Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Felipe Tristan: Reflections on Phase II of the Fellowship

As they neared the completion of Phase II of the Kenan Fellowship, each Fellow was posed three questions by their teaching artist mentor. Here, Felipe responds to the questions from his mentor, Katie.


I have always been very intrigued about the perception of time. Sometimes, certain events seem that they have happened just yesterday; they seem to resonate in one’s mind and heart, and those are the type of experiences that mark one forever. The Kenan Fellowship is the perfect example of this type of experience in my life. I can still remember vividly our very first day, the activities we did, and even the amount of energy and excitement I immediately felt. I am sure that each and every one of the lessons, concerts, workshops, visits, observations, and meetings will have a special place in my life.

At times I am very excited to witness how time passes by very fast, but at moments like this, living a life-changing experience, I want to seize each moment and keep it that way for a long time. At any rate, that will happen anyways, since the philosophies and knowledge we have been instructed will prevail in the practice of our profession as we have studied them from the inside out.

Although I am sad that we have come to the end of Phase Two and I am sure in a split second Phase Three will be over, as well, I am also extremely happy and content with my work throughout the last months, especially because of the positive impact all of this is having in many aspects of my life. For instance, I am much more aware, informed and involved in the aesthetic education philosophy and the artistic scene of New York City. In other words, it is a sweet and sour moment, since my excitement and enthusiasm is evident, but yet I understand and I am looking forward to officially jumping out into the professional world in this wonderful city through the presentation of my artistic project, Viva la Flauta!, which represents also the culmination of this Fellowship.

Among the things that I believe will remain permanent for me is the understanding of the teaching artist, what I believe is the profession of the modern musician or, in fact, the musician of the future: a pedagogue, informer, facilitator, musician that makes of this growing profession, an art. As my mentor mentioned in one of the workshops I observed, and as it has become popular, a teaching artist is someone who “balances equally their commitment to performance and education.”

Learning about aesthetic education has impacted me as an artist and as an educator in a very positive way. First, as an artist, it has shown me a richer understanding of how we perceive certain characteristics in a work of art; how we dissect, analyze from different perspectives and, by this whole process, achieve a tremendous integral understanding of the particular piece while at the same time applying these concepts to the way we interact with art.

Also, as an educator, I’ve been impacted by learning how to put apart information that is relevant for the study of a work of art, a style, a trend, and so on. Additionally, by being able to abstract and synthesize from a broad perspective to concise ideas that later can be applied to other areas of knowledge. For example, when studying the various elements found in Flamenco music and their meanings or messages, we found that the same concept could be extrapolated to sciences, when studying, for example, various types of economic models. I believe that these two fields are connected because of their nature, and because one feeds the other.

Being surrounded by so many artistic miracles that New York City offers on a daily basis has impacted me tremendously. This place is, in my opinion, the arts capital of the world. Even more, Lincoln Center is the capital for the performing arts, as its name states: Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Being surrounded by so many talented, creative and inspiring artists and their work is truly a remarkable asset to this city. This place and these experiences in New York City have provided with an invaluable perspective that allows me to treasure previous experiences in other places as North Carolina, Texas and Mexico, appreciate what I have earned there and enjoy and be thankful for what I am living here.

Often times, I even think it could be even frustrating to be aware of so many wonderful events happening simultaneously and being forced to discriminate in order to make a decision. I believe that this influences the emerging artist in a very positive way as it pushes the standards to a higher level by default.

Some of the elements of an aesthetic experience as I currently understand it include: an awareness of a relationship between a work of art and the spectator, a profound impact that may change or question the current standards of what is aesthetic and why, a door for questioning and putting things into context, an integral understanding of the nature and gestation of a work of art or manifestation of it.

Finally, another great point to mention is how beneficial it has been for me the process of writing and logging my work. I have kept thorough documentation of every meeting with my mentor, the topics to be discussed and the actions to be taken; this allowed me to set an accurate plan week per week. Additionally, writing for the Kenan blog online has been a great platform for reflection and informative feedback from my fellow colleagues. By writing in it, I’ve reflected and reaffirmed thoughts, connections and conclusions found in each stage of this Fellowship. I am very thankful for this experience in this Fellowship, all that I have learned and the path that I have been placed into in this wonderful surrounding as an emerging artist.

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