Carmen Woodruff is a Contemporary Vocal Performance graduate student at Berklee’s Valencia campus. Originally from the Detroit Metropolitan area, Carmen attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. After working for 10 years in the marketing field and some serious soul-searching, she went back to school to complete a second degree in Music at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She is now living her dream at Berklee College of Music in Valencia and encourages others to do the same. It’s never too late! Follow Carmen’s musical journey on Facebook or Reverbnation.
“Veni; vidi; vici.” – Julius Caesar
We came; we saw; we conquered. We did it! We made it through our first semester as graduate students at Berklee’s beautiful Valencia campus. We sure are lucky to be a part of this progressive phenomenon where we’re able to create and explore amongst friends we now call our family. As we prepare for Spring semester, I can’t help but to reflect on the past five months we’ve shared.
I think about the study abroad students from the Boston campus who’ve touched our hearts with their infectious energy and talents. One in particular blew me away as she scatted Ella-style while simultaneously playing the drums at Café Mercedes one night. Another student with his wacky hairstyles and witty banter had us all in stitches in keyboarding class every Wednesday. At one point, I started to feel like their mother, instructing them to alert me when they arrived back from a trip to London and worrying about them throughout their weekend journey.
I reminisce on group projects. We in Contemporary Performance are required to take a music business class called Artist Project Management. Some creative-minded, right-brained to the max colleagues took a while to warm up to the idea while others fell in love with it right away. It allowed our analytical wheels to churn, challenging us to take charge of our aspirations, not only onstage but offstage as well. We learned about contracts, social media, finance and entertainment law. And although we collectively found our first exam to be quite challenging (nearly impossible), we redeemed ourselves as we dressed in our business best and presented our cumulative findings in December.
Gigs. I recall gigs. They told us we would have the chance to take the stage but never in my wildest dreams would I have expected this many performance opportunities. We represented Berklee and independently secured gigs in Valencia, not to mention throughout Spain and Europe. For the Berklee opportunities, we most often auditioned for a panel of objective judges who critiqued us on multiple elements. In many ways, this process prepared us for real-life situations as entertainers where we competed and won sometimes and other times we did our best and learned from our mistakes if we were not chosen.
One of my most memorable honors was performing at the Valencia Open 500 tennis tournament of which I had the chance to back up the audition winner, Joey Legant, alongside some dynamic horn players and my good friend from China holding down the other background vocal position. Other fond memories include performing as part of the LAGO concierto series, joining Ricardo Curto for piano/voice duo gigs at Jimmy Glass Jazz Bar, spreading Thanksgiving cheer and collaborating with Music Technology Innovation (MTI) faculty and students to co-write and perform an original song at Innovation ¡En Vivo! alongside rapper and Professor Raydar Ellis and Professor Stephen Webber’s Scratch Ambassadors.
I can be quite a perfectionist, so the thought of writing and presenting an original piece within days was extremely daunting, not to mention a hip hop song. But I worked through the fear and will never forget that night. To witness other people dancing and singing along to my lyrics was surreal for me.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “do one thing every day that scares you.” And that’s what I love about Berklee. We are accepted for the unique individuals we are and encouraged to reach outside of our comfort zones; for in many cases, that is the best way for us to grow. Although Berklee is my dream destination, it’s not fear-free. Nonetheless, not a day goes by when the universe does not affirm that I’m in the right place and now is the right time. And that goes for all of us.
Now is the right time for us to continue to soar and shine. We’ve lived it up in 2014, socially and professionally. We’ve toasted in the New Year and 2015 will surely be one that we will not forget. Looking forward to Spring Professional Development Week, TedEx Berklee Valencia, Berklee Women’s Empower Symposium, the launch of several new Student Affairs initiatives, additional guest lecturers and artists, more recordings, collaborations, presentations, inaugural partnerships and everything else the Spring semester has to offer!