Today’s topic is inspired by something my friend and fellow SU blogger, Liza, mentioned in response to my Wagnerian revelations last week. Liza emailed me to say, “I haven’t even started grad school, and people already assume that I’m this world music aficionado…false. It’s a great point to bring up, that we’re still surrounded by Western music if we’re studying ethno in this country.”
Ethnomusicologists love music. We have to. I would wager that we spend more time listening to, thinking about, analyzing, performing, teaching, and learning music than other music-related fields. I know I’m going to catch flak from musicologists, composers, and theorists for that statement, but ethnomusicologists don’t just analyze the music they study. They learn to play it and teach it; they learn and perform the dances that the music accompanies; they live with the people who perform the music; they learn the language(s) their host cultures speak and they learn to cook the foods their host culture most enjoys (seriously). Ethnomusicologists immerse themselves in music and culture in ways that the general population of the other music areas don’t. Yes, we rock.
What am I doing with my life? I think this might be the next phase in the “I-just-finished-comps,-what-do-I-do-now” process. I was recently speaking with my husband about an entrepreneurial educator who travels all over the world making educational games and apps for kids. In one particular area of India, the people asked him to leave. They didn’t want their children to receive a Western education because that encouraged the kids to leave the area. The man said, “Ok, what do you need? What do you want your kids to learn?” They replied, “Farming.” The guy said, “If I teach them farming, will you let me stay?” They agreed, so he developed a farming game app for the children. This story may be somewhat anecdotal but it’s gotten me thinking: what good can I do with a PhD in ethnomusicology? As ethnomusicologists, we’re trained to go into an area and say, “Please tell me about yourself.” We’re not trained, at least not overtly, to go into an area and say, “Please tell me what you need.”
Liza has been posting some great things about applying for grad programs. I thought I’d come at the wonderful, infuriating, enlightening, gut-churning time that is grad school from a different angle. I just finished my comprehensive exams*, not unscathed and certainly changed by the experience. I wanted to share a few things I went through and some things that really helped me survive the process.
*Different universities use different terminology. These could be qualifying exams, oral exams, exams + prospectus, etc. They also all have slightly different processes. I think my comments should apply to most situations but I’d love your feedback on your own experiences.