This is my Elevator Pitch for SMU Meadows School of the Arts.
I believe that we are all human and that means that we are in no way perfect. There are a few skills, such as sight-reading, transposition, piano, ear training, and focus, that I need to strengthen in order to reach my goal as an orchestral horn player. These skills are key to having a less stressful, more enjoyable musical career. By applying myself more to prepare for these skills, I will become a better, all-around musician and open myself up to more opportunities. Certain skills that I currently hold are very valuable for my career. These skills are dedication, confidence, persistence, and love. I believe that these skills are rewarding to have and encourages me to keep going with my dream. At the same time, these skills that I currently have need to work together with the skills that I am trying to improve, in order to unleash the full potential that my talent and desire has to achieve my dream.
Motivation is probably the most important aspect of my life and is the reason why I am still continuing on this career path. I find myself being a strategic learner. I have always tried to get the highest grades, practice the most amount of hours in the day and have the best performance. About 65% of my motivation is external and 35% is internal and I would like to try and balance the two.
I am very easily distracted by technology. I always have my iPhone with me and I always check it. I find myself using the excuse, ” I am just checking the time”, but honestly I am checking to see if someone has contacted me. By doing this, I try and gravitate towards a new task, instead of staying focused on the task that I had at hand. A way that I have been able to help myself get over this addiction, is by turning my phone completely off until I am done with my practice session or homework assignment. I even find myself leaving it in my locker sometimes. After doing this for awhile I have already noticed a significant amount of improvement in my lessons and performances.
One of my biggest motivators, is having the dream job as a horn player in a professional orchestra. I have continually thought about this dream and goal every single day I wake up from bed. It is the thought that drives me into the practice room, into the rehearsals and allows me to take the opportunities. Whenever I find myself getting a little discouraged about my dream, I try to remind myself that no matter what I choose or who, I become I will always have music in my life and, therefore, I do not need to worry.
The final and most important motivator for me is to see people’s reactions to my art and know that what I have created has touched someone and helped change their life. I get the biggest rush of excitement and self-confidence whenever I play for a church, or a recital, and I have people come up to me after and tell me that my playing brought them to tears. There is something about this feeling that is so special that I can not even express how much it means to me. Every time I walk off stage from a performance, I have always had people in my life to encourage me and tell me that my performance was spectacular. Even if I made mistakes, they have always supported me and reminded me how special it was to them. I know that this is an external motivator, but it is the energy that helps me push forward in my career path. I will try to put more of my own expression into my decisions and choices that I make in order for this motivation to balance itself out. I believe that motivation is such a key part in any artist’s life and it is the very thing that allows each of us to release a beautiful work of art that will hopefully inspire someone in this world.
Why am I a musician? Why do I enjoy worshipping God? Why do I love to go out of the country and complete a church for the nicest, happiest and poorest people on earth? Why do I enjoy seeing smiles on people’s faces? Why do I love to seeing my family every time I go home or talk to them on the phone? These are the things that I love to do. The things that define me as a person. These are my values.
I started playing the horn in sixth grade and ever sense then I enjoy every moment I am able to pick up a huge piece of metal and blow some air through it. Some times the noises that come out of the bell are not always the prettiest, but being connected with the horn and having a chance to share this music to people makes me very happy. I started to get very serious with the horn during my senior year of high school and freshman year of college. I found myself getting more competitive and I had a mindset that I want to be the best. Towards the end of my freshman year of college, I was reminded that I am not the best and I began to feel a little down. Every one has those moments in your life where you question if this is really what you want to do and there will be more those times for me, but when you try to see yourself in the future without your own art and you see no future, then you know that your art is a true value in your life. Music is that value of mine that I can not live without. I do not know where I am going to be ten years from now, but if it has anything to do with performing music, teaching music or just being around music I know that I will truly be happy.
Another very important value in my life is my faith. “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” Psalms 33: 1&3 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.” Jeremiah 29:11 These verses have been repeated in my head countless of times when I am going through a difficult time. The verses in Psalms relate so much to my musical career and when I find myself getting pulled away by the real reason why I play the horn, I always randomly get reminded of these verses and I begin to have a complete change of mind. The past few months I have been struggling with looking TOO far into the future and getting worried about where I am going to be. Will I be able to make enough money to support myself or my family, when I am going to meet that special someone or what I am going to be like? The verse from Jeremiah clears up all of these worries that I am having and it helps me to have faith that God is telling me to not worry anymore about my future and just be happy with myself.
The past two years, my faith has really been tested and I have responded to this inner calling that I was having within myself. During the summer before my senior year of high school, I was asked to join a mission team to go to Costa Rica and help build a church for this community. I was shocked when I was asked about this because I have never been on a mission trip and I had NO IDEA what it was going to be like. Throughout my senior year, I did research on this country and was overwhelmed with how corrupted and scary of a country it was, but something on the inside was telling me to go for it. So I did. We left at the end of June and was there for ten days. These ten days completely changed my whole perspective on life. The people that we worked with and that thrived throughout this community had NOTHING. I mean NOTHING. The average annual income, in American dollars, was $5,000-6,000. These numbers and images that I see of this place would make someone that has never been really sad, but these people that live here and put their whole lives in God’s hands are the happiest, most beautiful and most hard working individuals I have ever seen. I was so moved by how happy and special these people were for me and the team. So I decided to go back this past summer. The excitement, emotion and happiness that thrived in that community when we worked together again was the best feeling in my life and they all enjoyed music so much and I look forward to sharing my music with them in the future.
Finally, my family is at the center of all of this happiness that I am finally starting to feel again. My family has always been supportive of me and my decisions in my life. Even from the time I would cry about not being able to hang out with my older brothers from deciding what I want to do for the rest of my life, they have always been there for me. My parents are quite excited about my musical career and love dreaming about how they are ready to travel with me to all of my concerts and get to see different states and even different countries. They are very enthusiastic for me and whenever I find myself being down on my future they bring me back up with a simple, “I love you and I will support you no matter what.” My two oldest brothers have always made fun of me for being completely different from them, but seeing them light up whenever I perform for people and having them support me financially in everything I do, is a feeling that I have and will always remember.
My faith in God, my whole family and my passion for playing the horn are the main values in my life and are what energizes me to push through the difficult times and know that no matter I do or what I become, that I will always have a bright, happy and successful future.
“Work less, Play more” I am an individual that really uses quotes in my everyday life and in my practice sessions. Quotes, especially small quotes, help keep a quick and small reminder of what I am supposed to be doing in a certain piece of music. When I read or hear some interpretation about a phrase in the music and it appears to be in a long sentence, than I begin to compact it and make it a memorable, easy phrase instead of trying to remember all of the words. This helps me to stay focused and not be overwhelmed.
Along with writing down all of these quotes and using them in my everyday practice, I also write down a very concise schedule of what I am going to be practicing each day. My practice sessions are broke up into several parts and each part vary from day to day. I begin with a relaxed, comfortable warm-up session. It usually lasts about thirty to forty minutes and consists of many fundamental exercises that I need to do on the horn. From free buzzing, to buzzing on the mouthpiece, to playing chromatic runs in the middle register, to long tone exercises, to harmonic slurs, to flexibility, to lip trills, to multiple tonguing exercises, to scales, to high range and finally to low register work, I find my warm-up session to be quite structured. Once I finish this session, I move to an etude and orchestral rep session. I begin to work on about three etudes and four to five orchestral excerpts each week. During the etude practice I try to focus and make music out of these technical etudes, instead of just playing the notes on the page. Before I work on the excerpts, I listen to multiple recordings of all of the excerpts on my phone and get different ideas on how these excerpts should be played. Later in the day, I have a solo practice session ending with a fun practice session. Usually in the evening, I will begin practicing different types of solos that I need to prepare and spend about an hour and a half on this session. At the end of the day, I will pick up old pieces that I played before, pick excerpts that I really enjoy playing and just make up stuff to play and use this time to only have fun and to not judge my own playing. This reminds me why I am pursuing this career.
I wish that all of this structured practiced material would be as consistent as it sounds everyday. I find myself loosing consistency sometimes when I get overloaded by life. My main struggle in my everyday practice sessions are trying to space them out, stay focused and not think to hard about horn playing. I sometimes find myself doubting my work habits because I begin to struggle with horn playing, but I have to remind myself that I will sometimes get off track and loose focus. Knowing that and knowing that I will not always be perfect releases large amounts of negative thoughts and stress from my mind. I am going to repeat the quote that I wrote at the beginning of this blog every time I pick up the horn. It will remind me that I chose this career because I have fun making music and that if I truly have fun playing the horn than I will never have to work a day in my life.
“Never give up on your dreams. You can do anything you put your heart into.” These words of my parents echo through my mind every moment I walk out onto a concert stage.
My passion for playing the French Horn started when I was a freshman in high school. I started playing the Horn three years before this, but just played it because it was fun and I could make a really loud noise on it.
My freshman year, my band director began setting up lessons for me with a college Horn Professor. I started to do everything he was teaching me and before I knew it I became quite good at the instrument in a small amount of time. I then had a fire lit within my soul that morphed into a concentrated, yet, passionate desire to play the Horn. I began practicing everyday just because I wanted to and it made me very happy. Throughout my high school years, I competed in multiple competitions. From making the All-State band and making first chair two times, to winning Horn workshop competitions then making third place in the Music Teacher’s National Association Brass Competition in New York City, I started to become so emotionally connected with the music and the Horn that I started finding out ways how to have this passion for the rest of my life.
Throughout these years, I was being asked to play in churches all around my home area. To be able to get up and play for so many people and watch tears run down their faces as I played multiple sacred hymns was one of the best feelings I have ever felt.
My motivation was not only having these great opportunities, winning all of the competitions and being completely in love with making music, it was the love and support from my family and teachers that helped me realize that I can make it into a professional orchestra one day. This love and support will continue to keep this internal flame lit as I pursue my dream of being part of an orchestra that will be able to take listeners out of their everyday lives and on an emotional journey that they will never forget.
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