What does it mean to be a music major and how is it different from being in band or choir in high school?

Declaring your major as music, whether it is in education, performance, or technology can be an exciting decision to make. People choose to major in music for many different reasons, but the primary motivation seems to be a passion for making music in some capacity. Inspiring people through performance and teaching can be a life-changing experience for all involved. The majority of students who choose to major in music are typically the ones that were heavily involved in their high school choir, orchestra, and band programs. These students were often found in the band or choir room before and after school and participated in many musical activities on and off campus. In short, they played and sang a lot! Choosing music as your major in college brings new challenges as you prepare for a professional career. One of the most shocking realizations for the college music major at any institution is the fact that they will be taking academic style music courses and not simply just singing or playing their instrument. As with any discipline studied, the student must take core classes that help them gain knowledge and skills they will need to develop a successful professional career after graduation. For the music major, these courses include music theory, music history, class piano, and other fundamental classes. In addition to these studies, the music major will also take general education classes such as college algebra and literature courses. The student will be expected to develop a practice routine and also juggle class assignments and ensemble requirements. Fundamental to the academic mission at West Liberty University, we we hope to produce professional musicians across a multitude of musical disciplines that are prepared to achieve success and happiness in their professional lives.

The following are recommendations  from the National Association for Music Education for successful completion of a music major program. You can read more of their articles and information on their website at www.nafme.org.

1. Clarify your reasons for becoming a music major. What do you want to do with your music study? Do you want to teach or be an international recitalist? Do you want to go to graduate school or professional school?

2. Request the assignment of an adviser from the music faculty. This adviser can guide you through course selection and audition preparation. Ask about the proper sequence of courses and their content. If you need remedial work, it is best to discover this early on. At West Liberty, a music advisor will be provided for you.

3. Keep a portfolio of your progress throughout your undergraduate studies. Theory tests (with high marks), programs of ensemble work and student recitals, notes from master classes, and other professionally related experiences will confirm your determination to succeed.

4. Manage your time carefully. You must allow time for core courses, music major courses, studio practice time, ensemble rehearsal, and ensemble performance dates. From an organizational standpoint, this is often the true test of whether you can “make it.” This is also the true training ground for becoming a teacher. Time management and organization will always be critical.

5. Prepare for your proficiency tests with great care. Juries and recitals with your major instrument are the cornerstone for your musicianship. Work closely and diligently with your applied teacher. Plan appropriately for secondary instrumental requirements. This could mean lessons and performance opportunity in a less-threatening environment. Prepare for your piano proficiencies with the appropriate faculty member. While the approving faculty member may be responsible for testing, he or she may not always be the most suitable person for planning an instructional strategy to satisfy the test. You might consider asking the applied piano teacher for a referral.

6. Academic habits that are predictors of success in school-punctuality, reliability, preparedness, industriousness, and effort-are also indispensable for success in the music profession. Declaring a music major is more complicated than singing or playing for pleasure. With careful planning and dedication, however, the curriculum can be one of the most rewarding in the liberal arts.