Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Year One: Survival Tips for First Year Music Students

Wow! This is a new one for me. This topic was a request! I've never received a request for a blog topic before so it's exciting and made me have to think. Usually, I'll just wake up or have an event which inspires me to write about it as I feel it might help some folks. In this case, I don't know why I didn't think of this before so, Alissa, here's your blog!

Ok. kiddos, rule one. I'm going to put this in all caps so you see this. IF YOU THINK MAJORING IN MUSIC IS LIKE HIGH SCHOOL BAND OR CHOIR BUT ALL DAY LONG YOU.ARE.WRONG. I can't put it any clearer than that. Hopefully that was made clear by the University ahead of time. So, let's get to tips.

Now, there's a strong possibility (if you're an instrumental major) that you'll be required to march. That's ok, there's usually scholarships involved and, if you're at the right program, some pretty cool travel involved. So, this means band camp, right? Here are some band camp tips.

  • Be yourself. I know that sounds silly but some folks think you have to establish yourself as one of the 'cool kids'. The days are long and hot. Don't worry about being anyone but yourself
  • Make sure to hydrate. This should be common knowledge but some people still forget and have problems
  • For goodness sake, I know this will be the first living away from home experience for many of you but don't go get hammered at night. Besides all the legal and school related problems, you'll feel like hammered dog crap the next day. It isn't worth it. 
  • There will usually be auditions for concert ensembles at some point during or right after camp. Yes, you need to prepare. Yes, you need to take them seriously. No, you won't likely be principal as a first year and no, it isn't the end of the world.
  • Do NOT use your good horn on the field. It isn't worth it.
Ok, we got band camp out of the way. Let's talk about fall semester.

  • Being a music major is busy....like REALLY busy. The better organized you get, the better you'll be. Remember, even if you get loans, grants, or scholarship, you are PAYING to go to school. You are training for a career. Yes, you want to have fun but you're there to do a job. Stay on top of things. Digging out of a hole as a music major is no fun. 
  • If you're staying up all night to complete an assignment.......well.......hope that four hours of Call of Duty was worth it. That's not to say don't have down time or play games. Get your business handled first. Then you can play, watch TV, or socialize guilt and worry free.
  • Yes, even as a music ed major you have to practice.....a LOT. Even as an Ed major you are majoring in your instrument. Time in the practice room makes you a better teacher. Besides, you get good at the very thing that brought you to college in the first place and learn works you never thought you could.
  • Your instrument needs to be serviced and in good shape. If you're a woodwind player you need a good stock of reeds. I like the Marca brand (full disclosure, I'm a Marca endorsing artist). You're going to have to buy music, reeds, and other accessories. It's one of the expenses of being a music major. 
  • Yep, gen ed classes are a pain. Take them seriously. Don't kill it in theory class but fall behind on the path to graduation because you skipped a bunch of psych 101 classes.
  • Here's a life tip based on things I did when I was young and what I heard when I went back- NO ONE CARES WHAT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL BAND DID. They're fun memories, be proud of them, but recognize that your classmates likely all have great high school band/choir memories. No one is going to hire you because of your high school band. Get it?
  • Theory, piano class, ear training, music history may all seem pointless to you at first. They are all important and yes, you will be using all of them down the road.
  • (edit credit to Annias Haney) Those classes all tie in together. You'll see it in the end, like a good movie but with more ear training and analysis.
  • Learn to listen (to something besides pop and DCI shows). Learn about not only the major players on your instrument but major players on all instruments as well as major band and orchestral works. Create a culture of curiosity in yourself that you can then pass down to your students down the road.
  • Remember when I said to get your business handled first? Yes, do that. Yes, be organized. It's so important, though, that you schedule yourself some down time. YOU NEED REST. You need physical rest. You need mental and emotional rest. Burnout sucks.
  • Learn to say no. Some professors, band directors, etc will use you for their own projects to the detriment of your academic performance and sanity if you don't learn that word. Remember that YOU pay THEM. Yes, they're your professors. No, they do NOT control you.
  • Be respectful to your classmates and professors. Burning bridges is dumb and can hurt your career. Drama is just dumb. 
  • Exercise- yes, it's important
  • Don't have a diet which consists solely of cheeseburgers and pizzas. Try to get some healthy foods in your diet
  • SLEEP. Yes, hanging with friends at night is awesome. Yes, homework needs to be done. However, your health is more important. Sleep deprivation hurts performance, makes you feel like crap, and is just no fun.

These are some thoughts. I encourage and invite other music majors and former music majors to join in.