Photo credit: Philip Fulcher

Photo credit: Philip Fulcher

I'm so excited to be ABD! I completed my oral exam, the final stage of our comprehensive exam process, this week. It's been a rather long process - much longer than initially planned! But I can't complain about changes in schedule when many of those changes were because I was presenting at conferences, interviewing on-campus for jobs, and caring for my sweet baby boy. But it is wonderful to finally have this step of the Ph.D. complete. 

The way Penn State handles the oral exams at the end of the Masters and Ph.D. is a wonderfully reflective experience. And being able to complete these exams just 2 years apart has helped me to reflect on this short, but very concentrated, period of growth in my life. My experiences in course work, as a performer, as a TA, and at conferences have all helped me develop as a musician, scholar, teacher, and mentor. And I credit my professors and colleagues for helping many of those things to develop at the same time. It is wonderful to be in a place where being a good teacher means also being a good musician. Being a good scholar means also being a good teacher. And so on. All of these traits are woven together and the comprehensive package that is offered by so many of my friends and mentors is inspiring. 

In my written comprehensive exam I was able to talk about technology in the orchestra classroom, structure of Beethoven Symphonies, democratic practices in ensembles, and curriculum for undergraduate string music education majors. This is a rather nice glimpse into some of the things most important to me! I'm grateful for my dissertation committee and their time developing these questions that helped me to probe what I am most interested in and passionate about. And our discussion at my oral exam provided additional food for thought. I am continuing to ponder:

  • Why technology? What does it really do that is different than other mediums? Or is it just that it produces results faster?
  • What does "technology," or the principles of technology, look like in places with few resources and little to no technological infrastructure? 
  • Technology is effective for nearly all of us as a logistical and supportive tool. But when is it integral to the activity? What technologies are there (or should there be) in music that are integral to the musical experience?
  • How do democratic practices REALLY impact the ensemble and the lives of the students in that ensemble?
  • Instead of structuring democratic experiences so that students have choice, but cannot fail, should they be allowed to fail completely? 

And surely the list could go on and on. Dr. Gardner has mentioned several times that my dissertation will never be "done," I will simply decide to stop at some point. There will always be more questions to answer. I felt this same way with my comprehensive exam and even more so after the oral exam discussion. There are so many facets to these topics, I think I could be swimming in questions forever! But that's a good thing.

Now to celebrate being ABD, ponder job opportunities for the fall, and get back to work fleshing out my dissertation proposal.