First Student Speech at Commencement

MSM graduate Eric Goldberg (BM ’17, Percussion) was chosen to deliver the first-ever student speech at this years commencement. Nominations were submitted from the graduating class and students with multiple nominations were invited to interview with the Office of Student Engagement. From this group, Student Engagement selected three students who they felt had something interesting to say and would represent the institution, their class, and the student body well. The Student Council was given the opportunity to make the final selection and ultimately chose senior Eric Goldberg. Eric gave us permission to publish his speech, which we feel will resonate with many alumni:

"Graduates – here we are! It’s been an enlightening and rewarding journey for us all, I’m sure. We came to this institution with an insatiable hunger to bring music from being a part of our lives to being our lives…our love for it was true enough that we were willing to dedicate several years to refining our craft and giving it our unrelenting energy and attention.

Many lessons, coachings, rehearsals, auditions, and hours of practice later, we sit here as completely transformed musicians…and human beings, who have learned and grown in ways we might never have imagined.

Today is an extremely fulfilling and proud day – no doubt. We look back on all the experiences we’ve had here at MSM and how far we’ve come and we must feel a great sense of accomplishment. However, this is a step that is bound to provoke some degree of anxiety and discomfort for many of us. 
We have chosen to pursue a life path where we love what we do so, so much, but there is the inevitable concern that our careers might not be exactly what we want them to be. For those hoping to join institutions such as orchestras, opera companies, or universities, while we have the knowledge and ability to complete successful auditions and interviews, we are going up against many other musicians of a similar caliber. For those hoping to pursue freelance careers as performers, composers, or teachers, we might have to wait for the engagements we’re looking for to come, and once they start, we might worry if it will continue to the degree that we need to sustain a living. For those who plan to go on and pursue a career in a field separate from music, you may feel uneasiness as your time and focus shifts to something very different than you’ve been used to. If any of this sounds familiar, just know that you are surrounded by many, many others who are in the same boat – myself included. However, no matter what our careers end up looking like, I know they will be deeply enriching and enjoyable as long as we keep a couple of things in mind.

One of the most important things I’ve come to realize recently is the need to act with complete conviction and purpose. Know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then do it with true authority.

Last semester, I had a session I really will never forget with Jeff Milarsky, conductor of the MSM Percussion Ensemble and of Tactus, the ensemble of the Contemporary Performance Program. I was preparing to go abroad for a solo competition and had many, many different pieces I was playing at the same time…I was practicing so many hours a day but with the mindset that there was no way that I had the slightest shot at winning, or even advancing past the first round. However, I would soon realize that that was far from the best attitude to have. After I played my first piece for Jeff, I felt rather good about how it went…I looked up at him afterwards and he sat quietly, nodding his head with a sort of pensive look…He looked up at me and said, “ must realize that you have nothing to apologize for.”…I really had no idea what he meant…He said, “You have nothing to apologize for. You are playing this piece
correctly. The notes, the dynamics, everything he’s written on the page. But, I don’t get the sense that you are convinced by your own take on this piece. You are completely entitled to your interpretation, but we won’t understand it if you’re afraid to show it to us. You must act as if no one in the world has ever heard this piece, and you are telling us how it’s supposed to go. With that much intensity, personality and confidence. Then, that will be a successful performance.” It was so wonderfully matter of fact. Of course, we all have the goal to give effective performances, but what we must never forget to consider is how OUR performance is going to truly be OURS.

Realize what your ideas are, realize what you are drawn to and what makes you you, and present yourself exactly that way. That should be our goal. 

I thought that was so beautifully put, and it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time…and I truly hope that it might provide some inspiration for you right now.
To act with conviction is one thing…but to act with your heart is completely separate and just as important. I’ve found in these past few years that it’s a difficult thing to let yourself be truly connected with your work…especially when you perform in front of an audience or a panel that you are trying to please and you can’t help but constantly be in fear of making a mistake or comparing yourself to your colleagues or competitors. However, the best work that we do is when we can shut those thoughts off, channel our love for what we do, and let that drive us. I spoke recently with MSM professor Dr. Kariné Poghosyan…I discussed with her the difficulty that I’ve had with my mental health in these past few years and how I felt it might be an obstacle so strong that it would keep me from reaching the level of performance and success I am dreaming of…She told me, “This issue that you describe has been felt deeply by myself and pretty much everyone I ever encountered on my path…I have personally found myself feeling most miserable when I was aware of other people, measuring what you called being successful by some invisible and unattainable standard…I went through all that frustration only to realize that there is only one form of success…That's when I play the music and just close my eyes and feel that I am coming alive…That's success, and that deep love is what I try to focus on to help carry me through the day. If I am not loving myself, I am not motivated to work. Please focus on that – love – that is everything. It is a force for life.”

We’ve spent so much time at this school working on what we love more than anything. We’ve learned so much about it from many, many different brilliant instructors. We’ve spent so much time with ourselves, learning who we are, as artists, as thinkers, as people. We have serious passion within us, and, by now, I think we know what we can do with it and what we want to say. So, let’s say it."


Watch Commencement 2017>>

MSM Graduates pose for a photo prior to performing Handels “Music for the Royal Fireworks”, HWV 351 

Graduating senior Eric Goldberg (MM ’17) is MSMs first-ever Commencement student speaker.

Associate Dean and Director of the Jazz Arts Program Stefon Harris (BM 95, MM 97) delivers the 2017 Commencement Address.

Alumna and Board member Noémi Karpati Neidorff (BM 70, MM 72) receives an honorary doctorate.

Alumna and faculty member Carol Ann Aicher (MM 90) receives the Presidents Medal for Distinguished Service.

One of many selfies on Graduation Day
MSM graduates performing Mendelssohns String Quartet in F minor, Op. 80