Category Archives: Eminent ’15

A Delayed Document of Learning

Because Documents of Learning are totally effective after said project.


A goal that guided my project was to convey the struggles and misogyny Clara suffered, while she continued to search for her creative freedom and her musical voice. I was also guided by a quote that Clara had written in her diary, which greatly impacted my view on her.

“I once believed that I possessed creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not desire to compose — there has never yet been one able to do it. Should I expect to be the one?”

I wish that I had elaborated on this more, and compared the struggles that Clara faced back then to some modern oppression today. I was drawn to her because she faced just as many problems as her male counterparts, and had to deal with the blatant sexism of the 19th-20th century.

I wanted to convey her resilience, her genius, her talent, her passion… but above all, I set out to prove that talent can creep out of the darkest holes and the most unsuspecting places.


As a petrified public speaker, this was one of the most difficult parts of the project. I mean, one of my IEP goals is to improve confidence/clarity/general public speaking, so I thought to myself, “If you can get through the speech alive, I guarantee that the rest of Eminent will seem easy” (how wrong I was), with thoughts of the worst case scenarios running through my mind: falling on stage, losing my place in the speech, freezing up– all that fun stuff. Luckily, my speech, although not without its mistakes, went better than I thought. Practice makes okay.

A few things I need to work on include voice projection, and length. I’ve consistently managed to exceed speech lengths every single year, and I thought, “7 minutes should be plenty of time to go over what I need to say!” According to my trusty pal Kaleigh, I just exceeded that. I mean, seriously, if I don’t share my thoughts in class (ever), how do I make a 7+ minute speech? Another mystery of life that remains to be solved. I also need to work on character. My character was supposed to come across as psychotic, and was supposed to die at the end, but I wasn’t confident enough to convey that.

Here is my speech, sans the last minute notes I scribbled right before the performance.


My learning centre… Well, let’s just say it was subpar to some of the other’s I saw, and I’m being completely honest here. I got so absorbed with perfecting, writing, and re-writing my speech and my committee work that I underestimated how much time and care I would need for my learning centre. Goal for next year’s NotN: Start working on learning centre BEFORE speeches are over. I also spent WAYYY too much time on my tiny piano and finding quotes which I thought were interesting and said a lot about Clara’s life, but because of the way I presented it, no one read it.

For my learning centre, I tried to semi-recreate Clara’s composition space, using staff paper, Katrina’s pencil, an old metronome, and a picture of Clara in her prime. A sign I hung on “her” chair read “Kein Larm”, German for “No Noise”. Upon reading that her husband claimed that her piano-playing was distracting to his composition, I read more and found that the only time she had to practice was one or two (if she was lucky) hours at the end of the day to play her pieces while her husband was out getting drinks.

I also conducted a survey with everyone who stopped by my learning centre, gathering information from the general public (see next post for details).

Also, huge congratulations to Brian for getting the pizza orders under control.

Night of the Notables: The Rush of a Notable Night and Everything In-Between

Well, it’s over. It was kind of sad, actually. Kaleigh and I kept exchanging hugs, because although TALONS is not even 4 months in, everyone is so close. The relief that came as soon as I walked into the TALONS room was insane, with everyone munching on the leftover oreo cookies salsa. I agree, it felt like the end of an era, regardless of how short an era it was. We were all there for each other, dishing out advice, edits, and encouragement, and I really feel like I’ve found my tribe. During NotN, I learned that the toughest of storms come to an end, Kaleigh is really good at attracting alumni with Duplo blocks, Francisco needs to carry a Tide-to-Go stick everywhere, and we need to figure out laptop speakers for Andreas before an important event comes. All of this, and that we can all find a way to keep it together on little-to-no sleep.

I wish I had made my learning centre more interactive, but I was satisfied with the interest that I received. I spent most of my time talking to the people who walked by, having a few very interesting conversations. I took a mini poll to see the areas of awareness/interest in Classical music by having people write down a composer they were familiar with. I was not at all surprised to see the names Mozart and Beethoven pop up quite often. There were a few people, however, who were familiar with a few obscure composers, which made my night (VANESSA AND KALEIGH). I was surprised to see that the results turned out to be quite similar to what I had anticipated. (Feat. my goldfish-shaped eighth notes)12244062_209582702706888_732820994_n 12248640_209582712706887_1514187542_n 12270291_209582722706886_953375732_n

Shoutout to Katrina and Vanessa for their last-minute painting skills, and to everyone for making this such an incredible night, and for putting up with me in the home-stretch.


Heads-up to next year’s 9s: Y’all better use our Night of the Notables welcome sign.

Bibliography and Interview: Because no one does anything alone

-Of course, I could have used more sources. Of course, given the chance, I would have done more research. Of course, I would have learned more if I could have. But everything comes to an end, and for Eminent ’15, here are the sources I used.

Ansay, A. Manette: “Good Things I Wish You“: Harper Perennial Publishing: 2009: print (                                                        This fictional book elaborates on the already dramatic relationships Clara had with her husband, Robert Schumann, and the young composer Johannes Brahms. Includes many good quotes, themes and diary entries which I used in both my speech and learning centre.

Steegman, Monica: “Clara Schumann”: London: Haus Publishing: 2004: print (                                                                             Biography of Clara Schumann, also contains many useful facts, in both her lifestyle and relationships, and quotes, which I used within the smaller components of my project.

Clara Schumann Wikipedia Article                                                                                                                                                        Yes, I caved. I mostly relied on this source for prominent dates (such as birth and date), and for a few major biographical details that may not be in print.

List of Works by Clara Schumann                                                                                                                                                          A list of Clara Schumann’s works, with and without Opus numbers. Gives a few links, and was a helpful source in terms of seeing the volume of Clara’s impact on the performance repertoire, and was helpful in choosing music for my Learning Centre.

“Bittersweet Symphonies”                                                                                                                                                                       A recount of the twisted, doomed relationship between Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann. This source inspired an alternate POV for my speech which, although it contained many good options and could have been successful, went unused.

“If I Had a Million Dollars…”

Ah, the Vancouver library. I had passed by the grand place several times, but had never actually been inside. I expected shelves of books, and the same materials that were any other library. I wandered around the place with Katrina, looking at 20151014_100032each level and “warming” myself up for the floor that was really about my eminent person, until finally, I made my way up to the art, music and history floor. What I didn’t expect to find was, as both a book and music lover, nirvana in the music section. Let me just say, the VPL has an amazing selection: the music section was not just limited to biographies and facts, but included music scores as well. I was surprised at all the books that were relevant to my eminent person, Clara Schumann! I left the library happy, with a non-fiction book, fiction book, and orchestral score (just because). Surprisingly (having just finished my borrowed material), the fiction book was much more helpful than the non-fiction book, in terms of writing my speech. Before we left to eat, I got the chance to quickly look at an art display that was up outside of the library.

Lunch, although probably the least part of the trip, was pretty enjoyable. It gave us all time to relax, socialize, and prepare (at least for me) for the next party of the field trip. I split a tempura udon with Vanessa, and (forgive me Kaleigh) bought a lemonade.


Now, I don’t want to exaggerate, but as soon as I left the book store, I could have locked myself up in a hole because MacLeod’s bookstore was all that was missing in my life. I wandered around in the store at first for a while, aimlessly wandering and browsing through the old books. I felt a little disappointed, not knowing what I should do, until Ms. Mulder came up to me and sai20151014_132242d, “You know, there’s a music section over there.”

That was all it took.

I spent the next hour in the music section, tenderly flipping through all of the books. It was heaven, it was sheer bliss. Book after book, I couldn’t stop. I lost track of time, reading about the different Eras, biographies of composers, and music scores. If I had a million dollars, I would stop at MacLeod’s book store. I needed about 4 more hours in there. I was totally transfixed in the shelves of musty history books, each one seeming more interesting than the next. In the end, I left the store with 3 books, two as gifts, and one that would help with eminent, and would also be an enjoyable read.



In the end, the entire trip was inspiring. Both the library and the book store provided vital information for my project, and the artsy atmosphere of the bustling city helped develop the trip even more. Hopefully, the good memories of this trip won’t fade as I put my nose to the grindstone, and do my best to honour Clara Schumann. VPL, MacLeod’s Bookstore, you haven’t seen the last of me yet.

Clara Schumann: A Prodigy in the Shadows


When the name Schumann is mentioned, most people, if they even recognize the word, would think of Romantic composer Robert Schumann. That’s what I want to change, regardless of how few people I educate.

Clara Wieck, born 1819, was the daughter of famous music teacher Friedrich Wieck. He had always wanted a prodigy to call his own, which translated into training his two children to the point of virtuosity. It certainly worked, as Clara became a piano prodigy in her youth. In 1830, Robert Schumann, a young pianist and one of the most prominent composers of the Romantic Era, moved into her house to further pursue music lessons with her father. She would marry this man, have 7 kids, and be left essentially widowed when his mental illness put him in an asylum.

Clara lived her days as a performer, composer, and all-around music talent (BONUS: she was a woman in a heavily male-dominated time!), so why doesn’t anyone know her name?

One word: Robert (if you haven’t been listening, that’s her husband). This man, who is also one of the required composers to study in music history, was a performer before a strange condition struck his hands. He moved on to become one of the most influential composers and music journal writers of his time.

Yes, piano prodigy Clara’s skill were greatly underestimated simply because of her more famous husband (and the tragic tale of his life, including his hand ailment and mental illness leading towards his death). Her compositions were amazing, but her husband basically told her to stay home and watch the kids as he lived his glamorous life, basking in the glory of his successful compositions and music articles.

So how and why did I choose Clara Schumann as my eminent person?

All my life (or at least half of it) I have been dedicated to music. Performing, competitions and exams are all part of my regular schedule, but they don’t come without the music theory courses, which, ultimately, helped me make my decision. There I was, 3 weeks ago, thinking that I would dig up my old music history notes to help me research my original eminent person, Claude Debussy. However, while sifting through 3 years worth of notes, I came across Robert Schumann’s. For some reason, I had a hunch about this and re-read them. Only then did I realize that Clara Schumann, who appeared a mere 3 times within his biography, was the right person for me. She was a female icon: in a time riddled with male composers, she created such beautiful music. Both of us were/are female musicians, advanced pianists at a young age. I’m worried however, about the fact that I can’t empathize with the situation Clara was in at the end of Robert’s life: she was left to take care of her 7 kids while her husband slowly went insane, and she was the subject of another composer’s (one of Robert’s closest friends) affection. Clara also died 200 years ago, totally separating our generations; she also lived in a lower-middle class status in the 19th century with an ill husband and 7 kids, so it would be hard for me to relate to that.

What do I hope to achieve by studying Clara Schumann? That’s a good question. In switching eminent people, I realized that I needed a new goal, a real reason I chose Clara Schumann. I then realized that, although I knew I wanted to study a composer, Clara was a female prodigy who introduced her composition ideas to the world, but gave up her position to take care of her family. This is why I was so drawn to her. In completing this project, I will focus on not only her composing skills, but how she lived her life as a female composer, how she managed to keep her fidelity even as Johannes Brahms proclaimed his love for her, and how, above all, she dealt with the various struggles she did at the end of her husband’s life.