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.

Coming Back Home

By: Ragan Love

I moved away from Colorado for the first time in September. I talk to my family pretty often, so I  didn’t think it would be that hard to adjust to home life when I went back for the holidays. It was actually more difficult than I expected. 

I come from a family of three: my dad, my little brother and me. When high school ended, I started working full time at a restaurant and came home to clean and cook dinner for my family. This became the norm for my family, and when I left for school in September, they didn’t realize how much they depended on me. When I talked to them after the first month, they hadn’t eaten  a home-cooked meal, checked the mail, or vacuumed the living room. It got to the point where the mailman actually put a box on the porch filled with all the mail. This is when it really hit all three of us life had changed. I began to jokingly text them reminders to do their chores, and by November, they were actually doing them.

When I got home after the fall quarter I felt like I was a guest in my own house. All of my old tasks now belonged to my brother or dad. If I wanted to clean anything my father would stop me because he didn’t want me having to clean where I wasn’t living anymore. When I wanted to cook dinner, my dad told me that he already had a plan for our dinner. One moment that really stuck out to me is my second night home when we were planning to have ramen for dinner. I came into the kitchen to help but my dad and brother had everything covered; there was nothing for me to do. That was the first time that I hadn’t helped with our family dinner, and it made me feel like a stranger.

I was warned how different it would be coming home for the first time after starting college, but I didn’t expect that I would feel like my family didn’t need me anymore. I thought that this is how my dad would feel, not me. It wasn’t all negative. I had moments that made me happy to be back home. I am pretty close to my little brother and during break he was constantly asking for help on college applications and told me how he was happy that I was home. We got to chill out and talk about everything that’s been happening without one of us cutting out on FaceTime.

I think I shouldn’t have expected my household to be the same after leaving for four months. It wasn’t just hard for me. My brother and dad also had to adjust to my absence. My brother is heading off to school in the fall, and our family dynamic will change again once we are both out of the house. Instead of feeling a sense of loss, I now view this transition as a chance for all three of us to grow and be our own people.

A Love for Classical Music

I have been playing classical flute repertoire for seven years, but it wasn’t until recently that I acquired a love for listening to the genre. Here are some of my favorite pieces that I hope will open up your mind to classical music. 

Nicole Chamberlain– Crunchy

When introducing others to classical music, I always start off with a contemporary artist because it is more exciting. Nicole Chamberlain is a 21st Century artist who explores extended techniques on the flute. Extended techniques are simply funky sounds on an instrument. This piece asks the player to beatbox throughout by saying the words, “za’s, ka’s, ta’s” into the flute. This is part of a suite that Chamberlain called “Smorgasbord,” and it includes four other movements that also bring the piccolo into play. 

Samuel Barber– Canzone for flute

My flute professor recently introduced me to this piece, and it is now one of my favorites. Barber is a 20th Century American composer and wrote many different pieces for choir, violin, and strings. This particular piece is slow and very lyrical. As a performer, it’s a fun piece because it gives me room for expression and expanded throughout the flute’s register. One of my favorite parts about playing the flute is how rich the low register can be and this piece shows off that part of the instrument. 

Bach– Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude

This is probably the most famous cello song and is my cello piece, but I absolutely love this cover by the piano guys. They arranged this solo piece to be played by seven cellos. This is the biggest part of the Suite and is filled with arpeggiated chords. Bach is one of the iconic composers, so much that his birth and death year are the start and end of the Baroque era. Interestingly, he died from complications of eye surgery at 65. 

Claude Debussy– Clair De Lune

Every time I hear this piece I begin to tear up!  Clair De Lune is French for “light of the moon,” and I first played an arrangement of it for one of my high school marching band shows. Debussy wrote this piece in 1890 when he was only 28 years old, but it wasn’t published for another 15 years. This is a very simple piano piece and is very straightforward to play.