A Semester Well Spent

When I first arrived at Northern Illinois University, I thought I wanted to pursue jazz and dip my feet into some of the world music that NIU had to offer. Wow, did I have that backwards.

Deciding to switch my focus to a broader, literally more globalized study was one of the best decisions I have made to date, and this class was a great glimpse into the reasons why. Jazz is an amazingly dense, complex musical world, and there is so much I want to explore within it, but what this class has helped me realize it that it is just one of many amazingly dense, complex musical worlds out there. Of course, this is not to say I was completely unaware before – I had already become pretty heavily interested and involved in things like steel pan and West African drumming and love both, but if you’ve read my other posts, you likely saw my post about Hindustani music, which I referred to as “Hindustani Narnia.” Honestly, I could refer to any of the styles we studied this semester in that same way.

I have always talked about how amazed I am that there is so much music out there in the world to discover, play, and love, but getting even a brief insight into Middle Eastern, Hindustani, Korean, Carnatic, Indonesian, and Spanish theory, rhythms, dance, and singing just over the course of about four months is really an amazing opportunity. I’ve learned not only the material but, as you’ve seen, the differences in pedagogical approaches that different people take depending on their unique backgrounds.

Additionally, as someone who absolutely loves traveling the world to study different cultures’ musics and feels extremely lucky to have had and am looking forward to more opportunities to do so, getting to cover this much ground in such a short period of time AND doing so with multiple primary sources is nothing short of a blessing. Are there things I would do differently if I were teaching styles that I know well? Absolutely, but I wouldn’t know what those were if I hadn’t experienced them the way I have this semester. On the flip side, are there things I would do differently as a student if given another chance? Absolutely, and I hope I do have more of these chances so that I can continue to grow both as a musician and a person, because both types of growth absolutely exist in every opportunity, especially in music.

So now I go forward with this – people have asked me, “what do you want to do with a degree in World Music?” I’ve gotten it over and over again, as most people honestly just have no idea what the options are. Do I want to teach? Do I want to perform? What about the Arts Administration degree I got in undergrad, do I still want to pursue that? Well, the answer is yes. All of the above, and for the first time, I feel like I’m finally starting to get a clear picture of what a real, fulfilling, and sustainable life that can be.