Be Kind

Happy Leap Day! I apologize for my long hiatus from blogging! Between school and struggling with my website’s server, this blog fell by the wayside. But no longer, thanks to a bout of insomnia!

Last night while (unsuccessfully) attempting to fall asleep, I found myself thinking about graduate school audition season. This past Friday, prospective graduate students in Composition and Music Theory arrived at FSU for their interviews, which included lunch and dinner with current graduate students. So you could say the subject was fresh on my mind.

I began reflecting upon my own experience interviewing for graduate programs–both last year, and in 2013 for masters programs. And of course, I found myself fixating on some of the negative aspects of my previous interviews. For example, the instance when my interview and another composition applicant’s interview were scheduled at the exact same time, causing my interview to be delayed and creating a conflict with the only time I could do skills assessment for the teaching assistantship interview. I remember feeling incredibly disappointed with how I performed as a result of being flustered. I remembered interviews where the questions posed by faculty were not meant to get to know me better as an applicant or to assess my experience, but were themselves negative judgements framed as (rhetorical) questions. And then I started to remember guest composer lessons and masterclasses with a similar twinge of schadenfreude. Like the masterclass where the only feedback provided to a peer was a 10-minute lecture that it was her fault that student performers did not perform the written dynamics. Or the lesson where I was told I shouldn’t be in a graduate program simply for not being fond of Messiaen’s music.

The latter feedback was particularly frustrating because it was neither kind nor constructive. In my insomnia, I latched onto that particular frustration and started to realize a lack of kindness was a problem that bothered me not just in my own small circle of personal experience, but in society at large as well. The Trump campaign for example with its Islamophobic and anti-immigrant platform condones unjustifiable violence against human beings without showing the compassion to recognize them as humans.  I think we forget too often that other people are people too and that they have feelings too. It’s not a reason to give false compliments or pander, but it is a reason to show more compassion. Which brought me to remembering a Plato quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

While I don’t expect everyone in the world to suddenly hold hands in a circle and sing “Kumbaya,” I can attest that the best teachers (even those that aren’t teachers by occupation) I have encountered exhibit compassion and kindness without pandering for the sake of seeming nice. I do, however, find myself even more resolved to continue to lead by example, and I hope that it makes a difference.