While I feel truly fortunate to have gotten such a great education at the public high school I went to, I was always dreaming of the day when I would get to focus on music, what I really love, instead of filling up my schedule with requirement after requirement and coming home to study integrals, chemical bonds, and Faulkner's central argument in As I Lay Dying, sometimes without any time to practice. Add that to extra-curriculars, work, and waking up at 6AM every day, and I'm surprised I wasn't doing all of this as I actually lay dying.
But the beautiful thing about being in college is that you get to take classes in what you want. Granted, there are requirements you have to fulfill, but seeing as I'm taking 7 music classes and 1 non-music class, all of which I really love, it's a wonderful life.
As a freshman music performance major, I was required to enroll in Introduction to the History and Literature of Music, Music Theory I, Aural Skills I, an ensemble, and a liberal arts class, along with my private lessons and studio class. However, since I had taken AP Music Theory in high school and had a lot of ear training and sight-singing experience from being in choir, I was able to pass out of Music Theory I and Aural Skills I. If you are planning on being a music major, I would highly suggest taking AP Music Theory in high school if you have access to it. I love having this extra room in my schedule for classes I enjoy.
This is what my schedule looks like:
1. Introduction to the History and Literature of Music (4 credits)
Most schools cover the history of music in four semesters, but Oberlin crams everything from medieval music to contemporary music into one semester. While it's a lot of information and a fair amount of work (including weekly listening quizzes), I think the format is great, because then you can take more specialized music history classes that go more in depth in areas or time periods you're interested in, such as the Baroque Period, American Music or Ludwig van Beethoven. These then count toward the rest of your music history requirements in later years.
2. Memory and Learning (4 credits)
As a music major, you're required to take one class in the College of Arts & Sciences every semester. AP credits count toward this requirement, which is great in case you want to take a lighter load senior year when you're preparing for grad school auditions. The great thing about this requirement though is that you can take ANYTHING. I chose to take Memory and Learning because I took AP Psychology in high school and found that I really enjoy psychology! I also think that a knowledge of psychology can be applied to any field of study. The concepts I learn in Memory and Learning are not only extremely intriguing, but can also affect the way that I teach piano, learn and practice the piano, and the ways I study in college.
3. Elementary Piano Pedagogy (2 credits)
Placing out of Music Theory I and Aural Skills I allowed me to add some electives to my schedule, which includes Piano Pedagogy (piano teaching)! Piano pedagogy, in particular, is extremely relevant to me as a pianist, because I'm sure I'm going to end up teaching in some capacity in the future. Additionally, once I complete the pedagogy courses, I will be eligible to give secondary piano lessons to fellow Obies!
4. Piano Literature (2 credits)
This is a graduation requirement for pianists, but taking it a year early is nice because I'll be able to free up some room in my schedule next year. As hard as it is, it's a very interesting and relevant class, as a pianist, and we spend most of the class studying different composers and the pieces they wrote, and we do a whole lot of listening.
5. Secondary Organ Lessons (2 credits)
Is there some awesome thing or subject you've always wanted to learn, but never had the chance to? Oberlin probably has it! The organ is something I've always admired from afar, so what better place to learn it than in a school where we have several beautiful concert organs and a bunch of organ practice rooms? Not to mention, it's my daily exercise. Playing with your hands and feet all at once really stabilizes your core. Seriously.
6. Vocal Accompanying (2 credits)
This is a requirement for pianists and counts toward my ensemble credit, and I love it! I get to accompany two amazing vocalists on all of their repertoire, play in their lessons and departmental recitals, and I have a vocal accompanying lesson once a week. I've found that collaborating is a lot of fun, and there's a whole lot more to think about while accompanying than meets the eye.
7. Time Travel for Pianists (1 credit)
This was a class that only took place the first half of the semester, but it was great. I got to go to my professor's house, where he had three fortepianos (historical pianos, two of them being replicas) from 1800, 1820, and around 1870, along with two clavichords (historical keyboard instrument). We got to play on a new one each week and compare it to the modern piano and talk about how to create the sounds that we hear on the historical pianos on today's pianos, and it was such an interesting class.
8. Piano Lessons and studio class (6 credits)
I love studying under Alvin Chow, and our 12:30pm studio class on Fridays, where I get to listen to several of my talented studio-mates perform, or even perform myself, is always a perfect end to my week.
In summary, I love all of my classes here at Oberlin and feel so engaged in all of them. My professors are amazing and a huge part of why I love my classes so much. Finding time to both study and practice is definitely a balancing game, but it's a game well worth playing, because not only am I developing as a pianist and performer here at Oberlin, but what I'm learning in my classes contributes to my growth as a knowledgeable and well-rounded musician.