Music Majors: You Can Do It
Heyyyy, music major. I see you! YOU are exhausted. YOU have been up all night. And probably the last three nights. In the past three weeks, you have had... ...concerts ...finals ...papers ...juries ...recital hearings
...recitals ...barrier/standing exams ...presentations ...more more more more more because it feels like it never ends If you have a recital next semester, you've probably been scrambling to finalize rep, select a date, lock down your collaborators, and find a panel. As soon as you get back from the holiday, you'll have to schedule a recital hearing. Getting all three panelists plus your collaborators in the same room on the same day will prove to be a feat more challenging than finding the tonal center in a Charles Ives piece. You can do it. If you've taken vocal ped this semester, you won't just have a written final. You'll probably have to TEACH A LESSON IN FRONT OF YOUR PEERS *AND* LABEL ALL THE PARTS OF THE LARYNX OHHHH WHAT THE CRAP IS A CRICOID AGAIN??? You can do it. If you've taken diction this semester, you'll probably be given a portion of standard rep in French, Italian, German, and English, and asked to IPA it on the spot. You might have to read it out loud to your professor too. You can do it. If you've taken song lit this semester, you've probably memorized Carol Kimball's "Song" cover to cover but still confuse Schubert and Schumann sometimes because COME ON THAT "SCH" SOUND. You can do it. If you've taken music history this semester (OF COURSE you've taken music history this semester), you are eyeballs deep in sprechstimme or polyphony or Hildegard von Bingen or Les Six or Palestrina or whotheheckever you've been studying because it all matters. You've been having study parties at your apartment every night for the last five nights, but your group of friends is all so bleary and exhausted, your drop-the-needle game is WAY OFF, and it's starting to freak y'all out. (They still do drop-the-needle in music history, right? Or am I just super old? This is still a thing, yes?) Whatever. You can do it. If you've taken aural skills, your final is probably going to be naming every interval under the sun in front of your entire class. And then a bunch of melodic and rhythmic dictation which you could play or sing in your sleep IF IT WASN'T FOR A GRADE. You can do it. If you've taken theory...you know...they're going to give you a piece, and you're going to need to do a harmonic analysis. Or some Shenkerian analysis thing...I don't know. Good luck. Make sure you know more about secondary dominants than I did, I'll tell you that much. You can do it. If you've taken counterpoint...or form and analysis...I'm just sorry. I'm so, so sorry. You can do it. If you're a music ed person, you've probably taken a bunch of methods courses and have those finals, but I don't know what that's about because I didn't do music ed, so...good luck? Do the methods? You can do it. Your non-music major friends probably don't get it. Yeah, they all have finals, projects, papers, absolutely. Their stuff is hard, undoubtedly. But--and you and I know this--it's different for musicians, isn't it? It's not just the finals, juries, projects, recital prep, papers, and so on. It's that, underneath all that, there's this voice asking the same questions over and over. "Am I good enough?" "Will I have a career?" "What is success?" "What if they find out I'm a fraud?" "What if everyone knows that I suck, and no one is willing to tell me?" "What if I'm not getting better?" "What if I graduate and can't find a job?" "What if I disappoint my family?" "Am I good enough?" The formal training of musicianship is grueling. And it should be. We should hold ourselves to high standards of excellence so that we can make the world better and brighter. But, coupled with the crippling self-doubt that many of us artistic-types face, this kind of stressful training can be downright paralyzing. And this is why, dear, dear music majors (who I love so much because I WAS you, and many of my dearest friends WERE you, and we GET IT!): Please hang in there. Please put down your phone (or the latte or the beer or whatever) and go to bed. Please, dare I say it, step out of the practice room and go for a walk. Go to the gym. Go to student health services and talk to a counselor. Please remember that you are treasured and worthy and wonderful. You are not the musician you will become. Inside you is a force of nature waiting to be unleashed. It is ok if progress happens slowly. It is ok if you're not understanding things at the same pace everyone else is. Please play the long game here. These days are important, absolutely. Give your best, absolutely. But please remember that this is a blip in a long life of music-making. Dear ones--dear FUTURE OF OUR ART--please take care of yourselves. Be gentle with yourselves and with each other. Take time over the next few weeks to rest. To reconnect with what makes music fun. With what you love about your instrument. To explore ideas and activities that aren't related to music--becoming a better person will make you a better musician! I promise! Take time to reconnect with the people who love you--parents, former teachers, siblings, friends from high school, pastors--they are cheering for you from the sidelines, no matter how alone you feel. Music major. You can do this. One more week. Two at most. Stay the course. Sleep when you can. Ask for help when you can. And then stop and celebrate, because you are amazing. Those of us who have lived it GET IT. We are with you and for you and honored to call you colleagues. You can do it.