A Day in the Life of a Music Major
“I read the news today … about a lucky man who made the grade.”
It takes a special kind of person to be a music major. And when I say special, I mean you can’t be embarrassed by clapping rhythms in the hallway, singing “Queen of the Night” in your dorm room (much to the chagrin of your roommate), or realizing that you should have clarified whether your 9:00 lesson meant 9 a.m. or 9 p.m., because both were viable options. With the start of the New Year, high school seniors across the country will be deciding which major to choose, so we asked sophomore Christy Peterson to shed light on her experience as a violin performance major.
AR: How would you describe a typical day for you?
CP: Busy! I have a lot of classes, so I start at 8 and don’t usually get done until 4 or 5, and often have rehearsals at night, too. Many of my music classes only count for one credit hour but require several meetings per week. As a result, I don’t have many large breaks during the day, and the ones I do are usually dedicated to practicing. But I like to hang out with my friends when I get the chance!
AR: What does your coursework entail?
CP: At my university, I have orchestra three days a week, and I rehearse with my string quartet the other two days. I also have a private violin lesson once a week (sometimes very late at night) as well as a private piano lesson. In addition to my performance classes I take music theory, musicianship (where we work on rhythms, solfège, and music dictation), as well as general education classes. Upper classmen take four semesters of music history.
AR: What has been your favorite class so far?
CP: I really loved Theory IV! I have always enjoyed math, so the 20th century atonal music really appealed to me. Instead of being chordal like the previous eras, 20th century classical music is linear. You have to use all 12 notes in the chromatic scale before you can repeat any of them. You can use a matrix to change up the order of the notes like composers Schoenberg and Webern. (It may not always sound good to the ear, but it is fascinating to study!) To me it feels like a giant Sudoku puzzle! Check it out: http://www.carolingianrealm.info/Music.php?MusicID=29
AR: What kinds of performing opportunities do you have?
CP: These first two years my performances have primarily been orchestral. We usually work on four sets of music per semester. My favorite concerts were the Children’s Concerts in the fall! The kids don’t usually get exposed to orchestra music, so this is a special opportunity for them. They loved our Star Wars movie music this past fall, especially when Darth Vadar and a Storm Trooper came out on stage and staged a battle with our conductor. Another of my favorite concerts is our annual Christmas concert. For this event all of the choirs join the orchestra to perform some of our beloved Christmas songs.
I play in studio and chamber music recitals as well, and am looking forward to participating in a chamber music competition this winter. The winning ensemble will have the chance to perform their piece in Carnegie Hall in May! Performance majors are also required to play a solo recital their junior and senior years, and music education majors perform one recital their senior year. These recitals give students a chance to show off what they have learned during their time at school.
AR: Are you involved in any extra-curricular activities?
CP: Yes, I like meeting people in other fields of study as well, so I joined the sorority Chi Omega. I enjoy going to our formals and Take-A-Date functions, like the one to Six Flags! Our philanthropy is with “Make a Wish Foundation,” which grants wishes to kids with severe cancer. For example, sometimes they bring in a famous baseball player to meet a child, or the kid gets to go to Disney world. One way we help raise funds is through our Chi-O chili cook-off competition. We collaborated with the Fraternity Kappa Sigma, and together raised over $50,000!
AR: What has been the best part of college for you so far?
CP: I am a very social person, so I like making new friends. In college there are so many opportunities to meet new people, especially on a big campus! As a freshman I ran around the football field with the other first years before our home games, which was a lot of fun! I also really love my church and Bible study. Our pastor is excellent, and always helps us to better understand what it means to be a Christian.
AR: What are you looking forward to the most this New Year?
CP: I will have my first opportunity to play in the opera pit this month, so I am excited to try it out! I am also looking forward to participating in the sorority/fraternity production of SING, where we all perform a mini musical. This summer I get to attend a music study abroad program in Austria, which will be a once in a lifetime experience!
AR: What advice would you give a prospective music major?
CP: Go to class! Use good time management to schedule practice time, as well as plan breaks to avoid injury. Branch out to different styles, like jazz improvisation, and meet as many different kinds of people as you can!
AR: What products would you recommend for a new music major?
1. Buy a quality instrument. Most strings shops will let you try out several at a time to see which one is best for you.
2. I highly recommend the BAM violin case! It is much lighter than other cases, and great if you need to carry your instrument around campus! http://www.musiciansfriend.com/accessories/bam-high-tech-contoured-violin-case/472705000001000?cntry=us&source=3WWRWXGP&gclid=Cj0KEQiAhZPDBRCz642XqYOCpb8BEiQANUcwT9vx1XI8yphfbRH1KSOjyl24tYQnAIJ9H2bCLB9huUEaAiVz8P8HAQ&kwid=productads-adid^156403583515-device^c-plaid^140857971141-sku^472705000001000@ADL4MF-adType^PLA
3. Build your own music library. I suggest the following for starters:
Brahms symphony No. 4 violin part: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Excerpts-47-Parts/Brahms-Johannes---Symphony-No-4-in-e-minor-Complete-Violin-Orchestral-Parts-and-Excerpts---Kalmus-Publication.axd#sthash.ibIuOgSr.dpbs
Bach’s 6 Sonatas and Partitas : http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Unaccompanied/Bach-JS---6-Sonatas-and-Partitas-BWV-1001-1006--Solo-Violin---edited-by-Ivan-Galamian---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.Tv2AEg54.dpbs
Paganini’s 24 caprices: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/Unaccompanied/Paganini-Niccolo---24-Caprices-for-Violin-Op-1---Solo-Violin---edited-by-Carl-Flesch---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.KJ3NpKB8.dpbs
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/w-47-Piano/Tchaikovsky-PI---Violin-Concerto-in-D-Major-Op-35---Violin-and-Piano---edited-by-David-Oistrakh---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.GLH7p5Kz.dpbs
Sibelius Violin Concerto: http://www.sharmusic.com/Sheet-Music/Violin/w-47-Piano/Sibelius-Jean---Violin-Concerto-in-D-Minor-Op-47---Violin-and-Piano---edited-by-Francescatti-Gretchaninoff---International-Music-Company.axd#sthash.5PqdJdfD.dpbs