Saturday, November 17, 2007

ah, graduate school

i'm going to the campus of my alma mater, the new school, for their graduate school open house today. i'm not sure what i'm looking for, exactly. i was accepted to their media studies program a few years ago, but i couldn't afford to go. they gave me a scholarship and a grant but they didn't make enough of a dent. the attendance grace period expired and i forgot about it. so what i really want is for someone to tell me how i can come up with the money to pay tuition without taking out more student loans. that's what i'm looking for -- a way in that won't have me making payments in my golden years.

why do i want to finish a master's degree program from the new school? i'm so glad you asked!

a rather wise lester bowie once told a somewhat clever kelvyn bell: "don't be in new york city for 15 and 20 years and have nothing to show for your time." although i never met mr. bowie, i clung to those words for quite awhile, and in the telling of that little antedote, kelvyn gave me a precious gift. both lester and kelvyn are musicians from st. louis, missouri. they well understood the sacrifice that happens on this whole other level when you want to live in new york city, much less accomplish anything of merit here. when you're not from new york city, you don't have the luxury of not knowing exactly what you want and how you want to go about getting it. everything around you constantly says, time is of the essence. you don't have the luxury of a home court advantage.

and yet even with the best intentions, you can spin your wheels ad nauseum and end up with nothing that's tangible to show for your time.

what mr. bowie said caught me early in my time in the city. it changed the way i thought about my art and my life in general. i became much more focused in a different way. doing it wasn't enough. i wanted results. and i got them. i went back to college, finished my BA and became a working professional. but that wasn't enough. so i started writing and creating work for myself and i haven't looked back since.

i've got a decent reel but i'm still transitioning into film/tv. i've got two music projects to finish. i'm working on another one person show. and blood wants to make another album. so as usual, i'm flying by the seat of my pants. graduate school would be another log on the fire but it wouldn't be an impossible thing to do. it's a two year program -- and anyone that's lived here for more than a month knows that time moves differently here. two years goes by in new york city in about six months. i would have a chance to study semiotics in theory and in practice. i could take an audio component and finally learn pro-tools. concentrate on screenwriting and develop some ideas. make little art films. think and grow in another direction. i'd get to explore certain theories and ideas that would make me a better rock star. basically, all of that reading and writing and free expression would augment who i am creatively in a profound way.

the thing is, their graduate degree program isn't anything that i'd have to stop the world to do. that's the beauty of it. all of the coursework is offered online, so i could do it anywhere, at any time. and i suppose i could just take class here or there but ultimately, i want something quantifiable and tangible, and that's where the degree comes in.

it feels quite sane, to fly by the seat of my pants.

that statement reminds me of a story about james "blood" ulmer. early in my time in new york city, he used to sit me down and make me tell him everything that i was doing. i can still see him in my mind's eye, sitting at his kitchen table, leaning to one side towards me, smiling at me sideways, holding my hand and listening to me tell him all about it. one day he told me that i was a harmelodic person. that's why it was so easy for me to do everything all at once. he said that people wouldn't "get" that about me, that this was a difficult thing for most to understand -- especially certain free jazz musicians, ironically enough. i told him that i didn't know enough music theory to understand harmelodics, so i didn't really know what he was talking about. i was just being myself, really. but that's just it -- you don't need theory, he laughed, you've already got it!

evidently, he was right.

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