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2012 Essay Contest Winners  

Our first annual essay contest asked JSoM students to answer the question: What are you doing to be proactive about your future as a musician? The following students submitted winning essays:

Stevan Jovic: "Practice-Right"

My name is Stevan Jovic. I am a Performer Diploma student (guitar) in the Jacobs School of Music. I am submitting this essay simply because I would like to share my idea and project that I have been working on since August 2011. I have invented, patented and launched a device related to guitar pedagogy and it is now becoming an absolute hit in the classical guitar world!

It is quite unusual for a student of my age to contribute to the musical world through more than just my playing. I had a brilliant idea this summer and decided to act on it immediately. The idea was about inventing a device that would help guitarists to form and maintain the correct posture of the hand used to pluck the strings. With this idea, I invented a device called Practice-Right! Practice-Right deals with a problem that is far too common with the players of our instrument - the wrist and the hand collapsing and resting on the soundboard. Beginning guitarists tend to rest their wrist on the soundboard because they feel more secure, and at the same time they try to hold their instrument and prevent the guitar from slipping. Collapsing of the hand will make playing more difficult and will cause tension, loss of dexterity, power and control. I had a lot of students who had this problem and it took them a lot of time to get used to the correct hand position - and even more time to correct it.

This is the reason why I decided to develop Practice-Right. There are many products and guitar supports nowadays, but there is no such device or support that would help the players to hold the hand in the proper way. Practice-Right will help the players to get used to the correct right hand posture and thus get used to the proper finger stroke. It will save time to both teachers and pupils by allowing students to practice at home with the correct and consistent right hand posture, even when the teacher is not there to make corrections.

For me, the last couple of months were probably some of the most exciting in my life. From getting and patenting the idea to developing the real product... trust me, it was extremely difficult. Finding the time to work on my project between studying, performing and teaching has been a mission impossible.  Even the moments when it was the hardest I would work even harder. But, I DID IT! And how...? By always being motivated by the Practice-Right itself! I knew how great and useful my invention was from the very beginning, so I would never let anything stop me from reaching my goals. I have found a company to manufacture it, a serious investor and have made a contract with the foremost classical guitar accessories company in the country - Strings By Mail. I have received great feedback and testimonials about my invention from the most renowned artists and teachers from all over world. I have a product that will be presented at the most important guitar festivals and conventions in the country: Guitar Foundation of America 2012 and Boston Guitar Festival 2012 as well at the major guitar festivals in Europe such as the Guitar-Art Festival in Serbia, Belgrade.

It is important to Practice-Right! Sometimes students just practice, play and follow their instincts. And that is all right. But, being aware of how to practice has a tremendous importance. It will save time and will allow students to improve their technique and say the words better through the language of music. As an artist and the inventor of the Practice-Right I believe that my invention will help players to say the words they always wanted to say - through their music, and their playing.

For more info about Practice-Right please visit:

For more info about Stevan Jovic please visit:

Rose Fraser: "Building Dreams: What I Learned from Not Getting What I Wanted"

I made the decision to pursue a career in music largely because I believe the arts have the power to change lives for the better. It is my dream to create a career that combines performing, teaching and writing, in the hopes of reaching as many people and making as big an impact as possible. This is a lofty goal, but I have come to realize that nearly every situation can yield an opportunity to share or inspire. In fact, as I learned last summer, the greatest of these opportunities often come from the most difficult or unpleasant situations.

In my junior year at IU, I became intrigued by Venezuela’s El Sistema, a state-sponsored orchestra program that gives free instruments and training to impoverished children. El Sistema successfully raised school attendance and lowered juvenile delinquency in Venezuela, and its orchestras gained an international reputation. Given my interest in using music for social change, this was exciting to me. I discovered a summer program run by a university in Virginia that took students to work for two weeks as teachers for El Sistema. It was the perfect opportunity. I applied, interviewed, and was accepted. To prepare, I took accelerated Spanish, and planned to volunteer with an El Sistema sister program in Chicago (the YOURS Project) during my spring break.

Months later, while in Chicago, I received the most disappointing email of my life. Several students that had committed to the study-­abroad program had backed out. The rest of us were given a choice: commit to paying an additional $2000 to make up for the loss (a sum I could not afford), or postpone the trip to the next summer (for which I already had plans). Unwilling to stay home, I decided to try to pick up the pieces: I would design my own trip instead.

I told my story to the faculty at the YOURS Project, thinking they might be able to help. It turned out that several of them had previously taught at Brazil’s prominent El Sistema sister program: NEOJIBA. They put me in contact with NEOJIBA’s assistant director, and through negotiation with him and IU’s Hutton Honors College, I was able to plan a partially-­‐funded three week trip to Brazil, working as a guest artist and teacher at NEOJIBA.

Had I not done this, I would never have had the experience of traveling alone to a new country, or learning to teach clarinet, chamber music, and woodwind sectionals in pidgin Portuguese in three weeks. I would have never gotten to work with Gustavo Dudamel, who in a bizarre coincidence was on tour in Brazil instead of at home in Caracas, where I was meant to go on the original trip. I learned so much about myself in those three weeks. Ever since that summer, I have felt that life’s most trying circumstances often create its most beautiful opportunities – especially for artists.

Madeleine Ohman (Encouragement Award)

At the Jacobs School of Music, I consider myself one of the more “abnormal musicians” relative to my peers. Being a musician is inextricably linked to my dreams and aspirations, but I wouldn’t necessarily give myself that title. I may not be able to read sheet music as well as my peers, but I can detect and apply all the nuances I hear in music to my movement. My instrument also differs from my peers because it senses, feels, emotes and lives.  My instrument is in harmony with music as well as life. My instrument is my body.

I am a ballet major here at the Jacobs School of Music. I am also a musician. A musician must know a lot about their instrument; for example, the reasons why a harp has forty-seven strings, what their functions are individually and collectively, and how each string can be manipulated to produce the best sound. I have no choice but to know why my instrument moves the way it does.

I need to take care of my body, mentally and physically. In order to do this, I came to Indiana University so that I can dance in the Ballet Theatre as well as pursue an outside field in pre-physical therapy. I believe it is necessary for me to know how my body functions and why it functions the way it does. So far this year, my classes in biology, psychology and exercise science has provided an excellent foundation for further understanding the best ways of maintaining my body in the best ways I can to serve the arts. Also, every summer since I was thirteen, I have attended pre-professional intensives at the School of American Ballet in Lincoln Center and Boston Ballet’s Summer Dance Program. I have developed a symbiotic relationship with the two of the most artistically and inspirationally dynamic cities in the world.

I am learning how to play the piano so that I can have a more collaborative relationship with the pianist in the studio as well as the conductor on the stage. This summer I will also be teaching aspiring young dancers. When I teach the children in the classroom, I feel as if I see in them the same things my teachers saw in me--the involuntary need to dance. Every correction I give in the classroom further shapes the child’s growth of not only expression, but also being. In exposing the boys and girls to the world of dance I continue to reflect on my history that got me to where I am today, and my future that is and will always be surrounded by music and movement.