"Meet Our Students": Timothy Diovanni (CC '18)

What year are you at Columbia?

Third year (the time when you finally start figuring things out).

What are/will you be majoring in?

Music and German Literature & Cultural History.

How long have you been a participant of the MPP?

Since August 24, 2014, when I wrote a rather eager e-mail chuck-full-of questions to Jane.

How have you benefited by MPP programs and performance opportunities?

Spring 2014 was riddled with doubts. Deciding between Columbia and the Ithaca School of Music, I was torn. Do I go to a conservatory setting, where it’s music, music, and more music, or do I go a school like Columbia? (whose academics frankly scared me.) After meeting with Allen Blustine, I resolved that Columbia was the best choice for me. The MPP has allowed me to develop my skills as a clarinetist and musician through lessons and chamber ensembles. All the while, I have pursued subjects ranging from Masterpieces of Western Literature to Brahms to Psychology to Rilke, Kafka, and the Brothers Grimm. Looking back (wow I’m getting “old”!), coming to Columbia was the best, the only choice for me.

How do you balance the busy academic schedule with practice time? Any tips?

My green notebook is one of my best friends. Every night I write out my next day — scribbling in my sometimes barely-legible handwriting when I need to run to Viennese Modernism from French 1101 (literally run since these classes overlap) and when I can finally grab lunch (usually at the odd hours of 2 or 3 PM). Practice time naturally falls in between the pages’ blue lines as well. Everyone has a different optimal practice time, so find yours and work with it in your schedule.

What was the most memorable musical experience in your life?

I was nervous. No, no I mean really nervous, as in hands-shaking, heart-pounding, sweat-staining; excited, anxious, practically petrified. “Just play a note,” I told myself, thinking that might calm me. Fingering G# — with the correct shading keys for intonation — I played. The sound reverberated throughout the hall — warmly coming back to comfort me. In that moment, I knew music was what I needed to do for the rest of my life. There was no, “Oh maybe I can do a science or engineering or something else,” anymore. I needed music, I needed to always be making it, discussing it, and living it.

I fondly recall this warm-up note that bounced throughout Eastman’s Kodak Hall whenever I have doubts about my future in music. It assures me to keep going, to remain committed to what I believe in. Thank you, G#.

What does making music mean to you?

Music’s meaning has always been slippery, but I like this ambiguousness. In a world where we constantly try to define and number things (I’m looking at you, Fitbit), the multiplicity of what music can mean for the same person at different times is inspiring. When playing chamber music for instance, I revel in the communicative dialogue. It is a collaborative, synthetic and intimate experience. Here, music means human connection. Listening to music, it often means comfort, after a broken heart or after a tragic event. And in other instances still, when reading and writing about it, music means thought-provoking discussion. Music means all these things to me at different times — and I am perfectly happy with that.

Anything you would like to share with the readers (e.g. favorite food, summer activities, favorite quote, etc)?

Feverishly tearing away each page, feeling the warmth of the dancing campfire flames under the open, star-lighted sky, I was transfixed. Writing about music can be exciting, engaging, and informative. It does not have to be like the bland, barely-readable soliloquies found in many music history textbooks. Pick up Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise. It made me want to be a music writer, it made me want to be on the other side of these interviews.

Read P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh for biting satires of the Victorian Era, albeit in two contrasting ways (Wodehouse has a comical, lighter approach built around the most farcical characterizations while Waugh pens a darker, yet still hysterical social commentary).