Perfect Timing

Perfect Timing

The first week of school—actually half a week; I started on Wednesday—is over. It just about knocked my lights out. My colleagues here at NewMusicBox have offered a broad buffet of excellent advice to incoming students; me, I’m going to stammer from behind my improvised barricade about how hectic my life has very recently become. More stuff is happening than I can shake a stick at, and I can shake a stick at a lot of stuff. I’m teaching 20th-century (actually pre-1950) music theory and ear-training, taking part in a seminar on Adorno’s notoriously opaque Aesthetic Theory, playing bass in an Afro-Brazilian band, preparing for the alarmingly incipient Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Arts, and trying, in my rapidly vanishing spare moments, to write some music.

Actually, I do have a piece of advice for young students of composition: Manage your time well. If you don’t know how to handle basic life operations as a freshperson in college—and you may not; I certainly didn’t—this is the time to learn. Prioritize, keep a calendar, and understand your short-, middle-, and long-term responsibilities. It may seem pedestrian and un-artist-like, but I’m convinced that prerequisite no. 1 for success as a creative producer is punctuality and organization. (Sure, I sent this post to editor Molly Sheridan a day late, but I felt bad about it! Remorse is the next best thing to promptness.)

I can’t speak from experience about what surviving as a freelance composer requires, but I can tell you for certain that life as a graduate student in composition is made vastly easier if you keep assiduous track of these mundane details. Unlike the real world, I imagine, you can probably get by without doing so in school—and indeed some do—but you’ll be so much happier and more productive if you stay on top of it. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to allow deadlines and objectives to slide.

If your nascent school year is as crazy as mine, best of luck to you. And if this is your first such year in higher education, give some thought to your time management strategies: They may just save your hide.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

One thought on “Perfect Timing

  1. Alexandra Gardner

    My Dear Colin,

    This is excellent advice! I assure you that it all translates to life outside of academia, and if it is any consolation, I am freaking out just as much as you are right about now! ;-)

    Just wanted to give you and your readers this link to an excellent blog that has tons of useful advice and practical tips around time-management techniques, and other sanity-inducing behaviors:

    This article is a good place to start!

    Good wishes for all of your projects! – Alex


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.