Archive for the ‘Graduate School’ Category


Welcome to the first in a series of photo-filled posts on my trip to southern Utah. Before letting the photos talk however, it’s important to know one term: hoodoo.

Any guess what that might be?


Awesome license plate spotted at the Capitol Reef visitor center

A Pokemon, you say? Good guess, but no.

A hoodoo – sometimes called a goblin, earth pyramid, tent rock, or fairy chimney – is a thin, free-standing rock formation created by two weathering processes: frost wedging and erosion of limestone from slightly acidic rainfall. As stated on the National Park Services’ website, “nowhere in the world are [hoodoos] as abundant as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon National Park.”


Various hoodoos in Bryce Canyon including Thor’s Hammer (center)

The word hoodoo comes from the Southern Paiute language, where it is pronounced ooh doo and is an expression of being afraid or showing fear. According to Paiute legend, the trickster Coyote wanted to punish “the Legend People,” called To-when-an-ung-wa, for living too heavily upon the land, drinking up the streams and rivers, eating all the pine nuts, and leaving very little for other animals to eat or drink. He invited the To-when-an-ung-wa to a big banquet, but when they arrived he cast a spell on them, turning them all to stone and creating the hoodoos we can see today.


A snowy afternoon in Bryce

For more on the Paiute legends and hoodoos, check out this NPR story or this NPS article.

Stay tuned for more posts from southern Utah!





Even ravens enjoy Bryce Canyon

At last, my semester is over. I’ve turned in all my term papers, and I’m actually in the mood to do a little leisure writing. Amazing how writing for school kills all enthusiasm for blogging. I still like my PhD program, but this semester was a tough one…

Anyway, I’ve managed to fit in a lot of fun stuff and accomplished a bunch of goals this spring. Here’s a little timeline:

April 12th, 2015: Completed my first-ever triathlon!!!

What an amazing day. I destroyed my goal time of 1:45:00, completed the race in 1:33:37, and felt great doing it. The weather was gorgeous, the water was nice, the bike course was flat and smooth, and the run course was beautiful. When I finished, I was so amped up I felt like I could do the whole thing again…I guess I could have pushed myself a little more! I made a friend in my start wave who was also doing her first tri, and now we’re planning on running/biking together whenever we’re in the same state. I could not have asked for a better first triathlon experience and will definitely be doing more!



The rest of my visit to FL was nice too. While posing for a picture on a the beach, my mom and I were photobombed by a Great Blue Heron:

That's not something you see everyday...

That’s not something you see everyday…

April 25th: “Music on Maple” Premiere Performance

I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep myself motivated to learn new music at a performance-ready level while in school, and in April I thought of a solution: Host concerts in my apartment (aka “Maple Hall.” Next step, Carnegie Hall!). The bi-annual concert series features myself as well as at least one guest performer. My first guest was a couch surfer I was hosting from France who plays jazz accordion. We met for the first time three hours before the show, ran through some tunes, and then put on a great performance. Everyone is still raving about it! The next performance will take place at the end of June and will feature my dad on ukelele! 🙂

Music on Maple: Premiere Performance

'nuf said.

‘nuf said.

May 3rd: Five Boro Bike Tour

In preparation for The Ride to Montauk, I decided to sign up for the Five Boro Bike Tour, a forty-mile casual ride through all five boroughs. The highways were closed so that only bikes got to ride, and we got to go over a bunch of bridges that are usually off-limits to cyclists, including the monster bridge, the Verrazano. I completed the 40 miles easily, which gave me a lot of confidence for Montauk!

May 9th: Mudderella 11150608_10100454737430182_8265482372204029810_n

Awhile back, some friends asked me if I wanted to do a mud race with them in NJ. I have to say I was a little disappointed with this one; I’ve done one other mud/adventure race and this was much less intense, with a lot of people walking between obstacles. I still had fun, but I definitely prefer races that are a little more demanding.

May 16th: The Ride To Montauk

My favorite ride! Last year, Genai and I made it through 56 miles before having to call it quits. This year, we were better prepared, Genai had a better bike, and we were determined to ride all 73 miles. After five hours of sleep, we drove to Mastic to volunteer in the rain for 3 1/2 hours before beginning the ride. We were wet for the whole morning half of the ride, but we still felt great. And, sure enough, the sun came out in the afternoon, our spirits helped us persevere, and with a big push at the end we zoomed into the finish line. Ahhhh it felt SO good to complete all those miles. Yes, completing my triathlon was a big deal, but I honestly think making it through all 73 miles of this ride was the greatest physical accomplishment of my life thus far. Now I feel like I can do anything! We were so exhausted at the end, so next year our goal is to get to the finish feeling fine. 🙂


Calling it quits at 56 vs. Going all way to 73! 😀


May 23rd: Awesome gig!

I was hired to play vibes for a baby shower on Long Island, so I loaded my vibraphone into my car, drove four feet…and realized I had a flat tire. Luckily one of my neighbors was standing nearby, so he got his tools and helped me change the tire quickly (I know how to fix a flat, but it would have taken forever). Thanks to him, I actually made it with plenty of time to spare, and the gig itself was great. I love playing party gigs because I’m just the background music, so it’s low stress, good pay, and I get free food. 🙂

May 25th: Bike To Long Beach

For Memorial Day, a friend invited me on what turned out to be a great ride to Long Beach. We met up with a bunch of other cyclists for breakfast, then rode 25 miles to the beach. The weather was perfect, and I’m happy to say I was able to keep up with everyone even though they all had road bikes and I had my hybrid. Unfortunately we couldn’t get onto the sand at Long Beach without paying $12, so we ate lunch on the boardwalk and then rode to the Rockaways where we could get onto the beach for free. It was a great day, and I wasn’t even too tired after the 50 miles….I even had enough energy to bike 7 miles to a party later that night! 🙂


So that’s that. Now I’m in the midst of deciding between working at an elementary circus camp or the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the summer and enjoying my freedom in the meantime by jamming, running, biking, hanging with friends…all my favorite things. And softball starts Sunday. Life is great! 😀

City Life Rocks!

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Adventures, Graduate School, Music, Softball

I can’t believe I’ve only been in Brooklyn for two and a half weeks; I’ve already done SO much! There is a never-ending pool of activities to do, places to visit, events to attend…I think it’s impossible to be bored here. Literally every day since my last blog entry has been awesome, so I’m just going to chronicle all of it in this entry:

Friday, Aug. 22nd:

I went contra dancing the night of my last entry and had a blast! Unlike in Albany or on Long Island, most dancers here are around my age. Hooray! I loved it even though I went alone, and I’ll definitely be going back. Contra and swing dancing are both really prevalent here, so I can actually go more than a couple times a year! 🙂

Sat, Aug. 23rd:

Went to Long Island for softball practice and to visit my grandparents, and then…

Aug. 24th-28th:


Adventures with Marlyse. Click to read!

Adventures with Marlyse. Click to read!

Fri, Aug. 29th:

First day of graduate school! Started the semester with a wonderful class about music and culture of NY in the 1920s. We learned about Prohibition, player pianos, modernism, and got a sense of how awesome this semester is going to be.

Friday night, I drove to Long Island to play a gig with Glen Baldwin’s “Friends of Jazz” in Northport Park. So great! I felt like a star; I was featured as a “guest artist” and soooo many people came up to talk to me and shake my hand at the end. I got a couple more gigs out of the experience and was even invited to a jam session in Brooklyn. Moving right along!

Gigging in Northport Park. Photo credit to David Dong

Gigging in Northport Park. Photo credit: David Dong

Aug. 30th/31st:

The Gotham Softball Classic!!! I spent the entire weekend in Central Park with my wonderful teammates of Long Island SWAT. We played five games over two days and watched just as many. It has always been a dream of mine to pitch on a travel team, so to finally be doing it is unreal. Hopefully this is only the first of a great series of tournaments. Shoutout to Jenn McCaff for shooting awesome photos such as:

Softball1 Softball2 Softball3 Softball4 Softball5

Monday, Sept. 1st:

Happy Labor Day! For me, this day was exciting because…I FINALLY MOVED MY VIBRAPHONE INTO MY APARTMENT!!! At last I can practice again (and have done so every day since). Finally!!!

Tues, Sept. 2nd:

I don’t have class on Tuesdays, so I used this day to get my library card and utilize the Brooklyn Public Library for studying. So happy that such a prominent library is so close. Afterwards, I explored Prospect Park. I discovered some nature trails which, although paved, give the impression of being somewhere much less urban than Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Go deep enough in and city noises disappear, leaving only chipmunks, birds, the rustle of trees, and the trickling of a nearby waterfall. Frederick Law Olmstead sure knew what he was doing when he designed this beautiful place.

Wed, Sept. 3rd:

My second grad class! This one is on world music research techniques, so we started with an overview of the course and various musics we’ll study. Nothing too substantial yet, but so far so good.

After class, I returned to Union Square’s Greenmarket to buy some fruits and veggies and then…

Brooklyn Public Library is not only a good place to read and study, but also a great place to practice speaking French! Every Wednesday night they host a French conversation group, so I spent an hour and a half speaking my favorite language with other francophones and enjoyed every minute. As a result, I was invited to play music at a Brazilian party this coming Saturday hosted by one of the francophones. New friends AND they speak French?! I love this life!

Thanks as always for reading. I’m really enjoying city life and the challenge of balancing my triple identity as a scholar, musician, and athlete. It’s about time I’m back in an environment where I’m stimulated every minute; I definitely missed this over the past year. More adventures ahead!



Roughly one year ago, I wrote my first post on this blog (but not my first ever, that can be found on my first blog- “Oh Canada!”). At that time I’d just left Albany, traveled a bit, and began a year of adventures on Long Island. It was a great chapter in life, to be sure. Highlights included:

  • Seeing my Long Island friends/family so often (such a welcome change after being four hours away for so long!)
  • Traveling to Utah (now one of my favorite states) and Dallas, TX
  • My two favorite weekends of the year- The Flurry Festival and the Old Songs Festival
  • Four seasons of softball with amazing teammates (fall, spring, summer, travel…can’t get enough!)
  • Vibraphone adventures: Lessons with Christos, going to gigs, jamming, the World Vibes Congress, joining the swing band, playing a solo gig, going to the UDel summer workshop again (check out my YouTube page for videos from the workshop)
  • Watching one of my best friends get married
  • Playing/recording songs with my dad (such as this original)
  • Learning to successfully bike to work on LI, and cycling 56 miles on The Ride to Montauk
  • The World Cup parties hosted by my friend Mike, a great cook from Brazil who served food from each country competing
  • Exercise: Spin class, combat fitness, the Philly Run Wild 5K
  • Bonding with my brother while crashing at his apartment over the past month
  • Discovering the CUNY Graduate Center and getting such a prestigious fellowship award 😀

It’s been a great chapter of life for sure. My experience as an AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader was not as exciting as I’d hoped, but I made the best of it and learned some lessons along the way (plus I should have known; how could anything compete with my most-amazing experience as a VISTA?). The good thing about my VL experience being less-than-incredibly-awesome is that now I’m extremely excited for this next step in life. My year on Long Island was good, but it was temporary. Now, a new adventure begins!

A New Chapter

I have officially moved into my Brooklyn apartment and am taking full advantage of what the city has to offer. It’s ironic…when I was little, although I loved to ride the train (and still do), I didn’t enjoy NYC; I said it was my least-favorite city and I’d never want to live there. When it came time to choose a college, I wanted to go somewhere rural and warm…and wound up in urban Albany, NY. Now here I am in a complete 180, living in Brooklyn. It’s so funny to me that I didn’t want to live here, and now I’m loving it. Some reasons why I’m happy here:

  • My favorite mode of transportation is the bicycle, followed by walking or swimming, followed by a train.
  • An extremely important factor in my life is having access to a great music scene with jazz
  • I love contra dancing and swing dancing, and NY has plenty of both
  • I like living in diverse areas with lots of different kinds of foods to try
  • I hate driving and avoid it as much as possible (so it’s great that I don’t have to here)
  • I always said I didn’t want to live on LI long-term but that in a perfect world I’d still play softball there. Well…I guess this is my perfect world!
  • Another important factor in my life is being close to nature. My apartment is a couple minutes’ walk from Prospect Park, just about as much green as you can get in a big city!

Those are just a few reasons this seems to be a great place for me, though I never realized it. Yes, I still have my heart set on Quebec, but this is the place for me right now and I’m happy to be here!

New Adventures

Life in Brooklyn is amazing. There is SO MUCH to do here, even when I’m alone. Tonight for instance, I will be checking out the Brooklyn Contra scene. So excited!

With all the amazing things happening around town, I think even my frugal self will have to be careful keeping a budget. It’s so easy to say yes to going to a gig, a festival, a dance, a restaurant, a bike trip…so much! I’m finding things that are free or very cheap but still…for the first time in my life I’m actually actively tracking my spending, just in case.

In other news, I’m all set for starting at CUNY. Registered for classed including “1920s: Music and Culture in New York”, and an ethnomusicology research class with one whole textbook devoted to the mbira and the Shona people of Zimbabwe. So exciting! I’m on payroll, and I signed up to take my first language exam (we take two any time before graduation. I can pass the French one easily so I figured I’d get it out of the way). I’ve ordered textbooks, met with the department head, attended orientation #1 (there are three- one for GAs, one for all students, one for music students), and am now preparing for the French exam and the start of the semester. Speaking of…

My first class is Aug. 29th, but between now and then I’ll be exploring NYC tourist-style with my friend Marlyse from Canada. She’ll be visiting for one week and we plan to do a ton of cool things. I’ll blog about our adventures after they happen 🙂

As for other adventures, I’ve been here less than a week but I’ve already done a lot. Genai and I attended the annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island (photos below), I saw the movie Grease on the beach on Coney Island with April and some of her friends, my new friend Elaine and I ate at a mediterranean restaurant close to our school, I biked through Prospect Park, I jammed with one of my vibraphone friends, and of course I commuted by bike from the train to my apartment. Now tonight is contra dancing, then Marlyse arrives on Sunday and the fun continues!

Moral of the story: Brooklyn is cool, life is grand, and I’m excited to start school. Adventures ahead!

Flappers in style

Flappers in style

Beautiful day for a picnic

Beautiful day for a picnic

Me picnicking

Me picnicking

We're so classy ;)

We’re so classy 😉

On the dance floor

On the dance floor

"Bathing Beauties and Beaus" show

The “Bathing Beauties and Beaus” show

The Dreamland Follies and Mike Arenella, bandleader and creator of the Jazz Age Lawn Party.

The Dreamland Follies and Mike Arenella, bandleader and creator of the Jazz Age Lawn Party.

You know the scene. You know the quote. You know the movie. Or…at least I hope you do. The Blues Brothers, one of my favorite films of all time. This scene, with one of my favorite lines of all time. A line which, somehow, reminds me of the crazy journey I’m about to embark on. Let me explain:

In this scene, Jake and Elwood are fleeing from the police (what else is new?). They jump into their battered car and Elwood makes, in my opinion, one of the most memorable statements in the movie:

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

As I get closer to the start of my own 106-mile journey, I find myself relating to Jake and Elwood. I’m not heading to Chicago, but my journey towards a PhD feels like 106 miles. I’ve got an ill-prepared car to help me along the way, in the form of limited knowledge of world music research. I’ve got a full tank of gas, meaning I am motivated and ready to go. I don’t smoke but I have half a pack of cigarettes- some of the tools I’ll need for success, but certainly not all of them. It’s dark; I can’t quite see what’s on the road ahead, but I’m driving towards it anyway. And of course I’m wearing sunglasses, blinders which serve both to help me keep my cool and to mask some of the unpleasant realities of NYC scholarly life I’m not ready to face: Getting sick of reading textbooks, rats in my apartment, getting lost, not playing vibes as much as I want…I hope these aren’t in my future but if they are, I don’t want to see them yet.

So that’s that. Jake and Elwood escaped the cops and got the band back together, and I’ll get my PhD and enjoy the ride. It’s almost June. Soon I’ll be living in a tiny NYC apartment preparing for the first day of class, and before I know it those 106 miles will have come and gone and I’ll be walking across the stage on graduation day. The Blues Brothers achieved their goals and so will I. As Jake Blues would say: “Hit it.”

“As Jeff Todd Titon has observed, applied ethnomusicology is more than a ‘process of putting ethnomusicological research to practical use,’ reflecting instead a broad ‘desire to intervene with music on behalf of peace and social justice.’

-Jennifer Kyker; “from scholarship to activism in zimbabwe”; Sounds Matters: The SEM Blog

Ahhhh…the more I learn about Ethnomusicology, the more confident I am that this is the field I am meant to build a career in.

Since learning of my fellowship award at CUNY, I’ve been scouring the internet in search of ethnomusicology blogs, publications, etc. to further prepare myself for graduate school. I’m feeling extremely motivated by much of what I’m finding, including the above quote from faculty member Jennifer Kyker of the University of Rochester. Her entry on the Society for Ethnomusicology’s blog “Sound Matters” describes her experience working with women and girls in Zimbabwe. Yes, the above is a quote within a quote, but I loved both her entry and Titon’s definition of applied ethnomusicology so much that I had to share it. “The desire to intervene with music on behalf of peace and social justice.”…what a wonderful way to describe the driving force behind the work of so many ethnomusicologists.

Equally inspiring is the SEM Student Union’s blog, which just moved to wordpress earlier this month. Their first entry on wordpress does a great job of attempting to define ethnomusicology (a somewhat impossible task). As blogger Heather A. Strohschein writes,

“It is both humbling and gratifying to realize that some of the founders of the field and even scholars today couldn’t/can’t agree on what ‘ethnomusicology’ is/was/should be and that the definition and conceptualization of ethnomusicology has changed over the years.”

Good. That’s a relief, since I seem to spurt out a different definition every time someone asks “You’re majoring in what?”.  Perhaps I should work on an elevator speech…

Either way, to help you get a better sense of the career I’m heading towards, I will repost Heather’s blog entry after publishing this post.

Thanks for reading!