[notes]Most MSU students are still in bed at 8 a.m., happily avoiding their impending classes, but Jonathan Reed is already lugging his double bass to the music building for rehearsal. Pausing to congratulate his friend on her performance at last night\’s recital, Reed sets up his instrument and begins to warm up.
Between 16 class credits, MSU Symphony Orchestra rehearsal and his own personal practice, Reed usually spends about 12 hours a day inside the music building. Though he usually doesn\’t leave until the wee hours of the night, he has to leave early every night this week to make a 90-minute drive for one of his three \”after school jobs\” as a professional paid musician. Tonight it is with The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, but, within the next few weeks, Reed will have to make the drive to Ann Arbor and his hometown, Benton Harbor, to play professionally with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, as well as the South West Symphony Orchestra, in preparation for upcoming concerts.
And this is only his second year as a music performance major. \”Music is something I do all the time,\” said Reed. \”It\’s a constant thing.\”
The Music Student\’s Life
Ready to Sing in All the Languages
Though not all music students play professionally, most lead equally hectic lives, rehearsing for hours each day. Music education sophomore Bethany Isackson, is no exception. As a singer she is not able to practice as much because she will lose her voice, but she still spends much of her day with her music. \”On any given day, I\’m in the music building six to eight hours between classes, rehearsing and practicing,\” she said. \”I\’m in the music building more than I am in my dorm.\” Currently, she is participating in the opera scenes program, which allows freshmen and sophomores to display their talents in six to eight minute scenes from various operas. This year she is doing a scene from Rosina called \”The Barber of Seville,\” which is performed in Italian. Isackson has experience with singing in other languages, thanks to diction classes that are required for all vocal music majors. In these classes, students learn to sing in several languages including English, French, German and Italian. \”Italian is the easiest language to sing in, besides English, because there are only a couple of different vowel sounds,\” Isackson said.
No Starving Artist Here
Jessie Neilson, a vocal music education and music performance sophomore, will also be participating in the opera scenes performance. Along with rehearsal, Neilson is also a member of MSU\’s Women\’s Chamber Ensemble and the University Chorale – which just got back from performing at the National American Chorale directors association in Miami, Fla. The choir did three performances there as one of 12 choirs that were selected out of 300 applicants. Neilson said that the performance was a very moving one for the group. \”We closed our program by singing \’I Am in the Need of Music,\’ which was a poem written by Elizabeth Bishop and the music was written by David Brunner in memory of his mentor at MSU,\” Neilson said. \”The first time we performed the poem I think we all had tears in our eyes. People say to me, \’Why are you studying music? You aren\’t going to have a job. Get ready to be a starving artist.\’ But that song is the closest explanation I have to why I do what I do.\”
Not Just the Classics
Saxophone performance and music composition senior James Bobcik said he is studying music with the hopes of performing in France someday. \”There is a big saxophone scene in France,\” Bobcik said. \”They play more contemporary music over there, which is what I am more into. Over here, it\’s more of the classics.\”
In order to reach these goals, Bobcik spends his time preparing for many recitals and competitions as well as writing his own musical compositions. Several of his pieces have been performed at MSU, and he is currently trying to get a woodwind quartet performed that he wrote. Bobcick said that he tries to write music that many people would enjoy. \”I try to program for the \’non-band dorks\’ in my performances instead of sticking with just the classical stuff,\” he said.
Besides writing music, Bobcik spends time preparing for competitions. His quartet competed at the MTNA chamber music competition and was the runner up and has performed at many conferences throughout the country, as well as abroad in Italy. He has also done some competitions on his own, too. \”As a soloist I have competed in the North American Saxophone Alliance national competition, and twice in the MSU Honors Competition, the second year of which I advanced to the second round of three,\” he said.
A Defining Characteristic
Tuba performance freshman Vasos Lee is part of freshman brass quintet as well as the Michigan State Concert Band and the Philharmonic Orchestra. He said that he is taking six music classes right now and is usually at the music building by 8 a.m. for band. His brass quintet performed last semester and concert band has a performance in April that he is preparing for. Lee said although being a music major is time-consuming, he wouldn\’t have chosen another major. \”Music is my most defining characteristic,\” said Lee. \”I am more of an outstanding student on the tuba than anywhere else.\”
While music students spend countless hours preparing for numerous concerts throughout the year, as well as attending fellow musician\’s performances, few non-music students take the time to see their talent on stage. With a free concert almost every night of the week, MSU students have the opportunity to hear a variety of musical talent. \”There are so many upcoming events,\” Richard Fracker, chair of voice department, said. \”I think these concerts are one of the biggest untapped resources at MSU. There is not a day that goes by that there isn\’t either a world-class faculty concert or an outstanding student recital. Students can often get in for free. If not, it\’s a couple of bucks. It\’s cheaper than the price of a movie ticket. It would be pretty astonishing if someone couldn\’t find something they liked with so many options.\” [frack]
Lee, who has attended several College of Music concerts, recommends that students check out the events in April because they\’re \”packed with awesome performances.\” April is when most seniors have final recitals. \”Every recital I\’ve been to, it\’s just like the professor and some family and a few friends,\” he said. \”And they have performed amazingly for like seven people. I totally think that more students should go. There are even some during the week if you don\’t want to give up your Friday and Saturday night.\”
Fracker suggests checking out the upcoming performance of the opera Puccini Turandot that will be performed by students and faculty, accompanied by the orchestra and the choir. Fracker calls it \”an extraordinary event.\”
Music education sophomore Justin Macero recommends going just to see Fracker, who plays the male tenor in the performance. He also suggests seeing any performance featuring professor Melanie Helton. \”When they sing alone or together it\’s amazing, they literately blow up the room with music until you don\’t even think anymore can fit,\” Macero said. \”It blows you away.\”
Despite classical music\’s reputation, Reed thinks it can provide something for everyone. \”I think music is a big part of everyone\’s lives whether you make it a little part or a big part,\” Reed said. \”I think a lot of people don\’t know classical music or understand it. All they have to do is show up and they might like it.\”
Becoming a College
Fracker hopes the changes in the music program will give the students even more resources to put on quality performances. The School of Music, which was formally part of the College of Arts and Letters, became its own college last month. Members of the faculty are excited about this distinction. \”This means that we have higher status, and more control,\” Fracker said. \”We can tailor things the way we want them. It brings us more prestige; it raises the level of the school and eliminates the middle man.\” Fracker also said having musicians represent them at major councils will provide the ability to make their programs more practical.
Ultimately, becoming their own college brings more responsibility and more power to the administrative members of the faculty within the music department. \”I always felt that it was a little strange that the music school was part of the College of Arts and Letters,\” Lee said. \”It was so general. It didn\’t seem like we belonged there,\”
Regardless of which college they belong to, most of these students know where they want to be in the future. Some dream big – like Lee, who wishes to be in a well-paid symphony orchestra. \”The top orchestras pay like $100,000 with benefits,\” he said. Other dreams are fairly simple. \”Basically, I\’d like to get paid to play saxophone,\” Bobcik said. Others, like Macero, wish to make a difference in the world through their music. \”I want to give every student the opportunity to embrace music as an emotional tool in their everyday lives,\” Macero said. For all, being a music student is about following their passion, even if that means taking a risk to avoid the typical desk job. For Reed, it\’s that very difference that makes becoming a musician the best job in the world.
\”It\’s not a nine to five job,\” Reed said. \”And that\’s the best part.\”
Information about College of Music events can be found at http://www.music.msu.edu/.
Opera Scenes Program: April 7, 3:00 p.m., at the Music Auditorium.
Men\’s and Women\’s Glee Clubs: April 14, 8:00 p.m, at Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center.
Philharmonic Orchestra: April 19, 7:30 p.m., at East Lansing High School Center for the Performing Arts.
Jazz Band I: April 20, 7:30 p.m, at the Pasant Theatre, Wharton Center.
Giacomo Puccini Turandot: April 21, 8 p.m., at Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center.
All events are free of charge for students.