Throwback Thursday: “Academic Festival Overture, op. 80,” Johannes Brahms



I listened to this piece on loop during the last month of both my undergraduate and my graduate programs.  Normally I like the statelier tempo of George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra, but Kurt Masur captures the real heart of this piece, which is basically, “oh please can this just be over already I am very very tired.”

There isn’t anything quite like the mad dash to the finish of any educational program.  You had no idea you had the capacity to write three papers and take four exams in the same week until you don’t have a choice in the matter.  The last month of my graduate program was especially heinous.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner could be found for $0.75 in the vending machine closest to the library.  My fuse was short as number of hours of sleep I allowed myself at night.  Fully inked yellow highlighters were currency.  I would do wall sits in between paper drafts to keep my legs limber (because clearly I couldn’t take an actual walk, that would take too much time).  The little dots next to my friends’ names on GChat would be red throughout the day until after 10pm, when they would turn over to green because they wanted company, moral support, and spell-check help.  It was a dark time.

And then, slowly, these massive boulders got pushed down the other side of the mountain, one by one, until one Tuesday afternoon.  I finished a paper, closed my computer, and after sitting for a minute, realized…I just did it.  I just did all my work.  I called my friend Rebecca who lived down the street and said, “I…uh…I think I just…finished.”  “Yeah…I think I did too…”  We sat in silence on the phone for a minute.  “This is weird.”  The daze lasted for about a day or two.  But then…

…at 8:30 in the piece, jubilation!  Gaudeamus igitur!  We got capped and gowned and graduated and drank champagne with little raspberries floating in it and called ourselves Masters.  It was a hell of a feeling.  So to all the students in my Capstone course, to all my friends who are turning in those papers now – keep your spirits up.  I promise it will be over soon.


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