Well, this is my first blog post in 4 months and is entirely inspired by a super podcast that I just listened to. Conductor Tigran Arakelyan produces an excellent and always entertaining podcast series entitled Off The Podium (absolutely worth a listen.) This week it featured Katy Hamilton, a freelance writer, researcher and presenter on music. I was fortunate enough to hear Katy speak last year when she came to my university to do a talk on ‘life after the PhD.’ As the ink was barely dry on my final undergraduate assignments I felt like a bit of a fraud and most under qualified, but it was an immensely interesting event to attend and gave me much food for thought. Since then, I managed to accidentally stumble upon my ideal Masters course and, for the first time, seriously consider further study. As someone who tends to Make A Plan and then Stick To The Plan, deviations come with a level of anxiety. I feel the need to justify deviations from The Plan to both myself and others, and this is frequently a source of stress. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate why this particular deviation strikes a chord and this, in part, has been a low-lying issue with regard to my hypothetical future MA. Until today. Katy solved it in one word: curiosity.
I am a naturally curious person. I like asking questions, playing devil’s advocate, and finding out things. If I read a novel featuring snippets of another language, I don’t just skip over them and use the context to work out what might be said, I do my best to find a translation. If something takes my fancy I become a little (or a lot) obsessed, wanting to know the whys and the is that trues. And while I never thought that I would finish my degree and actively miss reading articles, finding things out, and building a more complete picture in my mind, I do. My degree had always, always, always been a step to teaching. And while I have enjoyed my PGCE immensely and have loved the teaching aspect, my favourite part of the year has been finding out about Clara Schumann and her Piano Trio, Op. 17 in order to teach it to my class and ignite their curiosity. They had much to say about Robert Schumann. “Distinctly more interesting than Clara,” one student remarked. Another: “Schumann had a right colourful life! If he was around today he’d be on Jeremy Kyle.” And, in their 21st Century mindset, they all felt convinced that Brahms and Clara had a secret love affair going on. Some of them hated Robert’s Piano Trio, Op. 63 that had caused Clara to feel so inferior, while others much preferred it. Finding these things out, satisfying my own curiosity and provoking theirs was so immensely satisfying. I realised how much I had missed digging around on JSTOR and collecting articles like an academic magpie.
The very best part about the conversation between Tigran and Katy was the enthusiasm that fizzed throughout the podcast, and the notion of both satisfying your curiosity and discussing your thoughts with others. This is what most appeals to me, and what stands out when I reflect on the third year of my degree. I loved the lectures where we had proper discussions and debates, and when new ideas were presented to us in a way that made us want to go and find answers. My favourite third year module felt like an intricate tapestry of threads that you wanted to separate and examine in turn, seeing what each would reveal. And that, I suppose, is at the heart of my desire to do an MA. I am still curious and have so many musings that have yet to be fully explored. Do I really need any more justification to, at some point in the next few years, deviate from The Plan?
The podcast can be found here and below and I really think that you should listen to it, because Katy is such an inspiring speaker. Listening to her makes me want to be one of her students in one of her lectures having lots of fascinating discussions.
N.B. The photo is of a book (Liszt’s Chopin) recently and impulsively purchased in the Manchester Uni Press sale. Such a bargain.