The Origins of "Trauma and Triumph"

How did a simple graduate requirement become such a personal, expansive, collaborative, and powerful advocacy tour?

Many elements collided to create this project. From the pragmatic side of things, a graduate recital was required for graduation from the Masters program at Indiana University. Knowing that needed to be accomplished, I sought repertoire that would be unique and challenging. Eventually, I found works by female composers that I really enjoyed playing and found compelling. As I discovered my repertoire, I realized that the emotional content of the works is what drew me into selecting them.

From the emotional side of things, I had been in therapy for a while dealing with the aftermath of un-repressed memories of being sexually assaulted in my adolescence. The Sexual Assault Crisis Services through Indiana University's counseling services did wonders for my healing, and I finally felt comfortable sharing my story with loved ones and good friends. Being in this space of finding strength through vulnerability left me searching for a way to give back and fight against the epidemic of sexual violence.

Finally, from an academic perspective, I had spent my time at Indiana University studying with Jeff Nelsen, and by this point, I believed in the immense power of telling stories through music. My very best performances at IU were born of personal connections to repertoire by finding my unique voice to tell my stories. By the time I was planning my recital, I knew I wanted to tell a deeply personal, engaging story. I knew I wanted to take the audience on a journey. I knew I had a compelling, meaningful, and relevant story to tell, especially on a college campus plagued by sexual violence.

The pragmatic, emotional, and academic elements combined into a whirlwind of serendipitous recital planning. I watched the puzzle pieces swirl around in chaotic patterns until they eventually all found each other, locking together to create a clear image of my recital.

The tour would fulfill professional goals of going on a recital tour and collaborating with other musicians. The tour would fulfill academic requirements of completing a graduate recital to finish my masters. The tour would fulfill my personal goals of sharing my story and advocating against rampant sexual violence. The tour would fulfill my desire to share the music of incredible female composers with the world. In my gut, I knew it was the right decision. Everything. Just. Fit.

I added narrative passages before each piece to emphasize the strength of my voice. I actually wanted to be a writer up until the assault. After it happened, I lost my ability to assert myself with words. That void was filled quickly by music, which did not make me speak my story with words (that is, until I started studying with Jeff at IU). It's bizarre to think that I might not be a musician today if it weren't for my assault. That's a train of thought I have yet to completely grapple with, but ultimately, I am thankful to be fluent in both writing and music as means to communicate with others.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with a little anecdote about this recital tour:

I recently found an old planner of mine from 2012 that outlined long-term musical goals I wished to accomplish. "Go on a recital tour" was scribbled in sloppy cursive, surrounded with chicken scratch mind mapping of how I might accomplish this. This idea had been marinating for years in my heart, waiting for just the right moment to come to fruition. With great reverence, I checked "go on a recital tour" off of my to-do list, chuckling at young, naive Kristen and how she had no idea just what that would someday entail.

Here's my call to action for artists everywhere: Dream outside the box frequently. Try new things and fail horribly at them. Write down your farfetched ideas often, and refer to them frequently. Because after all, they may someday turn out to be your greatest accomplishments.

#music #frenchhorn #classicalmusic #saam

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Kristen Friend  |   kfowl@vt.edu

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