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Music performance majors devote long hours of practicing to perfect their craft

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Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:14 am | Updated: 11:42 pm, Thu Mar 6, 2014.

Constantly trying to hone their skills, the life of a music major is a tedious one. But seniors Collin Griebling and Fidelia Darmahkasih said the long hours of practice and dedication are worth the chance to live out their passions.

Griebling and Darmahkasih are just two of roughly 400 undergraduate students studying music performance at the University.

Like most, these students will undergo a four-year program to graduate, a program which entails extensive studying and hard work. However, these students also have another component to worry about; long hours practicing and perfecting their craft.

“You put in the amount of time you want and you get that much back from it,” Griebling said. “There’s no room for a mediocre player, a mediocre composer or a mediocre educator.”

William Mathis, chair of Music Performance Studies, said a music performance major typically signs up for four credit hours. A rule of thumb for these students is to practice an hour for every credit hour they sign up for, making for a recommended four hours of practice a day. Additionally, students must also take their “music core,” which includes music theory, ear training and music history.

“Coupled with performance preparation, this program is really what we call musicianship,” Mathis said. “It’s a pretty rigorous program.”

As if balancing their core classes, general education classes and exponential hours of practice weren’t enough, these students also face numerous evaluations. Students not only have to audition to get into the program, but they must also undertake a “sophomore review” and a final recital.

“Some people say they don’t like them, but for me, I look forward to a point to where I can present my ideas to these people, get some feedback and hopefully get better,” Griebling said.

The sophomore review requires students to perform in front of a “jury” specific to their field. If they do not pass this evaluation, they are given detailed instructions on where their skill level needs to be and how to get there. Although Mathis said it seldom happens, if students do not pass the evaluation for the second time, then they are dismissed from the program and must re-audition if they so choose.

Like the sophomore review, these jury assessments, Mathis said, are to measure progress.

“What we don’t want are students reaching the final recital only to find out that they aren’t at that level,” he said. “Most students, if they put the work in, will fly right through these assessments.”

Darmahkasih and Griebling are familiar with the stress and work required for these evaluations as they have already completed their sophomore reviews, as well as their final recitals. But although preparing for them comes with a great deal of stress, both students welcome these evaluations because they let them know how to improve their crafts.

“Music is all about process,” Darmahkasih said. “We’re like athletes; we constantly have to train our muscles because if you’re not constantly doing it, you’ll lose it.”

With the major evaluations completed and graduation looming in May for both students, they can breathe a little easier, but only for the moment. As Darmahkasih mentioned, striving to perfect their talents is an ongoing charge.

While she only spends an hour practicing with her voice a day, Darmahkasih said she is always rehearsing in her mind.

Likewise, Griebling, before he began student teaching at Elmwood Local Schools, spent anywhere from one to six hours practicing his trombone [depending on the day].

“Music is a profession that you can always put more effort into,” Griebling said. “There’s no ‘I have completed my homework assignment and now I’m done,’ it’s an endless task.”

Stress is going to be a product of balancing immense hours of practice, classes and outside commitments. But like most college students, music majors also have another issue of stress in their vast list; the issue of future job placement.

Mathis said students in music education nearly have a 100 percent chance of job placement, but performance majors he warned, “must become entrepreneurs.”

Both Darmahkasih and Griebling have admirations of performing in an orchestra setting, but they also realize teaching is more than likely a part of their futures.

Griebling and Darmahkasih accept a lot of work, stress, criticism and uncertainty about their futures as musicians, but both of them agree…it’s all worth it.

“We do what we love, and I love to sing,” Darmahkasih said. “That’s what we do in heaven.”

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