As if the wrist injury that interrupted my education wasn't enough, I've also had to battle through severe neurological impediments caused by severe cervical spinal trauma. For a time it seemed I might never be able to play again. Thankfully that's not the case, and I believe I am a more passionate performer for touching the edge of losing what I love most.
While I have always worked in music, the bulk of my income has come from full time office positions. I was laid off twice in a year and have been unable to find full time employment since. Encouraged by the love, support, and faith of my beloved friends, I auditioned for Indiana University Southeast this spring and was awarded two scholarships! With much prayer and planning I have been working toward this goal, only to find out three weeks before the start of the semester that I will not qualify for grants until spring!
Please help me make this long-time goal a reality!! Every little bit helps, and whatever I raise beyond the cost of this academic year will go toward next year's costs. With your help I can finish my degree in 2 years. If you love classical music, if you believe in 2nd chances and education, please support me. My musical bio is below. Thanks for your consideration!
Madeline Norman's performance career spans over two decades and the North American continent. Madeline has enjoyed working with a variety of groups, including: keyboard in Frank Messina's Big Band, organist and choir director for many churches, music director for musical theater, lounge artist, and accompanist. She has soloed on flute, piano, and as a vocalist everywhere from Northwest Canada to Washington, D.C. during the 2013 Inaugural festivities.
Madeline has been fortunate to study with such talented musicians as jazz and conducting legend Norman Leyden, Van Cliburn competitor David Ingram, Hollywood music director Frank Messina, and classical pianists Pat Goodman, Jill Timmons, and Cheryl Collins. She studied piano performance and music composition at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, where she was the recipient of two performance-based scholarships.
At age 10 she was second for the Oregon Bach Festival; by the time she started performing professionally at age 13 she had won three gold cups and numerous awards through the OMTA Music Festivals. One adjudicator said of Madeline's potential: "You and the piano belong together."
Despite tremendous difficulties including homelessness and severe spinal and neurological trauma, Madeline has never stopped striving to improve as a pianist and has continued to look for ways to share music with others. In March 2013 Madeline was awarded a performance-based scholarship and was the sole recipient of the composition award at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, Indiana.
You're insulting. I have earned every bit of favor I currently enjoy, and here's how.
1) I'm older than you are.
I've been a professional musician longer than most of you have played or sung. I had a career before I came back to school. I pay all my own bills; I own a farm. I graduated high school last century and I passed most of the music courses I'm taking before you went to middle school. That puts me in a different category than an average college student. Professors relate to me on a different level. That's not favoritism, it's adulthood. You'll get there; you're not supposed to be there now.
2) I CARE.
I care about every single class I'm taking because each hour of coursework is putting me in debt. I care about the quality of my education because no one is responsible for my learning but me. I care about my reputation. The quality of work I do now will reflect on the grad school I'm able to attend, the recommendations I receive for schools and jobs, and ultimately help shape the musician I will become.
3) I am a leader.
As Her Eminence continuously points out, I am not invisible. By keeping my own standards high I encourage you to step up. This pattern improves us all. I care about your success as much as my own, and I try to show that every day on campus and off. I make myself available as much as I can to help you with your work, to learn from you, and to share our experience. I take on more than anyone else and I only complain when people do not show me the respect I offer them. I feed you out of my own pocket because I know that you are enduring the same stresses I am and because that simple act of kindness is working so much good.
I tooted my horn about getting performance class and concerts out of the way. Guess what? I'm going to more concerts because I want to steep myself in music. I'm going to every performance class because I genuinely want to encourage you.
4) I am grateful.
I spent most of last year feeling unworthy to be allowed in the music program. For some bizarre reason I seem to have carved out quite a space for myself, and it is time that I stop being obsequious and OWN that. To whit, yes, I say flattering things to professors - AND TO ALL OF YOU! I recognize and commend everyone regardless of position. Growth is growth! If you need to know the work Dr. Goldstein put into her education, go read her bio. She literally built the IUS music program - she was here before there was a music building or major. It blows my mind that someone with her level of virtuosity and combination of intelligences would dedicate herself to a minor satellite program. The next time you think about not taking an assignment, a lesson, a piece seriously, stop and consider where your education would be if she had done that.
Dr. Niren has been with the program almost as long as Dr. Goldstein. She has unlimited passion for her subject matter and a total commitment to every student who steps into her classroom. She works tirelessly to better her teaching methods, tailoring her material to individual learning styles, revising her courses and assignments over and over to make us better. And she never stops smiling and believing the best about people.
YES, I feed Her Eminence. YES, I invite other professors, some of whom I knew before I attended IUS. YES, I go out of my way to make it special. And why shouldn't I? They go out of their way for us every day.
So many of our professors are adjuncts. That means they have no security in their position and the pay sucks. They teach us because they want to. Can you imagine getting up every day for 25 years to teach classrooms full of kids who only want to learn their area of interest? Who say that what you have to teach them doesn't matter? I promise you it does. ALL KNOWLEDGE IS USEFUL.
It's hard to be the smartest person in the room; even harder when people assume you're smart and you're not getting it. Yeah, I struggle, mostly with myself behind closed doors. But I don't quit. And THAT is why they like me. Not because I make food on what is a 14-16hr day at school for Goldstein (and me, because I stay long into the night to practice my solo repertoire on the heavier pianos that require more of me). Because I sit in on class to brush up on basic knowledge so I can help you better. Because I speak up when I know we aren't getting it and when I can contribute. Because I take extra courses at other schools and request extra music over breaks so I can keep my momentum. Because they know I demand more of myself than they ever could.
It's embarrassing to be called out and have to explain that I'm doing more work than assigned. It sucks to see the looks of derision on your faces when I get a compliment. I like making people happy and that's not gonna stop - it's nice to pull the corporate stick out of my butt and have some silliness about shared interests.
Bottom line? I don't do these things to win her favor. Everything I'm doing is for ME. If I want to succeed in my chosen field, I have to be top 5% of all musicians. I have age and neurological issues against me, but I'm smart and I'm stubborn and I'm a pretty solid musician. Think I'm a teacher's pet now? Wait 'til I'm on the podium later.
Incidentally, I've been pulling As in everything this semester without any source of income. My student loan hasn't been disbursed and I'm freaking out. I can't quit. Won't quit. It's too close to the end of the semester and I am too close to succeeding at a goal that has taken me over a decade to complete.
I'm not a sycophant. I'm a warrior.
This semester is going fairly well. I still have moments of doubt and I'm not performing as well as I know I can or would like to. But I get up every day and try my best and do everything I can to help others.
Yesterday marked a year since my entrance audition. I spent the day at school, accompanying a vocalist and a flautist in their auditions. It was the first time all year I felt satisfied with the way I played. That's kind of sad, but at least the moment came. Hopefully I can jump forward from yesterday's positive experience. It was an opportunity to reflect on why I'm here and how much I've grown. Every day at IUS is a challenge and a blessing.
Summer registration is coming up. I'm planning to take math and science while continuing to work at Americana. This will also be a busy season as I work the fiber festival circuit with my neighbors. Of course in April I'm accompanying a tremendous vocalist as he competes, and if he wins (when he wins) we will get to go to Boston this summer to do it all over again.
I meant to write more, but I've just done my weekly 3 hours of weekend homework and I'm beat! As always, thank you for your support!!
School is back in session and I am (perhaps foolishly) signed up for 16 credits. Of these, 12 are music. I feel like this semester is more managable than the last, and books were certainly more affordable! ($85 versus $400) I'm trying to do one thing each semester that scares me. After all, this is a growth process. This semester I'm taking voice lessons.
It may surprise you to learn that singing in public ranks just about even on my fear chart with E.T. (Yes, the movie. No, it's not funny to mess with me about it. It's a pretty good way to end our friendship, actually.) Despite my experience, and the fact that I'm not terrible at it, I still shake each and every time I'm asked to make a sound. Additionally, I'm petrified of auditions. I didn't pass my choir audition so I will only be playing for an ensemble this semester. I used to have panic attacks in sight singing, which was inconvenient and embarrassing. I coped by skipping test days; my professor was kind enough to allow me to retest in his office instead of in front of the class, which was harrowing enough to leave me scarred. So I'm taking voice lessons, which not only requires me to sing in front of someone every week, but also perform in front of my peers and adds a 2nd jury to my finals.
I'm taking orchestration and arranging. Our final project is to orchestrate either an original piece or an arrangement of extant works. I have an idea for both.
I love my piano pieces: Beethoven Sonata Op. 28, 1st mvmt (though the 2nd is equally lovely), Ravel Sonatine, and Bach Italian Concerto. I'm trying something new. Reading through Ravel broke my brain so I'm trying to learn the piece back to front. While I love his colors, his use of sharp key signatures and chromatic notes leaves me second guessing myself, much like playing Hugo Wolf's songs. Sometimes doing disjointed things in an unexpected way goes smoother.
The school was one student short to keep multiple sections of French open so we're all crammed into one section in the middle of the day, which hampers my availabilty to my vocalists. This I don't care for, but the silver lining is I also won't pull longer than 12hr days! For those who don't remember, 16hrs was the norm last semester, plus my own practice time on top of that. I basically never slept.
Collaborating with a very talented tenor over the break afforded me the run of the school's pianos. I got to play in the concert hall, the recital hall, run up and down the halls from one piano to another with the doors wide open. It was heaven. And I fell in love with a 9ft Baldwin who, with the department head's permission, I have named Gustav (after Mahler, of course). We're still getting to know one another so not every note is as expected. On Gustav I find realms of dynamics and depths of tone color that I am unable to realize on the recital hall Steinway (whose name is Dimitri) and a precision that felt lacking to me on the concert hall 9ft Steinway D (whose name is Sergei). I was reprimanded last semester for use of the damper pedal; I never have to touch the pedal on Gustav unless I want the effect. He's a bear to move but a joy to play and I feel so much more in control as a pianist because of time spent with him.
A pianist should feel a difference in instruments, should have preferences, should recognize which instrument is a better partner. They are living things, after all...every instrument, especially the wooden ones. Subject to tempermental fits, accidents, changes with the weather, able to breathe, expand, contract, sing dark and light, airy or full. I always said that sitting at the piano was for me like plugging in. It's an organic experience where two beings become one in sound and purpose. The instrument is every bit as responsible for the performance as I am. Of course, unlike most musicians pianists are spoiled - someone else tends to our instrument's needs, tempers it just as we like, stores and cleans and tunes it. I watched a documentary about Steinway's master technician. He said there are some pianists who are overly concerned with the consistency in sound. After they perform on a piano the instrument will remain more consistent in its tuning than before. He said they remember, that each person who plays leaves an imprint on them. I had lost the magical sixth sense that allowed me to approach pianos as individuals. Experimenting over the break gave me the silence and space to listen. Gustav, Dimitri, Sergei all told me how they like to be touched. Dimitri loves music with texture. Sergei feels he is master of all, but he doesn't like to release sound. Gustav must be warmed up before we connect, he's been backstage sleeping for years. His keybed is extremely deep so I have to take care not to play ghost notes, but the trade off is a depth in sound and an even, precise tone that I melt for. Like any good schoolmaster he makes me work and it's worth it. To play darkly I must sit practically on top of the keys, hunched like I'm driving a Pinto, thinking through the sound as I drop weight straight down into the keys. He likes the closeness. So do I.
If each pianist leaves an imprint then these pianos are as valuable to my education as my lessons. They hold the answers, they know my pieces. I'm taking orchestration, piano, voice, accompanying...but this is a semester of listening. Thank you all so much for listening to me! I'm so grateful for your support! I'm glad to be able to share my experiences with you. This time last year I was unemployed, aimless, and pretty sure that IUS wouldn't accept me. Now? There's a line of people asking to work with me and I love what I do every day. What an incredible gift. I can do anything.
I owe $10,518.00 for next semester *gulp*. Grants and scholarships will cover half or better, I think. Next year, however, I will lose one scholarship (not renewable) and the other may be diminished. It's critical that I perform well scholastically too.
Spring will find me accompanying vocal students, singing songs by Charles Ives, speaking French, orchestrating and arranging, studying theory, and once again building my skills as a pianist. I am eager to dive into these challenges!
My goals have changed a little. A wonderful professor encourages me frequently to explore graduate studies. I've decided to drop composition as a major; my goal is to get my master's in orchestral conducting, possibly with a secondary field of collaborative piano.
THANK YOU once again for your support, both emotional and financial. You are keeping me afloat in so many ways.
Madeline - Thanks for your latest post, about the times in your learnings (so to speak) at IU - SE!! Well, it would be difficult, these days, to PLAY Brahms and others of his generation, in a way that would be very-outstanding, but I'm sure that you'll do your BEST, as you continue your career. Also, I'd say, immediately, don't concern yourself about my comments about Brahms, or former pianists (Schnabel, Gieseking, Edwin Fischer, Godowsky, Robert Casadesus, et. al.) but hope you'll accomplish what can BE ... in your talent and inner drives. Thanks!
Oops, I meant intimidated (by Brahms), not "indimidated". Either way, please don't feel restricted by the great talents of the past. Each, great composer is, in a way, a stepping-stone to the NEXT development, etc. Thanks!
Madeline - Well, no need to feel indimidated by Brahms, altho the latter WAS one of greatest of post-Haydn/post-Beethoven composers. Brahms is often characterized, in his music, as "autumnal", and some of Symphonies, chamber works and others reflect a certain type of almost-melancholy. There's a strong FORCE in his music, and maybe, and conscious direction that's NOT in the same as his predecessor - Beethoven. I'm sure you can play his piano music, very well. If you would want a TOUGHER challenge, consider the Prokoviev Piano Concerto #3, or some of the piano music of Franz Liszt! Take care, and hope that your career will go ... really WELL!