A year & 52 posts later
"In pre/early Internet days, we all had to have our eyes and ears open & dare one another to be vulnerable in our creative experiments... The underground scenes [of New York City] were our playgrounds, & created this wild community that so many of us failed in & grew from. I wonder how young people are fostering that for themselves... when so much of life is curated."
~ Nathalie Joachim, flutist, vocalist, & composer
A year ago, I published my professional website.
Quarantine had just begun, making the purpose of a website — to build my career as a performing & teaching artist — seem laughable & far-fetched.
At the same time, I felt like I could breathe.
After months of feeling paralyzed by what I would do after graduating from college, I was moved by the warmth of people's reception of my website.
Their enthusiasm, albeit mediated by a social media platform, made me certain that four years of interdisciplinary studies — in music performance & global studies, of all things — hadn't been a waste.
Instead, those years positioned me to build a career defined by curiosity & expansiveness, rather than by specialization & stability.
However, no amount of likes or comments could change the reality that I would graduate in the middle of a pandemic. Any hopes of a freelance career were naïve at best.
So I spent the summer working my part-time jobs as a writing tutor & at a bakery counter.
In my free time, I kept coming back to this blog. There, I started posting clips of my flute playing, accompanied by random musings about the world, music, and life.
I didn't think anyone was checking my blog, but it didn't matter. I had found a place to experiment with & share my creative work on my own terms, during a pandemic.
Focusing on my blog led to launching a Patreon, which has been a difficult but exciting journey of its own. Patreon has allowed me to build a community around my work & to generate income from the otherwise unpaid, countless hours behind blog posts.
Creative work thrives when there is a community of people willing to receive it & support the labor behind it.
To celebrate a year of continuing to create amid overwhelming uncertainty, here are some highlights from my blog. It's fun to see how this blog began to express my journey as a flutist, and quickly delved into topics such as race, femininity, belonging, & the power of storytelling.
The 7 most-viewed posts:
1. "Girl struggles with disordered eating, works at bakery counter" Aside from its heavy content, this post gives me confidence that working at a bakery hasn't dulled my intellectual curiosity, but given it a new context.
2. "some thoughts on femininity" This post has such raw energy, it dives into some of my deepest struggles. I wrote it within minutes of shaving my head for the first time.
3. "Some pointers for my college-freshman self" I wanted to write this post right after graduating, but months passed before I knew how to look back at my time at CMU.
4. "Veronica Lopez, violist & music educator" A year ago, I got to chat with my friend, colleague, & coworker about being a minority in classical music, being bilingual, teaching, & more.
5. "Chantal Braziel, soprano" In 2019, I interviewed three women of color in the School of Music for a class, "Transnational Feminisms." Interviewing Chantal was the first time I heard someone else voice my struggles as a classical musician.
6. "twelve classical musicians on imposter syndrome" This is the post I struggled the most to write. Partly because it's the closest thing to a humanities paper that I've written since graduating (in terms of having to sculpt something cohesive out of many different sources of text), but also because it meant diving into the toxicity that almost broke me as a music student in a conservatory setting.
7. "Lessons learned at the counter of a local bakery" I wrote this over a year ago, but it captures so neatly my relationship with working in retail.
My favorite posts:
1. "a woman & her freshly-shaven head" This post felt effortless to write. It channels months of introspection in the wake of a single, charged encounter.
2. "a bit of sunlight" A collection of creative writing. I put this together in the middle of what was either a depressive episode, or the closest thing I've experienced to one. It touches upon many of my favorite themes — diaspora, femininity, beauty, sadness, hope.
3. "Why body image?" This post paints the role of creative writing in vocalizing a deep-rooted struggle & expanding my definition of a woman's worth & beauty.
4. "What happens when being a musician feels useless?" Last April, I had some sort of crisis that made the creation of music seem not only impossible, but useless. Since I lacked the positive energy to make music, writing this helped to lift me out of that time.
5. "Performing live, but in 2020" This post surveys a few unexpected, fulfilling opportunities to perform that arose last fall. To me, it's a glimpse of what my performing career might look like.
6. "putting my degree to use in a hotel gym in St. Louis" The first of a series of posts from last summer, when I didn't think anyone was looking at my blog & didn't feel any pressure about what I was posting. Also, this is one of my favorite recordings when it comes to the quality of my sound.
7. "In the arts, do we have to tell our own stories?" Writing this piece about translation, performance, & feminism helped me to feel a sense of closure to my undergraduate years.
Lastly, here are some quotes that express my growth over the past year:
"Writing in practice rooms was a secret habit that eventually blossomed into a way of life in which not only flute playing, but also writing was central to my creative practice." (from "Frequently Asked Questions")
"Being able to laugh when I make mistakes in the practice room has been one of the most healing developments in my life as a musician." (from "When you aren't in love with practicing")
"I've found solace in practicing. The vibrations of sound awaken my sense of being rooted in physical reality, loosening the grasp of tangled worries around my mind." (from "slow, heavy")
"In letting myself be seen through creative work, I'm able to open spaces for others to see a part of themselves, possibly for the first time or more clearly than before." (from "on seashells, mourning, & a tattoo I won't get (yet)")
"The solitude of quarantine creates a space for me to untangle my worth from my work." (from "Being a second-semester senior in quarantine")
"After feeling crushed by this unrelenting pressure to learn everything & be everything, I'm willing to experience life without hurtling towards whatever society calls 'success.' I'm willing to embrace the ways I am bounded, yet to approach them curiously." (from "Some pointers for my college-freshman-self")
"Even if I couldn’t heal instantly, through words I could paint the image of my own healing so vividly, it was unmistakeable — practically inevitable." (from "Why body image?")
"To live in my body — who knew it could feel so beautiful." (from "a woman & her freshly-shaven head")