Meghan Taylor is a clarinetist, educator, and event coordinator based in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Her goal for this blog is to share something weekly that interests her. These topics will vary from music to event planning, the clarinet, writing, photography, career development, and many more fascinating topics.
Attending conferences pertaining to your field is definitely one of the best ways to supplement your education and network with people from the industry. However, planning the finances behind attending conferences can seem daunting. After deciding on a conference that you would like to attend, it’s time to begin planning and saving for the trip. Here are a few ways that I cut costs when planning my trip:
1. Register to Volunteer
Conferences require a large number of people working behind-the-scenes in order to make everything run smoothly. Luckily for attendees looking to save a bit of money, some conferences, like ClarinetFest, cover your registration fee in exchange for a few hours of volunteer work throughout the conference. My first time volunteering at a conference was actually this past summer at ClarinetFest in Orlando, Florida. I was able to get a taste of what it was like to run a conference through helping with stage management, door monitoring, and working registration. Plus, I was able to network with a bunch of other clarinetists from around the world that I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet otherwise! In exchange for less than 12 hours of volunteer time during the conference, my registration fee was paid for (and I got a free t-shirt)!
Meghan as a volunteer at ClarinetFest in Orlando, Florida
2. Student Organizations (NAfME, CMS, Band Fraternities, etc.)
Many college and universities have a Student Activities Board that has a set of funds that are allocated to them via student activity fees. If you are a member of a student organization, it is possible that your school may have a system set up so that student organizations can apply to get some of the funds distributed to their group to use for conference attendance. For example, the NAfME Chapter at my undergraduate institution was able to earn enough allocated funding from our Student Activities Board in order to send 8 students to The Midwest Clinic for just $100 out of pocket per person. Using the funding provided by our Student Activities Board for travel purposes made the trip a lot more affordable for each student.
3. Planning Meals
One of the biggest expenses when traveling can be eating out for every meal. Typically, I try to either stay at a hotel that has a continental breakfast or I bring something back to my room to eat in the morning before heading out to the conference for the day. In the past, I have even gone to Walgreen’s or CVS to pick up some peanut butter and bread to make sandwiches with, so that I can eat those for breakfast instead of paying to go out.
If I am driving to the conference, I typically bring some granola bars, apples, and some almonds with me in the car (I also add these items to my Walgreen’s shopping list if I fly to the conference), so that I can munch on them while I’m spending the day at the conference. This way when I’m ready to eat a meal, I don’t overeat and spend more money than I need to. By eating breakfast at the hotel before heading out for the day and bringing snacks, I am able to save money on my meals while at a conference.
4. Make Plans with Your Friends!
As soon as you have decided on a conference that you might like to attend, start asking around to see if any of your peers may be interested in attending the same conference. Going to a conference in a group can be a great way cut the costs of attending. Sharing the costs of renting a hotel room, gas, Lyft rides, and potentially some meals minimize the expenses for all parties involved.
However, this can take some communication to make sure that everyone understands what he or she is financially responsible for. In the past when I traveled in a car with a group of people, we calculated the estimated amount of gas (plus about $50 extra for emergencies) that we would need use on our trip using AAA’s trip calculator. After calculating that, we divided the total by the number of people riding in the car. Then on the day of the trip, everyone is expected to bring that much cash and it goes in an envelope that stays in the car and is only used for gas (and tolls if necessary). At the end of the trip, if there is any money leftover it is equally split between all parties involved. As far as splitting the cost of hotels, I find it easiest to pay the person who booked the hotel back on an individual basis. However, I know some hotel front desks allow you to split the bill up during checkout.
Laura, Meghan, and Alejandra at ClarinetFest in Lawrence, Kansas
These are just a few of the things that I have done to cut the costs of attending a conference. Volunteering, asking for funding through your school, planning out meals in advance, and going with some friends have all helped me to save some money at conferences I have attended in the past.
Stay tuned for my next post about putting together a conference budget!
As a student and young professional, attending conferences pertaining to your profession is essential for career development. As a student, I was always yearning to learn and experience as much as possible about music education and the clarinet. My clarinet teacher at the time, Karl Kolbeck, suggested that I attend the Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium in 2012. Attending the symposium sparked my craving for the concentrated learning, unmatched experiences, and networking opportunities that many conferences have to offer their attendees.
Oklahoma Clarinet Symposium in 2012 - This was my first time seeing so many new clarinets in the same room!
I am going to make a generalization about most of the music-related conferences that I have attended and say that most of the activities on the schedule fall into one of three categories: masterclasses, lectures, and performances. These categories are fairly self-explanatory, but here are some quick definitions. Masterclasses are sessions where students and young professionals prepare repertoire or excerpts to perform in front of a group of attendees. After the performance, a master teacher works with the performer to improve aspects of his or her playing. During lecture sessions, an expert on a particular subject presents information for a group of attendees. In this category, I am also including panel discussions where a group of experts on a subject take questions from the audience and answer them for the group. Finally, performances are opportunities for musicians to play both standard and new repertoire for the enjoyment of the audience. This is an excellent opportunity for students to witness professionals performing live! This trifecta of learning opportunities makes up the bulk of most conferences. Experiencing a variety of these activities at a conference is crucial for getting the most out of each conference.
Attending a wide variety of conferences, including The NAMM Show, The Midwest Clinic, ClarinetFest, and TMEA, has provided me with some pretty incredible experiences that I would not have had in a traditional classroom. In 2015 at Midwest ClairFest (hosted by Dr. Diane Barger at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln), I had the opportunity to perform during a masterclass with Dr. Frank Kowalsky. Later the same year at the Dallas Clarinet Colloquium (hosted by Dr. Mary Alice Druhan in Dallas, TX), I performed during a masterclass for Dr. Kimberly Cole-Luevano. These were some of the most nerve-wracking, but rewarding performances of my life. I learned so much from putting myself out there and playing for these incredible clarinetists. In 2017, I was selected to serve as an event writer for ClarinetFest in Orlando, Florida. During the conference, I went to sessions, took photos, and wrote about various things that were going on at the conference. My writings and photos were then shared on the International Clarinet Association’s social media platforms and were published in The Clarinet as part of the conference review! My most recent experience at a conference actually happened last month when I served as an intern for the College Music Society during The NAMM Show. As an intern, I worked mostly with the GenNext Program that occurs during the conference as part of NAMM’s educational curriculum. During the sessions, I had the opportunity get involved in the behind the scenes operations of a conference.
Performing on a masterlcass with Dr. Frank Kowlasky
The networking opportunities available at conferences are truly unmatched. As a student and young professional, I truly believe that attending conferences is one of the best ways to meet new people that share the same interests as you (and who might be able to help you get a job someday). Effectively networking a skill that I am continually trying to strengthen, but I really enjoy going to conferences in order to practice. However, my networking goals at many of the early conferences I attended were to simply be friendly and introduce myself to as many people as possible. Now, I try to network as much as possible during conferences even while sitting next to someone new as we are waiting for a session to start. If you are new to networking (or are a little shy like me), this is a great place to start. In the future, I am going to do a whole blog post about networking, so I don’t want to spoil too much more now!
Conferences continue to be one of the things I look forward to each year. I have really enjoyed my time traveling the United States meeting new people, participating in new things, and gaining so much additional knowledge about my instrument and profession. If you have never attended a conference, I highly encourage you to take a chance and go! You never know what you may learn, whom you may meet, or what opportunity awaits.
Several years ago, I learned about the app Practice+ Tuner & Metronome during a presentation at a music conference. After trying Practice+ out a home, it quickly became one of my favorite apps to use while practicing and I still use this app daily.
Home Screen and Metronome
Practice+ opens with a sleek and minimalist design. Navigation icons are located at the top of the screen and the metronome rests at the bottom. Minor tempo adjustments can be made by pressing the - or + icons or the user can also the run his or her finger along the circle surrounding the current tempo to make larger adjustments. Users can also input their own desired tempo by pressing the “Tap” button at the top of the screen until the desired tempo is reached. Pressing the current tempo numerically displayed at the bottom of the screen will start the metronome. Once the metronome is on a verticle bar will appear on the main portion of the screen to highlight the passage of time between each beat.
Pressing the icon with three lines on the left side of the home page will open up the settings menu. On this screen, users can adjust the background color of the app for aesthetic purposes. There are also several different metronome sounds to choose from, which is one of my favorite features of the app. Maybe it’s just me, but I am very particular about my metronome sound. My favorite metronome sound on this app is called “Digital.”
This menu also allows the user to adjust the meter and subdivisions. The app offers a variety of meters to choose from and users can select which macrobeats have the most emphasis through selecting or deselecting the beat at the top of the screen. However, one downfall of the app is that users are not able to mute unwanted parts of the subdivided beat. For example, you are not able to select just the first and fourth sixteenth note (in 4/4 time) to create a dotted eighth-sixteenth sound. The app will, however, create complex subdivisions by varying the current metronome sound.
Another one of my favorite features of this app is the metronome setlist. Users can access this setlist by simply selecting the list icon at the top right of the screen. My setlist contains the metronome settings that I use for several warmup exercises that I do daily and the repertoire that I am currently working on.
In order to save a new metronome setting to the setlist, the user must adjust the metronome to the desired meter, tempo, and subdivision. After adjusting the metronome to the desired settings, pressing the + sign on the top right of the setlist screen will allow the user to save the settings for future use.
Recording on Practice+
Pressing the microphone at the top of the screen will open the recording feature of Practice+. This app allows the user to record with or without the metronome. In my experience, recordings while using the metronome come out much better if the player is using headphones to hear the metronome, however, the app will allow the user to record with the metronome out loud if necessary. Once a recording is complete, it is saved in the app for playback. Recordings are also easily shared via text message, email, or through being uploaded to other third-party apps.
Selecting the loop icon at the top will bring up Practice Mode. This screen allows the user to loop measures in order to practice difficult passages. The app automatically increases the tempo after each repetition and times the practice session to help users keep track of how much time they spend on a particular section.
Selecting the tuning fork at the top of the screen will bring up the app’s built-in tuner.
Practice+ is definitely one of my most frequently used apps during my practice sessions. I love the minimalist design and the easy-to-use interface. Plus, the setlist feature is so convenient for organizing and saving frequently used settings. If you have never used this app it is definitely worth downloading to your smart device for a test drive!
Over the past few months, I have been toying with the idea of starting a blog to document some aspects of my life as a student. However, I haven’t really felt like I had something interesting to contribute until now. This year, I will be graduating with my master’s degree in music and will begin pursuing a career. This transition has rekindled my desire for starting a blog in order to provide some insight for other students graduating and moving on to a career.
My goal for this blog is to share something weekly that interests me. These topics will vary from music to event planning, the clarinet, writing, photography, career development, and many more fascinating topics.
I am so excited to start this adventure!
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