What to expect as a freshman music major?

May 28, 2010 at 03:52 AM ·

 What should I expect as a freshman music major?   I know it may vary from school to school and studio to studio, but I'm just asking to see if I can delineate any common denominators from you guys.  I know that you are the BEST source of info anywhere. :)



Replies (29)

May 28, 2010 at 04:30 AM ·

 Lots of rehearsals.  Lots of theory homework.  Lots of late nights banging your head on a piano in a practice room wondering why they are forcing you to learn this stupid instrument when you can already play the violin.

May 28, 2010 at 06:04 AM ·

 In my case, my Principal Study (Violin) teacher have me to start from scratch to make sure my basics is strong. I have to re-learn and practice Kreutzer starting even from an 'easy' number such as 2,3,5,8 etc. as well as scales and arpeggios and all of that technical stuff. And for about 6 month, he limited my repertoire only to Bach Solo sonatas/partitas and a Concerto by Mozart (I chose no.4) as well as orchestral and chamber music repertoire.

Besides that, the other frustrating subject is the Music History. There ARE(yup, it happen until now) so many homework and I have to do so many researches...phew...Music Theory is not too difficult for me, though. Since I'm studying in a fine arts academy which has other departments,  I have to take one non-music elective in which I chose fine arts and I regret it sooo much...but I believe all my friend who take different electives also complained why the hell do they need to study those things lol.

May 28, 2010 at 06:09 AM ·

My freshman year consisted of theory, music history, ear training, sight singing, piano, chamber music, lessons, juries, recital/concert attendance, orchestra, hours upon hours in a practice room, a few gen ed classes here and there, and delicious, cheap beer.


May 28, 2010 at 10:10 AM ·

My freshman year was at DePaul U (then I followed my teacher off to CIM):

Music theory/history/ear training/class piano; orchestra, chamber orchestra, outside chamber music and a youth orchestra.  Required academics-English comp, World Civilizations, an art class for non-majors.  Violin-systematic journey through Flesch & Kreutzer; a few contemporary etudes (my teacher was preparing them for ASTA); cleaning up technique through some Handel, Mozart, Bruch, etc.  Basically it was classes-practice-study, repeat.  Weekend eating was interesting, because our cafeteria closed at 1 p.m. Saturday and did not open again until Monday morning. 

May 28, 2010 at 01:36 PM ·

If where you're going is anything like where I study, your first year you will gradually realize that music is the only major where you have to take like 10 courses to fill up a standard 12 credit hour load...

May 28, 2010 at 04:23 PM ·

Ah, but science lab classes are generally 3 hours of actual classroom time for 1 hour of credit -- so, it evens out.


May 29, 2010 at 07:20 PM ·

 So, lots of theory, history and piano.  And practice practice practice?  Was anyone's first year STRICTLY etudes and technical type stuff?

May 29, 2010 at 07:59 PM ·

 That depends on your private instructor.  

MOST music degrees (there are variations on this theme though) have the standard list of classes that you take with your fellow music majors.  This includes the theory, history and class piano.

In addition to classes, a music major is usually required to take private lessons with a teacher they have on staff.  The private lesson environment is just like any private lesson (you're just getting class credit for it) and it can vary from teacher to teacher and from student to student.

Since you are technically getting college credit for these lessons, you have to be graded for them.  The "final exams" for private lessons are called juries.  At the end of every semester (or quarter depending on your school), you will basically play a few polished pieces in front of a panel of music teachers which usually includes your private instructor.  You will decide early in the semester what you will play at juries and sometimes this can include an etude or scale.

Your grade at jury time is usually based on improvement rather than a perfect performance.  Like if you go in there obviously not having every practiced your stuff, you get a bad grade.  The teachers watching you are looking for effort and, over the course of your college career, improvement. 


May 29, 2010 at 08:06 PM ·

 Ahh, thanks Danielle. 

May 30, 2010 at 01:30 AM ·

I have no clue on music major freshman year, but I do have a suggestion for the general ed you most likely be required to take.  See if the university has a physics course for music majors, some universities have it, or at least used to long ago.  I went the physics for engineers path, but found the portion on acoustics fascinating. 

May 30, 2010 at 03:17 AM ·

If you're smart, expect to change your major to something else your freshman year...business, engineering, pre-med. I hate to be a pessimist, but there's no money in music anymore, we are a dying breed and in this economy, I'm sure many orchestra will fold in the next few years.

May 30, 2010 at 06:01 PM ·

Ha!  Manuel, that's so true.

May 30, 2010 at 10:09 PM ·


Yeah, I guess some other majors like Biology or Chemistry require as much involvement. Still, regarding what you said about labs, a normal ensemble will be one credit hour, then 3 or 4 hours of rehearsal a week (at least, not counting dress rehearsals...). And then there's all the time you have to spend in the practice room to be prepared for the rehearsals. So it's a lot!

May 31, 2010 at 01:43 AM ·

I'm curious... How many hours a day are you expected to practice, being a violinist music major? Do violinists in college have to practice more than the students who chose other instruments to major on?

May 31, 2010 at 01:57 AM ·

I'm not sure.... I guess it depends on what you're expected to do once you get to your school.  But I'm sure all other music majors will practice waaaaay too much anyway. :)

May 31, 2010 at 02:19 AM ·

 Well Marty, I think you're being a bit optimistic.

May 31, 2010 at 03:35 AM ·

I appreciate his honesty.  But for right now, I'm going to follow my heart.


May 31, 2010 at 04:02 AM ·

 That's right Michael, just follow your heart and do what you like the most ;)

Many of my friends who have graduated from universities and got degrees in architecture, engineering, economics, medical, tourism and all that so called 'easy-to-find-job' majors still jobless until now. There's nothing easy in this era, and that's why you should work hard if you want to succeed, which I believe can be achieved no matter what will you study. Considering that studying business, maths, medical, etc also doesn't guarantee you a job, so why not study music, the subject you like the most? That's also the reason why I chose to major in music.

All the best.


May 31, 2010 at 05:38 AM ·

people can make money doing anything they want to do, so long as they cultivate a way to do it. :) if someone can make money from creating silly plastic covers for fruit (the banana-gaurd, anyone?) then surely a  musician can make money playing music. :)

May 31, 2010 at 07:21 AM ·

 To Michael but in response to Marty's comment:

I graduated from college not too long ago (class of '08) and am now working in the field of music.  Of all my college friends, many of which were pre-med and engineers, I am the only one currently employed in the field I studied (not just working retail or something).  

The medical, business and engineering fields are currently flooded with graduated students capable of working but are unable to offer internships or entry-level jobs due to the slump in the economy.

There's no fool proof major.  Do what you love and the money will come.

June 1, 2010 at 11:09 PM ·

Dreams are important, and doing what you love for a living is the greatest thing since sliced bread. 

Taking out a 200K loan to follow your heart might not be the best plan for the future though.

The best of luck to you.  College was a lot of hard work, and a lot of fun too!

June 1, 2010 at 11:56 PM ·

No 200k loans for me! Not at all!  I did get $20,000 in scholarships plus loan money from Shenandoah though!

June 2, 2010 at 12:44 AM ·

Now I just need to find a summer job....... :(

June 2, 2010 at 02:01 AM ·

Congratulations on your scholarship. (Smiley here)

I used 200K because I can think of a couple of private music schools that are 60K a year now, a couple that are 50K, and some that are 40K.  State schools would be less expensive...

Good luck in your studies.  Getting As to practice solo Bach was pretty nifty in my book!

June 2, 2010 at 02:24 AM ·

I know!  Hopefully I'll get paid to play solo Bach instead of getting grades on it. :)

June 2, 2010 at 02:47 AM ·

Two of the biggies that I have observed sometimes are stress-producers for freshmen:

  • Their teacher requiring some fundamental change in their technique
  • Injury from overdoing practice now that you are doing this "full-time"

June 2, 2010 at 03:20 AM ·

I'm worried about not being able to grasp the new techniques, but I'm sure my new teacher will help me!

June 4, 2010 at 12:52 AM ·

 My very first year of university I took the general science route. In about April of my first year I decided I needed to do music. One quick audition later, I was there! I did my degree in 3 years with no silly non-music classes, because I had done them all in my first year. It was great! On top of everything mentioned as general classes, we had to be in the Choir first year, and every year we had the Performing Arts Series- 8 concerts a year of which we had to attend 6 or lose the year (free tickets, everything from symphonies to ballet to international stuff!)

Then there's the fun fact that I worked in the campus bar...

Edit- I should probably add that I did an education degree after my music degree, and now I teach general music and violin full time in my school district. :)

June 4, 2010 at 05:39 PM ·

Watch out for the food in the campus canteen...  one of the memorable highlights of my first term at university was catching severe (and I mean SEVERE as in "you'd not wish it on your worst enemy" and "I couldn't eat anything for a fortnight") food poisoning from undercooked meat one lunchtime.   After that I suddenly learned how to cook.  Actually, if you don't cook for yourself already, taking along a few good basic cookbooks, or getting a few lessons at home before you leave is well worth the effort!

As for the music side.  Make the most of every opportunity to explore what's available academically and performance-wise, to meet lots of interesting new people (not just music students) and also to broaden your horizons.

Oh yeah, and don't allow yourself to be overwhelmed by those fellow students who have such huge egos - "I was playing Paganini concerti at age 6" - that they can hardly get their heads through the practice room doors.  Easy to feel you've not got anything to offer in comparison to all their supposed ability - but be true to yourself and follow your own personal path rather than worry about what everyone else is doing - or more likely only claiming to be doing.

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