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Tell us about yourself! (Name, instrument, school, teacher, interests)

I’m Xavier Perry, I’m 19, and I’m about to be a sophomore at Drake University. I’m majoring in Music Performance on cello under the study of Dr. Ashley Sidon, who I think is an awesome teacher, and who helped introduce me to a lot of interesting pieces during my time there so far. As for my other interests, I like to casually play with the chess club. I also enjoy going out to nearby restaurants with friends every once in a while.

Xavier with friendsDo you have a favorite composer? What music do you like to listen to?

I don’t really have a favorite composer or genre of music, since I’m the kind of person who will just listen to anything that interests me at the time, which goes in and out of rotation. As of right now, though, one of my favorite pieces is Cesar Franck’s Sonata in A Major, which I think is a wonderfully written composition that I’m also currently working on (although it’s an arrangement for cello and piano).

What has been a highlight of your time in college so far?

There have been quite a few highlights in college so far, but in general, one of the best parts is with the way classes are scheduled. Unlike high school, where you would have back to back classes for 7-8 hours a day, five days a week, there’s a lot more space between classes for you to have time to do various things, like exploring your interests or, of course, practicing. There’s also a lot more focus on the subjects relating to your specific major/minor, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time outside of classes studying for subjects you don’t plan on continuing in the future, and because of that, it creates a much more focused environment for learning about music.

Xavier dorm roomI didn’t really know how much I didn’t like the high school system of classes until the pandemic hit, when all classes became virtual and I found myself on online meetings, constantly distracted from my classes by things like playing chess matches or audition preparation. There’s also the highlight of there being a lot to do within the campus, since there is a group for almost every imaginable hobby/activity somewhere and you can easily find a community for it.

What was a difficult moment about your time so far?

Definitely one of the most difficult moments of college is getting settled into college life, where a lot of people find it very difficult to feel comfortable at first in a completely new environment completely surrounded by strangers. This was a problem for me as well, since I had always been the kind of person who likes to be around people I already know instead of constantly meeting new people. That issue was resolved for me pretty quickly, though, when a guy in the dorm room across from mine, who was also a cellist, introduced me to a group of friends who became the main group that I liked to hang out with throughout the school year. Getting used to being on campus can take anywhere from days to months for some people, but it always gets easier. People are pretty friendly, so I’d encourage anyone to find people who you have things in common with, either within the same dorm or through a club or community of some sort.

What advice do you have for CMPI seniors as they make the transition into college? CMPI students in general?

For CMPI seniors who are transitioning into college, I do have a bit of advice. For one, while the textbook costs aren’t as much as some of the other majors, do be prepared to purchase quite a few music books for your studies throughout the year. Compared to previous lessons, you will fly through repertoire pretty fast, especially etudes. I also recommend taking outside performance/music opportunities when you can, since a lot of the cellists at my school snatch them up fast whenever our teacher emails them to us, and they also can help to give you experience and opportunities for future experiences.

Xavier concertAs for advice for CMPI students as a whole, it is really important to develop a warm-up routine before you start practicing repertoire, since it’s a really great way to develop good technique and intonation without having to worry about all the other tidbits of a piece. It’s great to even change what things you focus on in your warm ups to help prepare you for the piece you are about to practice (ex: warming up with spiccato practice before playing a piece I want to have better spiccato in).

How do you handle organization and the balance of practice and human time?

As far as managing the balance between practice and human time goes, it’s honestly something that I’m always working on myself. I think the best thing that’s worked for me so far is scheduling my practice time, making sure that I have designated enough time in the day for me to work on my materials. I find it easier to be motivated to practice when I do the bulk of it around the times of other important things, like classes. For example, I usually have a span of two hours on Fridays in between my orchestra and chamber music classes of free time, and so I like to schedule my practice time there, with the thought process of, “Well I already have my cello with me, might as well…” It’s just easier to be productive when you’re already in the process of being productive. In a high school schedule, it might be easier to start off in the mornings before classes, before you’re tired from all the classes and homework you had to do. During college, I used my time before dinner for things like practice, classes, and errands, and left other things (like hanging out with friends or club meetings) afterwards, which I think helped to create clear distinctions between productive and wind-down times. Whatever you do, it’s all about managing time wisely and consistency, sticking to a routine to make doing those things as effortless and intuitive as possible.

As of right now, what is a goal you are actively working towards?

As of right now, during my summer break from college, I’m just trying to improve as much as possible and get some spending money for when school starts again. If I could “wow” my teacher with my progress when I get back, that would be great (haha).

Anything else you would like to share?

Senioritis is a real thing… DON’T.


Images from Xavier Perry

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