Hello! Welcome to my Sophomore year in review!
After getting some nice rest over summer after my trip to Italy, I moved into a new residence on Wheeler Street with four non-CCM friends of mine and got ready for what would shape up to be a much more exciting year than Freshman year was. I began the year with starting my new job at CCM Admissions as a tour guide! Every morning at 10am, CCM offers a tour to prospective students visiting campus, and there are only two tour guides who handle that flow of people. The other is Jenny Rowekamp, who is also a member of UHP. I have to say, this may be the most rewarding job I've taken - seeing people truly change their outlook on the school for the better over the course of an hour is one of the coolest things to me, and the occasional "Thank You" note is icing on the cake.
I took a total of 18 credit hours first semester, was placed in the CCM Chamber Choir (CCM's top choir) for my choir assignment, and took on six singers to accompany, more than I ever had before. I even signed up for a piano accompaniment class with Donna Loewy, one of CCM's incredible vocal coaches and collaborative pianists, and as the only non-piano major in the class, it proved to be a challenge. Though I may have been taking a full load of credit hours, the semester felt much easier than the fifteen-credit-hour semester I had in the Fall of Freshman Year because of one major thing - no 8am classes. Even with adding on Music History to the course load, having Theory and Musicianship moved from 8am to 12:20pm made a huge difference in the amount of rest I got and my general attitude toward the class. Besides my classes, the semester was generally not very eventful, especially when compared to my Spring semester.
This semester was relatively quiet when it came to performing - I was only in 9 performances the entire semester, but second semester I realized that this was just the calm before the storm. Another thing that marked my first semester was my new popularity as a National Anthem singer for sports events. I sang for many volleyball and soccer games, and am really hoping on a football game for next year! I also finished the semester with some new development from my fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau - I was voted to be the new Member Orientation Officer (or MOO) starting in spring semester. Basically, I would be in charge of the associate members and be their teacher/mentor as they get ready for their initiation. Over winter break, I served as the organist for my church in Saint Louis for two weeks in place of our regular organist, helping me gain some great experience in church music while having some valuable time with family.
Warning, this semester was extremely packed.
Firstly, this semester has to have been the toughest academic semester I will have at CCM - 18 credit hours again, taking post-tonal theory and musicianship, Baroque and Classical music history, and English 2089, among other classes. Initiation week at my fraternity was the very first week of the semester, and I was in charge of the entire thing. Thankfully, that ran smoothly and we initiated nine new brothers into the fraternity. The very next week, I performed in a lecture recital for a DMA choral conducting student and performed in CCM's Moveable Feast donor event with the Chamber Choir, where we offered the Händel from first semester as a preview of our performance in Chicago just a few weeks later. The week after that, we started work on "Joan of Ark at the Stake", which is a dramatic oratorio for four choirs, children's choir, full orchestra, soloists, dancers, and actors. Though we had no audition process, I was cast as a soloist. The week after that was Rush week for my fraternity, and again, I had a large part in that as the brother in charge of new members. The week after that was another lecture recital for another choral conducting student at Saint Francis de Sales church AND the actual performance of "Joan of Ark at the Stake". The week after that, I was in an early music concert at Old Saint Mary's church in OTR as part of the Cincinnati Early Music Festival. The week after that, I was in a performance of the Faure Requiem at a church in northern Kentucky, I was in two outreach performances of snippets from the semester's undergraduate opera "Maria Stuarda", and missed two days of school to take a trip to Chicago with the Chamber Choir to perform Händel at the Palmer House hotel for the American Choral Director's Association conference before arriving back in Cincinnati on Saturday just in time for Big Brother Night at my fraternity, which I was in charge of. What a whirlwind of a first six weeks! But of course, it didn't slow down at all.
Getting into March, my fraternity had a "Building Men of Character Retreat" the first weekend that helped us to implement a lot of new policies and semesterly events to improve our organization, and during that retreat I had to excuse myself for about an hour to compete in CCM's undergraduate voice competition, which I won third place in. Over the entire semester so far, we were having almost daily rehearsals for the undergraduate opera, Donizetti's Bel Canto masterpiece "Maria Stuarda". This year's undergraduate opera production was the first year to have a set built by the CCM scene shop, the first year to have stage management, and the first year to have full costumes in the twenty years that there has been an undergraduate opera production - and next year that will be taken a step further when the undergraduate opera will have the same level of support that any graduate opera or other mainstage production at CCM has. "Maria Stuarda" gave its performances the second weekend of March, and the image at the top of the page is from this production. Soon after the opera was Spring Break! I got the chance to go home to Saint Louis for about two days before coming back to Cincinnati for Holy Week at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, where I still serve as a choir section leader. From Wednesday evening until Sunday afternoon on Easter, I went to church seven times. One of the families in the choir invited myself and another section leader to their house for Easter dinner, which was an act of true generosity - I'm very grateful for the community I get to be a part of at that church.
The first weekend of April was Relay For Life and my fraternity's Founder's Day celebration, which my mother and brother made the trip over here to be a part of. The week after that was my fraternity's Spring Formal, which I actually planned and organized over the course of the past five months or so. We had an amazing dinner on a riverboat cruise with a DJ and a very nice staff, and it was especially nice for me to see people so happy with the night I planned. I also appreciated gaining the experience of working with a budget of thousands of dollars to put together an event. It was daunting at times, but it all turned out very well. The week after that was supposed to be the spring initiation week at my fraternity, however due to a problem with grades in the associate class, initiation week has been moved to the beginning of Fall semester. During the next week, the last week of classes, I performed in two recitals and a choir concert. The choir concert was another Music of Shakespeare concert, but it was heightened because it was performed on the exact date of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. The concert was a collaboration with CCM's drama department, who performed scenes from many of Shakespeare's plays, and we also featured two newly commissioned choral works, making the concert quite the celebration. The two recitals I performed in were the culminating performances of the piano accompaniment class I had been taking all semester. In one recital I performed as a pianist, playing two pieces with a Doctoral student in oboe named Abby Yeakle, who has become a good friend of mine this year at the admissions office, and who just won a Fulbright scholarship to study in Vienna for a year! In the other recital, I performed as a singer for another pianist in my class, giving a world premier performance of two Italian songs by the highly revered 99-year old former Broadway and opera conductor "Il Maestro" Anton Coppola (a recording can be found in my "About Me" page).
I finished the year by earning a 3.74 GPA for the semester, bringing my University GPA to a 3.8, and knocking out my Theory, Musicianship, and English requirements forever. I sang the national anthem for two of the university's all-school commencement ceremonies in Fifth-Third Arena, and was hired by JDRF International to arrange/compose, organize a group for, and play piano for the opening number of their "Cincinnatians of the Year Gala" at the Duke Energy Center on May 7, the largest yearly fundraiser in the city. We held auditions for next year's undergraduate opera, Benjamin Britten's 20th century British comedy opera "Albert Herring", during exam week, so for next year I'm very excited to be playing the title role, Albert Herring, in the first fully supported undergraduate opera production in CCM's history. But before that, I have an honors experience to fulfill over summer at SongFest Los Angeles, the premier summer art song institute in the U.S. A detailed yet organized multi-media journal of the experience will be found on my "Blog" page. I could not be more thrilled with the progress I've made over this year or the amazing opportunities I have ahead of me.