Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fulbright ao Brasil! Part 1

After months of waiting, I finally found out last week that I have been selected as a Fulbright scholar to do research in Brazil for 9 months next year!  I completed the application in September, found out that I was recommended for the grant by the National Screening Committee in late January, and then told I would hear a decision anytime between February and June, as results come out as each country's program makes their decisions.

I'd been really pretty good at not getting too anxious about hearing from them and not wondering whether any other applicants had heard back or not. Then a week ago I got curious and did a Google search for "Fulbright Notifications 2012-2013" and found this forum where all these people were discussing how they have been pestering the Fulbright people about when they should hear from them country, and complaining that they were checking their email every five minutes for it, among other things.  Then, it just so happens, the next morning I received the email notifying me of my award.

For anyone who is interested in applying for a Fulbright, or is just curious, here is my story of successfully receiving one (although I'm sure the story of my time in Brazil on the Fulbright will be much more exciting that this!)

I believe the first time I first learned about and considered the possibility of applying for a Fulbright was during my junior year of college, which was about 5 years ago.  I had just spent a semester in Perugia, Italy (which is now [in]famous for being the city of the Amanda Knox murder [although a few months ago she was found innocent and released from jail], which happened while I was living there and literally right down the street from my apartment!) and had caught the travel bug.  I went to an information session on Fulbright grants given by our representative on campus, but I didn't have any good ideas for a project at that time.  Fulbright requires you to apply to a single country and have a very good reason for having to travel to that country in order to complete your project.  Many musicians who get Fulbrights use them to go study with a certain teacher in another country, and I was looking to find a teacher somewhere in Europe that I wanted to study with, but nothing came of it.  Additionally, most countries require proficiency in their dominant language and that you obtain an affiliation (which is pretty much a letter of invitation) with an institution, organization, or person, which usually is obtained through a person's contacts and extended network.  Instead of trying to come up with a good project in order to apply for a Fulbright after I finished my Bachelor's degree, I applied and went to graduate school for my masters degree instead.

I decided early on in graduate school that I wanted to continue and complete a doctoral degree, but to spend some years after getting my masters trying to freelance, do artist residencies (I'm doing one right now!) and travel as much as I could (and have it paid for) while I was still young and didn't have my roots sunk into one particular place.  During the summer in between completing my Bachelor's and beginning graduate school, I happened to attend an amazing summer program called the Fusion Arts Exchange at Northeastern University in Boston (which, interestingly enough, was funded by the United States Department of State, just as the Fulbright program is.  I was there for the third year of the program, but unfortunately the next year they withdrew funding and have yet to have the program again.)  I spent six weeks taking classes, making music, and living with 19 other college-age musicians from the US, Ireland, India, South Africa, Brazil, and Mali.  I could go on and on about how amazing this experience was, but one thing I gained from it was that the Brazilians opened me up to a whole world of Brazilian music, both classical and popular.  I fell in love with the music of Camargo Guarnieri and began exploring lots of Latin American classical music.  In graduate school (being always one to get my money's worth out of my educational resources,) I decided to dedicate all the time I'd otherwise be wasting driving around in my car by getting Pimsleur language CDs from the library system so that I could begin learning some Brazilian Portuguese and be able to converse with my Brazilian friends in their own language (they spoke English with us during the program in Boston).  After one year, I had completed the entire Pimsleur program and was conversational in the language.

That first year of graduate school, I then began looking for Latin American composers who I might be able to study with on a Fulbright, plus I had Spanish proficiency from taking classes in middle school and high school, so the language requirement wouldn't be much of a problem (plus I was learning Portuguese for Brazil as well).  I finally found a composer I was interested in, a Brazilian composer named Marlos Nobre who's music I enjoyed and who seemed like a very fine teacher from a couple of interviews I had found online and someone who's musical values and beliefs were pretty similar to mine.  I found his email address on his website, drafted an email in Portuguese (using a dictionary and an online translator) asking if I might be able to study with him and if I could send him some of my music for him to consider.  I then sent the draft to my Brazilian friends to proofread, fixed it, and then emailed it to him.  He wrote back and said he could provide me with lessons and to send him some of my compositions.  Great! I thought.  I'm already halfway there!  I emailed him some scores and recordings immediately, only to not hear from him for several weeks.  I sent a reminder email, and he responded that he was travelling and would look at my music when he returned.  Weeks went by, I heard nothing, so I emailed again, but now I didn't get any email back.  Another month went by, and I emailed one more time to no avail.  By this time, it was already well into the summer and too late to find another Fulbright idea to apply for.

Obviously the story doesn't end there, but it is ending up being much longer than I thought, so stay tuned for Part 2 coming soon.

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