Music School 101
(14 May 05)
Just a bit of background about myself, I am 21, I work part time at a foodservice provider as a yard jockey moving tractor-trailers, and go to school at Salisbury University (www.salisbury.edu). The reason I tell you this is because I've come to realize that music is not the only thing that affects music. Your whole life affects your music.
Anyways, the school is located in Salisbury MD, USA. I just started attending this school the 26th of January. Which leads me to the point of this article. I was talking to Eric V. and we both thought that it would be interesting to have a first hand account of someone who is going to school and is focused on music. I also have finished all of the boring stuff you have to complete already, such as English, science, math and all that goes along with general studies. So I focus strictly on music, and soon to be education classes also.
This is going to start out as a journal of sorts, but in lengthy installments. Every so often when I accrue enough material to post we'll post it. Unless the ibreathe staff see fit to do it a different way. A reminder this is all experimental, and new to all of us, including myself. If you have any suggestions or comments please contact me.
Starting out I had absolutely no clue what to expect. I didn't know if I would be so far behind starting out that I would have to practice hours and hours to get to be able to keep up. But to be honest. The school I am attending is more focused on individual interests. Yes you do play in ensembles. I play in the Wind Ensemble and the Jazz ensemble. Both take about 2-3 hours of my time one night a week. Not including my own personal practice time that I use to prepare of these things.
Luckily I have some music experience from high school and middle school. I played trombone from 5th grade to 9th grade, then I played ... yes that's right the almighty tuba from 10th grade to 12th grade which was when I graduated. I also had two years of music theory in high school from an excellent teacher. I did not though read guitar music in high school. I knew how to read treble clef, but not on the guitar. I was more oriented towards bass clef. But because of my music theory background I am picking this up rather quickly.
As far as auditions go for the school, I entered into the pre-music program, this is when you are a music major, but are preparing your audition to be accepted into the program. I had to also audition for the Jazz ensemble, in doing so I prepared 2 pieces of music to play in front of the instructor. I played an audition piece that the instructor had written, and I played "All of me" which is a jazz standard that alot of people start out on.
I'm continuing this article around the 24th of Feb. so I've been in school for about a month and am in the "groove" of things, just to give you an idea of what to expect if you attend a school for music, I practice quite often, and even learning how to practice!
I am enrolled in 15 credits, the classes are Intro to music theory, class piano I, classic guitar lesson, wellness in performance, and I'm taking a physical fitness class. I also participate in Wind ensemble and Jazz ensemble, performance class, Instrument Technology Woodwind Laboratory.
My wellness in performance class basically teaches you how to treat yourself and deal with self-related issues as a musician. Such as, you learn how to practice, when your ideal practice time is, how to trouble shoot injuries, how to foresee injuries, how to deal with stage fright, how to mentally prepare yourself for a performance, how to present yourself to perform and other topics along those lines.
My Jazz ensemble is probably my hardest class because I have to memorize so many chords. If you are interested in jazz, start learning your 7th, 9th, 11th, 6th, 13th chords along with your regular chords, try to keep the roots on the low strings (E and A) to give you the quickest mobility starting out. I also learned when your playing jazz, you don't want alot of highs in your sound roll back your tone a bit too. You want a slightly dark sound and have it very even sounding.
For my classical guitar lessons, I am learning proper finger style. This is probably the most enjoyable thing that I do at school, not that I don't enjoy it all, but classical seems to come to me naturally while everything else I have to really work at. I'm working out of the book called "classic guitar technique" by Aaron Shearer. It seems to be a very well thought out book. Also I think that the reason my lessons are so interesting to me is that I have an excellent teacher, he's very straightforward, focused and knowledgeable. As far as jazz books go they are some books from www.jazzbooks.com. There are a few of them, if you would like to know I can email you a list of them or I'll post it online.
Now for a day in the life of a music major. I'll start with a description of my typical week. On Mondays I get to my first class at 9 am, it is class piano I, that lasts until 9:50, then I have a lesson with my jazz guitar instructor from 10-11. At 11 (yea I know not much time there) I have Wellness in Preformance. After this I have a break until 12:40 when I have to go to a physical fitness class, which consists of a health lecture and a lab of walking and jogging. This lasts until 2. I have a break from 2 until 4, at 4 I go to my classic guitar lesson, which lasts an hour. Which is your run of the mill classic guitar instruction out of the book that I have mentioned earlier, for those of you who don't know, you have to play a nylon string acoustic, and MUST use finger style. There is no other way. You will also need a footstool, as it is part of the required materials for class. Also any guitar student at the school I am attending, and in most schools, must take classic guitar. Even for schools that focus on jazz, you have to have a background in classic guitar. Both of my lessons are private. Although the classic guitar instruction is through the school, the jazz lesson is not. My last jazz instructor moved away, and there aren't many jazz guitar teachers in my area. So I have to pay more money than usual in this area for lessons with him, he charges $25 per half hour and 50$ per hour, which is actually really reasonable. The reason for this is that he has his doctorate. So my warning for you is if you need help seek it, but don't expect the school to provide it. Then after I'm done with my classic guitar lessons, I have wind ensemble at 7:00 so I have a 2-hour break there also. I usually practice during these breaks, hang out with friends, or try and get a bite to eat. During the long breaks of 2 hours I usually practice. The more I get done at school the less I have to do at home. And there are less distractions than at home.
Before I continue on my weekly schedule I want to talk about the practice areas/studios provided at the school. The school has many areas to practice in, and usually there are rooms available. I was required to sign up for a practice room in the beginning of the year, but didn't do it. Because I had a feeling that there would always be a room available and I was right. But this may not be the case in a school you attend. So check your schedule and sign up for a room. The bulk of the practice rooms aren't that big, but all of them have a piano in them, and enough room for about three people if you wanted to practice with multiple people. But if you require more space, there are classrooms with pianos available, and the school I attend has a piano lab that consists of about 10-15 nice electronic pianos, and quite a few keyboards.
Back to my weekly schedule. On Tuesday, I start at 9:30, I have Intro to Music theory until 10:45, then sadly enough, I have to make money to afford school, and my guitar obsession, so I go to work for about 4 hours. I return to school at 6:00 to attend my lab for my woodwind laboratory.
On Wednesday I go to my piano I class from 9-9:50, then I have my Wellness in Performance from 11-11:50, then I have Walk/jog from 12:40-2:00, then jazz ensemble from 3:00-6:00.
Thursday I have Music theory from 9-10:45, then my performance class from 12:30-2. Then as I do on Tuesday I have to go to work. Then I come home, and practice w/ my band (www.BSFmetal.com). Its good to have things like that to bring it all into perspective.
Then on Friday I have my Wellness in Performance from 11-11:50, and my Walk/jog Phys Ed. Class from 12:40-2. And that is my week. I work on Saturday's and am off on Sundays. This is pretty typical of most music majors, or at least the ones I know and in one word to describe it - you will be "busy". But it is possible.