I will be completely honest here: one of the strangest but most predictable events of my musical school year is the annual Fleeing of the Freshmen. This event, as regular as the tides and sad like lemmings, occurs around the end of first semester. Freshman who were only three months ago bright-eyed and bushy-tailed head to their advisers’ offices, and for a million reasons drop their music majors and switch to something else.
It might be class loads that they don’t like – “How am I supposed to take NINE CLASSES and still do well?!!?”
It might be that the major wasn’t what they were expecting – “I just wanted to play guitar, why do I need to know solfege?!”
It might be that they were intimidated by people further in their college careers – “I’ll NEVER be as good as Sarah!!” (Sarah being someone who is on semester 11 of their 4 year degree.)
Whatever the reason, I have not yet seen a freshman class come in that was not down like 40% by the end of the year. So here’s my point: don’t drop music entirely because of one semester! If you entered college with a passion for music, hold onto it. Here’s four reasons why:
Music is the only major where your homework can help you relax after school. I listen to music that my classes have introduced me to for pleasure. I’ve discovered music that’s helped me through hard times in my Music History classes. There is no other field where the stuff you need to study is so immediately useful in your day to day life. Accounting homework is not going to help you get through a breakup, you know?
Few other majors have the sense of community that musicians develop. I have met tons of wonderful people through my music majors. I spend probably four hours a day with some of these people during the school year, since we all take the same classes. We all know each others’ pain – I can and have posted on Facebook an agonized word count, and gotten three people asking if it was about Form and Analysis (it was) and declaring they were even more behind than I was (doubtful). From watching my non-music friends, it looks like the only other major where people have the same sense of comrades-in-arms is Nursing, and that’s because it’s the only major that has a stricter class progression than Music.
Transitioning into another major is much easier than returning to music. In other fields, you don’t necessarily need to stay in practice. In music, though, if you don’t use it you lose it. It is far easier to go into Marketing after two years focused in a different field, for example, than it is to return to a flute performance major after a year without playing.
A thorough grounding in the foundations of classical music will help in ANY musical genre or field. If your problem is that you want to perform pop music, but you’re getting trained in classical – how do you think pop music is written? Those same chord progressions you’re learning in Theory I are the foundation for pop. The ear training you need to do to pass Aural Skills will help immensely in the studio if you want to be a recording engineer or producer. The foundations of music are the same, regardless of genre. If you’re going to break the rules, it helps to know exactly what you’re breaking – it’s way easier to screw up an engine if you know how it works, and the same thing applies to music.
Stick with music. Keep it as a minor. Unless the atmosphere is bad for your mental health (which, I get it, it can be pretty rough), stick with it. Don’t give up after one rough semester. The old college try is a year long process – you might feel differently next year.