The Life Of A Music Major, As Told By Non-Music Majors

In this fun experiment, I wrote and requested interview questions from others studying music about being a music major at West Chester University. Then, I posed them to people who studying other fields, who ended up giving answers that were fun and surprising to read. Below are the anonymous interviewee's responses followed by the answers I came up with.

1. What is your major and year?

Person P- Freshman, Biology

Person M- Senior, Nutrition

Person E- Sophomore, English

Person S- Junior, English Writings

Person O- Sophomore, Civil Engineering

Person J- Sophomore, Elementary Education

Person N- Sophomore, English Literature

Person A- Junior, Nursing with a Psychology minor

Person H- Sophomore, Nursing

I am a Sophomore Music Education major.

2. What musical experience do you have?

P- I've been in band and chorus since third grade and I'm in marching and concert band here.

M- I took private voice lessons from age eight to seventeen and was in choir until eighth grade. I played the flute from fourth grade to tenth grade in band and orchestra, also participating in marching band sixth grade to ninth grade. I also took keyboard lessons for four years, violin lessons for three years.

E- I was in choir throughout high school and I took singing lessons in eighth grade. I was also in a select choir in middle school.

S- I had music class in grade school, where we played the recorder and sung.

O- I took violin for one year when I was in kindergarten and took choir for three years. I also have some experience on the Wii drums and guitar hero.

J- I play piano, ukulele, and was in high school choir.

N- Choir in elementary school, Hand chimes (also in elementary school), and piano.

A- I was the captain of my drumline in high school (indoor and outdoor) by my senior year, did orchestra, wind ensemble, and a women's choir. I started my first instrument (drumset) when I was four but really gave up on music for a while from about 4th to 7th grade after piano lessons really came for my brand, but I've pretty much always done some sort of vocal ensemble and even dabbled in a couple recreational bands/ bit of songwriting in high school.

H- I have been playing flute for 10 years! In high school and for my first semester at WCU I did marching band, and I was also a drum major in high school. I play my flute in the church choir at Newman every week, which has been a really fun way to meet people! I've also played the cello and piano in the past as well as sung in choirs.

I started learning the violin in fourth grade, and continued my participation in orchestra through the end of high school. When I was twelve, I started taking piano lessons and now I study piano as my major instrument in college. I have done various choirs, including Cantari Donne and Mastersingers at West Chester University.

3. Do you have any personal relationships with one or more music majors?

P- Yes, quite a few.

M- Not currently. My best friend of 24 years and current roommate was a music minor. My aunt was a music major 30 years ago.

E- I room with one!

S- No.

O- Yes, you.

J- Yes.

N- Yes. One goes to Temple and hearing her talk about everything she has to do stresses me out.

A- Yeah, I have a handful of music major friends.

H- Since I was in the marching band, I got to meet many music majors and learn a little about what they are doing. I have a few friends who are in ensembles, and they have a lot of work. One thing I always see music majors doing is taking mirror selfies in their practice rooms!

As a music major myself, I have several friends and acquaintances studying music at West Chester.

4. What music-related majors are offered at West Chester University?

P- Education, performance, elective studies.

M- No idea. At all. I kinda thought music was music honestly. It never occurred to me that there could be more than one.

E- Music education, music theory/history.

S- Teaching, vocal, and instrumental?

O- Education and how to do music

J- Music Performance, music education, music therapy?

N- Music Education, Music theory, voice

A- Ed, Performance, Ed and Performance, and Composition.

H- The two that I've heard of are music performance and music education.

WCU offers quite a few paths for music majors, including Music Education, Performance, Theory, History, and Composition. For students who are interested in performing and teaching, there is also a five-year Music Education and Performance major. Another major offered is Music with Elective Studies, which means students mainly study music, taking many of the same required courses as other music majors, but they also study major courses in another major, most often business or therapy. For each major, there are three tracks: Instrumental, Voice, and Keyboard, indicating the major instrument of the student and which instrument they have major lessons for.

5. How many classes do music majors take each semester?

P- 11

M- 5-6

E- 7-8

S- 5

O- 11-13

J- 5-6

N- 6-7

A- 10-12

H- 5-6

The schedule of a music student is a little different than others simply because of the number of courses we take. While everyone's schedule is different, we will often take over 10 classes each semester, which is made possible by the credit amounts per class. While some of our classes are worth 2 or 3 credits, others are worth 0.5, 1, or 1.5, making it possible for students to have such a large quantity of classes without overloading. However, many end up overloading anyway, either to try graduating on time or to fit in their favorite courses and ensembles.

6. What courses are required for music majors?

P- Jury pieces, lessons, ensembles, learning new instruments, and basic gen eds.

M- I assume gen eds plus major classes in theory and also playing your instrument. Probably also composing.

E- Piano course, singing or orals classes, music history, and music theory.

S- Music theory classes, language requirement, gen eds.

O- Instrument classes, music theory, teaching music classes, go to recitals, music history.

J- Gen eds and music theory classes.

N- Music theory, music history, and I'm assuming they have to learn a couple of different instruments as well.

A- It probably varies between performance and/or ed as well as instrument concentration, but gen eds, 2 years of marching band, a series of theory, aural, and composition classes (probably 2-3 of each at least), classes for all the instruments, ensembles, music history, ed classes, conducting classes, and lessons.

H- Music theory classes, taking music lessons on every instrument, and I believe doing two years of performance in an ensemble. I was in marching band so I heard a lot about the work music majors have to do and it's a lot! I can't imagine trying to learn so many instruments.

The course requirements are different for everyone depending on their specific major and concentration/ instrument. However, all music majors have to take Music Theory, Aural Activities, Private Lessons, Music History, a Major Ensemble, Studio Hour, and Conducting. Instrumentalists besides strings and double reeds players are also required to take two semesters of marching band. There are other courses only required for specific majors, such as music education courses, instrument classes, and music literature. Between these courses and general education courses, it's a busy schedule to say the least.

7. What do music majors learn in Music Theory courses?

P- How to write music, chords, and understand it.

M- Scales, chords, keys, time, maybe music reading skills, music math.

E- How to sight read and generally read music, compose your own pieces, analyze other pieces from different composers

S- How to analyze music?

O- Rhythms, melodies, harmony. You listen and write music as well as reading it.

J- The fundamentals of music, basically. The clefs, the notes, the chords, and how they work in conjunction with each other.

N- I honestly have no idea, something along the lines of how music is composed? I know it's pretty hard based on what I've heard from my music ed friends.

A- I feel like basically, it's an English class, but instead of dissecting novels and what their authors meant, it's dissecting music and what/why composers made the musical choices they did, analyzing chord progressions, melodies, countermelodies, and all that good stuff

H- How music is composed and why it is written the way it is.

Music Theory courses cover the process of writing, analyzing, and understanding the building blocks of a composition. We start at the basics, reviewing how to read different clefs and then moving on to tougher topics, such as how musical ideas or motives are written and repeated. During class, we observe different pieces, modern and classical alike, to look at how or why a composer would put in a certain chord or melody. We also spend time composing our own pieces as a project. Tests and quizzes will be divided into sections into vocabulary terms and analyzing a few lines of music.

8. What does an Aural class look like?

P- singing.

M- I have no idea what that is or how one takes a class on it.

E- maybe a few students and a professor working on different pieces together.

S- It's in an auditorium, maybe?

O- Is that like listening to music class? Or maybe it's singing.


N- No. Idea.

A- hell if you don't have perfect pitch or at least really good relative pitch.

H- Students learning how to sing different pitches.

Aural Activities courses work on developing a musician's listening skills. We focus and are tested on two main topics- singing and dictation. We start off singing major scales, and eventually move into more difficult notes outside of our set of "normal" notes in a key. While we do skills and prepared songs, we do a lot of sight-singing, where the professor takes a song we do not know, gives us the sheet music, and we have to sing it to the best of our ability, with only a few notes or chords on the piano indicating what it might sound like. Dictation is the ability to listen to a song and properly notate it on the staff. Usually, this will be less than 10 measures at a time during a test, but for homework, the pieces can be much longer. In class, we usually get eight opportunities to listen to the piece before that section is over.

9. What does a music major's homework look like?

P- Practicing, writing music, stuff like that.


E- sheet music for practice, rehearsal, and maybe some homework on paper.

S- Studying and writing musical notes?

O- You have to practice musical instruments, write some music, go to recitals, and write lessons for small children about rhythms.

J- I think it's just theory worksheets I guess.

N- Recording different vocal techniques and lots of sheet music worksheets I guess.

A- Practicing, practicing, more practicing. Probably some written lesson plans and stuff for ed majors, maybe occasional writing the occasional composition, possibly video submission playing tests.

H- Practicing different tones and pitches and answering questions about how music is set up, rhythms, etc.

Music Majors have a variety of different assignments. Most importantly is practicing repertoire for lessons and ensembles. Other than that, we probably have to take notes and write papers for music history, write compositions and complete analyses for music theory, complete dictation exercises and prepared melodies for aural, write lesson plans and complete observations for education courses, etc.

10. What are recital cards?

P- Cards that you have to get punched when you go to recitals.

M- Recital cards might be like a program for a recital show or a cheat sheet for a performer.

E- Cards that document how many recitals you attend.

S- A card used to go to a recital.

O- They are cards that work like coffees but instead, you have to attend recitals. You get them punched when you go and watch others performing.

J- Is it like a pass or something?

N- No idea.

A- Y'all gotta go to a bunch of recitals per semester, I wanna say like 10, with a certain number of ensemble, student, and faculty recitals and get your lil card punched.

H- I haven't heard of these, but my best guess is a paper that tracks how many recitals the student goes to in order to fulfill the requirement.

Before we graduate, music majors have to complete six recital cards, tracking how many recitals we go in a semester. For each card, we need to watch two ensembles, two students, two faculty members, and two recitals of our choice for a total of eight overall recitals. When we attend the performances, we get two holes punched- one showing we came in before it started and one saying we left at the end.

11. How much should music majors practice?

P- 2- 4 hours a day.

M- Every day for two hours.

E- Two hours a day.

S- 2 or 3 hours spread throughout the day?

O- Until they are proficient.

J- an hour a day.

N- Every day. Maybe for 2-3 hours?

A- Approximately 25 hours per day.

H- 5-6 times a week for maybe 1-3 hours.

During all-school meetings, professors usually tell students to practice for at least two hours every day, and strongly encourage even more. Every faculty member will say something different, but the point is everyday music majors should step in the practice room and come out having made progress in their instrument and in other courses. Realistically, everyone has a different amount of work, especially if you're in more classes and/or ensembles. But most importantly is the way a student practices, which is hopefully efficient and good for their mental and physical health.

12. What was your perception of musicians in high school? How has that changed in college?

P- I believed that they were well-rounded students and that they had a dedication. It's stayed around the same.

M- That they were either druggies who couldn't cut it in science and math but had talent, or they were parent-pleasing prodigies. Sorry. Today I think they're just like everyone else, trying to find a way to make a living doing what they love.

E- In high school, it seemed like they were almost a strange mix of people from all different friend groups and personalities. Some seemed like they felt they had to take the music classes while others were there because they loved what they were doing. In college, I've noticed the musicians are more of the latter. They love what they're doing and are majoring in something they are passionate about. They're all very dedicated to what they are learning.

S- I thought it was just a hobby or a dream, but I know that many musicians have a lot of job opportunities ahead of them and are taken more seriously.

O- They are nice and like music. Poco artsy.

J- A lot of my friends are music majors at other schools. I feel like they have a passion and I honestly really respect them for choosing a major that doesn't necessarily guarantee financial stability, but ensures they will be doing something they love for the rest of their lives.

N- I've always respected them. Even though I only play some piano, the dedication it must take to learn instruments and the theories behind them- it seems like a lot to me.

A- I was one, I did band, orchestra, and choir in high school, and both of my parents are music teachers, so my perception hasn't really changed other than I know how hard it is to pursue music and how much work goes on behind the scenes of every single performance. I knew I wasn't cut out for it so major props to everyone who is doing it, especially at West Chester because the programs here are really strong.

H- I've always seen musicians as dedicated and hardworking. I still believe that now, but I see even more passion. You can tell that music majors really enjoy what they're doing.

I remember in high school when I first decided to study music, it seemed like no one was as dedicated to music as I was. Now that I go to West Chester, it's amazing to see the talent and passion of the students around me and I am so proud to say I'm one of them.

Thanks again to everyone, musical or not, who contributed by asking questions or responding to interview questions.

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