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Music Education

Dear Mrs. Dromi…

By | Higher Education, Music, Music Education, Performance | No Comments

Dear Mrs. Dromi,

I attended your faculty recital tonight. I must admit, I came primarily because it was required of me. I supposed that was the case for a few of us tonight. The whole “Recital Attendance” course has never really been my favorite part of being a Music Major. In fact, I’ve been guilty of conquering multiple levels of Candy Crush during several of these “culturally broadening opportunities.” However, tonight, I feel there are a few things you should know about how your recital impacted me.

First, as you were in the middle of your second German set, I realized that your diction had been and continued to be impeccable. You talk to me a lot about diction in our lessons – how it is a part of musical excellence, how it communicates story and how it enhances and propels melodic phrases and lines. I get it now. I know I’ve told you that I understand in my lessons, but I really understand now. Watching you do what you teach and seeing how much that small detail changed the entirety of each piece, took my cognitive understanding to a higher level and birthed an emotional understanding that I believe will be invaluable.

Second, your French set was breathtaking. I mean, truly breathtaking. It could be the romantic in me, but hearing you sing this music reminded me that you are not only a teacher, but you are also an artist. The precision of your intervals mixed with lines and phrases that told every story left me teary in my seat. I could hear your voice in my head telling me that good technique would give me the freedom to really be an artist and reach deep places in people. Again, I get it now. I also get that all of tonight’s recital must have taken an insane amount of preparation. You must have spent the majority of your summer preparing for this. I don’t think you had to do that, but I’m really grateful that you wanted to. It was really inspiring to see that performing and making music is such a high value for you. I love that you still want to be an artist in the midst of teaching and mentoring the rest of us.

Finally, I really want to thank you for being so accessible to us tonight. As you sang your encore piece, I was taken aback by what a privilege it is to know you as a person. Tonight, we watched you and your sister perform for the first time together an entire (very ambitious) professional recital. We watched your family file into the center section of the auditorium, already proud of their daughter, wife, mother, and friend. We watched your father walk to the stage and give congratulatory flowers to his two daughters, and if we were watching closely, we saw the almost tear that he wiped from his right eye. You even let us listen in as you sang a lullaby to your children. Tonight, you weren’t just a JBU faculty member delivering a memorable performance in terms of difficulty of literature, professional artistry and near flawless technique. Tonight, you were a woman who chose to be vulnerable with a room full of people in hopes that they might experience beauty. Thank you for that.

I’m really looking forward to our lesson next week. Thanks for your willingness to help me be better. After tonight, I realize you could have chosen a much more glamorous path. Thanks for choosing us.

Sincerely,

Your student

Hello, my name is Chester…

By | Chester, Music, Music Education | One Comment

Hi! My name is Chester Wubbena, and I am the mascot and therapy dog for the Music & Theatre Department at John Brown University. I am around four years old, a Corgi mix, and I was adopted from the local animal shelter two years ago by Jan and Terri Wubbena, teachers here in the music program at JBU. I LOVE coming to JBU; the students LOVE me coming to JBU; and I provide a very important service. I go to classes when there is going to be a test. Hanging out with me in the first few minutes of class helps to lower their blood pressure and their stress level. I really believe I help them relax and better concentrate on what they are doing!! I put smiles on the faces of everyone I meet, because I am always smiling.

Life in the Department of Music & Theatre is always busy. Something is always being prepared – the freshman drama production, Homecoming Showcase, music for the Gathering on Sunday nights, the musical theatre production, Candlelight – and the list goes on. But things are never so busy that there isn’t time to talk, to visit, and to share with each other what is going on in our lives.

From time to time, you may hear more from me. It will be an honor for me to give you a dog’s perspective on what it is like to be in the Department of Music & Theatre! And, if you are ever on campus and want to brighten your day (and mine), come see me. I’m most always in my dad’s office.

Building Blocks

By | Music, Music Education, Music Theory | No Comments

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.

~Steve

Counting the Hours

By | Higher Education, Music, Music Education, Music Theory | No Comments

“So, how many hours are you taking this semester?”

This question is always really hard for me to answer. I know that what the other person really means is, “How busy are you this semester?” For me, those two questions aren’t the same. Being a Music Major comes with some strange and unique difficulties that make small talk like this difficult.

The hardest thing to explain about being a Music Major is that credit hours don’t always equal workload. While most of my friends are taking from five to seven classes, I’m usually enrolled in 10 or 11 class sections every semester. However, only four of them count for the standard three credit hours. The rest are classes like orchestra and choir and voice lessons that count for one hour of credit but require a lot of practice time outside of class. On top of that, there are always plenty of extra performance opportunities like musicals and plays and the small a cappella group that’s getting ready for the talent show, or the string quartet that’s playing for a wedding. As a result, a semester with 18 hours of credit can be lighter than one with 16. It all depends. It’s confusing, I know.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to having a lot to do. Sometimes when I get back to my room after a long day of classes and rehearsals and more rehearsals, I realize that I haven’t even started on my homework or practiced for my voice lesson the next day. I find myself wondering if I should have chosen a degree program that is less time-intensive.

But I stop myself there.

Somebody wise once said, “Nothing that’s easy is worth having.”

Someone else wise once said, “You should do what you love.”

Despite the quirks and challenges of studying music, I wouldn’t trade it for anything, because I love it. I love learning more about the things I’m passionate about. I love the fact that the JBU Department of Music and Theatre feels like a family. Believe it or not, I even appreciate the hard work that stretches me intellectually. And at the end of the day, I look forward to waking up the next morning and doing it all over again.

So, yes, friends, it is a little bit crazy. But I know I’m where I’m supposed to be.

~Steven

Steven is a Junior, majoring in Music Education. He is one of two student conductors for the JBU Cathedral Choir, the Concertmaster for the JBU Chamber Orchestra, and a talented actor in many JBU stage productions.