15 Things I've Learned About Myself

I’m more productive in the morning. I knew back home that I was always more likely to do my homework immediately after school if it was still light outside, but I didn’t realize until I got here that I actually work super efficiently when I get up at 6 and get to my workspace by 7. This is also super great because on most days my classes don’t start until 9:30 or 10, so I have plenty of time to edit my scores or add dynamics and articulations.

I’m more creative at night. Since I’m more productive in the morning and in daylight hours in general, I basically can’t get anything actually done after the sun goes down. That’s usually when I start looking for other things to do, which often means writing. I wrote a whole orchestra piece in two weeks, but the majority of it was finished at 3 AM on a Saturday night. The rest was just orchestration and part layout.

Seeing other passionate people inspires me. I work best when I’m either alone or around other people who are also working super hard. Knowing that my performers are going to practice their butts off makes me want to give them music worth practicing and worth playing. Seeing other composers whip out pieces super easily inspires me too. 

I can’t actually fall asleep listening to music. I keep trying to convince myself that listening to different types of music in my sleep will expand my tastes, but I pay too much attention to it. Unfortunately, I happen to know all the words when Shrek the musical comes on, and why sleep when you could be your own music video?

My brain really likes to-do lists. On un-lined paper. Around the beginning of last year, I realized that I liked taking notes on unlined paper. To me, it just looks more simple and I feel like it allows me more freedom to write what or how I need to. However, I abandoned that organization technique pretty quickly because teachers don’t really like when you hand in homework on 8.5x11 printer paper. This year, it’s the same, but I’ve started organizing myself in the form of to-do lists, which include everything that I know I need to do for the foreseeable future, but highlight the things I need to do now.

I talk to myself when I’m working. Very loudly. I honestly had no idea until the other day when I was on the phone talking through my score with my dad and I was using the earbuds on my phone and I heard “Who is she talking to?” “Oh, probably herself. She does that.” Usually when people are around, I limit the talking to voices in my head, but when I’m by myself, it’s a full-blown conversation about what I’m doing. Once, someone told me they could hear me from down the hall. Yikes.

I can’t be creative all the time. But that doesn’t mean I can’t create all the time. Although my brain cannot handle constant pressure to come up with new things, that’s not all composition is. It’s a balance between that productivity and creativity that I mentioned earlier, and the “productive things” like orchestration and score-fixing are just as important to the final result of the piece.

I’m a very visual person. I used to think I was a kinesthetic learner mixed with some visual tendencies, but being here has shown me that not only am I a visual learner, I’m also a visual person in general. When I draw my music, it takes on a whole new persona for me and if I’m stuck, that’s exactly what I go to. Right now I have a handful of drawings on my desk complete with colored pencils and markers that represent music to me, and that’s super helpful to my brain.

I work best in unfamiliar environments. This one gets kinda tricky because ideally, one finds the perfect workspace that they can always work in and get things done. For me, I work best in places that are different from what I’m used to, because I like to feed off of the initial vibes I get from the space. I think that’s why I’m constantly re-decorating and re-organizing my room and the composition lab. I have to experience change around me, or else I get locked into patterns with my writing. 

I’m super impatient with myself and my growth (or lack thereof). This partially comes from my tendency to compare myself to those around me, which makes me feel like I’m behind where I need to be. Rarely do I ever sit down and think about how much progress I’ve made because I’m really concerned with where I need to be. I remember once an honor band clinician told us that he used to think that the better he got, the closer he would get to his goal, but he soon realized that the better he got, the higher up his goal got, so he actually ended up farther away. 

I’m addicted to the little 30-second cooking videos on Facebook. They should really make it to where the videos don’t automatically play because maybe if I had to click on them, I would feel bad for watching them. Even though I may not always have time for 27 Signs You’re a Band Kid (I don’t need 27 signs to tell me what I already know to be true), I will always take 55 seconds to watch how to make a Pizza Cone, regardless of how disgusting a cone of pizza actually sounds.

I have better conversations with people when I talk less and listen more. I’m kinda bad at this one because I’m definitely one to fill up space by talking about completely irrelevant things, but I definitely have better conversations with my friends when I listen more, especially because once I listen, I can usually connect it to a story or something else that can propel the conversation forward much more than “Wow I really didn’t like lunch today” ever could.

I can’t compose two pieces in the same style or with the same instrumentation in a row. Especially when I threw all of my energy into one of them. For example, after I finished that orchestra piece that I mentioned earlier that took me approximately two weeks, I was completely aware that I had to write a band piece and a chamber work for my roommate. However, what did I do? I took my guitar down by the lake, sang for a while, and then started a jazz piece. 

I really enjoy looking at a piece of music and rhythmically dissecting it. Especially if there is mixed meter. Call me crazy but there’s something oddly satisfying about sitting in rehearsal thinking “one and two and three and a one and two and three and four and five and one two three seventy eight”.

I AM in fact a composer. Let’s be honest in this rigorous of a musical environment, I’ve had some doubts. But I think passion is what happens when you’ve already been writing for 20328483 hours today and you could take a break, but you don’t want to. That and when you wake up realizing that you dreamed about writing a piece…

I hope you guys enjoyed these little fun facts of things that I’ve realized recently, and I hope they make you stop and think about yourself too! Self-reflection is one thing that has become extremely valuable in my life as I take new risks and try new things, so I want to encourage everyone to take time to think because it can be really helpful to sort out some of your tendencies, even if they’re as stupid as your obsession with counting or your addiction to Buzzfood. 

ThoughtsReagan Casteel