Research Adventures #1

Research

one of the biggest aspects that our university prides itself on. As the first research university in the nation, Hopkins doesn’t disappoint. Being the primary U.S. academic institution invested in research (leading the nation in research spending for 36 years), Hopkins has spent over $2.2 billion in fiscal 2014 alone.

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 1.11.25 AM

Graphs n’ stuff.

Even our motto says it all: “Veritas vos liberabit”, or “The Truth Will Set You Free”. We pride ourselves on being intellectually curious – Hopkins students are conducting research on an impressive variety of topics all over the world. Whether it be uncovering the public health impacts of operating room supplies to researching the differences in interpretations of Bach Cello Suites, Hopkins is an awesome place to be.

With an impressive network of connections to the school of medicine, international studies, public health, music, and more, research can be done in all sorts of directions, all at the same time.

As I begin my undergraduate experience here at Hopkins, I’ll keep a continuing record of my research adventures. It’s only been a mere semester, but I’ve already found eager mentors and teachers to help me get started. As a student majoring in music and neuroscience, it would make sense for me to somehow combine the two, right?

Science-and-Music

Because, why not?!

Although I haven’t actually started tangible experiments yet, I’ve come up with a research proposal with the help of my mentor, Dr. Serap Bastepe-Gray. As a medical doctor and guitar faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory, Dr. Bastepe-Gray focuses a lot of her research on the relationship and rehabilitation of musician-related injuries.

With Dr. Bastepe-Gray’s help, we devised an experiment that explores the effects of auditory imagery on improvisational performance. You know how as humans we’re able to close our eyes and visually picture something random like a pink elephant? We can do the same with sounds, pitches, tempi (speed), dynamics (relative loudness). How does mentally preparing for improvisation, an activity that supposedly cannot be prepared, affect a musician’s ability to improvise music? Is there an explicit and neurological difference between “on-the-spot creation” and “prepared creation” in music? Does mentally preparing for improvisation even make it improvisation after all?

With a handful of jazz musicians, data analysis software, surveys, and judges, we’ll hopefully be able to uncover the beginnings to some of these questions. This semester, we’ve applied for a grant in order to fund our research project (fingers crossed for the announcement in January)!

With the end of my first semester here at Hopkins, it’s only really been the end of the beginning. With at least 7 semesters left to go, I’ll be sure to document my future research adventures every step of the way.


 

Graphic #1: Source

Graphic #2: Source

 

An Invitation to Anthropology

As a neuroscience and music double major, I get a nice variety of classes that satisfy my seemingly conflicting interests. My first semester here at Hopkins has yet to disappoint; I’m taking music classes that range from Ear Training to Music Theory, and neuroscience classes which range from a neuropsychology course to general biology. With registration for Intersession and Spring semester finished, I’m set to take an even more fascinating set of classes in the near future.

There’ll be another day when I introduce what those classes are and how I think they’ll shape up to my hopes and expectations, but I’d like to focus on a particularly unusual course I took this semester: An Invitation to Anthropology.

While yes, there is no practical reason to take the class (as it doesn’t count towards fulfilling any of my major requirements), the course has influenced the way I think. It’s easy to get caught up in the nitty-gritty of factual science and the infinite freedom of music; an Invitation to Anthropology has given me distance, a chance to analyze situations from the role as an outsider.

It’s how our graduate TA described it:

Imagine you’re in a room without a light switch. Anthropology gives us a torch and urges us to boldly uncover different aspects of the room. We illuminate one corner and move onto the next, but each new area we see complicates and relates to what we’ve previously seen. That’s anthropology: complicating the snapshot of what humankind is by uncovering the unseen.

The Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins prides itself on being “one of the few in the country that focuses exclusively on socio-cultural anthropology”. The literature we’ve read and discussed in class has been both puzzling and distinctive:

41iRLtF2RpL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship, by Aaron Goodfellow

The very first book we read which discussed the struggles and successes of queer kinship in America. Written by a member of JHU’s anthropology department, the book shows the complex relationship between gay families, social interactions, and state-wide institutions.

 

5017598Ghosts of War in Vietnam, by Heonik Kwon

Set in the post-war era of Vietnam, this book introduces the idea of ghosts as essential social actors in the Vietnamese community. Kwon uncovers the complex relationship between the living and the undead, and shows how the unfamiliar can become familiar after all.

 

 

9780990505044The Anti-Witch, by Jeanne Favret-Saada

Favret-Saada’s ethnography traces the complex relationships and interactions between witches and farmers in rural French farms. She compromises these relationships by including herself in the mix, speaking towards how her own perspective as an ethnographer complicates her analytical work.

 

 

150709_SBR_Coates-COVER.jpg.CROP.original-original

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written by a current author who is known for discussing the current-day social and political scenes in America, this book is a sort of integrated biography which discusses the author’s experiences growing up as a black individual. The book is actually a letter to the author’s son, and provides a unique ethnographical stance.

 

Along with these major works, we’ve explored shorter ethnographies and snippets of other anthropologically-related literature. The course has been a whirlwind of discussing perplexing ideas and questioning thought-to-be concrete conclusions, and it’s instilled in me a unique perspective I’m only beginning to see. It’s urged me to piece together the seemingly unrelated, and it’s invited me to uncover the dark, hidden room of what anthropology means to me.

 

 

Why Music?

With a crazy amount of class credits, inconveniences in transportation, a constant worry about social integration at each school, and thoughts about the practical future, the Hopkins-Peabody dual degree has really got me thinking.

It seems that each of us (dual degree students) tends to gravitate towards a certain area of interest: academics or music. And while we carry these pursuits side by side, one of them seems to be of greater importance. For me, at this time and place, it’s the Hopkins side of things.

For me, this poses the question of:

Why am I pursuing a degree in music?

If I’m already pursuing another degree in something that seems more practical and enjoyable to me, what role does music have in my life? Why do I feel the need to get an official degree in saxophone performance when music is one of those things that anyone can just pick up? Besides, being in an acapella group seems like it would satiate my musical desires (and in truth, it does). So why try and pursue something I’m not as passionate about, especially if it detracts from the academic performance I want to achieve for future plans?

By no means do I have answers to any of these questions, but through talking with other dual degree students and musicians, I’ve gotten a better understanding of what it means to be where I currently am.

Like many others, I’ve been playing music from a really early age. For all of us, it seems to start unwillingly, but as we grow older, music becomes more than enjoyable. It becomes a(n) activity lifestyle we just can’t leave behind. Pursuing this bachelor’s degree doesn’t only mean that I get continuity with something that I love, it allows me to transcend and enrich an aspect of myself that I hold so very close.

While in the moment, practicing for hours on end for an upcoming lesson and doing tomorrow’s music theory homework are such daunting tasks, they’re helping me to become a better musician, and in turn, a better person. I’ve just been so worried about the practicality of what I’m doing here in college, and I’ve forgotten that a big part of why I’m doing music is for me.

If anything, I’m more than grateful to be where I currently am. At the beginning of the semester, I complained about how I wasn’t getting the typical college experience but it’s because I’m not that I’ve been able to find out of the box opportunities (such as research between music and neuroscience). My time here at Hopkins and Peabody has been humbling and enriching, and for what I want and plan to do, I wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else.

13.1

Last Saturday, the angry city-goers stuck in a half-day road block must have had a terrible day.

But for the 17,000 participants of the Baltimore Running Festival and the rest of the Baltimore community that took the time to be involved, I imagine that the experience couldn’t have been any more rewarding.

1

This year marks the 15th anniversary!

At the end of Summer before coming to Hopkins (when you know, everyone’s afraid of leaving their tight-knit high school friends), one of my good friends (currently at Brown University) and I foolishly decided to sign up for the half-marathon in hopes of forcing us to: 1. Visit each other, and 2. EXERCISE. So, we pledged to exercise 6-days a week, so that we could absolutely destroy the half-marathon at the end of October.

Fast-forward to the week before the marathon. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Me: “Hey, have you been exercising?”

Friend: “That’s hilarious.”

And that’s when we knew we were extremely screwed for what we signed up for. Although both of us did 4 years of cross country and track & field together in high school, both of us hadn’t run since the end of senior year.

Running the actual half-marathon wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be (it was still horribly painful), and because we ran at a reasonably constant pace, we basically jogged all 13.1 miles of it. The 2 hour run gave us time to catch-up and also enjoy the surprising scenery of nature landscapes, contrasting Baltimore neighborhoods, and the beautiful inner harbor. Along the way, community members from all over cheered us on with hilarious posters and encouraging cheers.

Here’s a small picture diary of the experience!

12188526_1002722053082058_763218971_n-2804629_1002722059748724_188896583_n12179869_1002722079748722_125224781_n12182059_1002722076415389_249874107_n12188424_1002724986415098_774640837_n12188255_1002722069748723_347969715_n12188476_1002722063082057_411270087_n12180191_1002722066415390_228130687_n12188437_1002724993081764_699844356_n12178006_1002722089748721_1229112754_n12178036_1002726979748232_694069420_n12181808_1002724989748431_1122811526_n12179368_1002722083082055_2074263512_n12179248_1002722086415388_548378094_n12180173_1002722073082056_796973602_n

Immediately after the race, we were led to a finisher area that had tents filled with fruits and chips for post-race recovery. That part of the half-marathon experience is a blur, but I still remember wolfing down 6 or 7 bags of chips while trying to wobble around on my numb legs.

There’s something about the Baltimore Running Festival that struck me as heartening. Besides the fact that my friend and I conquered 13.1 miles we thought we couldn’t, running with the Baltimore community and seeing all the runners/supporters throughout the entire city was just amazing. I wish I could find a better word to describe the experience, but it was just that.

Here’s to next year’s race!

Peabody…Concerts?

“Yeah, Peabody! I’ve been to that library; it’s so pretty!!!”

I get it. Everyone always talks about how you have to go to Peabody, just to see the stunningly beautiful architecture of the George Peabody Library.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.24.00 PM

[Impressed by the pictures? You HAVE to see it in person.]

It’s true, the George Peabody Library does deserve all the attention it gets. It’s so beautiful that people even reserve the library for private events like weddings and concerts!

But let’s talk about what The Peabody Institute actually is.

The institute was founded in 1857 by a philanthropist named George Peabody, and is the oldest music conservatory in the United States. In 1985, the conservatory became a division of the Johns Hopkins University – since then, the affiliation has allowed students and staff to explore research from a multi-disciplinary standpoint. Outside of offering degrees in music performance, composition, recording arts, and more, numerous students from Johns Hopkins pick up a music minor or take weekly lessons with any one of Peabody’s highly regarded faculty members.

So yes, while Peabody has one heck of a library, it is at its core a MUSIC school.

thousand

[“There will be over 1,000 performances on this block this year. Join us!”]

Isn’t that just crazy to think about? Every time I walk from the 7-11 just outside of Peabody, this huge banner stares me in the face. More than ONE THOUSAND performances, all in just one year – that’s 2-3 concerts per day!

Why not come to Peabody for its music? The concerts here are so well-rehearsed, extremely professional, and infinitely interesting. There are concert symphonies, orchestras, operas, jazz bands, quartets, student recitals, and literally so much more.

What’s even better? Almost all the concerts are FREE or DISCOUNTED to JHU students and staff. While ticket prices will obviously vary from concert to concert, you can usually get free tickets for events if you buy them online beforehand. (Find upcoming concerts and learn more about purchasing tickets at peabody.jhu.edu!)

Just this past week, I’ve already been to 3 Peabody concerts, and each was completely different and breath-taking.

The first was an opera featuring a work by Michael Hersch and soprano singer Ah Young Hong. The experience was something that can’t really be put into words, but it was one of the most moving performances I’ve ever seen. There’s an opera review that will better describe the experience than I can found here.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.33.48 PM

[A truly thought-provoking and emotional night.]

The second was an awesome jazz ensemble concert put on by fellow Peabody classmates from the Peabody Jazz Ensemble, and the entire audience was grooving out by the end of the performance. The ensemble featured works by Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, and more. If you’re into jazz or just want to see what it’s about, I’d definitely recommend going. The group is insanely talented, and the concerts are free for students/staff!

jazz

[Shout out to the few Hopkins students I saw at the concert!]

The last concert I saw this week was not at Peabody, but at the nearby Enoch Pratt Free Library a couple blocks away. Another friend (who happens to be a Dual Degree Student!) performed harp pieces there with her studio for the public. There was something about the sound of the harp in the large echo-y space that seemed ethereal.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.33.55 PM

[Some snapshots from the event!]

Artists at Peabody put in ridiculous amounts of hours a day practicing, rehearsing, and fine-tuning everything they can to perform their hearts out, and that in itself is admirable. Maybe (more than) once in a while, take the JHMI shuttle over and see what they’ve been working on. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

[Sources: Picture #1: mmmbaltimore2014.org. Picture #2: http://peabodyevents.library.jhu.edu.]

A Weekend Away

People have been telling me to go explore Balti(more)^2, but with student groups starting and midterms coming up, it feels like there’s already enough to do on campus. Last weekend was the first time I really got out of Hopkins and Peabody, and it’s definitely been my favorite college experience to date.

Saturday morning started with breakfast at the Papermoon Diner, where some friends and I ate pancakes and bacon to our hearts content. The diner is a mere 5-minute walk from the Homewood campus, and it’s filled with super funky decorations and quirks that were both hilarious, creepy, and mesmerizing all at the same time. The service was fantastic, the food was to die for, and the experience was a one-of-a-kind thing. I’d definitely recommend checking it out here!

These pictures are really just the beginning.

The rest of the day was a retreat trip with the Octopodes (read more about acapella groups from JHU_Jackie’s blog here!) to Washington D.C. Although we only stayed in D.C. for a day, we ran into numerous festivals, had a hard time choosing where to eat from the infinite amount of restaurants available, and explored some of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to. As part of an acapella group, we even sang an arrangement of one of our songs at Union Station!

12053184_992161977471399_1228126385_n

Museum giftshops are the greatest.

On Sunday, I went with my Peabody friends to the Baltimore Farmers’ Market where we spent the morning. The market is about a 10-minute walk from both Peabody and the Inner Harbor, and there are about a hundred different stalls selling a variety of foods, fruits, flowers, and art. I ended up buying a TON of fruits, apple cider, and some art to decorate my room! We ended up spending hours at the market, getting lost in the sea of people and all the cool things to buy.

12041865_992166214137642_1868327758_n

Some snapshots from my first farmer’s market experience!

Although the school year is really starting to pick up, making time to go explore Baltimore and beyond is something I plan to do every week. Whether it be going to the upcoming Mushroom Festival, Fall Harvest at the Inner Harbor, or Halloween at Federal Hill, I’m not worried that I’ll have nothing to do. Actually, it’s more that I’m frustrated that I can’t be going to all these cool and wacky city experiences…

From touring popular neighborhoods to finding quirky eateries to stumbling upon unknown city festivities, I’m starting to see why Baltimore’s called “Charm City”! I can’t wait to see what other hidden gems await.

12077258_992161974138066_1065317412_n

Just had to toss in another creepy picture from the Papermoon Diner…

 

 

Hello, Peabody!

Peabody is beautiful tonight, and so are the soothing sounds of the city.

It’s been a mere three weeks since school has started, but I feel like I’ve been here so much longer. After a long overdue phone call with my parents tonight, I sit alone in the Piper courtyard at Peabody in a particularly reflective mood.

Picture1

Check it out in person! It’s a lot more peaceful than what the pictures show.

To explain my beginning experiences as a dual degree student between Homewood and Peabody is something that isn’t easily described. It definitely hasn’t been what I imagined the “traditional” college experience to be, but it’s so far been crazy and enjoyable all at the same time. For those who don’t know what the Peabody double degree is, let me explain. I’ve gotten so many puzzled looks during Hopkins and Peabody orientations, but I must admit it’s worked as a solid conversation starter.

2019

Isn’t it beautiful :’)? [Source: http://hub.jhu.edu/2015/08/26/class-of-2019-photo]

The ‘Double Degree Program’ is basically a joint enrollment between Johns Hopkins and the Peabody Institute of Music where students are able to earn a B.A/B.S. and B.M degree at the same time. It’s different from double-majoring in the usual sense because students in the program are at two different colleges, and not just one. (Learn more about it here: https://apply.jhu.edu/apply/peabody-double-degree/)

Because the program takes place at two schools, double degree students (kind of) get two of everything: inter-school meal plans, cross-registration for classes, the chance to experience two completely different student bodies, and contrasting dorm experiences. As a freshman I’m required to live at Peabody, but I have the option of choosing to live at Homewood during sophomore year.

Now, the double degree at Hopkins/Peabody isn’t just something that has double the benefits; being enrolled in two schools full time presents notable challenges. For me (and I think for all the other double degree’s), transportation is one aspect I definitely overlooked. Depending on where classes are and what classes I have on each day, I have to take (a thankfully free) 15-20 minute JHMI Shuttle ride to Homewood or to Peabody. In a typical week, I have to commute 20-25 times to get to classes, student groups, and my dorm. Of course, I’m undeniably jealous of my freshman friends that only need to take a short 3-minute walk from their dorms at the AMR’s.

bus

Literally my second home. [Source: http://jhuprecollege.blogspot.com/2013/07/getting-around-baltimore.html]

I understand that it’s only been the beginning of the semester, but meeting and making new friends as a double degree Hopkins/Peabody student has been surprisingly tough. Especially because living at Peabody is a must during freshman year, creating acquaintances at Hopkins can only be made at classes, student groups, and the short time we’re at Hopkins orientation. Even then, having to constantly travel between each school ensures that I can’t always stay with friends for too long.

But despite the inconveniences and crazy workload from Hopkins/Peabody classes and practicing my saxophone, I’m SO excited that I was given the chance to pursue two completely different interests at the same time. When applying to colleges, I thought that I had to concretely pick what I wanted to do, and I was torn between my lifelong involvement in music and curiosity in the sciences. I chose this program for that very reason; there aren’t many other schools that let you receive two degrees from a top academic institution and famed music conservatory.

I have yet to figure out how I want to combine neuroscience and saxophone performance degrees in the future, but for right now, I’m trying to look at potential research opportunities involving music and the brain. With easy access to the Johns Hopkins Hospital and faculty at all affiliated schools, I’ve been able to find numerous individuals that have the same, wacky research interests. I’ll write about my experiences in a future blog post!

From everything I’ve learned about Hopkins and Peabody so far, I can begin to say that this is an environment where I feel driven and inspired. I’m surrounded by quality opportunities pertaining to just about everything I can imagine and I’ve been challenged in creative and surprising ways. From what I’ve seen so far, students and staff work admirably hard to achieve what they want and I’m urged to do the same.

While I don’t feel that I’m getting the typical college freshman experience, I have all the freedom I want to choose my academic and social directions. It’s only the start to the school year, and I can already tell that it’s going to be a crazy ride.