putting my degree to use in a hotel gym in St. Louis, Missouri
A week ago today, I graduated from college with a degree in Flute Performance and Global Studies (virtually, that is. In real life, I was working my part-time job in customer service).
The funny thing with a degree like mine is that in terms of socioeconomic stability, I have nothing to show for it.
Normally, the joyous clamor of a graduation ceremony would drown out my lack of a full-time offer. Without a ceremony, the reality that I have no such offer — instead waltzing out of college into the same two part-time jobs I've been working for the past year — has become deafening.
I've finally completed my years of formal education, and I feel empty-handed.
A week ago, I didn't realize I would crave the sense of accomplishment and closure that a senior recital and graduation ceremony would have provided. I did release my senior capstone online, but it felt vaguely hollow without real human interaction to cement the event.
Beyond the absences created by this pandemic, the sense of being empty-handed stems from the nature of what I've chosen to do.
I want to build a career centered around creative, service-oriented work — from performance, to teaching artistry, to community-driven projects. It's a challenge my college experience couldn't have prepared me better for.
However, this kind of work falls on the wrong side of capitalism. To stay afloat, my current means are pretty humble — the kind of "humble" that relatives shake their heads at, imagining the chasm between CMU's tuition and how much I'm earning.
So it will be humbling — the price (one of many) of obstinately building my own career.
Before today, I hadn't practiced flute in a while. First it was finishing classes, then moving out of my apartment, now a family road trip. Today, we stayed in a hotel rather than an AirBnB, so I was able to practice in the hotel gym.
After two months quarantined in my apartment, playing in a hotel gym felt like a recital hall!
Dreading that I've finished college with nothing to show for it, the opportunity to play in a space that brings my sound to life became a reminder: "Look at what I've learned to do! How can I say I'm walking out of college empty-handed?"
For fun, I recorded an hour of myself playing whatever music came to mind, completely from memory. Then I compressed it into 6.5 minutes, after the fashion of my friend Leah Stevens' video, "30 days, 30 pieces."
Except... my version is choppy — the impulsive work of a single day.
Sharing a choppy video of my playing is an alternate sort of "performance." Instead of a polished delivery of the composers' work for listeners to enjoy, it's a jarring reflection of the performer — a girl who's uncertain and disoriented, as she works to internalize how a college education isn't defined by the stability (or instability) it leads to.
A college education can be an unfolding of artistry. There's privilege in that, but it's a privilege I'm determined not to waste.
0:00 Jules Mouquet, La flûte de Pan
0:38 Eugène Bozza, Image for solo flute
1:50 Katherine Hoover, Winter Spirits
2:00 Sigfrid Karg-Elert, Chaconne
2:19 J.S. Bach, Partita in A minor for flute
2:57 Béla Bartók, Suite Paysanne Hongroise
4:11 Aaron Copland, Duo for Flute and Piano
(With all respect to alternative modes of performance, I miss live performance very much — thinking of everything I wrote about live performance shortly before quarantine began.)
As a last note, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to write to me about my work & artistry this past week. Your belief sustains me as I plunge into so much uncertainty after college.