Sweat was gathering on my brow. I was sitting in musicianship class, trying not to look directly at our professor, who had just given me a pitch from a pitch pipe and was waiting for me to begin. All I had to do was sing this sight-singing exercise, but the heat of the moment made it seem so much more difficult. If only I had practiced more last night!
I decided the only thing to do was to give it my best shot, and that’s what I did. It wasn’t stellar, but it wasn’t terrible either. And it was better than last time, which was the important thing. Something I was doing in practice was paying off, even if only a little. Somewhere in those late night sessions of trying to figure out what was going on in this harmonic dictation, or which prepared sight-singing exercises I was going to neglect preparing, or why we had to go this in-depth with musicianship anyway, I was actually learning something.
That something was musicianship skills, and they have showed up in my study of music ever since. As hard as it would have been for me to believe at the time, everything I was doing mattered. Learning to read simple lines with solfege would give me a leg up on learning tough pieces in choir. Reading multiple cleffs and trying to understand harmonic dictations made me more prepared to play hymns in class piano. And learning to practice even when I didn’t want to has made me a more competent musician in every way.
It wasn’t just musicianship, though. My experience in Music Theory classes has helped me, too. Whether analyzing a piece in Music History, or harmonizing a melody, or writing an aural analysis of a piece performed in a recital, a deeper understanding of the basic workings of music has given me the ability to succeed at every point along the way.
While it wasn’t easy, it was worth it. I’m glad I worked through the tough classes in the first two years of my music major. Not only has it given me valuable music skills, it has given me the motivation to work hard in the rest of the hard classes I have yet to take.