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May 7, 2014

Jane Sylvester: Final bow

Jane Sylvester, of Kensington, Conn., is a 2014 MSU College of Music graduate.

May 7, 2014

As a brand new graduate, I’ve had many recent opportunities to reflect upon my best experiences here at MSU. Many of these happened in the music buildings, which can hardly be surprising, considering I just recently crossed the stage for my final bow at the Wharton Center with degrees in saxophone performance and music education!

My degrees have given me an array of experiences at MSU. Reflecting back to my first two years, my incoming class and I spent a lot of time in large classes together, learning Neapolitan chords and tonicizations in theory, about Monteverdi to John Cage in history, and just trying to find our resting tonic note in ear training, where we sang and notated bizarre melodic passages to develop our keen ears. In these classes, we bonded over the shared experiences of being “thrown in the pool” of musical learning. We were as green as our school color, eager to be molded into our own definitions of “musician.”

Our years as upperclassmen allowed all of us to become more specialized, myself included. I questioned how I wanted to move forward in my musicianship, and continued to immerse myself in my music education coursework and performance opportunities.

Singing, dancing, tapping and clapping became the norm in general elementary music methods and early childhood music classes. I revisited what it meant to have FUN in music learning, to explore the innocent joy that children experience in a music classroom. I learned many new instruments, and through lots of squeaks and honks, I began to develop the concept of how to teach instrumental music. I learned how to conduct, and experienced the magic of developing and forming sound out of thin air from the tip of a baton.

My saxophone studies allowed my instrumental musicianship to thrive. Hosting solo recitals and performing at conferences and local venues with my saxophone quartet invigorated me. In the spring semester of my junior year, I reached one of my pivotal goals—auditioning into MSU’s Wind Symphony. In my final semester at MSU, I was fortunate enough to go to Carnegie Hall with the Wind Symphony to perform John Corigliano’s “Circus Maximus,” “Mr. Tambourine Man” and David Maslanka’s “Traveler.” It was an absolute honor—to diligently mold, prepare and define our artistry as an ensemble to represent this music to our fullest potential. I grew to respect my colleagues and friends in a new light through this shared experience, and I am grateful that we shared our musicianship in such a grandiose venue as Carnegie Hall.

I am now enlivened by the prospects of the future, not only for myself, but also for the direction of my friends, colleagues and mentors. Through my time at MSU, I found a sect of the broad definition of “musician” to speak strongly, and truly, to who I want to be—a musicologist. During my time at MSU, I have learned a great deal about myself, as many early 20-somethings tend to do. I embraced my critical, analytical mind, my thoughtful nature and love for music history and academic study, and found my individual purpose as a musician.

Four years of college is pretty tremendous for a new graduate like myself, but in the greater spectrum of life, it’s a minuscule drop of water in the pond. I am inspired by this perspective to take bits and pieces of ALL of the skills, experiences and lessons I have acquired during my time at MSU to move forward in the future, to better myself as a lifelong musician, scholar and learner.


Learn more about Sylvester's performance at Carnegie Hall in the MSUToday Feature, Taking Center Stage.

Photo by G.L. Kohuth