musings of a professional bassoonist

Saturday, August 13, 2016

10 Tips for college freshmen music majors

 

   

1. Take care of yourself

You already know what to do to able to function optimally:  eat sensibly and regularly, exercise, strive for 8 hours of sleep each night, make a few friends.  Balance is key.

2. Set priorities

Make a list of your priorities and stick to that list.  Chances are, socializing is not your top priority, so be careful that your social life does not accidentally rise to the top unbeknownst to you.  Each choice you make will have either a positive or a negative impact upon your college experience.

3. Prioritize practicing

Establish a strict practicing schedule as soon as school starts.  Your success as a musician depends upon how much and how effectively you practice.  It may take you a while to figure out the best times to practice.  When I was a student at Eastman I liked to arrive at the practice rooms when the school opened at 7am so that I'd be able to choose one of my favorite practice rooms, and I always stayed until the school closed at 11pm.   I was determined to practice as much as I possibly could.  (No, I was not in the practice room all day.  Plenty of other things happened between my early arrival and my late departure.)

4. Know yourself and work with that knowledge

Know yourself and plan accordingly within reason.  For example, I'm an extremist. and that's why it suited me to arrive when the doors opened and leave when they closed at Eastman each day.   If you're gregarious, then you might benefit from practicing at peak times.  If you're a night owl, maybe it would behoove you to save your practicing for later hours when you are most energetic.

If you're not a morning person and you have a class at 8am each day, then you're going to have to find a way to force yourself to make it to that class on time.  (Try going to bed earlier!)  Do not allow yourself to skip classes unless you are deathly ill.  You have chosen to attend college and to pay a lot of money to do so.  Therefore it makes no sense to put forth anything less than wholehearted effort.

5. Revere your teacher

Pay rapt attention to the professor of your instrument.  Take notes during lessons, or if the professor allows, record (audio or video) your lessons.  If you hang on his or her every word (or playing demonstration), you'll learn faster.  Be sure to actually follow his or her instructions assiduously.

6. Listen to music

Listen to music of your chosen genre constantly in order to establish and inspire your musical goals and preferences.  Attend live performances and listen to recordings.  Of course, as a standard aspect of preparation, always listen to recordings of any music you're working on or performing.

7. Beware of distractions

Watch for distractions......they're everywhere.  Freshman year is perhaps NOT the best time to master Pokeman Go, World of Warcraft or Call of Duty.  Save Netflix for planned relaxation times.

Once you have a job (and tenure), then you can play Pokeman Go to your heart's content!

 8. Choose positively influential friends

 Choose your friends wisely.  If you're lucky enough to befriend a fellow music student who is a superior musician, you'll learn from that friend.  I hung out with a phenomenal flute student who was studying with James Galway during our freshman year at Eastman.  I learned a great deal from joining my friend in exploring interpretations of musical phrases, in listening to recordings of the world's greatest musicians, and in listening to the incomparable James Galway perform in person.



9. Say yes to performance opportunities

Say YES to any invitation to play your instrument, whether you'll be paid or not.  You need experience!

10. Ask for help

If any of your classes or assignments are confounding, don't hesitate to let the professor know right away.  Your fellow students may be of assistance also.  Everyone wants you to succeed!

If you're having trouble adjusting to college in any way, don't hesitate to use the resources at your disposal.  As far as I know, every college offers professional counseling for students, or you may wish to talk to a professor or administrator.  When I was a freshman I confided in my bassoon professor K. David Van Hoesen about an upsetting situation with my two roommates.  He called the dean, and that very day I was given a single room!



Attending college is life-changing. Have fun within reason, and rest assured that your hard work will pay off later.



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