MUS 101, the first music theory course taken as a Music major, is divided into two sections: music technology and music literacy. The class has two discussion sections each week, all of which are devoted to music literacy topics. It also has three lecture days each week, two of which cover music technology topics, while the other covers music literacy.
Each class was a surprise, as our professor would bring in various instruments– some more strange than others– and we would observe as she put together recordings, edited to all play out of one side of the room, or all sound really quiet, or anything else you can think of.
We would watch students volunteer to stand in front of the class and sing their hearts as our professor moved their microphone around their head and across the room.
Some days, each student would get to log onto an online keyboard connected to the professor’s device and interrupt class with short songs or riffs they come up with on the spot.
Our assignments were just as interesting.
For one assignment this semester, I spent my time in the practice room, recording as I slapped random keys on the piano in sync with the rhythm my professor composed, just to show that I knew how to record and follow a rhythm.
Though it wasn’t always fun to wake up for a daily 9 a.m. class, I was never disappointed with entertainment.
And MUS 107, the first-year musicianship course, came with its own surprises as well.
Most classes began with the entire lecture room harmonizing under the direction of our professor. We would create chord progressions and resolve melodies, all by tuning into each other and following the solfege given by the professor.
One day, we even spent the lecture playing a game of jeopardy to review for our exams. We gathered into teams with the people around us, and at each turn, everyone hopped on the opportunity to perform and get the most points for their team, even if that meant singing a solo or duet for the class.
First-year music classes are definitely not the calmest ways to begin each morning, but they sure do wake you up, and they provide plenty of entertainment.
Combating Imposter Syndrome
At some point in their college career (or afterward), most people experience some form of imposter syndrome, or the feeling that they’re a fraud/don’t deserve their successes. As a woman, in a major comprised primarily of men, this feeling is all too familiar to me. It’s hard sometimes to not doubt yourself and your skills, but over the years I’ve found there are ways to make imposter syndrome feel a little less overwhelming.
The first few days to weeks of graduate studies are already stressful enough. So, why then would we want to worry about the level of our playing in addition to everything else? We don’t want to be worried about the consistency of performance on our instruments when we are trying to do things like adapt to a new environment, fit in with our new community members, start new courses, and perform ensemble auditions. There may seem to be lots of solutions to this wealth of stressors, but I am going to focus on just one preventative action step that you can do this summer to increase your consistency in performance, reduce your stress, and come into grad school feeling confident in your playing. It’s really a simple solution. Take the time now to develop an effective warmup routine and get your fundamentals locked down!
My freshman year has certainly been an interesting one with ups and downs, new restaurants, new friends, a pandemic, and the list goes on. I’ve picked up a lot of new information over the last semester and a half that has made life a lot easier, in serious and silly ways. I hope you all enjoy, and maybe learn a thing or two if you’re someone entering college!
Winter Break was extra long this year. For me, this meant more practice time, which I found to be, depending on a variety of factors on any given day, both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, more time to practice = more time to study the repertoire I was preparing for the annual Paul Rolland Violin Award Competition. On the other hand, more time to practice = more time playing the violin alone, without anyone to structure my day except me. While I do appreciate a slow, meditative practice session, I find it a difficult lifestyle to maintain without the routine expectations provided by a “normal” weekly schedule of playing in lessons, studios, and chamber groups, and orchestra rehearsals; all of which I am lucky to experience in-person this year. I think that’s why I felt all the more grateful at my first in-person orchestra rehearsal experience of the second semester.
Day in the Life of a Violin Major
Hello readers! This is my first post, and I wanted to start with something simple: my typical Thursday. It’s more entertaining than it sounds, I promise.
Like the teenager I am, I woke up at the early hour of noon and grabbed some classic chicken and rice from the dining hall. After freshening up and a short walk to the Krannert Center, it was time for rehearsal! I’m a member of an ensemble called Chamber Orchestra. However, violins are not needed for the opera we are performing, so on those rehearsal days, we also get to play in the String Orchestra. Both are super fun and high-performing groups. We played two different pieces, Serenade by Josef Suk, and Starburst by Jessie Montgomery. A fun bit of information, Josef Suk was the great-grandson of the highly esteemed composer Dvorak. I originally met him when I was 6 years old during a violin trip to Prague.
Finding Home On Campus
I’ve lived my whole life in the state of Connecticut surrounded by water, seafood, and the 2-hour drive to New York. From the beginning, I knew of the vast and obvious differences between Illinois and Connecticut, but settling onto campus reminded me of them every day. It was difficult for me to situate myself when I was so used to the hustle and bustle and was too occupied missing my home and family. It was then, like a slap to my face, I recognized the reality of going to college: finding and creating a new home.