Everyone has had to resort to a Plan B sometime in their life. It could be as big as a career or relationship, or as petty as a vacation or dinner. It's unfortunate that not all our Plan As work out in our lives, but that just means that we get a chance to re-think our futures and determine if Plan A really was the best plan.
I hate dealing with Plan Bs. I am a Type-A person, so Plan A should always work. This weekend, for example, I am expecting the weather to be nice. I will get my paycheck and deposit it. I will return the DVD to the library before it's due on Friday. And I won't forget anything when I go skiing.
Thanks to my family, my friends, and my job, however, I have begun to be less strict on following Plan A. Usually in the shadows I've already formed a Plan B for when something that I can't control gets in the way of Plan A - like a snowstorm, the bank being stupid, or being so concerned about a crying child that I lock my keys in the car (which happened this weekend - the child was fine).
A big Plan A in my life was grad school. I am a teacher, but pursuing my Master's degree in education has never been in the cards for me. I double majored in college in education and what is called Parish Music (music for the church and church-school, essentially). I did one semester of student teaching at a school, but I also did a one-semester internship at a giant church and church-school where I didn't teach Math or Social Studies. Instead, I went around doing Music class, directing all the choirs, and spending hours at a time practicing organ.
In short, it was magnificent.
There are Master's degrees out there for musicians, and that's what I wanted to pursue. Plan A was a program I discovered two years ago at Michigan State University: a three-year summer program for a Master's in music. In my case, I wanted to apply for the choral conducting program.
In the conferences I've attended and choirs in which I've been involved, I have developed a deep respect for conductors. They hold down the fort in rehearsals, get dozens of people to do exactly the same thing, and get their interpretation of the piece to be the version everyone sees and hears. In my own choirs I love that commanding presence that I can convey. I love finding a part of a song, nitpicking it, and hearing it transform in the mouths of my choir members.
So over the summer of 2014 I researched the MSU program and got valuable input from alumni ("It's the best program out there") and colleagues ("You wouldn't miss teaching, right?") and family ("You'd be so close to home! What would your cats do?"). The deadline to apply was December 1, and there was a ton of information that needed to be submitted.
First would be two applications - one to MSU and one to the College of Music - and it was expensive! I would have to take video of myself in rehearsals and a performance - and the guidelines were very specific (front-facing camera, no more than 20 minutes, etc.). I had one of my choir members take the video and I told him which parts to edit down - he did a great job. I needed a transcript from my college, and three letters of recommendation. Those were a lot more difficult to finagle than I'd anticipated, mostly because it was hard for me to think of three musically-talented people that know me and my musical skills well enough from the past 6 years! (This would have been much easier in high school or college is what I'm saying.)
Everything was in on time, although the MLC transcript got in a few days late - but that was one of the things that didn't have a set due date like everything else. I didn't worry about it too much.
I spent all of December waiting to hear back from MSU. I'd already started thinking about what I could do if I got accepted to audition (step 2 before official acceptance) in February. One of their available dates was my 4-day weekend - perfect! I could throw my sister's baby shower that weekend too! I could stay with my parents and drive up to East Lansing for the day! I need to buy a suit jacket to look more professional - I've never had one of those before!
More than that, I was already thinking ahead to the summer. I got permission from my pastor and principal to pursue this degree, even though it would mean I couldn't be working over the summer like I usually do. Maybe I could get someone to intern from MLC and they could stay at my apartment and watch my cats while getting a stipend from my church to teach piano lessons and play organ! I could drive my car for 24 hours to get back home and have my car with me in Michigan - no big deal!
But then it all kind of stopped. I'd just finished rehearsing for a wedding in Michigan over Christmas break, and was in a good mood since the other musicians in the wedding were super nice, and I'd been worried that they'd be stuck up snobs.
So I get home and check my e-mail, and finally! There's something from MSU! I open the e-mail to see if they'll let me request an audition for the weekend of February 14.
With the large number of applicants, we will not be asking you to audition for our program at this time.
I moped. I cried. I looked into three other universities that night. Then I came to the conclusion that Plan B was just going to have to happen.
Luckily, it wasn't very hard to plan. I just wouldn't be leaving Colorado for eight weeks like I'd been anticipating. Instead, I'd stay for another hot, dry summer. There were no major weddings planned (like the past 2 summers), so I had no commitments. For me not to have any summer plans in January is pretty insane.
A long road trip with my mother is in the works, culminating with us in Rapid City, SD for the Lutheran Women's Missionary Society National Convention. Even though it's only 6 hours from here, I figured Mom would like the company while she drives 20 hours from Michigan.
Instead of using every last cent I own for tuition, I could store some of it aside for a new First for me: my first half marathon. If I'm going to run a half marathon, I'm going to do a RunDisney half marathon, and I'm going to do a Star Wars half marathon, if they hold it on MLK weekend like they did this year. It kind of times out perfectly.
And what about grad school? There was a point for a while there where I just figured I wasn't good enough to go to the next level - that I would be resigned to directing my school kids and my dwindling group of senior choir members for the next 20 years and not progress. But then I remembered Concordia.
A large chunk of WELS musicians have taken the short trip to Mequon, Wisconsin to attend Concordia's own three-year summer music program. While this would be far from my parents, I would be able to spend some of those summers with my brother, who would be in Mequon for a few years.
I wanted to blaze my own path by trying something outside the WELS circle. But when MSU squashed that dream, it was time to downgrade my outlook. Why not try Concordia? While other schools have great programs that only run during the "normal" school year (CU-Boulder and Carnegie Mellon, I'm looking at you), Concordia has programs meant for full-time teachers. Why not give it a shot?
This fall I'll probably give it a go. I'll pay the application fees, send in the videos, purchase a transcript, and wait in front of my computer for the reply.
...And while I'm waiting, I'll probably be preparing Plan C.
And Plan D.