Facing the music

Music education majors talk about the demanding program

Keene State College offers a wide variety of majors and minors to students. According to the admissions office at KSC the most enrolled majors are education, safety and psychology. But what about music education majors? Sandra Howard, Ph.D Associate Professor of Music at Keene State College, said out of the 71 students enrolled in the music major, 33 of them are in the music education program. The mixture of music and education majors makes student have to buckle down, especially with the abundance of classes and other required lessons. Students soon realize whether they are going to commit to this major, or if another version will better suit them. Keene State College first year Alyssa Taylor during her first semester determined that another type of the education major would complement her better.

Colton Mccracken / senior photographer

Colton Mccracken / senior photographer

Taylor switched her major over winter break from music education to elementary education. She had a semester to try it out, but in the end she realized it wasn’t for her. “Yes, I switched to elementary education. I knew that I wanted to be a teacher and music was my passion, but music education just was not for me,” Taylor said. The music education program is very intense, with multiple classes and lessons it makes it an easy road to stress city, Taylor said., “I was way too stressed out and could not keep up. I maintained passing grades, but I had to work extremely hard and I felt like I was always behind.” Taylor said that for her first semester here she had to take seven classes, not including vocal lessons and they were all for very little credit per class.

Even though Taylor loves everyone in the music department, she said, “I felt that my stress reliever was becoming the source of my stress.” While stress can weigh someone down, her love for music had been a trend throughout her life that won’t stop any time soon.

In addition to being the president of her choir in high school, Taylor is also self taught in guitar and piano. Taylor likes to write her own music as well. Taylor said, “I also grew up making a lot of YouTube videos and recording my own music on the side, but I have yet to release them.”

Taylor explained that switching her major to elementary education only gives her more time to focus on the music she really enjoys.

“Having spare time has given me the opportunity of focusing more on my personal music and I have decided to stay in concert choir as well,” she said.

Sophomore Jayce Barone went into KSC as a declared music education major as well. “I went into freshman year taking music classes right off the bat,” Baronesaid.

Barone said that she wanted to be a music education major because of her love for music and because it gives her the chance to show other students how special it can be to them as well. “I knew that I wanted to be a music major… and music [education] let me purse music for myself, but also have the opportunity to be a part of the process of teaching other kids to love music as much as I do,” she said.

Barone explained that even though she takes many more classes, they are not as long and do not count as the same amount of credits as a typical class. “I usually expect about 11 [classes] a semester, but some of them are an hour instead of the usual one hour and 45 minutes,” she said. Like Taylor, in high school Barone participated in multiple music activities that were all over her agenda. She was in the Honors Chamber Choir, the Western Regionals of Connecticut choir, the Connecticut All State choir, Concert Choir, and Women’s Ensemble.

Even though she has a lot of past music experience, when asked if she ever gets the feeling that being in this major is too hard to purse Barone said, “Oh all the time… pretty much everyday haha. It’s an insanely hard major but definitely worth it.” Matthew McGinnis is a senior who is close to graduating with a degree in music education. The past four years that led up to this were not extremely hard because he knew that he was in it for the long run. “I’ve been doing this all my life.” Matthew said. As he progresses through his music education program, his love for music did not nearly start freshman year at KSC.

“[Music] was the place I found home in in high school.” McGinnis explains that just like the past two students he has also had a long background with music in high school. “I was in choir, I did all the musicals and plays. I was president of the theater department, so that was cool. I was heavily involved. It was a lot of fun, found my niche there,” McGinnis said.

Pairing both music and education is what makes the program more intense, as any double major would be, but McGinnis said he’s had such an amazing musical upbringing and that’s what makes this degree completely worth doing. “I’ve had a really really good lineup of music teachers throughout my schooling and I just really wanna give that back to my future students,” McGinnis said.

McGinnis said that he usually takes about ten to 12 classes per semester. The first couple years start out with the basic principle classes. “At the beginning you have your kind of like foundational music classes like Music Theory, Aural Skills, Piano. You’ll always have your lessons. So I take voice and piano lessons,” McGinnis said. “Then as you progress on it becomes more about the educational stuff.” McGinnis said he had to take a class on curriculum and assessment and a class on adaptive music, which is teaching students with learning differences. He also had to take classes on how to teach choir, band, and general music specifically. At KSC, there are classes in education for music more particularly as well.

As a final assessment, McGinnis is student teaching in the Keene Middle School. “I’m doing middle school chorus [which is] sixth, seventh, eighth grade chorus. Then I teach band sectionals.” McGinnis goes to KMS Monday through Friday and spends about eight to nine hours there a day.

Even though McGinnis never thought this major was too hard to work towards, he does agree that multiple aspects of this major makes it challenging, but in an enjoyable way. “Definitely intense, but a good intense,” he said.

McGinnis said the music education program is hard work, but these classes and teachers are just trying to drive you in the right direction. “If you ever feel like your being pushed too hard, it is definitely from a place of wanting you to excel and that is something that it kind of took me a little while to realize. Because I was like, ‘Wow I’m being pushed to my brims sometimes, but then after the fact I could reflect and realize that it was because my professors really wanted me to succeed and they saw something in me.”

Kiana Wright can be contacted at kwright@kscequinox.com

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