First, to my fellow Oklahomans, I’m sorry I haven’t been forthcoming to your inquiries about where I have been lately or what I’m doing this fall. Until about three months ago, my plan was to march forward from ABD-status to research, writing, and defending my doctoral document. This all changed when I found out about an opportunity in Michigan which is now public knowledge.
Three weeks ago, I began my new job as Assistant Director of the Dorothy Gerber Strings Program of the Charlevoix Circle of Arts. The DGSP, lead by CCoA Executive Director Gail DeMeyere and DGSP Director Dr. David Reimer, is a multifaceted strings program which brings classroom string instruction to schools in the greater Little Traverse Bay region of Northern Michigan. We currently operate in nine different cities including Petoskey, Harbor Springs, Alanson, Pellston, Boyne City, East Jordan, Charlevoix, Elk Rapids, and Beaver Island. Our program also offers private lessons, Suzuki lessons, and camps during the summer ranging from fiddle to chamber music. You can read more about the history of the program here.
While I am very excited about this new position, I feel like I’m lacking a sense of “closure” to the Oklahoma chapter of my life. One reason is that the application, interviewing, offer, and acceptance process happened very quickly. Another reason might be because, after playing all six Brandenburg concertos for the Brandenburg Festival in Manistee and Traverse City, I went straight to work at Interlochen Cello Institute week, flew back to Oklahoma, packed over the course of two and a half days, and drove over a thousand miles in two days to begin teaching the day after I arrived.
It is difficult to articulate exactly what the last three years of my life have meant to me. I’m left trying to quantify and qualify the time with checkpoints or achievements. Six semesters of doctoral coursework, three degree recitals, six general exams, eighteen orchestral cycles in the OKC Phil and Fort Smith, and dozens of students. However, as these memories fade, what remains are all of the people who touched my life. This is the main reason I’m feeling like I haven’t reached a satisfying ending in Oklahoma: I wasn’t afforded the time to say goodbye to everyone. So here is my best attempt to capture, in words of gratitude, a proper goodbye.
First and most broadly are my places of work. The University of Oklahoma School of Music, The Norman School for Strings, The Oklahoma City Philharmonic, the Fort Smith Symphony, and St. Luke’s Methodist Church of Edmond. It was through these organizations that I gained experience, earned paychecks, and found community and belonging. Moreover, individual acts of kindness added up to a network large support. Whether it was advice on how to study for my general exams or studioclass comments while preparing for my recitals, gigs passed along from colleagues or rides to work when my van broke down, or even kind offers to seek refuge during tornado season, I could not have finished my coursework without the help of others.
Secondly, I must thank my supervisors. My assistantship serving Dr. Sanna Pederson and Dr. Michael Lee in the musicology department helped cover a large portion of my cost of attendance at OU. Besides this invaluable funding, I cherish the knowledge and experience that I gained assisting their courses and lecturing in my own music appreciation classes. Dr. Pederson has also been instrumental in not only guiding development of my dissertation topic but also helping me apply for and accept the Edison Research Fellowship through the British Library. I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to traveling to London next summer. Thank you to my dissertation committee members Dr. Anthony Stoops, Dr. Sanna Pederson, Dr. Sarah Ellis, and Dr. Bruce Boggs. A special thanks to Dr. Marvin Lamb for guiding my independent studies and for providing guidance while applying for jobs this spring. Last but certainly not least comes Kelli Ingels, director of the Norman School for Strings. Without the opportunity to teach violin, cello, music reading, and coach chamber music at her program, I surely would have gone broken. Kelli has always believed in my potential as a teacher and has helped honed my ability.
I want to express deep gratitude to Dr. Jonathan Ruck. When I accepted OU’s assistantship offer in the spring of 2015, I was apprehensive about leaving the familiarity of Kalamazoo and having to face all of the unknowns awaiting in Oklahoma. Would I like living there? Would I find enough work to support myself? Was I really up to the challenge of completing the doctoral program? The one thing I believed with absolute certainty was that if I studied with Dr. Ruck, I would become a better cellist.
I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t completely right. Cellistically, Dr. Ruck is a true master with unparalleled prowess on the instrument, keen insight to the technical aspects of the cello playing, and a wealth of musical solutions for tackling the repertoire. Professionally, he has served as both a model and guide to navigating the academic system and musical workplace. And finally, there are the all of the doors he has opened for me in the last three years. It was his suggestion to come audition for the doctoral program and apply for an assistantship, to contact Kelli Ingels about teaching at her school, to audition for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and to participate in the 2018 Donna Turner Smith Cello Competition to name just a few. I also feel indebted to the support of fellow doctoral cello studiomates Paula Santa Cruz, Cesar Cesar Colmenares, and Adriana Fernandez Vizcaino. We suffered together, stuck together, and grew together (and when it comes to Cesar and me, grew fatter together).
Expect to hear more about the Dorothy Gerber Strings Program and be on the lookout for performances with colleagues old and new in Northern Michigan. Oh, and my dissertation, still gotta do that.
I’ll catch ya’ll later, I’m going to go jump in the lake.