A Week in the Life of a Dual Degree Harp student

November 4, 2015

ALenhertHello! My name is Anna Lenhert, and I am a senior in The Eastman School of Music’s Dual Degree program. I am pursuing a B.M. in Harp Performance and a B.A. in Digital Media Studies. The elevator pitch that explains my ultimate end goal is this: “I am pursuing these degrees to use visual media to help make classical music more approachable for a broader audience, and convey the narratives that artists often envision when they add musical character to a piece.” I’ve really enjoyed this semester so far, and my schedule reflects both degrees pretty evenly. I’ve jotted down some highlights from my schedule spanning Wednesday October 21st through Wednesday October 28th, so you can get a feel for how a week in my life looks.

10/21: DMS 103 Essential Digital Media Toolkit is one of four required core courses for my Digital Media Studies major. It is basically a crash-course overview of different kinds of software every two weeks. This week we’re covering Adobe Illustrator for graphic design. Our project is to make a vector translation of a flora or fauna that is native to the US, and we are pretending that our design is going to be for the next line of “Forever” stamps. Our goal is to distill the form down to only the most necessary lines, and today we started with sketching by hand to pick what point of view would work best.

10/22: DMS 250 Writing In A Digital World is serving as my upper-level writing requirement, and so far I have really enjoyed how well my teachers facilitate lively and thoughtful peer discussion. Today we started looking ahead to our individual final projects. Also, did you know that every University of Rochester class has an assigned librarian? Today we attended a presentation by our very own librarian, Eileen, who showed us how she can help us with the online research process.

10/23: ALC 211 Technology for Musicians is offered through Eastman’s Arts Leadership course offerings. This class has helped me to solidify a lot of great information about audio and visual file formats, and exposed me to lots of helpful resources for working in the nexus of music and media.

10/24: Saturday’s in my book are for sleeping in, brunch, extra practice, dinners with friends, getting a leg up on homework, and maybe enjoying a concert. On this particular Saturday I attended a beautiful and moving memorial concert, “In Celebration of the Life of Lynn Blakeslee,” honoring a violin professor who recently retired and unexpectedly passed away this summer. I was able to listen to my professor Kathleen Bride perform one of her signature pieces, as well as listen to many other faculty members perform and give remarks. It was a good reminder of how much the Eastman community functions as a tight-knit family, and how much I love being here for that very reason.

10/25: On Sunday our whole studio meets to rehearse our Harp Ensemble music. Today we sight-read a really fun Greek dance. We also practiced leading the ensemble, and took turns finding the best ways to cue our peers for entrances. Towards the end of the fall semester every year, the whole school gathers in Lowry Hall for our Holiday Sing event where we all sing “Dona Nobis Pacem” in canon, and we watch various small groups perform festive favorites. Every other year the harps get to play, so we are all looking forward to begin rehearsing our music soon. I believe a medley including “White Christmas” (a personal favorite) might be on the list, so I’m excited. In general, harp ensemble is a great opportunity for us to play fun repertoire together and hone chamber music skills while we’re at it.

10/26: Mondays are usually light for me. I start at the River Campus in the morning with my DMS 103 Essential Digital Media Toolkit class again. Over the weekend I turned my hand-drawn sketches into graphic translations in Adobe Illustrator. Today I chose my strongest interpretation and added color and text. I am looking forward to being able to use these skills for recital posters in the spring. Speaking of recitals, I entered the “lottery” system that will enable me to pick my date, time, and concert hall location for my degree recital today! Concert times and spaces are in high demand here at Eastman, so the lottery system helps to ensure that students giving recitals have a fair chance at booking their preferred dates and locations.  It is hard to believe that my recital is just around the corner.  When you enter as a freshman people tell you the four years fly by, and now I know they really weren’t kidding.

10/27: Tuesdays are by far my busiest days, with two UR courses back-to-back, harp pedagogy, and studio class all in one day. CSC 131, Recreational Graphics, doesn’t feel too much like work though. This class has been teaching me how to use a 3D modeling program to create images and moving animations, so I feel like I’m “playing Pixar.” I have even learned how to record video footage and add animated objects into the same frame, sort of like a green screen effect.

Harp pedagogy has pleasantly differed from my initial expectation. I pictured us walking though a beginning lesson right away. We are getting closer to working with our “guinea-pig” students next semester, but so far we have been discussing how to run a teaching studio as a professional business along side other non-music professional industries. We’ve been talking a lot about marketing, setting up expectations with studio policies, billing, school programs- you name it! One project I’m working toward now is the “Harp Demo” I will give at the end of the semester as if we were introducing children to the harp at a school. Ms. Bride has encouraged us to use visual aids, so I am hoping to maybe include some of those recreational graphics I’ve been learning…

10/28: Lastly, on Wednesdays I have my lesson with Ms. Bride, we’re working on preparing me for an upcoming performance in the String Department Showcase, as well as my senior degree recital music. In my lessons, Ms. Bride never fails to make me laugh and give me some golden nugget of wisdom to think about adding to my playing. Today I am also scheduled to begin rehearsing the Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra with the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra. The joy of playing in large ensembles was one of the biggest reasons I knew I wanted to become a music major, and playing with such high-caliber peers under talented conductors never ceases to be rewarding.

So there you have it! My days are definitely busy here at Eastman as a dual-degree student, but I feel very fortunate to have such knowledgeable mentors in fields that I love pursuing. There’s no where else I’d rather call home.