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A FOND FAREWELL TO KATE

by Suzanne Hegland
Faculty Editor

 

The stars aligned in December of 2013. I was looking to revamp our school news­paper, and Kate Lemmon was looking for a job.

Kate arrived for her initial interview armed with a portfolio of her past work and a list of great ideas for the future of The Penguin. During our meeting I did my best to appear neutral and professional, but poker face is not part of my repertoire. I nodded and smiled on the outside, but on the inside I was distracted by the chorus of angels singing “Hallelujah,” accompanied by Queen belting out “We Are the Champions.” (And here you guys all thought I knew nothing about music!)

Farewell_LemmonThree short semesters later our little student newspaper has become a must-read, not just for students, but also for staff and faculty. In fact, The Penguin is so good that President Woodcock is an avid and faithful reader, and often orders extra copies so the Board of Trustees and Overseers can have a Penguin to call their own.

As musicians, you’re all familiar with what goes on backstage: the hours of preparation behind each and every note you play. But you may not be familiar with what goes on behind the scenes of a newspaper. Choosing a theme, writing content, providing photos, recruiting writers, tinkering with layout and just generally getting the word out – Kate does it all.

Those of you who know Kate know that she’s the Queen of Multitasking. In homage to Kate the Flutist, Kate the Photographer, Kate the Editor and oh yeah, Kate the Student, I offer up this wonderful image below which I hope will pop into your head each time you think of Kate.

Kate will walk across the stage of Jordan Hall to receive her Master’s degree in a few short weeks, and you can be sure she will be wearing fashionable shoes. I’m honored to have worked with her and endlessly grateful for her countless hours of hard work, her good humor and her remarkable creativity. Congratulations Kate, we will miss you!

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A WORD FROM OUR NEW EDITOR, ANDREW NISSEN!

Welcome_NissenSo it’s the end of the year already? It’s funny how time flies.

It doesn’t feel like a year ago that I met with my future teacher at NEC in a Starbucks across from Carnegie Hall, still being undecided on what school to attend “next year”. The BSO was in New York City to play three concerts at Carnegie Hall. I managed to see all of them (Mahler 3, an all-Wagner concert, and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra), and coupled with the Starbucks chat I was pretty convinced at the end of their tenure at Carnegie that I’d be moving to Boston soon enough.

I knew it would be a challenge. I wanted to rise to that challenge, and whether I have done so or not is debatable. One thing is certain, Boston was never going to be easy.

 

I love my teachers, my colleagues, my school, but I’m still undecided on Boston.

But that’s the thing about this city: Boston doesn’t care if you like it or not.

Boston isn’t an attention seeker. It doesn’t fawn to your expectations. You don’t come here to climb to the peak of its highest building like some cities. People don’t flock to this region because of its weather like others. They don’t do tours to celebri­ties’ houses as if the entire city is an extended theme park.

No, Boston is a working city. Its stubborn defiance in the face of seeming just criticism is admirable, if not infuriating, but it ain’t going to change any time soon.

Writing for The Penguin has been a great therapy for me. You’ve seen me write about inane things all year. Maybe you’ve enjoyed it, maybe you haven’t. In any case, writing for The Penguin is a privilege that I am honored to have. And it’s a privilege that I share with lots of other talented NEC students that have an urge to write.

It may be a challenge, but if you have that urge to write – to be heard – then submit something to The Penguin in the future! You may rise to it. You may not. But I bet you’ll have a great ride along the way.

Boston wasn’t necessarily easy for me, but I’m kind of happy it didn’t make it that way.

 

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effot, pain, difficulty … I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and let them well.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

Have a great, but not easy, summer!

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A WORD FROM OUR COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER, LIZ TOBIAS

Culture_TobiasIs it graduation time already? It feel like it was only yesterday that we picked up our orientation packages at the Beethoven statue, feeling completely overwhelmed by the thought of enter­ing a new school full of so many mysteries and new people.

My beginning at NEC was like a comedic episode out of a TV sitcom. I knew only one Bostonian before I moved here and that was my studio teacher, Dominique Eade. I was geared up for the adventure of meeting anyone and everyone who would cross my path, but found myself so frustrated at the way no one could understand a word I said. Words like “ketchup” instead of “tomato sauce” or “PowerPoint“ instead of “power outlet“ would haunt my day-to-day interactions. I was completely lost linguisti­cally…. and so were my new NEC friends, though they tried not to let on.

The entrance testing and placement exams posed new obstacles to overcome. Utterly exhausted up from the flight and jet lag that comes from traveling over 30 hours to get to Boston, I was a mess. It must have been a mixture of the adrenaline and excitement that stopped me from sleep­ing properly, but I stupidly gave into the temptation of Skyping with my family and friends every night at 2 a.m. to talk over the details of the international move. If you had looked over at me around one hour into the master’s theory placement exam, I was facedown in a small puddle of drool with a big pencil streak across a half-finished four-part vocal harmony. I remember waking up as the proctor said, “pencils down.” Needless to say, I failed the test in style. From that moment on, I took every opportunity to redeem myself in exams, laughing to myself about the challenges of Orientation 2012.

I remember the nervousness that accompanied lying awake at night wondering exactly how competitive this school was. I found myself praying so hard that I could truly have “what it takes” to survive NEC, which I had built up in my head. My, how we have come through so much together! The mystery of NEC has gone away to be replaced by wonderful familiarity and a sense of home. With that said, I don’t think the magic has disappeared. I don’t know if it is the freakishly superhuman faculty, the patient staff (shoutout to the Student Services people), the passionate students or the weekend serenades by Special Elvis from his apartment window next door; whatever it is, this place has a sweet vibe to it.

For some of us this is the end of an era. Whether it is undergrad, graduate, or doctoral, diplomas and degrees alike, so many of us are finishing off this chapter in our lives and gear­ing up for a new beginning. I hope that each of you can look back on your NEC adventures as a fun and challenging time of your life. May this place send you off better than you came both musically and personally.

As for myself, I face the beginning of a DMA degree at NEC with a new sense of energy and excitement. I’m curious to see what these next few years will hold, but I know they’re go­ing to be great. You’ll all be very happy to know that I was fully awake for those entrance exams… (all six hours of them). See you on May 18 at commencement, NEC!!!

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CHARACTER BACKSTORIES

Dawis_Profileby ISABELLA DAWIS
First-year UD Voice

 
 

One of the best parts about singing is that you get to invent a character. And now that the school year is almost over, I’ll have more time to come up with character backstories! Sometimes it helps to compile a list of questions like this:

  • What is your character’s name? Age? Height? Weight? Shoe size? Toe ring size?
  • Why doesn’t your character wear toe rings? Please provide a logical explanation.
  • Who has been the biggest influence in your character’s life? Please have your character type up a five paragraph, double spaced essay on this topic.
  • What is your character’s deepest fear? If it is bats, you may be Christian Bale, which is good, please analyze Jack Kelly from Newsies instead.
  • Please provide a drawn-to-scale diagram of your character’s house. Draw arrows leading to the exits from each floor, so that your character can evacuate in case of emergency.
  • Is your character over the age of 18? Please leave the room for a minute so that he/she can answer a few questions in private.
  • What did your character have for breakfast this morning, and has he/she burped any of it back up throughout the day?
  • How socially well-adjusted is your character? Really? You think so?
  • Follow up to the above question: Did your character’s par­ents organize themed birthday parties for him/her? Could a related incident perhaps be the root of your character’s crushing anxieties? You can take over from here.
  • On August 16, 1977 at 2:00pm, where was your charac­ter? If the answer concerns toilets, you are probably in Las Vegas. Just an observation.
  • If given the option, would your character rather read a text­book on microeconomics or a textbook on macroeconomics?
  • What does your character want right now, in this moment? Besides not having to answer any more questions?
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BYCE: THE FUTURE OF NEC

Lemmon_Profileby KATE LEMMON / photos by KATE L PHOTOGRAPHY
Second-Year MM Flute

 
 
 

BYCE_1Mike Avitabile and I have just finished a promotional photo shoot for the group he recently founded, the Boston Young Composers Ensemble (BYCE). Coordinating a group of eleven people is no small feat, and I’m exhausted—but Mike has enough energy for both of us. He excitedly launches into the story of the ensemble before I even have a chance to start taking notes.

I can’t help but notice the contrast between the Mike that now sits in front of me and the Mike that I knew back in the fall semester. After finishing his Bachelor of Music at the University of Michigan and spending a busy summer playing in the National Repertory Orchestra, Mike arrived at New England Conservatory feeling lost.

“To be honest, I had a hard time adjusting to NEC because it’s so different from the large and diverse university scene,” Mike admits. “At Michigan, I gigged a lot and enjoyed a very established life. When I moved here, I had to remake my entire world. The joke amongst the new graduate stu­dents was, ‘How do we make friends again?’”

Mike found the answer in NEC’s new music community. Inspired by his teacher Paula Robison’s personal work with composer Luciano Berio, he began to work with student composers in Boston. Mike found joy in working one-on-one with the original source of music, and the unconventionality of new scores helped bring him out of his comfort zone.

“In new music, you have to be a little more daring and adventurous [than when you play orchestral mu­sic],” Mike explains. “If someone hands you an unconventional score and you don’t know how to play it, sometimes you just have to dive in and figure it out. You can’t always judge a score on its first appear­ance.”

That mentality helped Mike feel more connected to the NEC community; he began hanging out with people outside of the classical department, including Contemporary Improvisation majors. He found contemporary music to be socially stimulating and intellectually chal­lenging because he couldn’t resort to “auto-pilot” thinking and playing. “When working with a composer, nothing is set in stone,” says Mike. “The piece might change ten minutes before the performance if the composer decides to change a detail. You’re always on your feet!”

Mike remembers the exact moment when his musical ap­proach changed: his discovery of Claire Chase’s 2013 commencement address at Northwestern University. Founder of the International Con­temporary Ensemble, after which BYCE is modeled, Chase spoke about creating one’s own opportunities.

“It was the first time I had ever heard someone say the music world is not dying, it’s just changing,” Mike recalls. Chase encourages musicians not to wait around for management to produce CDs and concerts, but instead to bring a grassroots approach to classical music. “I said to myself, I want to do that at NEC. I want to play the music of my peers.”

BYCE_2Out of that moment, BYCE was born. Mike started with just one colleague, a talented, humble, and purple-haired flutist named Allison Poh. As he began the planning process, the Entrepreneurial Musician­ship office became Mike’s new home. “I must have been in that office at least once a week with a new version of my grant proposal,” he laughs. Through the process of revising the proposal, he refined his mission statement.

“Initially I just wanted to play new music, but I had to figure out how to distinguish the group,” Mike tells me. The city hosts many small groups and a large orchestra, but few that follow BYCE’s model of a large core membership with rotating personnel. The group will produce and promote its own concerts. “There are so many qualified mu­sicians and not a lot of managers, so you have to manage yourselves. We’re bringing art out into the world.”

BYCE will display that art for the first time in their inaugural concert on May 11th at 8 p.m. in St. Botolph 113. The group will survey electro-acoustic music by a number of composers, including four new pieces by NEC’s own artists. As BYCE’s founder, Mike will take center stage along with two colleagues in a daring performance of George Crumb’s Voice of the Whale, featuring black masks and blue lights. As BYCE continues to grow, the ensemble will eventually incorporate interdisciplinary work featuring dance, theater, and other multimedia presentations.

“I’m a lot more fearless in everything that I do now; I just don’t see limitations anymore. Before starting BYCE, I felt as if I was always waiting for an acceptance letter. Now, if my group can think it, we can do it, and that gives me a lot of faith in being a musician and an artist.”

 

“IF MY GROUP CAN THINK IT, WE CAN DO IT, AND THAT GIVES ME A LOT OF FAITH IN BEING A MUSICIAN AND AN ARTIST.”

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THE EYES AND EARS OF NEC

Lemmon_Profileby KATE LEMMON
Second-year MM Flute

 
 

“Did you forget your ID again?” Jake Scanlan teases me as I pop into the security desk at Jordan Hall. Admittedly, this defi­nitely wouldn’t be my first offense! I’m notorious amongst the security guards for giving them a hard time. Some of you might recall Todd’s Penguin interview from a year ago, an event which has become infamous with the other guards (at least I made up for it by bringing him Dunkin’!) This past week, I went back on the offensive to interview three more of the great officers that comprise NEC’s security force.

Ever since kindergarten, Jake has wanted to become a police officer. “I used to draw myself in a police uniform in a childhood sketchbook,” he laughingly recalls. Although he works 40 hours a week at Jordan Hall along with the other dedicated members of NEC’s team, Jake still holds onto his childhood dream of joining the police force. A native of the popular music student residence Jamaica Plain, Jake majored in criminal justice and then began supporting himself through secu­rity work. Working for NEC security serves as the perfect middle ground between school and his long-term career goals, and the experience he’s gained will help him when it comes time to take his police test.

Jake isn’t the only NEC security officer pursuing larger career goals. In fact, of the three daytime officers I interviewed, all of them were either currently full-time students or recent graduates. 24-year-old Easton native Mike McGuire previously served in the military as a member of the Marine Corps. Wanting to finish his education, he searched for a job that would allow him to complete his schoolwork while earning an income. After three years of service to NEC, next month he’ll graduate from U Mass Boston with a degree in criminal justice and political science. How did he do it? “I rely on caffeine!” Mike confesses. “The Bistro offers us free coffee, and I visit about eleven times a day!” (Jake shares his addiction—I spy a Dunkin’ Perks card sitting behind the Jordan Hall security desk.)

St. Botolph officer Chris Brady (just call him Tom Brady!) shares Jake and Mike’s interests– in 2012, he graduated from Suffolk University with a degree in history and (you guessed it!) criminal justice. “Although I enjoy my job,” says Chris, “I’d like to teach history after I move on from NEC.” As if he wasn’t busy enough with school and work, he also finds time to help his brother build a home, and word on the street is that he’s also a stand-up comedian.

Apart from their own diverse interests, these three of­ficers also offer insight into the unique culture of NEC. “On-the-job experience” sounds like such a resume catchphrase, but the words take on a whole new meaning at a music conservatory. The three guards agree that NEC students are a bit of a “different breed.”
 
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“When I first arrived at NEC, I noticed that the stu­dents here act a bit differently than students at my school,” recalls Mike. “They’re definitely hard-working; it’s not like a typical col­lege where kids are just looking forward to the weekend and go­ing to parties. A lot of the students camp out in practice rooms all weekend long, which I can admire.” He has also observed that in general, NEC students have more extroverted personalities. “You guys aren’t afraid to talk to people,” he remarks, attributing our outgoing personalities to the fact that we’re used to perform­ing on a regular basis. “The constant singing in the dorms also caught me off-guard at first,” he admits (no pun intended!) “Stu­dents are singing all the time! In the stairwells, in the bathrooms, you name it!” He has even caught students playing instruments in the bathroom when they couldn’t find a practice room. Jake agrees with most of Mike’s comments, adding that NEC students are always in a rush—“They always have places to go!”

Although he can’t speak to the party scene in the dorms because he doesn’t work the night shift, Mike tells me that crazy things happen in the daytime too. “Sometimes students get locked out of their rooms while taking a shower, and they come down to the lobby in towels so that we can let them back into their rooms.” He also witnesses students at their most clumsy moments. “This year alone, I’ve seen five people walk into those windows,” he laughs as he points to the glass doors at the main entrance of the dorms. (Editor’s confession: one of them was me!)

Chris offers a bit of a different perspective on NEC students since the St. Botolph building primarily houses the opera and jazz departments. Having previously worked as a security guard on a movie set, Chris shares that the NEC scene is much less pretentious. “When students walk in the door, they seem just like normal kids— the people here are really friendly.” When he’s not greeting people at the door or playing Solitaire to stay alert on the job, he sometimes strolls by classrooms and studios to listen to rehearsals. “The students here sound absolutely incredi­ble!” As an added testament to the unique community spirit of our school, Jake shares that he was approached by an NEC profes­sor who offered him a free class about music and mathematics.

During our interview, I realize that I’ve been in front of the Jordan Hall security desk so many times, but this is my first time sitting behind it, and I’m quite fascinated by the view. In the span of just five minutes, I watch dozens of students and profes­sors scan in, and then scurry in all different directions. One cellist tries to sneak past the security desk without scanning an ID, and seems particularly satisfied with himself for “getting away with it.” In reality, Jake sees everything, but he chooses to go easy on students that have a previously good track record. “We try to cut you guys some slack if we recognize you and it’s not an everyday thing,” he says. However, he says checking IDs allows guards to protect not only students’ safety, but also the coveted NEC practice rooms. “We catch a lot of Berklee kids trying to sneak in to use NEC’s practice space!”

Dean Hegland, who works in the Office of Student Services in the St. Botolph building, has joined the NEC security fan club. When she had to have unfortunately-timed knee sur­gery in March, she suddenly found her commute to school much more difficult. Although Boston isn’t the easiest city to traverse on crutches, Hegland finds herself smiling when she arrives at school every morning. “The security guard at St. Botolph [Chris] is an absolute sweetheart,” she says with a grateful heart. “He holds the doors for me every day and always has a smile on his face!”

With three 24-year-old guys, I can’t help but wonder if the guards hang out with each other when they’re off the clock. “We work hard, so we’re usually exhausted at the end of our shifts and head straight home,” says Brady. Scanlan jokes, “If we ever go out for drinks one of these days, I’ll make sure to ask the guys to see their ID first!”

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HOW TO SUCCEED IN MUSIC SCHOOL WITHOUT REALLY TRYING

REPUTABLE AND HONEST ADVICE FOR LASTING THE SEMESTER

 

Rvinsky_ProfileBY SYD RVINSKY
VOCALIST ’17

 
 
 

Buckle up: this Thursday marks the beginning of May and yet when we peer out our windows it looks an awful lot like it did in March. Discouraged? Aren’t we all. Times like this we find ourselves openly weeping or ready to throw our precious instrument (or for some of us, our zaftig Deutsch textbook) at the nearest innocent bystander. But never fear! Here are a number of ways to pick up your spirits and remind yourself that A) finals aren’t the end-all-be-all of humanity, and B) summer arrives sooner than you suspect. Simply pick your favorite number and have a blast the last two weeks of the semester!

These four options are sure to spice up the last little bit of school and keep things interesting, healthy, and most definitely lively as we conclude the year. If none of these selections suit your fancy, then I suggest sitting down and actually doing the work you say you will, but never do. It’s rough, and finals are difficult, but you’ve made it this far, so you must be doing something right. For those crossing the Jordan Hall stage, I bid thee hearty congratulations and wish you all the best in your endeavors. But for the rest of us…we’ve still got time to sort things out if this year didn’t quite go in your favor. Keep your chin up, get your sun on, and thank you for flying AirNEC!

 

Succeed_21) TAKE SOME VITAMIN D

Despite the half a week of sun we had a while back, most of the NEC populace is suffering from a severe vita­min D deficiency. How are we to remedy this horrid situ­ation? The answer is really quite simple. Go to CVS or any fairly well-stocked grocery store and purchase some vitamin D. Douse yourself with glue and roll around in yellow and orange glitter. After you’ve dried, stuff your shirt with pillows. Then, with all the energy and strength you can muster, violently spin around campus with the passion of ten thousand mating kookaburras and pitch vitamin D pills in every direction. True, you are now a liability, but you are also the human embodiment of the sun! What could be more helpful or festive in ringing in the summer?

 

Succeed_1 2) EXERCISE A LITTLE

Yes, the dreaded E word. But the endorphins released from pumping iron or spending some time on the ellipti­cal will render you a cheerier, entirely more pleasant individual. My favorite workout plan involves a little something for everyone:

  • Infect the human race with zombie juice and spend a good rest of your life running. Your legs will never be stronger!
  • Sneak around campus in the dead of night and bench press your closest friends while they sleep. You’re certain to work your pectorals and deltoids!
  • Become an international art smuggler. This way you’ll spend a vast portion of time escaping from a number of potentially deadly situations. This is fantastic cardio and will strengthen your heart while keeping you acrobatic. *Bonus: you will make hei­nous quantities of cash.
  • Talk smack about a classical soprano. You will build up your agility by dodging an arsenal of new and inventive objects aimed directly (and with surprising accuracy) at your head!

 

Succeed_43) WEAR SOMETHING BOLD.

It’s a known fact that people perform better when they feel good about themselves. Make a statement by try­ing a new fashion trend! Whether that looks like Lady Gaga’s meat dress or a toga comprised of sheet music stained with your tears, you’re sure to be the life of the party and have a mega boost in morale!

 

Succeed_34) TELL THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE.

But for goodness’ sake, do not be boring about it. Oh no. For those who already have Somebody to Love, I highly recommend showing your affection by sacrificing a virgin and/or a small sheep in their name(*). For those of you marinating in your loneliness: I bet my hat there’s a certain someone you rather fancy. To prominently display your availability, build a portable shrine in their honor and strap it to your face when you leave home. Why wear your heart on your sleeve when you can adorn your features with obsession?

(*) Webmaster’s note: Seeking a virgin to sacrifice? Look no further than the viola section.

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Leap of Hate

raleyby RALEY BEGGS
Second-year MM Guitar

 
 
 

I became involved in music through a set of strange and unfor­tunate circumstances. Late by many standards, I began studying music 10 years ago. I was thirteen years old.

Before this massive shift occurred in my life, I took the game of baseball most seriously. I was convinced my daily prac­tice would lead me to become a professional baseball player by the time I was a “grown up.” My friends and I agreed that middle school was just a minor incon­venience that interrupted our baseball practices. Later I dis­covered skateboarding, another activity in which I spent many hours in the quest for perfection, so that by the time I was thir­teen, what I had thought was the clear cut path to fame and riches on a baseball diamond began to shift. Why couldn’t I take a similar path in skateboarding? Most importantly, which would be more fun? Like most kids that age, I began to rebel.

Hate_Beggs

A YOUNGER RALEY (STOLEN FROM HIS FACEBOOK PROFILE)

Here’s what my “rebellion” looked like: I quit baseball, I quit hanging out with my old friends – affectionately labeled “jocks” – and started drifting to some new ones. These new friends were off the deep end in the middle school catalog of cliques, and at the opposite end of the same spectrum. We’re talking long hair, black nail polish – the works.

For some reason, this shocked people. Never had someone changed so quickly and so dramatically in the eyes of my peers. And like all things that lack explanation, this change needed a word. The only word in the preteen vocabulary that could accurately describe and solve the mystery of my Marilyn Manson transformation was this: “gay.”

First hard lesson learned: kids are ruthless when they are given a target to direct their negative energy. People who were happy to see me just a few months earlier began screaming and yell­ing the very worst of names. They discovered quickly that if you’re the one doing the point­ing and screaming, no one’s looking at you. The first prior­ity of my “old friends” was to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that they were not like me anymore. Meanwhile, I discovered quickly that we don’t always define our own story; it can get defined for us by the speaker with the loudest and most convincing voice. This behavior spread like wildfire, leaving me with no control over what people chose to yell. Difficult for an 8th grader, but typical enough.

Second hard lesson learned: adults are taller versions of kids. When rosy-cheeked Susie went home to tell her parents about the new and improved “fag” at school, her parents lost it.

You see, Florida in the early 2000s didn’t have quite the same patience and tolerance one might expect from fully-formed, sentient adults. They demanded answers from the school. The school, being also located in Florida, never asked any input on the matter from me or my single mother, and decided the best course of action would be to suspend me and any other shock-rockers causing the “ruckus”.

Feel free to imagine now, my mother’s surprise.

Things sped up from there since I was no longer at school to attempt the role of gatekeeper for any misinformation regarding my “sinful decline,” leaving middle school children the pen to write my story to share with friends, family, and neigh­bors. It was concluded in my small world that the best way to handle and mend my new situation would be to erase the whole experience by choosing to finish my remaining nine weeks in a middle school across town. Right?

Wrong. As it turns out, stories can travel as far as “across town” and I arrived at my new school to a situation exponentially worse. I had ditched the offending persona as quickly as I had tried it on, but the names and stories remained – only much worse. With little left to do, I bit my lip and finished the remaining weeks of middle school with a brand new per­spective on just how evil people – of all ages – can be.

Here’s where the music part comes in. With the summer as respite from my peers, I was faced with another decision fea­turing this key point: both middle schools funneled into the same district high school. Going there seemed a downright impossibili­ty for me, but what could I do short of asking my family to move? Who might offer tolerance and a listening ear for my side of this fiasco?

Maybe, just maybe, the arts magnet school would be a safe next step. Wearily I was bought a guitar to practice on for the sum­mer in hopes of gaining admittance into a discipline I had never heard of before: classical guitar. I practiced every day, like I did baseball the summer before. After months of work I finally learned “two scales and a ‘finger style’ song on guitar”; exactly what the audition requirements demanded. Two days before the start of all high schools, I was allowed a special audition and was miraculously granted a spot in the classical guitar program; less for the talent and more for the “potential”.

The first day of high school, my energy and work ethic was given direction. I received a nylon string classical guitar and was, ironically, instructed to grow out my fingernails. The rest is history.

I owe every bit of my involvement in music today to the disdain and intolerance I experienced leading up to my discovery of music. I grew up very quickly during this time, and learned about the tendency for people to mask their own insecurities and shortcomings through loud, convincing criticism; criticism who’s subject is often of the same category as their own insecurities.

Though this may not be a story of coming out, given our celebration this month I feel strongly that I embody the message and can say with honesty and passion that it gets better.

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Finding the Love of My Life

Smith_Profileby WILL SMITH
MM Oboist ’15

 
 
 

This issue of The Penguin is centered on NEC’s “It Gets Even Better” campaign. So, when Kate asked me to write something I knew exactly why: I’m pretty obviously a homosexual. My favorite color is purple, I have the “gay fade” haircut, six ear piercings, a wrist tattoo, and basically the only thing I talk about is my love of J.Crew and decorating my apartment (chandeliers are a necessity). So, the fact that my mother still asks me, “Have you met the woman of your dreams yet?” is always a bit shocking.

However, she would be de­lighted to know that I have been in a very dedicated relationship with a woman since the age of 11. I know that sounds strange, but this is NEC: a gay man dating a woman for 11 years is not the craziest thing that is happening around here. So in the spirit of this week’s campaign, I ask that you kindly reserve your judg­ment and let me tell you about the love of my life.

She showed me how to be myself—how to express my inner feelings and emotions in a way no girl ever had before. It started out as all obnoxious love stories do. We spent hours together every single day and became the best of friends. We took numerous trips together across cities, states, and countries. Throughout high school, our relationship was easy and took almost no effort on my part. When I won awards, when I lost awards: she was with me. After graduating high school, she and I slowly began spending less time together because of my busy schedule and preparing to leave for col­lege. I wasn’t worried though; she was coming with me! So, when August arrived, I packed up my car and drove to college with my lady by my side.

PHOTO COURTESY OF BAYLOR PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO COURTESY OF BAYLOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Many of you are currently or were once undergradu­ates at one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the world. Well, I wasn’t. I got my undergraduate degree at Baylor University…in Waco,Texas. Sic’em Bears! While at Baylor, I discovered that there is a whole other world full of people who do many, many things other than spending hours fighting with an inanimate object in a room with no windows. I know it’s shocking, but this world totally exists! I learned about it because a boy offered to show it to me, and I had to let him. I had been in a relationship with a woman since the sixth grade! I didn’t even come out to my best friend until I was a senior in high school! I just had to know what it felt like to be in a relationship with another guy. Y’all…it was amazing! Way better than even the oboe! So, I started ignoring my lady. I couldn’t help it! This guy was everything I thought I ever wanted and she just took so much time away from us being together. Well, she noticed. She kept warning me, “If you keep ignoring me, our relationship will fail! We’ve been together since you were 11, Will. Why give up on me now?” I just couldn’t help but be distracted by this boy and the world where people did things other than playing their instruments!

Oh, there’s something else you should know. Maybe I’m weird for doing this… but I refer to (and speak to) my oboe as if she were a woman. I know that sounds strange, but like I said, this is NEC—it’s not the craziest thing that is happening around here. Needless to say, things got very difficult between my oboe and me. So difficult, in fact, that my teacher suggested that I not apply for graduate programs be­cause she didn’t think I was ready. But, by some miracle, I was accepted to NEC and there was no way I was going to turn it down. Unfortunately, that boy and I had some issues that could only be solved if I hadn’t moved halfway across the country. We have now gone our separate ways, but I wouldn’t trade my time with him for absolutely anything! I will always be grateful to him for showing me a world outside of my music.

Thankfully, as I told you earlier, I’ve known the love of my life since the sixth grade. She did come to Boston with me. She is actually the reason I’m here! One of the best things I’ve learned since coming to NEC is that the oboe and I are meant to be together. Still, I encourage you to experience the real world. Go fall in love! Learn about what is happening outside of the practice room! But never forget that you are here to cultivate a relationship you have been in for many years. You’re here to nurture the love of your life.

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