Tag Archives: music

Advice For ph.d. students

By Wei Gao

Edited by Natalie Grace Sipula

[3 minute read]

Are you a Ph.D. student? If you are, or you are considering pursuing a PhD, I have some advice for you. I am currently a PhD student, and without receiving advice from different individuals in my life, I wouldn’t have the outlook I do now. I want to share one particular word of advice that had a great impact on me, which I think could have an impact on any PhD student.

To fully explain why the advice I received was so important to me, I must introduce the person who gave it to me: meet my friend Tanya [ˈtɑːnjə]. Tanya is from China (the Chinese pronunciation of her name is Tanya [tán yǎ]). I met Tanya for the first time a few years ago in 2016 at an academic conference in Shanghai. As a graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tanya was certainly a rising star in academia. I was responsible for her reception when she came to my university as a guest for the conference. Since it was such a rare opportunity to speak one-one-one with such a distinguished scholar, I asked her, “Tanya, I plan on pursuing a Ph.D. degree in the near future. Could you please give me some advice about how to do good research?” She replied, “Lady Gaga is a great singer; a real artist. You should listen to her music.” Then she left. Needless to say, I was confused after hearing that. I thought to myself, “So does she mean I should listen to Lady Gaga’s music to become a good researcher?” Following her suggestion, I started to listen to Lady Gaga’s music. However, after I listened to all of Lady Gaga’s songs, my research skills had only marginally improved.

Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

One year later, someone told me that Tanya hadn’t published any papers this year. I couldn’t believe it, but after checking her website I realized this person was right. Soon after, I heard people starting to gossip, “Tanya is not a rising star any longer,” “Tanya flops”, “Tanya isn’t what she used to be”. I was genuinely worried about her, and I kept wondering what had happened.

A year later, I met her in person again at another academic conference in Washington DC. After some small talk, I had to mention, “Tanya, I have been following your research, but it seems that you haven’t updated your website for some time.” Although I didn’t ask directly why she hadn’t published anything notable, she quickly understood what I meant. Then she said, “Remember a couple years ago when I asked you to listen to Lady Gaga’s music? Here’s why I did that. Lady Gaga had a commercially successful career for several years. Then, she flopped in 2013 when she released her album Artpop. So what happened? Instead of just satisfying the public, Lady Gaga was trying to produce an album created from an artist’s perspective. Thus, the album Artpop was not accepted by the majority, although it had a large influence on the music industry overall when we look back at it today. The subjects of this album, art and pop, can be considered by many to be antithetical. She caused a stir with her pop fans when she picked sides. Lady Gaga chose art, but that came with a cost.” 

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Bored During Quarantine? Here’s How to Get Started Learning a Musical Instrument!

by Michael Neufeld

Note from the Editor: We understand that buying new instruments might not be financially possible right now. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but this is what the author recommends as an option.

By now, you’re probably sick of avoiding the sick. What is left to do when you’ve already exhausted your favorite TV shows, read all your books, and grown tired of your arsenal of video games or other hobbies? A great idea would be to learn a new musical instrument! As a music student at Thornton, I already know a few instruments, but I’m taking this opportunity to improve my skills and even to learn a new one. Here’s a brief guide detailing some things to consider when starting out.

Photo from PXHere

The starting place for learning a new instrument is first acquiring an instrument to learn. There are many places to start for something like this, so normally it’s best to go into a physical store and talk to someone who can help you figure out what you’re looking for. Unfortunately, with coronavirus so pressing, it may be a little difficult to go somewhere like Guitar Center to get that help, and you may have to resort to ordering online. Here are a few options to help you get an idea!

For acoustic guitar: There are three examples I have for you as far as price and quality of instrument go. First, the guitar I currently play on is an older Takamine guitar, so it isn’t listed on Amazon; however a similar model is this Takamine Acoustic-Electric for $700. The professional features of a model like this include a beautifully resonant body and a dependable neck for being in tune. The biggest contributor to the cost is the “plug-in” part, with a tuner and some other fancy options on it. However, that’s an example of a very high-end instrument. The average beginner guitar that I started on when I was ten years old is the Baby Taylor for about $350. What you’re getting with this is a smaller guitar with an open body that provides nice resonance for a good sound, and still smaller distances between frets to make it easier for people with smaller hands, or just newcomers to playing guitar. And a cheap case (a necessity) is included if it is bought on Amazon! Still a little outside of your price range? Perfectly understandable if you aren’t ready to commit to a pricier instrument. The cheapest I found at first glance on Amazon is this basic beginner’s guitar set at $44.99. Included is everything you need to get started: a case, a tuner, a pick, a strap, and even extra strings! The tradeoff, though, is you may sacrifice some of its ability to keep in tune, and it might not be quite as resonant. Whatever you choose will be good for if you are just starting off!

Photo from UIHere
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5 of the Best Music Venues in Los Angeles

By Michael Neufeld

Did you know that there is an opportunity all over the Los Angeles area to see great musical performances?

Los Angeles is home to the largest music scene on America’s west coast. In fact, many people argue it is the best place to see musical performances in the nation. Many clubs and bars are open late into the night with a host of musical groups performing. Many theaters exist in Downtown LA, Hollywood, and across the rest of the Los Angeles area. With so many venues, there is never a lack of live music to go see. Here are five of the best places to go see music:

1. Greek Theatre

Photo from Wikipedia

The Greek Theatre is one of the more well known music venues in Los Angeles. This outdoor theater is only open during certain months, typically closed during the colder parts of the year. It’s a great place to go see not only musical groups, but comedians and other forms of live entertainment. With its outdoor atmosphere, one can be in a natural setting amongst greenery under the stars at late night performances. The theatre is located in Griffith Park and seats 5,900 people.

2. El Rey

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

El Rey Theatre literally translates to “The King Theatre,” which makes sense when you see its regal interior. This all-ages venue has been home to both world-famous musicians and local, upcoming newbies. Interestingly, the theatre has committed itself to reducing the environmental impact it has. Although El Rey is a standing-only venue, it is a great place to go see shows.

3. Hollywood Bowl

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

You may have heard of this one before. In one episode of the cartoon “Tom and Jerry,” the cat and mouse duo hilariously go back and forth attempting to conduct a symphonic orchestra performing in a cartoon version of this theatre. The Hollywood Bowl is recognizable by its half-dome-shaped interior, though it is an outdoor theatre. Seating 17,500 people, the venue boasts a wide variety of music, from classics like Mozart to newer music masters like Herbie Hancock.

4. The Wiltern

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

This indoor venue features some of the most ground-breaking performances of music in Los Angeles. The Wiltern is recognizable from a distance by its height compared to surrounding buildings. The theatre seats between 1,850 to 2,300 people, depending on if the ground floor is a standing room or not.

5. Walt Disney Concert Hall

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, this concert hall is easily recognized by its distinct architecture. Like the Hollywood Bowl, the Walt Disney Concert Hall presents varied music, from the LA Phil to Herbie Hancock. This concert hall features an enormous pipe organ and a gorgeous interior. With over 2,000 seats on all sides of the orchestra, you’ll never have enough to look at, or even listen to. 

Tickets and a calendar for performances for the Greek Theatre, El Rey, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Wiltern can be found on their websites. Tickets and a calendar for the Walt Disney Concert Hall can be found on the LA Phil website.

Featured image by Floyd B. Bariscale on Flickr

Michael is a junior majoring in Jazz Studies at the Thornton School of Music. He lived in Fresno, California until moving to L.A. for college. In his free time, he can be found practicing the trombone, or playing video games. Michael has traveled all around North America, and he loves getting to know new people, listening to stories, and being a friend to others.