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Third-year BM Oboe



At 8:15 on January 18th, 2015, an orchestra of eager students and studs from the freelance scene was growing increasingly impatient as they sat in their seats awaiting the downbeat from conductor James Blachly, whose back was turned to an audience mostly comprised of twenty-somethings stuffed on a dance floor in an auditorium of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, transformed with the glow of neon lighting. At 8:16, James raised his baton, and everyone in the room wondered what would happen next.

Blachly, Zander Fellow of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and founder of the Sheep Island Ensemble, with the vision and direction of Johnny Helyar, had assembled an orchestra to play Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, paid for a cash bar, and invited an audience to enjoy the performance while dancing, moving, grooving, and rocking out to the Rite of Spring. Their nickname for the event? “A Rite of Spring Dance Party,” of course. Presented by the Boston Philharmonic as the inception of their “New Directions” series, BPO partnered up with Groupmuse and Music for Food, so all proceeds benefited The Womens’ Lunch Place.

Nervous classically-trained musicians in the orchestra speculated that there could be a full-on riot (not unprecedented in the slightest), but most assumed we would have a crowded dance floor of people standing still and talking amongst themselves, drinks in hand. As it turned out, the former was closer to the result.

The audience remained mostly motionless through the opening (bravo to Adrian Morejon for plaintively and beautifully presenting the bassoon solo), but when the punching chords of the Augurs of Spring started, excitement brewed and everyone in attendance began to party like it was 1913. Each time Blachly and the orchestra reached a new section, commotion ensued as the crowd found a way to dance to the new music.

Such commotion and palpable energy from the audience was infectious. The orchestra tried to hold together amidst our own excitement and the entropy going on just in front of us. Halfway through the Sacrificial Dance, a collective panic came over the orchestra when we smelled someone smoking marijuana. During a spontaneous encore of the Danse Sacrale, one passionate concertgoer went crowd-surfing (see Instagram for photo evidence). Each member of the orchestra felt like a rockstar when applause exploded from the audience after the final thunderous blow of the timpani.

Le Sacre, now a piece performed more as a concert selection than as a real ballet, as it was intended, gains something from having the extra kinetic element in the room. In many ways, it felt more historically accurate to perform under such conditions. Just as in the premiere, the audience provided endlessly unpredictable sounds and distractions. It was like Rite of Spring adversity training for the orchestral musician. But for the audience, it was a chance to experience amazing music in a way that will be forever more memorable and more engaging.

The reaction to the Dance Party was more successful than anyone could have imagined. But where do we go from here? Shostakovich 5 Revolution? Penderecki Halloween Party? Daphnis and Chloe Orgy (maybe not…)? In any case, look for music in Boston and beyond to become more interactive, more engaging, and more exciting for all in the coming years.

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Second-year GD Trombone



I first encountered Rob Dehlinger on Twitter in August of 2014, when he tweeted at The Penguin’s account about the long lost, but not forgotten hockey games between Juilliard and NEC in the late 80s (incidentally where the nickname Penguins comes from!). An NEC alumnus, Rob seems particularly adept at social media, so of course I followed his moves closely. It’s always great to see a former NEC student out there in the real world doing what they love, so we managed recently to find some time to chat about what he is up to and bring his wisdom to readers of The Penguin.

Rob Trumpet Downtown DisneyA jazz trumpeter, Rob graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from NEC in 1998. After graduating, Rob says he “realized how great a place NEC was and how much I’d been learning, so I re-applied as a grad student.” Since completing his Master’s in 2000, Rob has been residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the years since moving back, Rob has led a varied career. He plays over 200 live gigs a year, primarily as part of the jump-blues band Stompy Jones, and lends his talents to composing, recording, teaching, and singing as well: “My philosophy is always just being open minded and doing different things. I was a jazz major, when I came into NEC as a third year, but I felt a bit behind the ball. Growing up in the west coast I was focused on big band stuff, and NEC had all this bebop improv stuff going on. By the time I left NEC, I had more than a handle on it, but I was open minded enough to not just pursue that music for my career. And recently, I’ve gotten into this crazy song writing, doodling thing now.”

The “doodling thing” Rob refers to is in reference to his latest album, Songs For My Friends Vol. 1. In 2012, Rob decided to put his skills to the challenge and created a project that aimed to write a new song each week for an entire year: “I was interested in the idea of just challenging myself to write a new song or a new idea every other day basically. I can make something as fast as I’m physically able to do it. I’ll get slowed down by the computer crashing, or my kid crying, or the guitar string breaking, but that’s the only thing that slows me down. I thought ‘I need to do something with this.’”

“I remember Stevie Wonder talking about how he just wrote songs all the time, and he just released the good ones. And I remember the Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal, who my friend Felipe Salles introduced me to, had a book where he’d written a song a day for a year. His was just like a little lead sheet. I thought ‘What if I do this but actually record the song too?’ So I went on Facebook and just said “If you guys want a song about yourself, write to me.” I thought, I’ll do one song a week, and putting it out publicly made me accountable.”

Songs For My Friends- Volume One Cover Art 2014Originally released just onto his website, Rob found them too good to not release wider. So, he went back to the drawing board with each of them, sweetened the mixes, and the result is the first of two volumes of Songs For My Friends – volume 2 due for release later this year.

The year-long project has led to other things opening up for him, too: “I am a huge Star Wars fan. I discovered that there’s all kinds of podcasts out there. Any weird thing you type in, there’ll be a podcast of it. And some of them are pretty professionally done. So I found these Star Wars podcasts, and I contacted a few of the ones that I really liked and ended up working for some of them. The Skywalking Through Neverland one is really good because it’s this silly, fun, Disney-like Star Wars music. I’ll use some of the John Williams themes and put words to them in my own way. It was a perfect home for this strange skill that I have. And now, because they are getting a lot of downloads, I’m getting all this extra publicity too. Now people are starting to request me to write music for their podcast. There doesn’t seem to be really anyone else out there doing that at the moment, so I’ve kind of chartered this weird, expressive outlet for myself.”

For a school that seems so encouraging of finding your own voice in music, NEC is lucky to have such a strong embodiment of this philosophy in Rob Dehlinger: “NEC gave me so many tools that I’m still learning from today. I had so many lessons where I’m still looking back at my old notes.” One is enticed by the concept of this year-long project just by the impact it had on its instigator: “It gave me an idea – for better or worse – of what I really am capable of; to see what came out of me when I worked really fast.” Finally, he adds “It’s good to do what comes naturally.”

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I can never find a room to practice in. Where can I practice?

Dear Practice Orphan,

You have several options: have Special Elvis take a break, and you can serenade Huntington Ave with your trombone, piccolo, or sultry voice. Elvis might even lend you his karaoke microphone! Or, consider a broom closet. Seriously, the one in the Jordan Hall basement isn’t small at all — and if broom closets are good enough for Harry Potter, then they’re definitely good enough for you.

Alternatively, use the food strategy: eat your meals at slightly different times, so when the rest of NEC is at the Bistro or Uno’s, you have your pick of practice rooms. There is also the lie-in-wait strategy: start roaming 10 minutes before the new hour rolls around. There’s a big turnover during that timeframe, as well as slightly after the hour (thanks to the people running late). The same strategy will *kind of* work around the half-past time. If none of these options float your boat, then bribe someone living across the street to let you practice in their dorm room. Just repeat to yourself, “it’s not desperate, it’s responsible.” Good luck!

How do I get the girl I like who sits next to me in theory to notice me?

Dear Pining,

You can either use your mind-blowing theory powers and wow her by finding the secondary mediant fourth inversion backwards upside-down 11th chord. Or, you can be disarmingly charming and offer your coat to her next time she sneezes. You can also employ the lie-in-wait strategy from above, except this time you wait for her outside of the door after class, and ask her to coffee. That will make your intentions clear, for better or worse. But most girls enjoy upfront declarations of love, and being on the same page (regardless) with someone is way better than playing games.

What’s your advice for not forgetting to do my homework?

Dear Forgetful,

This is a problem many over-achievers at NEC have. We not only remember to do our homework, but then we practice for hours on top of that. And then we rehearse with our quartet, and then we practice some more. We might even sightread for fun, play gigs, or compose MORE music to play. Remembering to do your homework is a good thing, believe me. However, it means that there is barely – if any – free time to act like a normal human. Forgive me, NEC teachers, but staying sane and taking care of yourself is more important then researching an extra source for your history paper. Do what you need to succeed in ALL areas of life, even if it means taking an afternoon off from theory homework and practicing (gulp). Balance is what will help you in the long run, and keep you happy and inspired.

Email YOUR questions to!

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Third-year BM Trombone



Although I practice consistently, I hardly consider myself a yogi. I see so many beautiful people who are more flexible, strong, passionate, and driven than I am both mentally and physically. But when I was asked to write an article about my yoga journey I began to think about how yoga itself is simply … a journey. In my eyes it is a rite of passage, one which helps me transition from a tightly wound, stressed human to simply a soul with a filled heart and open mind. All the bad rehearsals and practice sessions, all the upcoming tests, all the immense pressure to perform my best melts away with each pose. It is just me, my mat, and a journey. So maybe I am a yogi … ?

I thought about it and I guess I’ve learned that just like being a musician, yoga is not about reaching a certain point in your practice that automatically qualifies you to be a yogi; just as there is no specific instance that officially certifies you to be a musician. Who knew that getting first chair in All State band wasn’t actually the qualifier of being a musician, after all?! You are a musician when you say you are. Because of this, I consider myself to have been a yogi from day one of my journey. Please join me in recollecting my adventure to see how yoga has impacted my life as a musician, and how the two are entwined.

I first started practicing yoga almost a year ago and I never looked back! A friend asked me if I would like to join him at one of the daily yoga classes offered at the Y. I had taken only one class elsewhere long before and hadn’t enjoyed it much (exercise is hard, ok!) but still, I obliged. After the first class, I was completely hooked. I wanted to do handstands, and arm balances, and basically be a human rubber band. Totally logical and achievable, right? HA. Yeah, definitely not there yet. In fact, I completely face planted this past week during a yoga class while working on handstands. Go ahead and laugh because I would’ve laughed at me too. However, after this first class, because I had this eagerness to get stronger and learn more, I continued.


Taylor making us jealous.

I started to take classes at Back Bay Yoga where I furthered my practice more in two weeks than I had in one semester prior. (Shameless plug for Back Bay Yoga because they are such knowledgeable, welcoming, and beautiful humans.) I learned many new poses, took specific courses such as: yoga for runners, meditational yoga, arm balances, hip hop yoga … basically anything you could imagine. At this point I was addicted. I could see results! I was able to do things I never could before. I was in LOVE with yoga.

Then something changed. Summer came and my yoga pass at Back Bay expired. I felt I was too advanced for the Y yoga classes and I was busy working and travelling. For something I felt I had loved so much, I didn’t miss it much. This went on for a while until I realized something needed to change. My soul was craving so much more than gym visits, and my stress and anxiety at the beginning of the school year was through the roof. I find this very relatable to what so many musicians at the conservatory level go through. Most musicians start off loving their art and this is the driving force behind everything they do, but this passion for music can quickly change into an encumbrance rather than a form of expression, and soon leaves them wanting more.

After recognizing this need, I found yoga again, except this time I experienced something immensely deeper than before. I realized that yoga was so much more than a series of physical poses. First and foremost it is about the mental process. Once I really tapped into this so many things in my life changed. I crave ending my day with yoga now to release all my stress and to reset my intentions for the next day; to let go of all the bad and inhale all of the good. Not that I no longer want to be able to do handstands and arm balances anymore, but my main reason for practicing yoga is not to be able to accomplish these things, but to take care of my mental health so that I can open myself to my physical health.

Since having this new outlook, my mental yoga practice is something that I carry with me even when I’m not on my mat, and as a result the physical side of my yoga practice has improved more than I thought imaginable. I’ve become stronger physically and mentally. Most unexpectedly, it has helped me in my musical practice. I feel more confident and less stressed. I still get nervous, overwhelmed, and have performance anxiety but yoga has taught me how to cope with these negatives and to release them. I know that just like my yoga practice, my musical practice is a journey and will always continue to be.

Just like in yoga, there is physical practice in music, but there also has to be mental practice involved to accomplish what you set forth for yourself. So next time when you feel the weight of auditions, classes, practice sessions, or just general conservatory life, take a step back from the madness and a step forward onto a yoga mat. Namaste!

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First-year MM Violin



Everyone can feel it, everyone yearns for it, and everyone expresses it in different ways. Love can be beautiful, funny, cheesy, serious, sad, and painful (sometimes all at once!). Love, and being in love are separate things; semantics aside, the love you feel for your dog versus your partner are obviously different — but both are valid.

You know how some super-small people can eat seven full servings of dinner and you wonder where it all goes? I wonder that about love. I think people have infinite space inside themselves for all different kinds of love. Parents who have a second child somehow expand, so that they can love the second just as much as the first. The great phenomenon of love can be expressed through pretty much any medium.

As musicians, we’re pretty lucky that we have the outlet of music and art. This month of pink and confetti and valentines may not be your cup of tea, but try to celebrate whatever love you have in your life in some shape or form (Buying chocolate for your roommate counts)! So have fun experiencing love, and save a little to last the rest of the year too:)


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