What to expect in your first semester studying music in college

  • Jumping in the deep end. In some college majors, you will spend your first couple of years doing “general education” courses (like writing, math, history, and science), and not take many “major” classes until later on. But with music, you usually start on day one with a lot of music classes.
  • A thorough and varied education. During your years in college you will probably study music theory and music history, play the piano (even if you’re not a pianist), sing (even if you’re not a singer), perform as a soloist and ensemble member, conduct, compose, and more. There’s a good chance you will dislike or think you are bad at some of those things, but they are part of your complete career preparation.
  • New teacher-student interactions. In high school you may have gotten used to a band or choir director being your go-to person for all things musical. But in college you may also work very closely with a teacher of your instrument or voice, plus teachers of other musical topics. Your teachers may expect you to meet differing expectations (such as different writing styles or vocabulary or attendance policies). You may find that your teachers put demands on your time that you will have to navigate carefully to avoid conflicts.
  • A dose of adulthood. Expect to take more individual responsibility for most aspects of your education (and life). Your college teachers are more likely to expect you to locate and obtain needed books, sheet music, supplies, instrument repairs, etc. on your own. (They may be willing to suggest some good companies to purchase from.) And if you’re used to a grown-up making sure you get up on time, do your homework, and eat reasonably nutritious meals, you are now that grown-up.
  • Choices with consequences. You may find yourself pulled in multiple directions by school, family, friends, and other activities. Understand that sometimes it may be the best choice for you to attend a family event and miss some classes, but that’s not the same thing as being “excused.” Your grade will probably suffer. And for music students, missing certain rehearsals or performances might have particularly dire consequences, since your absence affects the group.

Studying music in college is fun and rewarding, but also a challenge. Good luck!

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