Guest article by Summer@Eastman Marketing Assistant Reginald Bowens, DMA Candidate for the Degree of Jazz Performance in Piano
Pictured: Reginald Bowens performing in his final student recital for the DMA degree in Hatch Recital Hall on October 24, 2023. Photographer: Cleveland Willis
I am Reginald Bowens, a third-year doctoral scholar in the Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media program at Eastman, and I am privileged to be the marketing intern for Summer@Eastman. I am also pursuing a Music Education minor and nearing the completion of the Arts Leadership Certificate Program (ALP). This has been the most intense semester of my doctoral studies. In addition to being a full-time student, I serve as a full-time Assistant Professor of Jazz Studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C. At Howard, I teach courses in vocal jazz improvisation, individualized instruction in jazz singing, and jazz choirs. I am also a co-advisor for the undergraduate chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America at Howard, and I am an active e-board member of the Rochester (NY) Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. I have learned a lot about myself this semester. Two of the greatest lessons I learned are to prioritize my mental health and that “balance is key.”
It has been a joy to improve my skills through mentorship with my supervisor, Dr. Sylvie Beaudette. She has truly helped reshape my perspective of marketing in 2023. In addition to being an intern, I am taking other courses in digital marketing (an elective course in the ALP), jazz theory, and composition. My composition course focuses on writing and orchestrating pieces in multiple genres; this course prepared me to present my third and final doctoral recital. This recital was especially important to me because it featured a few of my world premieres that I have been writing for years. Two of the featured pieces were made possible by the Presser Foundation because I was a recipient of the 2022 Presser Graduate Music Award. During the residency period for Presser, I traveled to conduct research with sacred jazz industry professionals that I admire greatly, including Dr. Cedric Dent (Nashville), a founding member of the Grammy award-winning vocal group Take 6; Dr. Alton Merrell (Pittsburgh), an incredible pianist and professor of music at West Virginia University; and Mr. Hamilton Hardin (Atlanta), a stellar, world-class multi-instrumentalist.
During the week of my recital, I also facilitated a recruitment trip to Western New York for my Howard University treble vocal jazz ensemble (SAASy) and three of my outstanding Howard University colleagues (junior and senior faculty). As a part of this trip, SAASy performed in my recital and received an ovation. As director, I was touched by the audience’s response to my students who had been working diligently. It was an incredible experience for us all, and I am grateful that my worlds were able to merge for this memorable moment in my student career. All the successes helped me recover from the panic attack I suffered a few days before my recital. I was overwhelmed with the challenges of balancing school, work, my internship, recital preparation and related last-minute changes, the recruitment trip, and the death of my grandfather.
With so many things going on at once, I learned to constantly reevaluate “what is most important.” One of the most challenging decisions I made this semester was to resign from my church job lead pianist position. I had been playing in churches since age 11, so I am very familiar with juggling school and work, simultaneously. However, I came to the realization that at this time, it was a bit much to manage both, and that is okay. My former therapist said, “Just because you’re good at overcoming obstacles does not mean you have to create them.” I am glad to have experienced therapy for a few years because it has helped me navigate through these tough times, and in spite of everything I have been dealing with, I have obtained peace. Peace is most important to me.