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In the past several years an increasing number of students have entered our college with no particular major in mind. When asked by advisors at the school to choose a subject they would like to study many of them opt for music without realizing what that entails. If you are of college age and you still cannot read music or play an instrument proficiently it will be very hard for you to succeed as a music major without a great deal of time and effort invested in the remediation your deficiencies.  At this critical moment in your career you have to ask yourself if you want to be a music student or a musician. A music student takes a bunch of courses and hopes for the best. A musician is someone who devotes many hours each day to his or her personal growth and development. They do this every day of the week, every week of the year. There are no vacations or holidays from this regimen. You must constantly be learning new things and overcoming increasingly difficult challenges. Being a musician is a calling, not an avocation. It involves the relentless pursuit of truth and beauty. It is an endeavor where one is never satisfied with one’s achievements because the ultimate goal (though unachievable) is perfection.

Musicians make music. At the very least, they do this in two ways: they sing and they play an instrument. The singing they do because there is an impulse within them that drives them to vocalize. They play an instrument because they want to be able to use beautiful sounds to communicate something significant to other human beings. The magic and mystery of music intrigues and entrances them, and they hope some day to be able to say something special using the techniques they have been taught.

Success in music is dependent on three things: talent, training, and hard work. Talent is something you are born with; it cannot be acquired or learned. Some people are greatly talented; others are less so. Training is crucial because without the guidance of a professional giving you regular lessons, at least every other week, you have almost no chance of success. “He who has himself for a teacher, has a fool for a student.” Only a professional can help you correct your mistakes and overcome the challenges your instrument presents. Hard work is what you do as you practice every single day to incorporate the guidance your teacher has given you. It is a well-known fact that a talented student with the proper teachers needs ten years to master an instrument. This mastery means that you are prepared to practice and perform the great works written for your instrument. It also means that you can perform with proficiency and musicality in ensembles with other equally skillful musicians.

It is hoped that you will eventually become an informed performer. That means you must also study music theory and history.  These will help you understand the compositional process, appreciate how music is constructed, give you a sense of style and context, and explain the reasons WHY the music you perform or hear was composed to sound the way it does.  All of these tools will help you in your interpretation and realization of the works you study.

If you are truly a rank beginner, and are not musically literate, you will need to take Elementary Musicianship (Music 13100) and Beginning Keyboard Techniques (Music 16100) along with Introduction to Music (Music 10100). If you get at least a B in all three courses you have a fair chance of eventually graduating as a Music Major. It won’t be easy, but it will be an exciting adventure. It is only fair to warn you that music may well be even harder than mathematics. In math you have to get the right answer or fail. In music you not only have to play the right notes at the right time, but it must be done with great skill, care, and sensitivity. It is not enough to be right; it must also be beautiful! This will be a lifelong journey. Are you ready to begin?