May 28, 2014

Jazz Vocalist Liz Tobias '14 MM Offered These Reflections to the Class of 2014

Hello NEC!

Welcome Moms, Dads, Grandparents, siblings, families and friends. Welcome faculty, staff and special guests, but most importantly, I’d like to welcome the NEC graduates, class of 2014!!!

Take a look around. Look at the composers and conductors. Look at the theorists and music historians. Look at the singers! Look at the string players, the brass players, the wind players, the percussionists. Finally, look at the pianists.

Now, take a second to think about how many practice rooms are available at this very moment while you are all here in Jordan Hall.

I heard a friend of mine say once that when you're not in the practice room working at your craft, there's always someone else putting in the hours and advancing while you're not. What a daunting thought! What an incredible pressure we put on ourselves never to stop working, yet always to be watching the clock. We all do it.

Each one of us has worked so hard to be here and we’re all well aware of the sacrifices we make everyday to succeed in our music. Each one of you has had to put music first at many points in your life to be sitting here in this beautiful hall today.

Some of us have moved across the world to follow our dream, others of us have moved across the country to be here in Boston, but no matter what the sacrifices, we each committed the time to be here. We’re all well aware of that ticking clock which is constantly reminding us that time is slipping away, and in order to be a success, we must not stop!

So many of us live by that clock.

We watch the clock, counting the seconds of our repertoire, knowing that every extra measure means devoting a few more hours of sweat and tears toward the goal of achieving perfection.

We watch the clock, counting the minutes of our studio lessons, being fully aware that during those few precious minutes past the allotted hour, one simple instruction from your teacher has the potential to completely rewrite your monthly practice schedule.

We watch the clock and count the hours we must study for that exam, rehearse with the band, listen to Spotify, live in the library, write a masterpiece or, in my case, count the number of times my eyes glaze over as I do the final revisions on my Sibelius file, knowing that this new composition which I poured my heart and soul into only lasts for 24 measures, and just maybe a lengthy drum solo could be the perfect solution to making it last longer.
How many of us counted the days until a competition deadline or an assignment due date?

How many of us counted the months until today? Graduation day.

For me, I counted the years until I could fulfill my dream of working on a Master’s degree at a conservatory in America. It’s true! Since I was 16 years old I dreamt of packing up my life in Australia and moving to the east coast of America to study at a top conservatory like NEC. I didn’t then realize that my Aussie fashion would be hidden by a puffy jacket and a 6-foot long scarf for 9 months of the year. Knowing that the teachers here are world class, and the education is literally second to none, this was a dream that I lay awake at night thinking about.

Finally, 11 years later, I did it. WE all did it. We’re here.

And now………………. It’s over. We’re finished. But before we move on, it’s time, just for a moment, to stop the clock. Look around and soak up the incredible feeling of accomplishment that we have earned from completing this season of our lives.

The scores are put away, our instruments are in their cases, the piano lids are shut (and the pianists are here!) and our research and writings are abandoned. Just for one moment we can be so proud of what we have achieved. You can look back over the last few years and know that you’ve each accomplished SO MUCH. 

So for today, let’s not watch the clock.

Because this is our time. It’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labor and be proud of the hard work that’s been put in.

It’s time to hold on to the memories we’ve created in this school. Some of us have endured snow days, lock downs, black outs, blizzards, and hurricanes. We watched as NEC opened its doors to many, many great and famous artists who came alongside us with advice and inspiration. Ranging from Elvis Costello and his honorary doctorate right down to Special Elvis and his weekly window concerts of singing and dancing. NEC covers every musical base!

It’s time to embrace one another. NEC is a magical place. It has a mysteriously positive feeling to it and anyone walking through these hallways can sense it. People will smile and say hello to you with the most beautiful sincerity. Despite a healthy sense of competition (which is normal at every single conservatory in the world), there’s such a sense of pride when we hear how an NEC student has succeeded!

I felt the warmth of this place the first moment I stepped through the doors of Jordan Hall two years ago. Nothing has changed. I know that some of the friendships that I’ve here will last for the rest of my life.

Graduates, can I tell you, we came across something pretty special when we committed our educations to NEC. Don’t forget that. Wherever you go from today, you can have a sense of pride that you attended an amazing school full of incredible people.

So, today, I encourage you to stop the clock and enjoy this moment right here, right now. Be proud of your achievement and take a minute to look over the last few years and see that you did well. We did it!

Happy Graduation Day, Class of 2014!!