Moving Out and Moving On

By: Ragan Love

2020 has been the year of change; every time I blink something new happens. So why not say bye to my family and move to Portland.

I went home to Colorado because of COVID-19 in March and got to spend some quality time with my dad and brother. But, I learned that I am ready to live on my own. It was hard going home for so long after having my first taste of independence.

I was originally planning on staying in the dorms this year with my friend Stacey, but when we found out that we would be in individual rooms for the fall term, we decided to find an off-campus apartment. I am someone who needs human interaction and knew I would not do well living by myself.

We found a place in Southwest with another friend of ours and that prompted a plan to drive 1,200 miles. There were a couple of pieces of furniture that I had from my family home that would work well in our apartment so my dad and I drove up from Colorado to Portland together. 

So we packed up our cars! My dad decided to take his car too and enjoy the trip back with our family dog. We had the cars packed with my bedroom furniture, clothes, shoes (which there were a lot). There was a snowstorm the night we were planning to leave so we were delayed a few hours. But once we got on the road it was smooth sailing — for us and the pets!

The most stressful thing about the drive was my cat, Pinball. The couple times that I had him in the car he was not happy. I had to get some medication from the vet so he could be calm during our journey. I gave him some at 5 a.m., two hours before our trip and that helped him be sleepy for a few hours. He did not want to eat or drink on the road. But, once we got to Portland he ate and drank like normal! He really loves his life here and all of the attention he is getting. I can tell he misses my family cat and dog.

Now that I have spent over a month in my new place, it is safe to say that I made a good choice. I am happy with where I am at and happy that I got to create this little family with my roommates.

Social Distance Summer

By: Ragan Love

With summer just around the corner, I have been wondering how to enjoy the next few months. I don’t want to just sit inside, but I want to keep myself and loved ones safe. I love being around people, and this is a time where that really won’t happen.

When I envisioned summer 2020, I knew that I would be back home in Colorado. I was going to get a summer job and work full time for a few months. I wanted to do some fun adventuring with my friends and maybe travel somewhere with my family. My brother is going to college in the fall so this will be the last time where we are all hanging out together, and I was hoping that we could make it memorable. 

Luckily, I can still enjoy some of my favorite summer activities. I can still go hiking. It will be easy to distance myself. I also like to drive in the mountains and see nature, which I can do by myself right now and hopefully at some point with one friend. My town also has one of the last drive-in movie theaters in the country, so I can go there for a movie and stay safe in my car. 

There are things that I know won’t happen this summer because of the pandemic. In recent years my family has been spending a day at a local adventure park, but we all know it won’t be safe to go. Water World, a local water park, has announced that they will be closed all summer, and we are waiting for the other parks to follow suit. The county fair I go to happens at the beginning of August and marks the last summer adventure for the kids, but I am expecting those events to also announce that they are closing.

It has been awhile since I have seen my family in New Hampshire, and it looked like this might have been a summer where we could go visit. We did get some unexpected news, and we had to postpone a celebration of life until the end of the summer. My high school friends and I were also planning on hanging out in a little reunion this summer, but we know now that it will not happen for us this year.

I will be sad to not have an adventurous summer like I had planned, but it will be one of most memorable summers for all of us. I know that if I do what I need to this summer, even if that means missing out on fun events, life will soon come back to normal.

Facetime Friendships

By: Ragan Love

We are two months into quarantine which means it has been two months since I have seen any of my friends. I am an extroverted person, and isolation has taken a toll on me. I am missing the friendships that I just started in Portland, and I am watching my brother try to create memories with his friends before high school ends.

The friends I met at Portland State are now scattered across the country, but we still talk regularly. The friends that I always talked to before and after band class are now the friends I  Facetime with before and after the class Zoom call. Even though I miss the hugs and boba tea runs, it’s fun to see my friends’ houses, pets and family. I have also sent letters to my friends because I can’t surprise them in real life. 

Some friendships have dwindled because we don’t see each other. I felt like I did what I could to start conversations with those friends and say that I was there for them, but they faded away. I am sad to see those friendships go but I can’t spend my love and time on people who don’t want it. I am hoping that this might just be a little break that will make our friendship stronger when we can see each other again.

I am still friends with a few people from my hometown, and it is sad that I can’t see them even though we are only five minutes away from each other. We still talk, and we give each other hope that we will hang out once it’s safer. In the meantime, we are talking about our different college experiences with each other.

My best friend attends Colorado State University, and in October, she bought a plane ticket for spring break to see me and Portland. When March rolled around, the pandemic was in full swing, and we both thought it was best to postpone the trip. I ended up coming home for the quarter, so I will be able to see her soon and she will come to Portland once it’s safe. In the meantime, we are sending each other pictures of our animals and Facetiming. 

Even my brother, who is a senior in high school, has changed his friendships. Because he is a senior he has missed out on a lot of the senior activities; ditch day, prom, and graduation. He and his friends have been doing their regular hangouts in Animal Crossing. They all decided to “ditch” class together on the Senior Ditch Day as if they would have all hung out on the regular ditch day. My brother’s friends and their families have all agreed to help them have a mini prom night. With his group of six friends they are all going to dress up and just spend one nice night together. It’s sad to see him miss out on these experiences, but I am glad that we are able to help make different experiences. His friends have also shifted their regular Dungeon and Dragon meetings online, and it has seemed to work well for them. 

All of our friendships look different now, but this experience will really show who is a true friend and will help strengthen those relationships in our life.

Separating School and Home Life

By: Ragan Love

Remote Learning has been a learning curve for all of us, but now that half of the quarter is over, we all feel like experts. I am always looking for new ways to make remote learning easier, and I know other people are, too. Here are seven tips that have helped me be successful this Spring quarter. 

  1. Have a specific space to do your work. If you were on campus you would have your favorite study space: a coffee shop, the library, or your desk. When learning at home, it is important to separate your learning and chill spaces. I don’t have a personal desk at home, but my dining room table is working great for me. It gives me lots of space, and it’s located in an open area where I can look outside.
  2. Look at your word choice. I discovered the past few weeks that I call everything homework, and it makes my workload seem overwhelming. I have tried to separate what would be my classwork and my homework. The simple word change has helped me feel less overwhelmed with school work.
  3. Have your set “school day.” This will seem kind of high school but you should have a set school day. If you have a class from 10 a.m.to 11:30 a.m., work on that class during that time. I generally work at school from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. After 5 p.m. I will only work on loose ends and homework. It makes me feel like there is an end to the day if I have a clock out card for school.
  4. Once you are done,  stay done. It seems simple but we are all guilty of breaking this! Even though I say I am done, I will still respond to emails and check notifications on D2L. I have been trying to change that by putting down my phone and computer and spending some time with my family and animals.
  5. Remember to take a break. This is the most important tip I can give –  to others and myself. Burnout is a real thing for college students, and we are facing it more while at home. I feel like I have to be working on school all day so I write “take a break” in my calendar, forcing myself to have a little fun just for me. Some of my break activities have included napping, watching a show, taking a walk, or playing a game with my brother.
  6. Set daily goals. I am a very organized person but my organizational style has changed a lot during remote learning. I have found a system that works well for me, but I am still trying new things to see what I like. At the beginning of the school week I write a list of what needs to get done for every class. Every morning I look at my weekly list and put what I will specifically work on in my bullet journal.
  7. Set more specific goals. It is helpful to turn my goals into smaller, specific goals. Instead of working until I burn out, I set a goal of working on the online part of the unit or the chapter reading. This takes more planning to make sure you don’t fall behind, but it’s actually helped me get ahead in some of my classes!

Remote Learning For Music Majors

By: Ragan Love

Remote learning is a big transition for a music major. Most of my learning is hands-on. My classes consist of performing with and for my peers and learning how to play the piano and sing. These classes have always been in-person and this is the first time students and teachers have moved learning online. Some of my classes had little change while others are drastically different. 

Performance courses look very different online. All undergraduate music majors are required to enroll in nine terms of Performance Attendance. This is a weekly class where we listen to different musicians and answer questions about what we heard. The School of Music has canceled the class altogether. It is unknown if they will waive the requirement this term or if we will all have to take an extra term when we are back on campus. 

Another weekly class that I take is Studio Class. This is where I get to hear what the other flute performance majors (undergraduate and graduate) are working on. The flute professors have put together an unofficial Facebook group where we can post videos of performances for our peers to hear. We had our first session of performances, and it was very nice to hear my friends play and hear their comments about my performance.

The last weekly class that I take is my private lesson with my flute professor. During finals week Dr. Sydney Carlson sent an email to the flute studio members asking questions about our living situations – whether we were practicing with a full house or not – and the technology available to us. Dr. Carlson suggested we record every lesson so we can listen back throughout the week. Currently, I use FaceTime on my computer and record it on my phone. I think this process will work for me but I have only had two remote lessons so far. 

Even my non-music major friends have wondered how the music school will offer band class. It is interesting what the director of bands has put together. We will only have two “performances.” They will be more like fun recordings and the band will get to learn more about those when the midterm and finals week approaches. 

In the meantime, we are listening to band literature. Every week, the students get a few different pieces to listen to and answer questions about. Then, we have a Zoom meeting to discuss our thoughts about the music. Because we are not performing like usual, most non-music majors have decided not to participate in band this term. 

I am also in first-year piano, which is for music majors who came to the university with no prior piano experience. This Spring term we have to complete the Piano Proficiency Exam, which allows music majors to move to the advanced piano classes. Each week, my teacher gives us a class assignment to turn in and then an assignment for the exam. When he sends the assignments he also posts videos of tutorials and videos that show common mistakes. It’s difficult to learn an instrument without having the instructor there with you, but the professor is doing a wonderful job giving us resources and answering questions. 

My classes that don’t involve instruments include music theory, sight-singing/aural skills, and first-year honors. Music Theory has had a rocky start as it transitioned to another online platform. The professor is currently trying to use Canvas, which would allow music students to turn in assignments on an online music sheet software. This means that we all need to learn how to operate this software, including the instructor. The past few assignments we have been just to figure out how to write music online. It has been very helpful, but this means we haven’t learned any new content these past two weeks. Luckily, as we enter week three, we will start our spring quarter of music theory content.

Sight-singing is a course that coincides with theory. Students learn how to aurally understand music through dictation and singing assignments. The content for this class has been pretty easy because it drills our current skills. Assignments for this class included turning in recordings of us singing and pictures of our dictation practice. 

First-year honors has stayed very similar to what it would have been on campus. I am working on a group and individual project and we are only meeting as a class a few times for check-ins. 

With the refund from housing, I decided to take five extra credits, and I picked classes that were already online courses. I am taking American Traditions in Blues and Listening I. American traditions has us reading, listening and appreciating blues music and Listening I is the same concept but for classical music. Since these courses are originally meant for online work, this is the only part of the quarter that seems normal. 

I don’t feel like I am getting the education I paid for; however, I am still benefiting from remote learning. Sometimes the School of Music is a little old fashioned when it comes to learning, so this is allowing all of us to learn music technology like music writing software. This experience is reminding me to not take my education for granted because it can drastically change overnight. I am grateful for the professors who are trying to make the best out of this situation, but I hope that I can be back performing with my classmates in the fall.

Moving Back Home

By: Ragan Love

I expected to spend Spring Break practicing flute and hanging out with my friends. Instead, I spent it moving out of the dorms and heading home to Colorado to begin remote learning. 

I was sad to leave Portland and my new adult life and nervous to be traveling. I get sick very easily and worried I could potentially spread COVID-19 to other people. But I knew that the safest place to quarantine would be home with my family. 

As an out-of-state student,I couldn’t take everything home with me. Luckily, I have an uncle who lives in Portland, and he let me store some of my belongings at his house. But this came with the challenge of sorting what I would keep in Portland and what I would take home with me to Colorado. 

Since I am doing schoolwork while I am at home, I had to pack all of my textbooks and flute accessories. I could only take two suitcases and two backpacks on the plane, which limited what I could bring back with me to Colorado. I also had to make sure I had enough clothing with me for the next six months. But I was surprised at the items that I was able to part with, like my ukulele and sweaters. I ended up having room to take home old textbooks that I could sell, snacks that I had just bought, and hygiene products that I was still using. 

When I moved to Portland six months ago I had my dad, mom, uncle, and grandma helping me unpack, but this time it was just me. My family did not feel comfortable being in the social setting of a college dorm so I had to move everything by myself. The most stressful part about this process was going through it alone . The dorms were empty when I moved out, so it was easy to move my belongings out.

Once I got back to Colorado, I tried to enjoy my Spring break before the quarter started back up. I have a piano at home, so I will be able to be successful in my piano class, but without a personal desk all of my school supplies are sprawled across my dining room table. My father is an essential worker and still leaves every day to his food packaging plant. My brother and I stay inside and quarantine. He is a senior in high school so we will both be working on remote learning together and it will be interesting to see how we learn  as we are both visual- and performing arts-focused. 

This is a big transition that I wasn’t prepared to take in the middle of March, but the transition feels successful so far. It will be an interesting ride with online classes, especially as a music major, but I think this experience will help us all learn how to adapt to different situations. I miss my friends, my new independence, and the city, but coming home was a good choice to help protect myself and my loved ones.

A Big Week for PSU Music

By: Ragan Love

Some people ask me what I do during finals for my music classes. I take written tests, but most of my examinations happen in the form of performing. This past week has been filled with three big performances and an informative masterclass. 

On March 1, the Chamber, Rose, and Thorn choirs had one of the biggest concerts in PSU history. Award-winning conductor Eric Whiticare came to the school to conduct his own pieces. PSU invited over 300 high school singers to sing along with the university’s ensembles. The band accompanied the entire choir in one song “Sleep,” and we also played the piece “Machu Picchu.” Whitacre conducted his own arrangement of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” This fantastic concert was the first choir performance accompanied by a wind band that I have attended or heard. 

The morning of March 5, the PSU flute studio had a master class with Julee Kim Walker. A flute professor at Texas A&M-Commerce, Walker taught the flute studio for an hour. Three students performed and even though I wasn’t one of them, I learned so much by sitting in the room. She talked a lot about tone color with an accompaniment, which I have not thought about in my own piece. I took an entire page of notes and have been spending the past week applying her comments to my own repertoire. 

On March 5, the University Band and Wind Ensemble gave  their Winter quarter concert at the Foursquare Church in Beaverton. The University band performed the piece “Rainbows,” which was dedicated to a member of the band that passed away last summer who had conducted the same piece a year ago. My favorite piece performed by the University band was “Amperita Roca.” This is a very hype Spanish march that I played in my junior year of high school. 

The wind ensemble played the two pieces that we performed at the choir concert and also some other amazing pieces. My favorite piece that I performed was Kevin Walczyk’s “From Glory to Glory.” This was a piece celebrating the life of band director Ray Cramer’s daughter Heather Ellen Cramer Reu. The ideas and concepts that are in this piece are so thought out and it is beautiful.. The other piece that I enjoyed playing was a John Philip Sousa march. “The White Rose” is one of the lesser-known marches by Sousa but is so groovy! It’s loud and circus-y and is a staple band piece.

Sunday, March 8, the flute studio gave their end of the quarter recital. This was my first performance with piano and my first recital ever. I played Samuel Barber’s “Canzone” as my solo piece and a trio piece: Gary Shocker’s “Flutes in the Garden: I– Madonna Lilies”. This fun performance helped me relieve some of the stress I felt about performing for juries. The rest of the flute students also performed their solo pieces and trios. It was a nice way to wrap up the quarter and hear what my peers have been working on.

Changing the Way you Study

By: Ragan Love

In my recital class, I get to hear many speakers talk about different aspects of music that will help in our practice routine and professional careers. One topic that has really stuck with me was about ‘mindful practicing’. This is when you think and plan out what your goals are, instead of going to a practice room and setting a timer for two hours. 

What the professor said next surprised me: if you don’t feel like practicing at all, go into a practice room and set a timer for five or ten minutes. In that time, play something very simple. If the timer goes off and you are still unmotivated, you should put away the instrument and try again later. If you push yourself farther than your body wants, it will stop being productive and will actually hurt your progress for the next few days.

There were two big takeaways that I saw in this lesson. I have not only applied them to my music school work but also my academic work. Mindful practicing taught me how to be productive on my non-productive days. 

Another key aspect that I took away from this lesson is how to rethink your practice routine. Before this, every music teacher told me that I need to practice for 60 minutes a day but didn’t tell me how to efficiently practice my material. When you put a timer on, you think about what you can do to fill that time instead of what you need to work on. This is why you should go into your practice routine with few set goals, like working on a certain section or one specific piece. Sometimes with your specific goals you won’t hit that standard two hours a day but it’s ok because you benefited more by focusing on goals rather than time.

I think that it is important to acknowledge that there comes a time when we all run out of motivation and energy to push through some assignments, and if you try to push through an assignment, you burn out. So when you have a day where you can’t focus, try to study for ten minutes then when the timer goes off and you aren’t motivated, its best to step away in order to be more productive later on. 

Translating mindful practicing to mindful studying is a bit more abstract. Before applying mindful studying, I would get a writing assignment and plan on getting in completely done at one time. But when you spend hours on a paper, your brain can get fried. You should plan on getting certain sections done over a couple of days. Yes, this does mean that you need to stay on top of your work, but it allows you to replenish your thoughts and look over with a productive brain. 

Mindful practicing has not only aided my musician skills and practice time, but has also helped me when it comes to my academic life.

Bullet Journal for the Win

By: Ragan Love

During my senior year of high school, my puppy got into my backpack and chewed up my planner. I was about to leave the house for an important audition, and I saw all of my important events scattered across the ground. My dad helped salvage the pieces so we could record the events and homework I had. 

The next week I went to the store to find a planner, and I realized I hated all of the ones in stock. I tried thinking of the positives, and I couldn’t do it. I went home that day and did some research on making a DIY planner for the rest of the semester. This is when I came across the Bullet Journal. 

A bullet journal is a planning style created by New York designer Ryder Carroll. He describes this as a way to “track the past, organize the present, and plan for the future.” A bullet journal goes farther than the basic planner because every individual can create what they want to log. You can create your own weekly school lists, an exercise or practice log, or a month, term, or yearly goals.

At first, I was anxious looking at everything that these people put in their planners; it was every aspect of their life! My planner has always been strictly for school, and this was the first time that I thought about expanding. What I first included was a practice planner, where I wrote down every piece I wanted to practice that day. This got too tedious for me because I have a 90-minute practice routine. Once summer hit it was hard to keep up with it because I didn’t know what to write. I ended up turning each page into a daily to-do list.

When the fall quarter started I decided to create an efficient bullet journal. Before school started, I watched a few different videos on YouTube, trying to get some ideas of formats that would work for me. I spit my planner into 9 different sections with a week running from Monday to Sunday. Then I added an overall weekly to-do and practice list. I didn’t try the mood trackers or meal plans at first because I wanted to focus on finding something I really liked and slowly expanding. I did like this layout. The only aspect that I changed was I took out my weekly practice and started a music notebook where I included all of my musical work. I drew out the entire quarter and then put my quarter goals at the end. I liked this because I couldn’t see my goals until after the term ended.

I have just completed my spread for the winter term. I am pleased with how it looks, and it has helped me stay organized so far this term. I have added some new spreads that I am excited to try out. One is a February mood tracker (I picked the shortest month for a reason). The other spreads are for overall 2020, like books to read this year and other things I would like to check out. My main goal with my bullet journal is to keep up with it all year, even when I have a week where I am off my game. 

I am happy that my dog ate my planner because it allowed me to find new ways to organize my life.

Finding a New Hobby

By: Ragan Love

My favorite activity has always been creating and playing music, but when college started my hobby turned into my main academic focus. It led to a creative block that lasted several months.  Playing my favorite instrument felt like a chore.It made me sad that my escape had turned into a daunting task. I decided that I wanted to find a new hobby that I could turn to when my brain was overloaded with music information.

I thought about other activities I enjoyed before college started. I used to spend my free time reading, cooking, and sewing. It’s hard for me to do much cooking or baking because I have a small kitchen space, and I am trying to use the meal plan as much as possible. I have tried reading, but I need a light school reading load if I want to dive into a good book. That left sewing, and I went online to look for ideas. This is when I saw needle-point kits! My grandmother taught me needlepoint , but it had been years since I had tried it. I found a  cute flower three-pack and decided to try it out. The first one I did was a simple, but cute, plant design. I started it in October and slowly finished this project for my friend’s Christmas present.

During winter break, I started a new project, a tiny avocado. Only a few inches tall, the design took a few hours to finish. I really enjoyed this one because I got to work on it while relaxing with my family in Colorado! I actually turned this needlepoint into a magnet for my grandmother’s birthday, and she absolutely loved it. 

I am currently working on two different designs. I plan to keep these for myself.   One is a needlepoint on a wooden canvas and pictures a mountain scene. My friend gave this to me when I was getting a little homesick, and I can’t wait for it to be completed so I can have it on my desk as a memory of home.

My new hobby gives me a mental break from playing the flute. Needle-point projects make wonderful gifts for friends and family, and you can work on them throughout the year. I think that creative burnout is a challenging part of college that is not talked about, but it is important to take a mental break from your professional passion.  Needlepoint helps me get into a better creative space for performing music.