My Creative Arts Fellowship: Crossing the T’s, Dotting the I’s, and Cueing the Cutoff

How can I miss something before it’s over? As I reflect on my work, I’m finding that this query has become a bit of a theme. Even so, taking the time to acknowledge my progress has proven itself remarkably therapeutic as I take my final steps in the Creative Arts Fellowship program, wrapping up an eight-month long process.

To begin, I feel that my time with my cohort, mentors, and choral ensemble allowed me to become more authentic in the way I carry myself as a musician and an academic. In essence, they taught me to take pride in the process, no matter what it may look like – organization is an art of its own, one that only trial and error can guide. Because of this lesson, I finally let go of what I thought I “needed” to be, and allowed myself to exist as wholly as I knew how. In turn, this affected my planning process – I could advocate for what I needed in order to be successful moving forward, while remaining at peace with the concept that circumstances could change at any time. 

Though several moments highlighted my fellowship experience, two memories have become central to my development as a conductor. The first was an occurrence in early July, while I was studying my scores. Just as I was about to take a break for dinner (with the help of my trusty microwave), the power went out: gusts of wind were swiftly hurling themselves at my windows, and rain was sopping down the street. Though I’m a fan of a good thunderstorm, I couldn’t quite see the scores I wanted to study – I grabbed about three candles from my closet, lit them, and placed them on my kitchen table. Eventually, the thunder and rain passed on, but the power was still out – it was just me, the candlelight, and the music. Though there are times that I’ll sing to study the score, I felt inspired to revel in the stillness of the evening. There was something so delicate about the quiet, so much so that it felt sacred to even acknowledge it. It was then that I learned that in silence, too, music remains. Observing and understanding rest is just as significant as what fills it. 

The second moment, as is anyone’s guess, was the filming session in Schenley Park on August fifth. The day was spectacular! Caleb Bender, a fellow Creative Arts Fellow, agreed to help film the event (I would not be where I am without his help, so a HUGE shoutout to him for his guidance). Dr. Brett Say, the director of the program, was also in attendance – to meet them both in person for the first time was such a joy, matched with the honor of having their help with making that day possible. When I conducted the choral ensemble during those hours of filming, it was as if time went still. The euphoria of performance that I had so dearly missed had made its way into the woods, singing with us on the bridge. Working with the choir, in rehearsal and performance, was the greatest gift of all – not just for what we could make out of the music, but for the solace we found in our growing friendship. They brought my greatest hopes to life right before my eyes – I couldn’t have asked for more. 

From left to right: Caleb Bender, Sean Whitney, Maria Anto, Francis Burk, Chloe Weiss (me), Kero Kamel, Sophie Shah.

I have two years left in my undergraduate work, which will no doubt be filled with music-making, storytelling, and lots of questions. In any case, I fully intend to keep up with my conducting and research. As I’ve learned, a conductor’s journey toward self-realization is never really over – who knows where I might end up next? 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Cheers!

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