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What you discover in a year...

It's just a few more days until the end of classes. While New Jersey drivers can't deal with rain or snow (they're so scared of it,) they also can't deal with perfect sunshine (which to them means perfect opportunity to talk on cell phones and take their time...). I have 40 pages-worth of paper due next week, groan... but I'm really looking forward to, more than ever, to actually be able to compose music again and practice, which unfortunately this school and program do NOT understand the concept of at all.

Rich (my arranging teacher this year) is leaving next year for North Texas. I'm technically not supposed to know about it yet, though. It does leave me very confused. The main reason I went to WPU for grad school is to study with some great teachers, and now Rich is leaving, although hopefully Jim will still be there. If Jim is leaving too, or if someone I dislike replaces Rich, or if the classes that I would take next year that are currently taught by Rich are replaced by academic crap classes, I'm leaving. I didn't come here to get a piece of paper with MM on it; I came here to get a different point of view with some good teachers, to be close to NYC, and because I knew that nothing was happening with my career, so grad school seemed the way to go. I DEFINITELY didn't come here to take disgusting classes like Research Techniques (which culminates in a 20-page paper), or to discover that most of the players here only play if they get paid, especially most of the undergraduates that go here, or to not get my music performed here, or to bask in New Jersey's stupidity. If I quit, I will probably stay down here in this area (maybe consider actually moving into NYC), get a crappy day job, and try to develop my new group

I will not, however, say that this year is in vain. It was a different kind of experience than I had in my undergrad, which was so focused on music, developing a work ethic, etc. I've never learned so much about life than I have this year. I'm in relationship right now with Shannon, who is also an arranging major here, and it is the first time I've ever felt something really special to someone of the same gender. I feel a really deep connection when I'm with her, and I love her. If you are asking, my sexual desires still haven't changed; I still have absolutely no interest in sexual aspects of relationships, and I still don't find it necessary to a meaningful relationship.

I've been getting into Qi Gong again, which I was avidly practicing my freshman/beginning sophomore year at Eastman. To feel the energy really working in some areas is a powerful feeling, and I feel some power greater than myself (whatever one may wish to call it) during the practice.

And I've started a new group that I've been really wanting to put together for over a year. I've taken several short translations of Japanese poems and set them to music for a group with vocalist, flute, string quartet, piano, and bass. We had our first rehearsal this last Saturday, and the feeling of hearing the music, after barely hearing anything I wrote for over a year, was amazingly overwhelming. The players are great, willing to learn (because jazz techniques/rhythms for strings aren't let's say the easiest thing), and really sweet people. The sound was just beautiful. We're playing our first gig in NYC in the end of May, and I am truly excited for the group.

However, next year, what I'll do, is currently in question. It's amazing when you have known all your life what you were going to do next, and your path is pretty much laid out for you. You go through so many years of elementary, middle, and high school, and presently it is typical to go to four year college after that, and even grad school is expected upon completion of undergrad. Next year could potentially be the first year that I'm floating in limbo. We'll see what awaits.
It's about the 2/3 point in an academic semester at William Paterson University. I should be very happy, and in some moments, I am. I have one of the best graduate assistantships I could have gotten out of the entire graduate student body (including outside of the music department,) where I can mostly do homework, compose, practice, and play with Logic Pro 9 (a fancy music sequencing program with amazing midi sounds) for 20 hours a week. I have a private lesson teacher that, like Bill in some respects, knows practically every style of music in and outside of jazz, has amazing ears, and is thorough in his teaching methods. For the first time in my life, I think I've had a big social life that I've always knew existed from several peers in the past, but never REALLY experienced (I've always had friends for sure! Including anyone reading this entry. But I've never had this large a percentage of time being dedicated to a social life.) I have a great apartment (expensive though... NOTHING is cheap within an hour radius of NYC or even beyond that... even in the most disgusting neighborhoods where a teeny-tiny crappy studio still runs around $700/month. Mine's a small one-bedroom in a much nicer town, but between rent and electric, the bill runs close to $1200/month.)

Yet, I've felt like I've lost a part of myself. I haven't written nearly as much as any one semester in the last 4 years (even my first semester at Eastman was more productive.) I haven't written a big band chart since "The Outlaw" back in Nov/Dec 2008. I did work a while on a jazz ensemble arrangement of Shostakovich's 8th String Quartet (started over the end of the summer), and even pretty much finished the first movement and was playing around with part of the second movement. Yet, my teacher said I should put it aside because the big band isn't playing student charts, and my chart would be way to hard for them to play.

In fact, the big band actually never plays student charts here except for: A. Your final, and one-and-only, recital and B. The second semester guest artist you write an arrangement to feature him. And I heard that the guy this year (I can't give a name because it's still supposed to be confidential) would want arrangements that are pretty much "work for hire" (in other words, you take the lead sheets the guy wrote, and you merely orchestrate it; anything creative and unique is absolutely out of the question.) The big band only has one concert per semester, and the music they play is only the music featuring the guest artist. At Eastman, the concerts were usually split up in half; the first half was without the guest and featured student compositions/arrangements, and other repertoire by various composers (which Clare Fischer happened to leak a lot in there... but I have no complaints about that; for the most part, his music is very creative and highly original.) And the second half then featured the guest. Here, they have a tendency to feature combos a lot... actually A LOT!!!!! It is pretty much the basis of the program. So instead of an opportunity to write for big band in that setting, they always feature a combo.

It is still not what makes me kind of sick. I feel boggled down. As great as lessons are going, I feel as if the pace is purposely slowing down. I've spent pretty much my semester writing one vocal chart arrangement. And as much as I know it's a new thing to me (even though I think I'm voice-leading well, I quickly learn that consecutive half-steps linearly don't actually work great when trying to sing, nor do some vertical intervals that work OK in an instrumental setting, and I'm learning the concept of the rhythm of words, as well as the new-to-me vocalise language,) I know I usually can accomplish more in a semester. The first semester I was diving intensely into string writing I was also writing a big band arrangement, new tunes, a couple combo arrangements, and lots of score studying. In one semester.

My teacher here is excellent in his knowledge, and he is fantastic in his teaching methods. Really. I would recommend him to any student seriously pursuing this art, because he is one of the leaders in this.

But my teacher at Eastman is another leader in this art. And in addition, he knew, somehow from the very beginning, how I worked. He understood my background, my enthusiasm to try a lot of things (and of course he knew when to put the restraint on it when necessary,) and perhaps the most admirable thing about him was I was allowed to go into depths that wouldn't have been part of the "typical routine" that other students would be put through. I could write an uproaring big band arrangement of the standard least on my arranging list (and much against my own will- but was very pleased with the results at the end) and a jazz-classical string quartet ballad in the same semester. I could study a Shostakovich symphony with this teacher, and keep interrupting him with my very trivial observations, and he would go with it with incredible patience. And if I wanted to write a friggen almost-18-minute studio orchestra piece, which I now can't believe I did (even though looking back at it I wouldn't put it amongst my top works so far,) man did he have the incredible patience to not only tolerate it, but to guide me every last note along the way, all 21,029 of them (I did a Sibelius Statistics Count, so that is indeed accurate.)

Somewhere along the way here, amidst the lack of performance opportunities of original works and the not-quite-together vibe with my teacher (although, like I said before, my teacher here is also incredible, with a lot to give), I lost some mojo.

To put it short, anyone who ever wants to consider jazz composition in their undergraduate years (or graduate...), I would recommend going to none other than the Eastman School of Music to study with Bill Dobbins. I mean, you may want to talk to other former students along the way before deciding for yourself (and depending on the generation of students, and other factors, your answers can be highly varied.) But 6 months after graduation, I already sorely miss everything I had there, and now am only beginning to realize everything I had.

If your next question is if I'm going to transfer back there for graduate, you must also realize that's not an option. Everything good is meant to go away at some point, and new chapters must open. A famous Heraclitus quote states, "A Thing Rests By Changing," and I am indeed supposed to make the best of what I have here. And if I really want to test what I got out of my undergraduate education, it should be how it applies in situations outside of there.

I feel like I have lost myself, but I have to find it again, and make the opportunities I had there for myself, in addition to taking new benefits from where I am now. It's just not easy.

Long to write...

I HATE copying work.

The last song I had to transcribe/copy was a song about Prince Charming's fetish for glass slippers and how he would love to see Cinderalla naked with just her glass slippers on. Seriously, no joke. It is one of the most degrading things I've ever heard. Wasn't this show originally supposed to be G rated and appropriate for children? Well, apparently not, or the standards have changed 360 degrees since I was a kid. And the music was dumb as well; it was this stupid rap groove that remained constant the entire song with bass slides, and no real harmony.

I just finished song number 10 out of 16, and while I had a month and a half to do the first 10, I have 1 week to do the other 6, and two weeks to re-orchestrate everything (because they decided now they're taking out instruments and they're not even sure yet what they're going to put in), as well as tolerate all their changes. And the work is literally frying my brain; the temples at the sides of my head are throbbing, and lately after finishing songs I don't even remember how to spell words for about 10 minutes.

I'm now starting grad school. I SHOULD be focusing on MY OWN WRITING, but thanks to these guys, that won't happen until October...

I really, REALLY want to write again... my own stuff that actually means something to me.

Saw this on craigslist...

I'm a 23-year old saxophonist and composer who is looking to do some solo gigs at various venues in brooklyn/manhattan. I guess you could see this as performance art on your end. I'll be playing my solo repertoire and I want a woman to mute the bell of my saxophone with one of her breasts. If you are interested in doing this, please get back to me. I'm completely serious. Obviously, no sex or dirtiness involved, just music."


Who am I?

Recently I walked across the stage of the Eastman Theatre, signifying the end of a four year period of my life. I have received my BM degree in Jazz Studies, writing (composition) concentration, with high distinction. I have walked out with priceless hours of learning and absorbing the traditions and history of jazz composition/arranging. I have studied with a wonderful, VERY patient, knowledgeable, and inspiring composition teacher for four years, as well as studies with numerous others. I have a portfolio filled with big band compositions/arrangements, chamber pieces, and even a couple of studio orchestra pieces (big band plus strings, harp, horn, woodwinds, and percussion) of different styles and periods. I am leaving the school and moving close to New York City at William Paterson University with a full, strong portfolio that represents me.

Or is it?

I have put in 12 years of desire and effort into my path. The earliest inceptions in fifth grade sprouted from being alone in my room with the keyboard turned down at its lowest and making up songs happily while passing the lonely time away (which directly came from having a mother always coming home from work in a terrible mood and being an outcast at school). They went through phases of slowly coming out to show people one by one these secretive works, who usually shrugged them off, to the art of writing them down, through the failed periods desperately trying to get them played by my high school and youth jazz ensemble, and finally through the intense four years at Eastman of constantly writing for others, taking weekly lessons and constantly revising, taking classes, learning history. It should be concluded that my voice is finally emerging and taking shape.

Or is it?

Now it's two months after graduation and I try to write more music. I sit down by my keyboard and try to let the music flow enough so something pops up that I can work with and develop. A "haunting" melody begins to emerge as I try to start working with it. But then my voice tells me, "This sounds very similar to something you've already done", and I recall the multiple pieces that have a similar feel: long note values, lyrical lines, simple rhythms, straight-eighth-note-like feel, ethereal mood. I have learned the hard way that these kinds of songs that I write don't exactly attract an audience that will hold its attention and admire it. So I keep going at the piano trying to find something.

I find a little three note cell eventually on the piano and I try to toy with it. I play with its inversions, rhythms, retrograde, counterpoint with itself, etc. And then it starts feeling like a math problem that doesn't speak to me at all. But this kind of thing is exactly one of the styles of jazz that's popular right now, right? I mean, Maria Schneider and Bob Brookmeyer, as well as tons of other writers, including many of the younger writers are doing this. And I really like that kind of music, but when I do it it doesn't feel like me AT ALL. So there's that music or the exact opposite; they come up with many jagged, angular, fast paced lines over shifting pop-like harmonies over some fusion/rap beat that really doesn't sprout out of any particular idea. And frankly, I don't really like that particular kind of music much; I feel detached from it and feel cheated out of something.

So I completely turn around to the other side, the traditional feel-good swinging arrangements similar to what Thad Jones would do. I love his music; it has a wonderful feel-good quality and power to it while keeping its intelligence and artistic value. But I have written an original piece like that not too long ago, and I feel like I'm cheating myself out of something.

So I go back to my original idea and try to force something out of it. I start trying to develop that half-way between an entirely mathematical approach and half-way a basic tune approach. I start opening up the idea and inserting in other lines that have a similar shape to it, but then I feel like something doesn't sound right and it's arbitrary. But I keep going and I start hearing things that I play on the piano, letting it flow more like a tune, but then it sounds way too predictable and dumb and already done a thousand times, and even the tune-like approach makes the piece sound arbitrary. I try playing with the meters but it sounds unnatural, and then I keep it in ol' predictable 4/4 and it sounds unnatural.

And then I wonder if the music even suits WHO I AM. Yes, I may be depressed sometimes, but the music doesn't even really convey it convincingly. And I have another whole bubbly, hyper, imaginative/whimsical side to me that I haven't even ever learned to represent. What does my music represent?

One of my arrangements doesn't even have me at all in it, and horribly enough it was the one of the two big band pieces Maria Schneider really liked. It was only a transcription, note-by-note of Horace Silver's "The Outlaw", bass parts, harmony, counterlines, everything Horace Silver, complete with Horace Silver's solo blown up for big band. The ONLY thing that was me were the voicings (which the audience really doesn't give a damn anyway). The other piece I showed Maria was probably the closest I got ever to me, which was pretty far away. She said I could have written an amazing piece if I stuck with the motive I had at the very beginning. But I look back at it, and I don't think I could write something I would be happy with if I developed that the way she was explaining. I tried working at the keyboard for hours, days, weeks without even coming up with a tid bit of that developed in a way I was happy with.

I have written some bossa nova tune that is in every last bit conventional and written to the book written entirely by other people, and I can't put a mood to that tune either. Nor can I to the Monk-like tune/Thad-like arrangement I did, my attempt at my whimsical self turned heavy, blah, and boring. My arrangement of "Sweet Georgia Brown" is only what Bill Holman would have done if he arranged that tune instead of "Limehouse Blues". And I go on trying to describe my other pieces in moods and I realize that nothing has "me" in it. I have earned straight As in all of Bill Dobbins arranging classes and lessons (which apparently is pretty hard to do) and you would think that that must mean I'm doing something right. But I've only been right in turning into anyone else but myself.

So if someone came up to me right now and asked me to give a portfolio to them that represents me and what makes me special from everyone else, I would give them a brown-paper accordion with a clasp closing the folder. They would open it and nothing would be inside.

The scariest part is I don't know who "me" is. I can't even hear anything in my head that says "me". I feel empty and extremely confused right now. I feel lately when I try to write something that I HAVE to rely on someone else for a safety net. But I guess the one thing about myself that I know is that I never could fit in with others; I was born an outcast and grew (eventually, the hard way) to be proud of it. I wouldn't care what others thought and I hate to rely on others. But that's exactly what I've been doing with the one thing I love to do the most.

Identity crisis anyone?
So, it's been a while since I blogged. And I never finished my story in February. To put it short, everything has been going a lot better, and many great things have happened.

It's just this is too horrible to be true. Read this:

ABC News' Julia Hoppock reports: Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's last name was spelled "Osama" on three hundred absentee ballots mailed out this week in Rensselaer County, New York.

First reported in the TimesUnion.com, election officials in Rensselaer County say the misspelling is merely a typo.

The Democratic and Republican County Board of Election chairs, Edward McDonough and Larry Bugbee, said that "the error was not deliberate" in a joint statement issued Friday.

"In preparation of absentee ballots for the November 4th General Election, a typographical error was made in the name of one of the candidates. The error was included on only 300 out of more than 4000 absentee ballots that will be mailed out this month. The Board of Elections acted quickly to correct the typographical error and regrets the error."

Bugbee told the TimesUnion.com that despite having three different staff members look over the ballot, "somehow the typo got by us."

McDonough reiterated that the misspelling was nothing more than a mistake. "No question this is an honest mistake innocently done,'' McDonough told the TimesUnion.com ''We catch almost everything.''

The sensitive misspelling comes at a time when the McCain-Palin campaign has intensified attacks on Obama's character, emphasizing his ties to 1960s radical William Ayres.

"I don't care about two washed-up old terrorists that are unrepentant about trying to destroy America. But I do care, and Americans should care, about his relationship with him and whether he's being truthful and candid about," Sen. John McCain said of Obama and Ayers in an interview with ABC News' Charles Gibson on Thursday.

Vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also has questioned Obama's trustworthiness. In several recent campaign rallies the governor accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists."

And as the Republican ticket has ramped up the rhetoric, some of McCain and Palin's supporters have become increasingly hostile towards Obama. At a rally on Monday in Clearwater, one man shouted "Kill him," according to the Washington Post, after Palin mentioned Obama's association to Ayres.

When McCain asked a crowd in Albuquerque, New Mexico this week, "Who is the real Barack Obama?" someone in the crowd yelled "A terrorist."

Election Officials in Rensselaer County—which is split almost evenly among Democrats and Republicans—said in a statement they have acted quickly to correct the error.
The Obama campaign said they were glad county officials were fixing the misspelling. "We're glad officials are working to correct this error and we assume it won't happen again," said Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.


Rensselaer is "split almost evenly among Democrats and Republicans"... let me question.

This is the county I was raised in myself. This county where if we're driving down Route 4 or 9 and 20 we see these damn McCain/Palin signs all over the fuckin' town. You also see the signs for more local Republican nominees, but not democratic.

I don't believe that Rensselaer County is split in half politically, as the article says above. What county that is split in half would have such signs all over the place without Democratic signs much of anywhere? Where in middle and high school if you were gay or lesbian you had to keep it secret, or even worse, you were assumed you were when you weren't and shunned anyways. Where obviously sports are considered so much more important than arts or music in school to the point that such an article was once on the front cover of the school's newspaper? Where the budget wants to cut art and music and Honors/AP classes before other things. Where the former superintendent of the school fires someone for merely personal reasons despite being one of the VERY few excellent coaches ever in the damn school. Where if you go to the local Starbucks and you talk about democratic and liberal people others give you evil looks? Where really only chain restaurants/stores/fast food exist in your hometown, not really leaving any room for more private versions of these? Where it is looked down upon if you're a woman and you don't want to have children and instead have a full time career? Even more, looked down upon for choosing a career that doesn't pay a lot of money but actually fulfills your LIFE'S CALLING? How about this described town that only favors those who "do everything", though not with full intention, heart, or true hard work, instead of those who actually pursue something? I don't know, but I don't think this town is split.

B and S are not close to the keyboard. If you think about it, in traditional typing stance you have to reach a damn far ways to reach the "B", whereas "S" is part of that absolute basic asdfjkl; position. And unless if English has changed all of a sudden, I don't know where "s" looks like "b". I'm trying to rotate the letters, invert them, whatever, I don't see the similarity.

Maybe I should look at the Democrat who looked the ballots over, to see if he actually is democrat, or even if he actually had a brain to check the ballots.

I'm ASHAMED to live in Rensselaer County.

A re-introduction: Part 2

Continued from the last entry a few days ago...

I wake up in the 7th floor of the hospital, completely not knowing anymore what time it is.  Time moves ever so slowly when you're in a hospital.  I am waking up because there was a person sitting next to me, and I guess she was changing shifts with another person that was supposed to sit next to me.  Apparently I found out later that this was a one-on-one: a person that had to sit there and watch me at all times to make sure I did no harm whatsoever.  As they switch off they complain about their work and the stress (I guess the one-on-one who was leaving had to be at 4 different places that day and constantly being told to go to a different place).  I ask what time it is and it's friggin 6am.  That's never a time I'm up... unless I'm going to bed then.

I try to go back to sleep, but never really quite succeed.  Meanwhile, I get constant blood work tests watching my liver and the almost inevitable deterioration of it, and every four hours they bug me to do vitals I think it was called.  Blood pressure, heart, breathing, etc.  My cell phone was confiscated Saturday night, so I couldn't call anyone at first.  Not like I wanted to.  I didn't want my parents to know initially.  The ambulence guy said that even though my parents would receive a bill, insurance would cover almost all of it except for a $100 ambulance fee and a $100 hospital fee.  In other words, I could say that I simply fainted, went to the hospital in an ambulance, and say that I needed to stay overnight just to make sure of things.

This was also Superbowl Sunday.  My one-on-one, whom I can't remember the name of anymore, really wanted to watch the game to cheer for the Patriots.  There was a phone/TV service I could purchase, but it would go on my parent's home phone bill.  I hesitated at first, and decided not to purchase it, considering I thought I didn't remember any phone numbers of my friends, didn't want to call my parents, and never really liked to watch TV anyways.

Meanwhile some doctors come in, asking for information on why I tried killing myself, how many times I've tried (because this was by far not my first attempt; though nothing was ever nearly this serious as this one), and asking if I would be willing to take medicine and see a counselor.  I said that I would try counseling again, though it didn't work for me in my freshman year (I went for university counseling a half year after another incident with the RAs and everything).  And I said I would be more than happy to try medicine, but my parents would probably end up finding out, and I didn't want them to.

Now, a question you may have is why did I not want my parents to find out?  I had all these assumptions.  One is that I didn't want to see them upset.  I couldn't even picture it, or when I could, it was unbearable.  Another is when I was younger I said I was depressed, had mood swings, etc.  But my mother dismissed them as normal, saying I'm an actress (in all bad means), getting mad at me, punishing me by not bringing me to a lesson or rehearsal, and thus I couldn't explain to her as I got older.  The big question I'm currently having with my depression (or one of them), is where did the line draw between typical teenage depression to major depression?  I can't pin a point.  I was starting to be depressed in middle school.  I was actually, the only time ever for a while, pretty ok for the most part in 9th grade, was depressed a lot in 10th grade again, leading to my first serious thoughts (not attempts) of suicide at the end of that year, wavering in 11th grade, realizing it was not in control anymore at certain points in 12th grade (where my first, though extremely minor and actually reasonably sparked, as in a reason, attempt happened), and continued through my time here at Eastman.   So also the question is where would my mother draw a line?  If I mentioned it again in college would it once again be dismissed?  Would my parents think (like currently some other people are thinking) that the school is what's making me depressed?  To be honest, being at Eastman is one of the best things to have ever happened to me.  It's absolutely amazing to be studying what you love to do, learning as much as you can about the craft from some amazing teachers, be constantly practicing it, having bands play your pieces, having an audience, being constantly appreciated for it, and being constantly asked to write pieces for others.  And I was depressed before Eastman, way before Eastman.  Other people have been telling me they think it's the school, but I highly doubt it.  So how was I supposed to bring up my depression and suicidal thoughts to my parents?

Time passed and it's now around 10am.  My one-on-one really wanted to watch TV.  I realized then that I remembered one cell phone number other than my parents... my good friend Alan (our numbers are strikingly similar, so I could remember it easily.  I decide the purchase the plan.  She puts on the TV, and first I order breakfast.  I guess one upside is free food, right?  Now it's Sunday morning, so most people are asleep, so I wait until at least 10:30 to call Alan.  At 10:30 I try dialing the number, in which I realize a frustrating reality with the phone: it can only make local 585 Rochester calls.  Alan is from the same area as I'm from, the 518.  I remember absolutely no 585 calls whatsoever.  I get pissed.

My one-on-one then offers me her cell phone, which she is not at all supposed to do (because apparently I could hurt myself with a cell phone).  I dial Alan's number, wake him up apparently.  Apparently he saw an ambulance the night before in front of the dorms, but had no idea who was there.  I say I'm in the hospital, I need a few things from my room (which security confiscated the key and in my room is my manuscript book as well as books I would like to read), and he's trying to figure out why I did this.  He gets over to the hospital quickly, but they wouldn't let him get my stuff.

At the same time, my friend Andrew gets over there.  I'm allowed to have 2 visitors at a time, and they actually know each other already, so we talked for a while.  One thing that was mentioned to me was that I spend a lot of time, obsessively, on music, and I sometimes need to escape from this overworking.  What was surprising is that Greta and Miriam (two other great friends) heard of what happened (and also why), and contacted the hospital to find me and visit me.  Surprisingly, without hearing anything from Alan and Andrew before, they said pretty much the same thing.

It was when Greta and Miriam were there that my one-on-one, breaking another rule, made a suggestion (they are not I guess supposed to be advisors either).  She strongly suggested for me to let my parents know, knowing that I would feel even worse getting out of the hospital without them knowing, like keeping a dark secret, and also because of that I wouldn't be on medication I need or anything.  Really not wanting to do so, but knowing it would be best for me and this initial time will eventually pass, I let Greta call my mother and let her know what happened.  I did not want to talk to her over the phone at all; that was too hard for me, it had to be in person.  I had Greta pretend that she was not near me at the time.  Shortly after this my mother tries calling my phone (because she called Strong Hospital to ask for my room number).  My one-on-one offered to pick up the phone each time it rings to distinguish between a friend or family member, and tell if it was family that I was sleeping (which was another rule she broke), which I gladly accepted.  My mother tried and my one-on-one said I was sleeping.  But apparently I find out my parents are packing and on their way up to the hospital.

Later in the day after being alone with my one-on-one with nothing to do and no more visitors, and thinking about for once non-musical thoughts, I get moved to a another room.  Apparently I was placed temporarily in a different section to be out of the emergency area while they got the area I'm supposed to be in ready.  Literally, by fact, it is a quarter mile from where I was staying in.  I get moved in a wheelchair passed secure doors with a passcode and everything and I start feeling uncomfortable.  It felt kind of like a jail.  This was the psyc unit.  I had my own room (with my one-on-one still watching me), but it had a camera in the corner watching me at all times, the door to the room is locked.  The next morning my dresser and my phone in the room was gone (because the chords are a hazard), but I did have the phone for at least that night.  Since my parents thought they were going to the seventh floor, I called Alan on his room (585) phone that he gave to me when he visited, and told him to tell my parents my room change.  About a half hour later I get a call back from Alan, but I received more than a confirmation about my change of room.  Alan has known a lot about my previous attempts and when I get depressed and lose it.  He told my parents a lot of my other information about the past while talking to them.  He told me that they are not mad at me, extremely worried, and they are accepting.  I still get nervous, knowing my parents would be there in an hour, and panic a lot.

The superbowl starts and my one-on-one starts watching it while I have dinner and contemplate.  My parents come in, obviously really upset.  I start explaining to them a lot about the past, why, what I was worried about telling them and how they would react, my time in the hospital so far.  They kept crying, and that made ME really upset.  They wanted me to know that I could tell them anything, though then I mentioned why it was so hard to tell them, that in the past my mother would shun this, but I didn't know where the line drew anymore.  My mother went back to my dorm and got some stuff with help from Greta for me to have while in the hospital, and the staff let my parents stay until 11pm (3 hours after visitors usually have to leave).  Despite how upset this point made me feel, this opened new horizons.  I am no longer afraid to tell people what has happened.  My relationship with my parents is now obviously really close.  I no longer feel like I'm hiding a dark secret.  And while I'm getting much support from them, now I don't have to worry about insurance and cost of medicine and therapy.  It is amazing though to be free from something really dark and tucked in...

I still have more I need to write about this, but I need a break right now and I need to get to some work and have some lunch.  I will update more soon.

A re-introduction

It's amazing to know how an event over 3 days can change drastically the way you think about yourself.

Or your values, or what you're about, or even why you are living.

So let me re-introduce myself now that I've had one of these experiences.

My name is Erica.  I am 20 years old, from a suburb of Albany.  Medium length brown hair, brown eyes, 5 foot 4, small (or flat) chested, most of the time wear glasses, and a huge gap between my front two top teeth.  I love to write music and play the piano.  I love listening to, playing, and writing jazz, though I love other music genres as well.

I am no longer afraid to say that I've suffered depression to the danger point.  I would be so afraid to tell anyone, and at first it was a sacred thing to tell someone that I was suicidal.  In my livejournal these entries would only be under the lock and key of the private, friends-only journals.

Before you read on, I will warn you that this has now been treated and made-aware, and it will take a while for you to read that part.  I don't want anyone reading only half the entry and then taking measures that were ALREADY TAKEN.

So I have in the past attempted multiple times, via overdosing.  Each time I would stop at a certain point because I would finally realize what I was doing.  When I had a depression episode, something I wouldn't get normally upset about would start this "spiral" as I call it, of thoughts of mainly the past and future and only ever so rarely the present, only to revert to another past or future thought.  My mind was no longer in control.  I would think that the world would be better off without me.  I would wish I was invisible.  I would wish I was in a different body or life.  Each thought would go by, like, for example, "Amazing, you've been working so many years learning to play the piano and improvise, and look, now you still can't while even certain guys have had less years and are better and improving all the time; tough chance being a good player.  And oh yeah, these people can write better than you can and they are not even composers." or "Wow, you know, you thought 5 years ago you would be patient and then you will finally become more beautiful.  Well you're still not, and so you will never be." or "Guys don't want girls who are too motivated like you... oh, and you're too ugly to have a relationship with one of them anyways." or "In 8th grade everyone thought you were making up your depression.  If you tell others now, they won't be your friends anymore, just like back then.  Also, you lost a relationship because of that."  You know, the thought flow.  It keeps going.  Some point I've realized what I've done and I get too scared of the fact of simply dying, so I've stopped the pills, but usually still feeling shit about myself.  Actually, there are many times when I don't take anything, actually almost all the times except for a few.  But it's still there and I feel like shit afterwards.

Meanwhile I try focusing only on my work and my passion for music.  I become obsessed.  I spend weekends with minimal contact with anyone, being a hermit in either a practice room or in my room writing.  I meet with a friend every once in a while.  I'm the one to break friend rituals, such as during sophomore years I would with a friend on Friday's go on a walk, heat or cold.  I became too absorbed.

One time I take it too far.

The weekend before this I was a hermit doing arrangements for Dr. Beaudette for piano (with vocal).  I excercised once that weekend, and talk to two friends, 15 minutes each.  Other than that and quick mealtimes, not really any contact.

The next week I had much trouble sleeping.  It would take from 1 to 3 hours for me to fall asleep.  One night I even felt sharp pains in my head and buzzing headaches, and my left side even at one point when from tingling til almost completely numb.  Anyways, I missed morning classes, started falling behind, and using free time to make up sleep and make up work.  Besides afternoon classes and meals, I barely had any contact here either.

On Saturday, the next weekend, in my last entry I exploded just by opening the results of the ASCAP competition.  Even while writing the entry I went into the ritual depression thoughtflow that ever so quickly changes subjects and takes over my mind, like a demon.

So then I busted out the Tylenol and let's say, made "toasts" to all my "failures".  I did count, and I ended up taking 25.  This was way more than I ever done previously.

Being ever so scared about just the idea of dying, I consulted a really good friend who was in the same town, but not too close by, about this dosage.  He recommended I right away go to the health office on campus.  However, on my campus it is closed on weekends.  He calls again and as he says that he wants to bring me to the hospital, I hang up on him.

I go back up to my room.  In my hallway I faint.  People start calling security and this area is fuzzy because I was only half thinking then.  I could barely say anything.  My friend tried calling again and someone answered the phone, but just left it open for him to hear the chaos going on.  Security and the ambulance crew get me on a stretcher and make me drink charcoal, which was absolutely disgusting.

I was placed in one of the emergency rooms at first when I arrived with an IV that would stay for almost my whole hospital duration and I couldn't bend my left arm barely at all.  But what was amazing was that people, both friends and a couple of acquaintances came to visit, and the support just was amazing to me.  However, a couple hours in I start vomiting furiously, going between periods of intense nausea, to almost uncontrolable hurling.  I remember whining like I was either a 5 year old or like I was mentally insane.  Or perhaps I really was the later.  I really don't remember too much here either.

After about 5 times of vomiting, in which the nurses specifically left me alone to keep doing this without any support (and my friends were gone by now), they injected something that stopped the vomiting and put me to sleep.

Around 2:30 am someone comes into the room and moves my stretcher out.  They move me into an elevator and go to the 7th floor.  Because the medicine made me sleepy I'm very disoriented...

Alright, I hate to cut this short; some friends got my call and are visiting me.  I will write the second part later.


In 2004, when I was a senior in high school, I applied for the first time for the ASCAP Young Jazz Composers competition.  I didn't have any formal jazz composition, or composition for that matter, training, nor did I hear my works played.  I sent in a combo piece (sextet).  Though it wasn't selected, it was among the finalists, as the letter said.

Now three years later (submitting in 2007), I submitted again a piece.  Now I've had at the time of submission 2 1/2 years formal study with a great teacher and learned soooooo much.  Yet recently especially I've been worried that I've been writing more generic music because of him, very economical, and I'm losing my personal voice.  I submitted in a big band piece that was way too damn straight ahead, and I was sure that once again it wouldn't be a winner.  And yes, I was right, but even more.  It wasn't even amongst the finalists.

I composed music better when I was 17 than when I am 20 now.  This is horrible to think of, especially since I've been under instruction.  A grad student from our school, though not a writing major, was mentioned as honorable mention.  And I really love his pieces, but it's also depressing that someone who isn't studying composition at least got two categories ahead of me (categories going in order of nothing, finalist, honorable mention, and one of the winners).  There are two piano performance majors here; one was one of the winners when he was sixteen (sophomore in high school), and another was honorable mention when he was sixteen.  If I can't even rank amongst the performance majors here, people who can play thousands of times better than I can, in a jazz composition competition, I don't even know my place.  Anyone who is a serious jazz composer should at ABSOLUTE very least be honorable mention by age of 20, especially if they've been studying the art for years.  And for sure they shouldn't be deimproving (if that's a word).

The thing I do best at I can't even get a chance of daylight in.  I don't even know if my teacher is leading me in the right path anymore.  He praised this piece way over anything else I've written, especially over my arrangement of "I Will Wait for You".  I feel so uneasy about this.  What's his fucking point anyways?  Is his fucking point for me to write commercial throw-away music for my lifetime.  Is his fucking point for me to give up or just settle for some shitty job for my life while I never get a chance?  You know what, I hate my teacher.

Now I'm stuck with some degree that got me nowhere, while it appears that I can't even get any other job (failure applying for jobs, and oh yeah, even after all the hard work I tried doing and grabbing extra gigs and showing up early and trying my hardest, many people but not me got promoted to regular ushering staff while I'm still a sub), and I'm still ugly, and can't even function in normal life, or get out of my introverted trap, or express my thoughts, or express anything in words, or really anything...

And it really is funny because I know I work so damn harder than a lot of people.  I know people slack all the time in their jobs, or don't spend much time working on something, and they seem to get everything for it.  There is no point in working hard and being moral.  But I don't even know how to be otherwise.

Man, I hate myself.  I fucking hate myself.

Music as art vs. Commercial Music

I'm currently procrastinating from doing the piano arrangements of tunes by female jazz composers. Maybe because when I talked to Harold for advice, he was saying that when an assignment like this is given, it's usually one of those straight-ahead kind of things that you eventually "will do in your sleep". In other words, just taking the piano part already written and just giving it a little more of a part, but not really being creative. Oh the joys of commercial writing.

This was added that just later that day Bill talked in class about how many writers will turn up arrangement night after night while watching the football game or something. Hearing both from Harold and Bill re-reminds me of what I think is an awful truth. Where is the art when you're doing something second nature without any thought? Like really concentrating on something like a football game while the music is almost considered in some form of secretarial work. How can people even appreciate something like that? You would think that music, which should be treated like an art form, will always push forward to improve and make the world a better place. Yet nowadays there are just so little opportunities for music as an art and so much instead of just being some forgettable background music (like so many jingles, like so many pop tunes, like even so many arrangements in a more commercial jazz world).

Not to mention that if you do try to give more effort and be creative, silently working with full effort and concentration, most likely the music will be discouraged. People don't want to hear different levels of dissonance resolved or the form played with or lines and motific material based off a tune or whatever it may be. That's actually bad arranging to people. The rule is if the arrangement draws any attention to people you're not doing your job.

See, working on these pieces, I feel like it's wrong that I'm bullshitting things. And I almost don't want any credit given to me for these arrangements. It's just not me, but even more, it's not myself doing my best. I feel like I'm putting in cliche after cliche, and I keep wishing to do more with it that my imagination keeps coming up with. But instead I have to tell imagination to shut up and treat this like it's state work or something. No wonder so many composers and arrangers are miserable.

Fortunately that's only one out of several "commissions" I've been asked. The piece I wrote for Doug and his Astral group I could be creative, even though I found it odd to be creative with Spain for some reason. Even still, I could play around with some things anyways. I am REALLY looking forward to doing the Gary McFarland arrangements for Mike, a vibraphone player. Mike told me that I can experiment with these pieces, and Gary's writing is really well written to give enough material to play with. And I'm working on my studio orchestra piece, which I can retreat to my inner whimsical world to write it. But once again, I need to get those other arrangements done, and they feel like such dry work.