han, who has since completed her doctorate in violin at Florida State University. I completed the initial duo over the course of a weekend while visiting Houston, but I was not completely satisfied with the result. Further consultation with Sophia and saxophonist Zach Stern led to a completely new conception of the duet: a set of miniatures for violin and saxophone, with contesting styles and affects. 

Throughout Fall 2016, I continued to turn drafts of movement over to Sophia and Zach for their comments; this collaborative approach resulted in ever-improved drafts of the various movements. By early 2017, it looked like we’d be ready to either publicly perform or record the movements of the duo in mid-2017. In the end, we had an initial recording session on the afternoon of Saturday, April 22, 2017; collaboration continued to be the hallmark of the journey even then, as Sophia and Zach asked questions about interpretation, offered their own suggestions on several aspects of performance and interpretive nuance, and helped me to better understand the relationship between certain sounds we wanted, their notation, and the manner of their execution.

I’m sharing some pictures from that first recording session, which capture the collaborative nature of that moment in the duet’s history. But collaboration runs even more deeply: we were recording in Sound of Cypress, the studio of my friend and colleague, Michael Strickland. At the same time, we were being photographed and filmed by Brian LaBrec, a young, entrepreneurial photographer, videographer, and film maker. My conversations with Michael and Brian have helped to further shape my thinking about my own shorter-term (and longer-term) musical goals, but they have also furnished more real-world stories of musicians launching creative new ventures, even fledgling music businesses.

One of the key issues about arts entrepreneurship that has come up time and again as I have read, studied, and listened to radio and TV reports this year is the central place that networking and collaboration play in so many successful ventures. Although as a culture we tend to celebrate individuality, positive outcomes in life, work, and art are often much more communitarian. We cannot risk losing sight of that fact.

I look forward to bringing the insights I have gained as a composer and project manager to my class next fall, and I’m thrilled that I’ll also be able to show how some of my friends are working to bring their new ventures to life.  And as I noted above, I’ll be sharing more about the next steps ahead for my own new arts ventures.

In the meantime, enjoy the “backstage” photos, and check out the link to the video of “Four Miniatures for Violin and Saxophone,” movement two, which is available on my YouTube channel, found below. 

Recorded at Sound of Cypress Studio (Tallahassee, Florida).

Photographs by Brian LaBrec.

Check out a sample video from this recording session here.

Musings on the Undergrad Audition Process

MUSINGS ON THE UNDERGRAD AUDITION PROCESS

My name is Maddie Pelkey and I want to teach music. I’ve played oboe for eight years and English Horn for three years, have sung in various choirs since I was in fourth grade, and have studied soprano voice privately for about two years now.

Despite being surrounded by music my whole life, I was adamantly against the idea of following in my parents’ footsteps until about this time last year, when my choir director at school set me up with a paid oboe gig. The gig involved accompanying a chorus from Jacksonville at Florida State-MPA (Music Performance Assessment). Because I was only needed for one song, I was able to sit and listen to all of the other state-level choruses perform. They were phenomenal.  When I left the church sanctuary where the event was held, I knew that music would always be my passion and my language. I finally knew that I was meant to share this love with others.

Of course, this was the spring of my junior year in high school. I had a lot of work ahead of me if I wanted to be ready for college auditions in less than twelve months. Thankfully, I was living with two of the best people to teach me the in’s and out’s of auditions: my mom and dad—my coach and my accompanist, respectively.

You may have read my dad’s blog post earlier this fall, which gave tips on how to get through auditions and become a music major. If you need a quick refresher, he made four major points: get some rudimentary theory training, get piano lessons, be comfortable using your voice, and learn one of the music notation software programs.

All of these points proved to be super important in my audition process. (Thanks, Dad.) Of course the adjudicators are primarily listening for the quality of your performance, but having experience in theory, piano, and singing gives you that much-needed upper edge as admissions decisions are made. This makes an especially important difference when auditioning for higher-ranked schools. Any experience in theory, composition, or music activities outside of your primary instrument will spark conversations with your adjudicators and help convince them not only to admit you to the music school but to give you financial aid, too.

This January and February, after months and months of arduous preparation, I auditioned for a spot in the Music Education Program at four different schools: one in Florida, and three in New York. These four schools ranged from private to public, big to small, and rural to urban, so, of course, my audition experience was different at each school. But there are a few over-arching tips, in addition to what my dad wrote in his previous article, that I would give to a future auditionee:

  1. Don’t be afraid to brag about yourself during the interview process. It’s okay. This is one of those crucial times when you just have to advocate for yourself, even if you’re shy or nervous. If you’re worried about coming off as arrogant rather than confident, just be friendly, smile, and remember to listen as well as speak.
  1. Have one or two of your own questions prepared for your adjudicators, even if you’ve read their music school web page so many times you have all of the information memorized. At all four of the schools where I auditioned, there was a small interview-like session after my audition. My adjudicators reviewed my application and asked a few questions (usually why I wanted to come to New York, or why I was choosing to study voice when I had eight years of oboe under my belt). At three of my auditions, the adjudicators asked me if I had any questions once they were done. I would ask things like, “Are there ensembles I can be in as an oboist even though I’m a voice major?” My friend who was auditioning for music industry and sound recording technology, on the other hand, asked questions about the school’s equipment and opportunities to run tech for performances. The questions you prepare should be specific to you. Show your adjudicators that you’re interested in their school, and they’ll be more interested in you.
  1. The only variable you can control on audition day is your own preparedness. Practice, practice, practice. If you’re auditioning on voice, get with an accompanist as many times as you can before your audition. Memorize your music way I forgot some of the words to a song at my first audition, and the adjudicator cut me off instead of letting me finish the piece. I was mortified, but you can bet at my next three auditions I didn’t mess up a single word of my repertoire. Practice until you feel confident.

I ended up making the cut for all four schools, and now comes, arguably, the hardest part: making a decision. But hopefully these tips and my experiences will help those who, like me, only decided to follow the music path junior year. It is possible and you can do it, it just takes a lot of dedication and preparation. Good luck!

Maddie Pelkey

First posted on March 17, 2017

 

Music Entrepreneurship at the FSU College of Music in February 2017

February 23, 2017

Students from my “Introduction to Music Entrepreneurship” class at the College of Music at Florida State University gave a “pop up concert” yesterday (Wednesday, February 22, 2017) in the Strozier Library at the heart of campus. Music included original arrangements of pop songs as well as a handful of classical selections.

Several weeks ago, the students formed small teams that were responsible for planning and performing the music, creating marketing materials, preparing and distributing audience surveys, and producing audio and video recordings to help promote the course’s next pop up concert. Students will give two more pop up concerts this semester, and they will use what they learned from the first to try to improve the second and third concerts.

Each pop up concert is a chance to practice basic marketing strategies, project management skills, and audience development approaches, as well as to draw attention to the College and to share information about the College of Music’s upcoming events as we engage with the audience members.

(Students perform in the first pop up concert of Spring 2017.)

I am enjoying seeing the fruits of my students’ labors as they take to heart and practice the ideas we are discussing in my course. In the link below, you can also read about one of those students, Jose Hernandez, as he attempts to compose, perform, and record a new piece every day in February. Jose also shares what he has gleaned from the course.

http://news.fsu.edu/news/2017/02/17/28-songs-28-days-fsu-music-students-composition-quest/

(Jose introduces his piece for the pop up concert, the 21st he has written in February.)

Stan Pelkey

 

What I’ve Been Watching This Month (February 2017)

It’s a busy time right now, personally and professionally, and I’ve been putting as much of my available “extra” energy and time into the ongoing development of new podcasts for “My Radio.” One result is that I’ve not been preparing as many blogs about my current listening, reading, and watching.

Let me just give a quick update now about shows I am following in the early part of 2017:

In January, I watched all episodes currently available of Star Wars: Rebels. I really like this series for a number of reasons, including the characters, the connections and continuities with established Star Wars canon, and Kevin Kiner’s music, which pays appropriate homage to John Williams’s themes and scores without being stuck to those materials or merely derivative.

I have also been watching Masterpiece Theatre’s “Victoria,” a period drama about the queen of Great Britain. The cast is outstanding (I am especially impressed by Jenna Coleman’s performance as Victoria, and Rufus Sewell’s as Lord Melbourne), and I also think the music is quite strong.

I recommend both series to you.