Squatting, Practicing, and Anticipating

Isaac Alter
May 21, 2014


At the time I’m beginning this post, that’s the number of hours and minutes that remain before my scheduled departure to Europe for what will undoubtedly be an incredible 6 weeks.  It seems crazy that this adventure is so near now, especially since I remained firmly within my school year world until this past Saturday, when I had my last final exam (for organic chemistry, no less).  Now, with fewer than 2 full days separating me from the beginning of my journey, I can hardly believe that I’m about to be in Vienna, a place that I only know from stories.

My most significant abroad experience to date was when I travelled to Marseille, France for a language immersion program for one and a half weeks during my freshman year of high school; my upcoming trip could hardly be more different.  I am entering a country whose language I do not speak to stay there for 6 weeks and learn about music history and music performance, making a semi-permanent home in a completely foreign culture.  I’m of course a bit apprehensive at the prospect, but I can feel that this will be a truly transformative time for me.  Throughout college, I’ve struggled to understand and define the place that music has in my life, while mostly only pursuing it extracurricularly; this summer, I’ll have the opportunity to give music my full attention, and in a location that has been the center of Western music for centuries. As someone who could sing before he could talk, and whose life has been filled with music for as long as I can remember, this opportunity is simply unparalleled.

I write this from my temporary bedroom in the home of my best friend from school, Olivia, who lives just 15 minutes away from Harvard’s campus; with only 4 days between my last exam and my departure for Vienna, it seemed foolish to try to fly all the way back to my home in California, so I’m squatting here for the next few days as I eagerly await the journey ahead. I’ve been relishing the opportunity to finally practice flute daily, which I hardly ever have time for at school; Olivia and her younger sister are both singers, so their parents are certainly used to having music around.  At the moment, I’m trying to decide which piece I’ll perform for the first meeting of the Music Performance Workshop, but I’m just having fun playing through all of the different options; I’m so excited to have the time and energy to devote to music all summer.  In fact, the day after I arrive home, I’ll be dashing off to Northern California Flute Camp, which I’ve attended for years and am now a counselor for, so the music will continue even after I leave Vienna; here’s to hoping that the effects of this trip will last far beyond that.

Catch y’all on the flip side!

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Isaac Alter

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Isaac Alter, and I&#39;m a rising junior at Harvard College, studying stem cell biology with a double minor in art history and music. Outside the classroom, I work both as an admissions tour guide and as a research associate in a stem cell lab, I am a music director for the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club, and I am a flutist and board member for the River Charles Ensemble, a conductorless chamber orchestra. I&#39;m beyond thrilled to be taking a journey to Vienna this summer, to pursue and explore music--one of my great passions--in what has been the center of classical music for centuries. In my free time, I love taking spontaneous trips to New York, cooking, and exploring nooks and crannies of Harvard&#39;s vast campus. My career plans at this point are wildly up in the air, but I hope that my experience with music this summer will help me on that front.</span></p>

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Biological Sciences
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