Today is graduation day!!! But there’s no stage, no celebration, and no final hoorah. Which, at least for me, creates the perfect opportunity to look back at the four years of nonstop action. I find the first question I ask myself is where did all the time go. Sure, say it’s cliche, but these four years have sped by in a way that I didn’t anticipate.
No, it wasn’t yesterday that I attended orientation and met one of my best friends of this time, Emily Frederickson. From our adventures in hiking, to studio, to hanging around in your room, she has supported, laughed, and cried with me but ultimately showed me how one’s love and faith can carry them through hard times to come out the other side stronger than ever. and oh yeah, she is no longer Emily Fred, I had the honor to photograph her wedding the first of this month making her Mrs. Emily Hahn.
Nor was it yesterday when on our way out the door for a hike, Emily would stop and invite one of the most determined, challenging, and band loving (not that this takes away from his people loving) men to join us. Where I would be without the companionship and brotherhood of Jay Lopez, I don’t know. I will forever be thankful for the spagehtu, 2 am trips to whataburger to just sit and chat until the employees walk over and say “You’re still here?!?!”, and our various spring break adventures. There’s too many images to tell our story, maybe it’ll make a good photobook to replace the airplane book… but for now ill take the earliest i can find with some more recent adventures. I can not wait to see how much great influence and love he will share with his students.
So yeah, there are many people who have been in and around for my time at UNT some have come in and some have left, but through it all these two have been a solid stream of friendship. Did we have rough patches… MOST definetely, but the amount of impact from these two alone can’t be measured, only appreciated. So first thing I learned, life is communal and people are the root of it all. They will be the things you remember from this experience. Sure some of the accolades and performances were nice, but it’s the little memories that were made in day to day living that I will carry with me. Really, because if I met different people, well, I’d probably be a different person.
Inside the classroom walls I owe a great thank you to Dr.Emmanuel for opening my eyes to how one’s philosophy of self will influence their teaching. Also, for giving the assignment to utilize a camera to discover more about ourselves in a music ed class. Look where i am now :) The experiences that I have had in the classrooms outside of UNT’s wall’s vary heavily from that of my peers. But, each of them has taught me how much the context of the situation is important to fully know and understand. Some students I taught came to class hungry, others it was an escape, and others it was just another boring class. Not one teaching strategy could work in each situation, but when I fell back on my philosophy of loving people, and not things, that was clarified in that MUED 3100 class, I found that I was able to relate to my students regardless of the situation. I hope a difference was made for them because what they accomplished may not show on the score sheets, but it shows in how they carry themselves. So lesson number 2: Education and learning is taking place everywhere and it is all contextual, lead with love for those you are teaching. People first, content second.
When it comes to your craft there is a certain battle we fight each day. I think the best way to describe is “The resistance” as coined by Stephen Pressfield in his book, The War with Art (italics, haha maybe i did learn something in English class). This battle is always raging and we find it in procrastination of our homework/practicing, rationalization of our choices, and overall inability to just sit down and get to work. For me this showcased itself a lot in practicing. Sorry Ruben, but there are times as you probably know where i was not prepared for my lesson. I appreciate though your kindness and guidance in helping me progress not only my playing but who I was as a person. You led with with a people first approach that I am thankful for.
The great joy though about this time in college is that I got to explore many different avenues of art. Obviously, one of the biggest now is my passion for photography, but prevailing through these last four years has been my battle with the the Art of Education. I have developed differentiating views from my peers and with a lot of the system at large.I still battle each day with whether or not this new path I’ve set out on, which i will talk about in greater depth another time, is actually worth it. Is it actually going to come to anything or should I just stick with the traditional path for which I have been trained of band directing? As of now, the idea of pursuing what I envision scares the hell out of me, but that’s the excitement in it. It’s what gives me the energy needed to get up and rage my battle with the Art. So third: Put in the work towards the projects you love, and be willing to get up time and time again to fight in the battle with your personal art.
The thing though about all of this that I keep circling back around to is you can’t do it alone. There are many times when I have been lost. From going into Dr. Emmanuels office talking about the prospect of changing majors, to crying outside Dr. Micken’s office until she happened to open the door as I was leaving, I was too scared to knock and admit my feeling of inadequacies, or the time I went to the counselors on campus because I overslept a concert I was supposed to perform in when I was at one of my lowest points of mental health in my four years here and Mr. Vu comforted me letting me know that choir wasn’t the end of the world and he was here to help, (also thank you to the other college of music student who also just happened to be in there signing up for counseling at the same time as me giving me the courage to do the same.) It may hurt but it’s important to ask for help when you need it. There are many people who have helped me in this journey including my family, Karl, Evan, The Box7 Community, my various mentor teachers and professors, and well almost everybody I met had a small impact.
The flip-side to this is that when you see a place that you can offer help, extend your hand and pull the others up around you. As an upper clansmen, one of the greatest things you can do is to invest in some of the students that are coming up in the years after you. Even in just one year, we have learned the tricks to college that we can save someone the growing pains by sharing our experience with them. There are a few people out there who I, even be it for a short time, invested a great part of myself in. To see what they are accomplishing now is amazing. I’m happy to be a small blip in their story. Besides, thanks to my investment, I was likewise invested in by them and a few of the greatest thing’s I take away from that time is, you have to be you, seriously you, unconditional love is made up of forgiveness, and lastly how to be a person.
Lastly, document, “almost” everything. Whether this be in a journal, with a camera, or in a song that you write, document your life. When you have the ability to look back on where you came from, there is a great humbling that comes with it. All of us once started out as that kid that was making fart noises on the trumpet, making scribbles on a piece of paper, or just dreaming so far and wide that sometimes this world cannot hold you down. (I’m looking at you Calvin and Hobbes). I wish I was able to go back and see what I was thinking and worrying about my freshman year of college, better yet my 2nd grade self. Time is a fleeting resource and maybe that’s part of my joy for music, as it is a fleeting performance medium in contrast with photography, another great joy, which freezes a moment to live on forever.
However, you need to know this outright. Some things are not documentable. Worse, some things are ruined by an attempt to document it. Some things just need to be experienced fully with all of our senses in community with people that we love. It’s hard for me to honestly remember what it feels like to be at a campfire behind the bungalow surrounded by all of the friends that I have made in these past four years. This is a feeling that I wish I could recall, but alas it is lost to the winds of time. And well, now we are all venturing into our various paths of life so, it may not be salvageable. So let your documentation be as organic as it can be. I don’t know how to tell others how that works, but when you do it and reflect, you will know.
Surely, there is a lot more learned from these last 4 years, turns out they won’t hand me my diploma unless i sat through hours of aural skills, theory, and the great dreaded music history. But at least from my experience these are the greatest things senior Dan would tell freshman Dan.
1) Community is everything. Find your people and love them well.
2) Education is contextual, lead with love and a people first approach.
3) There is a war with art each day. Find yours and put in the work.
4) Ask for help and give help where you can. This is how our communities will connect and thrive.
5) Document “Almost” Everything. Some things just leave them to be experienced.
Jay asked me if I could do it over again would I with a focus on photography? The answer, I wouldn’t. The community I have found and journey I have been on helped me dissect that the true passion for me in music education is ”Community Service through Human Centered Arts Education.” While I may not be going into the formal teaching profession right away, it doesn’t mean I wont be teaching. Besides, there is still lots to learn to bettering myself as a teacher.
Thanks Jay for the photos. :)
Oh and last but not least, to one of the biggest supporters of me, well since birth. Happy Mother’s Day!