The last couple of blog post have been mainly about studying Jazz in an academic setting. Although it is obviously not the only way to learn or love Jazz, I feel a good instructor will advance your comprehension much faster then if one tries to learn completely alone. Over the last few years I have been studying Jazz at Harold Washington College. I have grown more then I could have ever imagined, my repertoire, improvisational skill, and comprehension of theory has grown exponentially. However, being that this is a two year institution, the time has come to leave. The admissions process was a challenge, but with some hard work, determination, and a little patience, I completed all my applications and began to receive my acceptance letters. After conversing with friends, family, and my professors, I came to a decision. I will be attending the University of Illinois at Chicago.
This was a very difficult decision for me and many factors were involved in my decision. The music program, academic rigor, and financial aid, all played key roles. But, in the end, I believe UIC is the best place for me to pursue my bachelor’s degree and grow as a student, musician, and Chicagoan. After submitting my intent to enroll I took a moment to reflect on the path I’ve taken. In just a couple of years I went from a 21 year old high school dropout to a Dean’s list student transferring to UIC. The more I thought about my journey the more I realized that UIC has already played a significant role in my life.
About 4 years ago I went to UIC to visit a coworker of mine. He had class that day and asked me to have lunch with him during his break in between classes. That day was the first time I ever set foot in a college. I was mesmerized by the architectural design of Student Center East. UIC appeared to me a microcosm of Chicago itself, all races and cultures interacting and collaborating with each other. It felt like a place where education took place. It also felt like a place I had no business being in. At the time I was disinterested in any pursuit of academics, I didn’t even have a H.S. diploma so the thought of going beyond that seemed unrealistic. I remember feeling a bit of jealousy and feeling somewhat cheated. Why didn’t I have these opportunities? Was I cheated? Did I cheat myself? Are all these students in a higher economic class then me? Is this why they are here and I am not? With all these thoughts on my mind I quickly finished my sandwich and was ready to leave. And that is when I met my girlfriend.
Another of my coworkers also attended classes at UIC. He also had his break at the same time and met up with us after we had already ate. He brought his friend along with him and I politely introduced myself and said “Hi” little did I know she would one day become my girlfriend. After my friends break I took the bus home and got ready to work my night shift. This day also became the first time I would go to school and work afterwards (which was exhausting). I didn’t know it at the time but that day would become my daily routine 5 years later. This fall, I will attend UIC, eat lunch with my girlfriend, and work in the evening.
I will be honest, at first I was lukewarm at the thought of attending UIC. Nothing against the University it provides an excellent education, I just know many students who attend UIC and kind of wanted a different path. Still, the location is great, its academically strong, so I felt obligated to visit the music department and see what they had to offer. I was wowed by the experience. The faculty was very approachable, knowledgable, and passionate about music. My previous piano instructor Daniel Murphy is now a teacher there and we had a conversation on my progress as a musician. After my visit, UIC went from a school I was skeptical about, to one of the top Universities on my list.
Now I’m enrolled at UIC ready to push my abilities to new levels. I’m very excited and proud to be a member of the UIC family. Many Chicagoans leave the city to pursue academic or career endeavors. I take a lot of pride in being a born and raised Chicagoan playing Jazz and studying Jazz in Chicago. I feel an ownership of the city and pride in studying and contributing to city that I love. So this fall, and for the next few years, I will be playing composing, and writing about Jazz at UIC and can’t wait to see what challenges and triumphs await.