Oberlin Blogs

Halfway Already?

May 19, 2018

Rachel Gibson ’20

Only two years left of Oberlin. It has gone way too fast. I swore I was just a first-year student yesterday! I can definitely say that I changed so much since first coming here. My career goals are different, my taste in music expanded, and most importantly, I grew as a person.

First, I added Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA) as a second major, and I will still be able to graduate on time, but I will be taking 28 credits next semester. This semester, I took 26, and I loved every minute of it. I had two juries for my two majors too. In my percussion jury, I played a marimba solo and orchestral xylophone excerpts. It was nervewracking because I had to play in front of my percussion teacher and both ensemble conductors. However, I felt like I could tell that I improved since my first jury. My TIMARA jury was so much more relaxing because it was like an interview with the faculty about the work I did this year. Needless to say, both went well. I am planning on doing two separate junior recitals next year (I think I might be a little crazy). I feel so motivated and excited to begin working on new pieces, and I have so many plans for next year.

Secondly, I am going to be a Residential Assistant next year. I had an awesome RA my first year here, and ever since I really wanted to be an RA. I am so glad that I was able to submit an application and go for it. I am excited to see what I'll be doing next year. I will also be my percussion studio's manager, which means I'll be organizing equipment moves and making sure all the percussion instruments are in their rightful places. I love organization! I feel like so many job opportunities are opening up to me now that I am an older student, and I am so grateful. 

Lastly, I was selected for the Oberlin College Research Fellowship. As a fellow, I will be getting paid to pursue a research topic I proposed, and I'll be in Oberlin for the whole summer. I will be studying the American composer John Cage and how and why his musical notation changed over time. In addition, I will be distilling existing research down into a simple performance practice guide to (hopefully) make his music more accessible to young people in college and high school. When I was working on my John Cage Winter Term project, I found that the research on his music was way over my head. It was dense and hard for me to comprehend right off the bat, and I wished that there had been more resources out there that were easier for young musicians to read and understand. My ultimate hope is that this guide will turn more students on to John Cage's music. His work is so wonderful, charming and unique, and I cannot wait to share it with as many people as I can. The fellowship runs for two summers, so I have the rest of my undergraduate summers planned out for me. I would like to produce a piece of writing that I can submit to graduate schools. I am so happy that I will be able to stay in Oberlin for the summer and study a topic that means a lot to me. 

Also, this summer I was selected to present my theremin project at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression conference at Virginia Tech. This was a huge honor for me because I am only halfway through my undergraduate career, and I will already be presenting my work on a larger scale. It will be great to be able to see the other projects that were accepted and meet new people that are deeply involved with music technology.  

These last two weeks flew by for me. I did a final performance for my TIMARA class, made an audition video and completed my final for Aural Skills, and I also planned a concert for Modern Music Guild, which is a student organization that I participate in. Modern Music Guild books experimental music concerts, and I booked Louis Pino, who is a 2017 Oberlin graduate who was in my percussion studio last year. His concert focused on pieces for percussion with theatrical elements, like speaking and acting. In addition, we performed a few pieces together. I actually didn't have any finals, but most of finals week was preparing for his concert. It went great, and I had a wonderful time catching up with him.

I played my last concert for the official Conservatory ensembles. I was assigned to the Contemporary Music Ensemble, and we played an awesome 45-minute-long song cycle with guest soprano Tony Arnold. She was an Obie! She also now performs with the International Contemporary Ensemble, which includes other Oberlin musicians. 

Percussion instruments set up on a stage.
So many percussion instruments were needed for this concert.

Every year, my percussion teacher, Michael Rosen, holds a picnic for the percussion studio at his house. He takes a picture of the whole studio and hangs it up on his wall. This way, all current students can see who was a part of the studio in the past years. Since our picnic was rained out, he took us all to The Feve. We also were able to get our group photo outside of Finney. I have to say, these guys are always there when I need them, always supportive, and always put a smile on my face. 

The Oberlin Percussion Group
I love these guys!

I just still cannot believe that I am halfway though my Oberlin career already. I just had a graduate school conversation with one of my professors recently, and it really hit me that I have to start thinking about the future. Since I will be meeting a lot of new people at the research conference I will be presenting at, my professor advised me to get business cards and create a website to showcase my work. My business cards just came in the mail yesterday, and I put the finishing touches on my website, www.rachelkgibson.net. I feel so professional! However, I know I have a long way to go, and I have come so far already. I cannot wait to see what junior year has to offer. 

Business Card

Even after two years, I still love Oberlin so much, and I am so thankful for being able to have a wonderful support team of professors and friends. 

Here's to another great year!

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