“The Fierce Vexation of a Dream”

Readers, perchance you wonder at this blog, but wonder on ’til truth makes all things plain!

Throughout the entirety of this semester, I’ve had the amazing privilege to be a part of a remarkable theatre production with the LMU Players: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream! Months of preparation peaked toward the end of November with an open dress rehearsal and a series of four performances. Seeing as I have never acted in any actual productions in my life (I have a feeling church plays I did in elementary school don’t count for much on a theatre resume) this entire process was a completely new experience – and a wonderful adventure of fun and self-discovery as well.

It all started with the LMU Players’ meeting early on in the semester that I attended partially out of curiosity, partially out of the promise of free pizza. There I saw that many of my friends, some from from the Honors Program, and a few new faces from my classes were interested as well, and many of them had been in past productions. When our directors, Hayley Townsend and Professor Mark McGinley, mentioned the possibility of the Players putting on one of Shakespeare’s plays, I knew without a doubt that it was something I wanted to be a part of, if only to give it a shot and broaden my horizons. (And, you know, act in a Shakespearean production!) Soon after the meeting that piqued my interest in auditioning, tryouts for A Midsummer Night’s Dream were announced, and my friend Chelsea and I resolved to audition. Continue reading

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Alex’s Declassified Writing Survival Guide – Part 2!

Guess what, my dear readers?

I, Alex, the writer who often develops new ideas to write but rarely ever finds the motivation to actually do the thing, has started a new original story at last! And this time, it’s one that I got the idea for out of non-forced inspiration and I am actually determined to finish!

Perhaps it’s really true that a change of surroundings or a change in pace is all it takes to kick-start the imagination. I recently spent a week in Hilton Head Island in South Carolina before school started back, on vacation with my parents. While having no private bedroom and constantly running around for a week had the unfortunate side-effect of me wanting to spend the entire week afterward doing nothing and talking to no one, there were some definite upsides to a new environment. Perhaps the most important was that I started journaling again. That got me used to writing a little every day, no matter what it was. It was the last night of the trip, when I was down at the beach for one last visit, that the aforementioned perfect story idea came to me, along with the first lines of the story itself.

However, for me most of the time, writing isn’t nearly as easy as staring out at the ocean until inspiration strikes out of the blue. To illustrate this, here’s an in-depth look at my complete writing process:

1) Realize that you haven’t written anything that’s not fanfiction in over six months.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with writing fanfiction – I LOVE fanfics, reading them and writing them, and consider them a completely legitimate form of storycrafting. However, I also love branching out into writing my own, original ideas too…and shortly before I left for vacation, I looked back at the past year and realized that I had hardly written anything not using pre-existing characters at all. Whoops.

2) Take a peek into your latent imagination and realize that you have too many ideas and half-finished concepts buzzing around to organize. Continue reading

It’s Okay, I’m With the Band

Sometimes, I find myself wishing that I could get more involved on campus. I see all of the amazing organizations and clubs on campus that my friends are getting involved in and think “I should really be doing more.” But then I remember: I’m insanely involved already! In fact, the groups I’m a part of take up three out of five days in the school week – and sometimes even a day of my weekend. Taking part in them just seems so natural that I hardly even notice that they’re “extra-curricular”, or at least most of them are.

I am, of course, referring to LMU’s many student and community musical ensembles. As of now, there are four immediately visible ensembles: the Concert Band, Pep Band, Jazz Band, and the Concert Choir and Community Chorus. Right now, the only one of these groups that I’m not affiliated with in any way is the Jazz Band (I’m not at all experienced in the jazz style or the instruments used in said style), and thus can’t give you much insider information on that ensemble – Julie can give you the details on this one! In addition to this, I’m completely new to the Concert Choir (having joined just this semester), and somewhat new to Pep Band (joined last semester). Fortunately, my previously-learned musical abilities and experiences were able to help me adjust to these new groups rather quickly. Not only have they been great learning experiences thus far, but also great fun!

Don’t mess with the woodwinds!

I’ve actually been playing with the university’s Concert Band off-and-on since my junior year of high school. Since any member of the community well-versed in his/her instrument can play with the band, I tried out on flute (a C and E-flat major scale and “Into The West” from Lord of the Rings were my audition tasks, if I remember correctly!) and was able to play along with a few of my other friends from my high school’s band. Needless to say, I stuck with it – joining the ensemble officially when I began school at LMU didn’t feel like much of a change at all. Out of the three ensembles I’m a part of, I think Concert Band is definitely my favorite; not only because it’s the one I’m most familiar with, but also because I enjoy the classical types of music we play and the setup of multiple rehearsals culminating into one final concert. Many of my good friends (including my best friend from high school!) are in this ensemble as well; if that isn’t awesome enough, the flute section is one of the largest sections in the band, fun and overpowering in equal measure! Since there are so many of us, our director, Dr. Carucci, has often had to say something to the effect of “Okay, I need all of you to play out more in this section – except the flutes! I couldn’t hear the trumpets over you guys.” I can think of very few other bands where the most delicate woodwind instrument in the ensemble was in danger of overpowering the loudest brass instrument known to man.

If Concert Band represents the classical culture side of music to me, then Pep Band is its pop culture equivalent. While in Concert Band, we learn perhaps five or six long and challenging pieces of music to perform at a concert at the end of the semester, in Pep Band, we learn many shorter and less taxing pieces to perform in the stands at LMU’s basketball games throughout the year. This ensemble is considerably more visible than its Concert equivalent, considering we play at nearly every home game. Because of this visibility and the relatively short periods of time we have to learn our music, the director places a special emphasis on us achieving a clear musical sound and sounding good together, a skill that many of us can easily carry over to Concert Band. While the extremely exciting and loud atmosphere of Pep Band performances hasn’t historically been where I feel most at home, I consider the experience worth it to be able to play fun and crowd-pleasing music with an ensemble dedicated to excellence.

My Concert Choir audition piece – Broadway is always my go-to source for awesome sheet music!

Concert Choir is, as I mentioned, the ensemble I’m the newest to, in more ways than one. Not only did I just join, but I have had practically no experience singing in a formal concert setting. I do, however, have a decent voice and can read music and match pitch – no worries there! There were four parts to the audition process for this ensemble: pitch testing (seeing how high and low I could sing and assigning me to either soprano or alto depending on how I did), rhythm testing (clapping a few notated rhythms out), a prepared piece (I brought a previously-rehearsed song of my own choosing to demonstrate my singing ability in-context), and sight-singing (singing a few short, simple melodies I hadn’t seen previously). I was placed in the alto section – the female harmony part. Although this is a new experience for me, I’m not too worried about it, considering my cousin (an amazing vocalist) is an alto alongside me. So far we’re working on some amazing pieces, including a beautiful religious piece by Haydn, which is a challenge I’m definitely looking forward to!

When I step back and look at all the amazing things I’m a part of in the music program, I can’t think of why I ever thought I was “uninvolved.” Music isn’t just something I’m involved in here – it’s something of a second home.

If you’d like to know more about LMU’s music program, check out its web page here! Now that I’ve shared my musical experiences – what about you? Do you play any instruments or sing, or would you like to? Have you considered checking out any university musical performances, at LMU or elsewhere? Let me know in the comments, and feel free to follow my blog for updates on my own adventures, musical or otherwise!

Play On!

The music program at LMU is small and relatively new, but growing larger and better with each passing year.  I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it!  Not only do I play in the concert band and pep band, my family has gotten involved as well.  My father (pianist extraordinaire who made sure I was surrounded with music my entire life) currently plays with the newly formed university jazz ensemble, while my cousin (an up-and-coming soprano vocalist who could put Christine Daaé to shame) sings in the community concert choir.  While I’ve never been one for jazz-style playing, I hope to get involved in the choir soon!

In addition to the myriad of ensembles, the music program offers many music-oriented classes as well.  In Music Appreciation, students (including myself!) can learn about the fundamentals of musical characteristics, the history of music, and how to critique and analyze music effectively.  Although we may go into the class having set opinions and ideas about music, here, we learn to explain why we hold those opinions in an informed and academic manner; perhaps even formulate new opinions about music we may have never been exposed to before!  Taking this course raised some interesting questions in my mind:  other than simple exposure, why do I enjoy music so much?  What purpose does it serve in my life?  Why do I enjoy the types of music I prefer?

One thing I enjoy about music is its religious sect and spiritual qualities.  Religious music has always played a large part in my life; my father has been the music director at many churches I’ve gone to throughout my eighteen years, and many of my musical performances are still at churches during special services.  I remember one particularly spiritual experience in particular:  during a Christmas musical at my parents’ current church in New Tazewell, I played the role of Mary.  Near the end of the play, I delivered a vocal solo, a lullaby to Jesus; the song was very slow and lyrical, and fit my vocal range perfectly, so I didn’t have to strain myself to perfect it.  All the while during the performance, I was actually holding a baby!  The whole experience was surreal and peaceful, and I almost forgot about the audience while I sang.  Even now, I still incorporate music into my spiritual practices such as dance and meditation.

A world without music for me would be like a world without the law for Javert. “I am reaching but I fall, and the stars are black and cold!”

Another reason I love music so much is its ability to tell stories and enhance them.  For example, Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is one of my favorite novels of all time, and is the greatest stories of love, morality, and justice ever told, even without music.  When Claude-Michel Schönberg took the story and created a concept album around it, it skyrocketed in popularity and went on to be the longest-running West End and Broadway musical to date.  To this day, Les Mis remains a huge part of my life, both as a story and a musical work.  My love for the musical eventually gave me another way to connect with two of my best friends here at LMU, Chelsea and Merry, who are also big fans!  We spent one of our occasional Friday movie nights watching the 2012 film adaptation of Les Mis, singing along with the music and (of course) bawling when the emotions got a little too intense.

This addition of music to stories isn’t limited to Broadway, however.  Scores and backing tracks of movies, TV shows, and even video games can be equally moving and enhancing; I’ve started watching some TV dramas and animated shows merely because I liked the music!  I find the scores of several animes -composed by one of my favorite modern composer, Yuki Kajiura- and of the Final Fantasy video game series especially compelling.  It’s amazing how a single song with a haunting melody like Kajiura’s “A Song of Storm and Fire” could get me addicted to a series so quickly!

(Speaking of “A Song of Storm and Fire”…)

Anna Blue used her music for self-expression of negative feelings – and Damien Dawn used his music to try and help her.

The main reason I’m so in love with music, however, is how it can express things that can’t be conveyed in words alone.  One of the most touching examples I can think of portraying this is the story of Anna Blue and Damien Dawn, a true story that I only recently heard.  A German high school student, who wrote music under the name Anna Blue, was dealing with depression and wrote a song expressing her sorrow and loneliness, called “So Allein” (“So Alone”).  A male singer, known only as Damien Dawn, heard her song and wrote a comforting reply, called “Dein Herz” (“Your Heart”), in which he sang of Anna as a light in the dark night and told her to look into her heart if she ever needed him.  Anna Blue eventually revealed her real name as being Anna White, but Damien Dawn remained enigmatic and never came forward.  I had never before seen music used in this way, and found the result to be heartrending.

It would be impossible for me to live in a world without music; somehow I don’t think I’ll ever have to.  For, as said by Plato, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”

If any of you love music as much as I do, check out the the Facebook page for LMU’s music department!

What kinds of music do you like and why?  Has music ever helped you in any way?  How do you use music in your life?  I’d love to hear some of your stories, and would be thrilled if you would allow me to tell you more of mine – feel free to comment and follow my blog!