Alumnus Christina Brier on Grad School, Personal Discipline, and Cross-Country Skiing

Alumnus Christina Brier (’11) has now completed her first semester of graduate study in Harp Performance at the Eastman School of Music, and she recently gave some insight on her experience there.

What is a typical day like for you?
Between practicing, orchestra/wind ensemble rehearsal, chamber coaching, technique class, and studio class, I often play my harp between 3-7 hours on any given day. The rest of my time is mostly filled with classes (this semester: The Healthy Musician, Classical Era Music History, Bibliography, and Pedagogy), work (I work as an usher and a librarian), and homework. Of course, I do “fun” things as well—like, this semester, I am taking up cross-country skiing.

How did Maranatha prepare you for grad school?
Maranatha’s music faculty did an excellent job in preparing me for grad school. Maranatha’s music theory and history courses thoroughly prepared me for the courses I am taking at Eastman. Actually, the high-quality classes at Maranatha enabled me to test out of all of the remedial courses which a vast majority of Eastman’s incoming graduate students must take.

Other schools offered you more financial assistance, yet you chose Eastman.  Why?
I chose Eastman because of the excellent musical education it offers. Although most people think of Eastman as a conservatory, it actually belongs to the University of Rochester and offers a well-rounded education. Consequently, Eastman holds high academic as well as musical standards.  Many students actually double major in music and a degree in a completely different field. After much prayer, I determined that Eastman would provide me with the best musical education, and so far it has exceeded my expectations.

What ministry opportunities have you had at a secular school?
At Eastman, I have been able to develop friendships with more unsaved people than at any other time in my life. This, of course, opens doors of opportunity throughout every single day.

What was hardest about switching to a secular school?  How did the Lord guide you through that transition?
Probably the most difficult part of leaving a Christian school for a secular school has been finding Godly Christian friends. At Maranatha you are surrounded daily by students and faculty who love God, but at a secular school you must search for these people. God has graciously allowed me to make many good Christian friends at Eastman through the church I attend.

What has surprised you the most about graduate school?
So far, the most surprising thing about grad school has been that I found myself less busy during my first semester than I was in any of my semesters at  Maranatha! I suspect this will change during my upcoming semester, but the freer schedule was great while it lasted.

What performance opportunities have you had?
I have been able to perform in Philharmonia, Eastman Wind Ensemble, and the Genesee Valley Orchestra. Also, I performed a chamber music recital at the end of last semester and have been playing solos regularly in studio class.

What has been your favorite class?  Your hardest class?
So far my favorite class has been harp pedagogy. My least favorite has been Survey of Analytical Techniques. In the words of one of my classmates, “it was a train wreck of a class!” Yeah, enough said.

What advice would you give undergraduates looking toward graduate school?
Develop internal motivation and discipline to work hard on your instrument since you probably will not have required hours of practicing. Also, begin to learn orchestral excerpts now. When you get to grad school, you will be expected to know the standard orchestral repertoire already.