I’ve heard so many stories and jokes surrounding the indecisiveness of the majorless first-year, those lost liberal-artsers who constantly change their interests, take courses from every department possible, and woefully declare the hopelessness of their future. The good news is that all of these confused first-years eventually find something they love or something at which they excel and have perfectly normal and successful futures. Nonetheless, that wasn’t exactly my story.
I’d known for years that I wanted to be a music major. I’d auditioned for conservatories before deciding (partially through reflection and partially through botched auditions) that that environment wasn’t for me and that I’m a liberal-arts gal. I play piano and oboe, and I’ve fluctuated wildly in the degree of closeness I feel to each instrument. Every time it came down to it, though, I enjoyed playing. I tried to see myself as a performer. I also liked composing, and I’d done some of that and some pretty serious songwriting endeavors (three recorded piano-voice albums!) in high school.
I looked forward to College, where things are Different and you are a Motivated Student.
First-Year Eron wanted to major in music as much as I do now. She also wanted to major in math. Her experiences dual-enrolling in Calculus I and II had led her to a burning enthusiasm for math. FYE felt confident in her plans, remembering only distantly the information session where they’d mentioned the huge percentage of students that change their plans. She joined the band (and later the orchestra), signed up for lessons, and took music and math courses. She also took French (continuing from high school) and a few other courses of exploratory interest.
Rising-Sophomore Eron felt less excited about math despite doing well. She was enamored by her French courses and signed up for elementary Chinese on top of them. If she liked languages better than math, why major in math? Sophomore Eron decided she was just a music major, but bad things were happening in the music world. She hadn’t composed anything outside of class. She couldn’t make herself practice, dreaded lessons, and didn’t see any improvement. She felt as if there was no chance of her becoming a competent performer or composer, and was increasingly certain she didn’t want to be either. Music history was interesting enough without being interesting enough. What was left to love about music? Halfway through the year, Sophomore Eron decided to take a break from piano lessons. Also halfway through the year, Sophomore Eron declared her music major, feeling more confused than ever.
Just when Sophomore Eron would probably have given up and become a Jedi Studies major, Music Theory III happened. Theory III was undoubtedly the class High-School, First-Year and Sophomore Erons had been waiting for. There was only one meeting of the class where her mind did not completely explode from intellectual joy (she kept track). She got really excited about model composition, reductive analysis, 19th century music, and eventually the final paper. She made a passing comment to her theory lab professor about how she liked theory but wasn’t sure she really wanted to be a composer. Her professor proposed the really obvious solution: “Why don’t you just do theory, then?”
I can do that??? Sophomore Eron was so happy. Music theory! My love was music theory!
I wanted to write hundreds of papers on hundreds of pieces. I wanted to take a whole course on every topic we covered in class. I wanted to tell everyone about all the amazing things happening in music that was 150 years old. By the time Sophomore Eron became Rising-Junior Eron, I went from “why am I a music major and what am I doing” to “my dream is to attend graduate school and pursue a profession in academia.” Junior Eron (that’s me!) returned to piano lessons with less pressure, happily welcoming back her old friend.
Now, I’m planning an independent study and a SURP for the spring semester and summer, narrowing down my research interests, and enjoying my nightly ensemble rehearsals. I always knew I wanted to major in music — I guess now I just know why.