Welcome to my website!
I am so excited to finally have an organized space to share upcoming performances, teaching experiences, and my pressing thoughts on music, fluting, and life. 🙂
Writing is a very cathartic experience for me, second only to playing the flute. Throughout the years, I’ve kept several journals devoted to my studies as a musician. When my parents recently moved out of my childhood home, leaving our old piano behind, I came across the notebook of my piano teacher, Ms. Warshany. I was six years old when I began learning the piano, and Ms. Warshany’s patience with me never ran dry. As I thumbed through the journal, filled with penciled stars and scratch-and-sniff stickers (my favorite!), I remembered all the trials and tribulations of a child musician. Ms. Warshany’s perfect script, beckoning me to “practice looking at the music, not at your fingers!”, instantly reminded me of the time she asked my mother to bring a dish towel over to the piano, covering my little hands that hardly spanned an octave. You can imagine how much I enjoyed that lesson! As I got older, I tried my hand at composing: “Gentle Rain,” by Jennifer Anne Tobin, age 7 1/2 (very precise, even then…) featured ascending and descending minor chords that Ms. Warshany helped me notate on wide staff paper.
As I got older, the journals changed forms. 5th grade’s featured a lock and key, a foreboding message sprawled across the cover: “KEEP OUT!”. Interestingly, 8th grade’s featured a 2008 entry entitled “where will I be in 10 years?” in which I begged my future self to:
- Attend college and earn a degree in music (did it – AND graduated as valedictorian of my music class! 8th grade me would be so proud.)
- NEVER lose contact with my middle school band director, Mr. Arnold (he reached out to me on my most recent birthday and has remained a faithful mentor, whom I now address as Chris.)
- Always be thankful for the people in my life who support and love me (I’ve really lucked out on this one, as I’ve got more people on my team cheering me on than I could have ever imagined!)
- NEVER attempt to wear old mascara again (duly noted).
As my studies in music got more serious, so, too, did my notebooks. High school’s featured lots of capital letters and exclamation points: “HIGH Bb!!” or “WAIT – PLAY ON BEAT 2!!!” or “DYNAMICS – PLAY THEM!!!” Looking back, it seems as though I assumed that yelling those commands, turning my inward dialogue into something more domineering, was the only way I could instill high standards and be the best version of myself. It took until the middle of my undergrad career for me to stop spinning my wheels and instead treat myself with more softness, self-compassion, and mindfulness. That journey, from the relentless echo of “this isn’t good enough” to the more peaceful mantra of “who you are is good enough” is documented throughout my college flute lessons with David DiGiacobbe, who has since turned into a great mentor and friend. From our recorded lessons in my audio journal, I can hear myself start to ask the right questions, the ones that led me to higher musicianship and lessons that every musician has to learn: dealing with other personalities in the ensemble, maintaining professionalism, coping with rejection, celebrating victories (big and small), practicing effectively, adjusting musical nuances, bringing myself to the music while honoring the composer’s wishes. As I discovered the answers to my existential questions, my flute playing began to take form and personality.
Upon graduation and shortly after accepting my first teaching offer, my journal focused less on musicianship and more on pedagogical approaches. In the beginning of this new career, the adjustment from student mentality to teaching persona was difficult. The first few months included journal entries hastily scribbled at 11pm, simply including 3 good things that happened to me that day, interspersed with anxieties about my students and my hopes for their futures that kept me awake at night. Soon, however, I found that my fingers itched for the feel of my flute keys while I was busy writing lesson plans or swimming my way out of the sea of paperwork that seemed to flood every desk and tote bag I owned. While I was busy pouring myself into my job as Ms. Tobin, the band teacher, I began to lose myself as Jen, the flutist – the part of me that I love and identify with the most.
Since that first year of public school teaching, I have made it a priority to always be both teacher and musician-performer, balancing the two. And while this blog may not feature scratch-and-sniff stickers (if only!), I still set goals for myself like I did in 8th grade, I still overdo the exclamation points every now and then like in high school, and I still have the attention to detail that I learned from my lessons with David in undergrad to practice effectively and self-assess with the right questions. My intention is for this blog to become my new journal, documenting my curious mind and furthering the journey to bettering myself as a performer, teacher, vessel of the music, and ultimately, a better person. I hope my journey inspires or resonates with yours.