Sunday, January 8, 2017

One Credit Hour

Darwin hosted a lengthy discussion on Facebook about the state of the arts and why conservative leaning Christians are so thin on the ground. His thoughts that grew out of that discussion are here. I chimed in with my own thoughts, but this isn't about that. This is about remembering how it used to be. Y'all know (or maybe you don't) I majored in music. Here is a little taste of what earns one credit hour in music.

If you are a music major, the most important class you take is your private lesson instruction. This is what makes or breaks you as a candidate for a music degree. The requirements for this class are thus: an hour a week in a private lesson, an hour a week in a group lesson, an hour a week in convocation (this is a mini-concert during the day), attendance at an evening concert of varying lengths about once a week, personal practice time of about an hour a day (7 hours a week), and a jury in front of entire faculty at the end of the semester so they can decide if you get to continue to major in music. That is around 10 or 11 hours a week. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

The second most important class you take is your major ensemble. The requirements for this class are thus: attendance at all rehearsals (only death is an excused absence; hospitalization might depend on the reason), attendance at any sectional your section leader desires to call, your personal practice time to work up your part because rehearsal is not for practicing, and attendance at however many dress rehearsals and concerts the ensemble performs. Rehearsals are generally two hours long, three days a week. That's six hours of class time plus whatever it takes outside rehearsal. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

Of course, you do not want to be a slacker. Nobody takes only one ensemble. Most take two. Some take three.

Now comes the piano classes. This is a sneaky one. Piano isn't actually in the degree catalog. What is in the catalog is that you must pass a piano proficiency before taking upper level classes. The piano proficiency is an ungraded exam given by the notoriously fickle piano professor. Until you have passed, you have to take a piano class every semester until you do. Piano class meets for 75 minutes twice a week (2 and a half hours). You, theoretically, should practice 30 minutes a day to gain mastery. You probably don't. Most students have to take four semesters of piano. Some, cough, take five. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

A vital part of a music degree is ear-training and sight-singing. This is as bad as it sounds. You are given music on paper, given the starting tone, and then you are supposed to sing accurately what is on the page without ever having heard it before. Or alternatively, you have a blank staff, are told the starting note, and have to notate whatever melody is played. This class was the weeder. If you could survive this class, with its sarcastic, no nonsense professor who wouldn't hesitate to tell you that you were out to lunch, maybe you could cut it as a music major. You have four semesters of this class, meeting twice a week for 75 minute classes. You definitely practice because it is the single most embarrassing class on the schedule. For all of this, you earn one credit hour. 

Then there are your instrument classes. These classes exist to familiarize you with all the other instruments that are not your own. You will take six of these classes: one for your major instrument family, one for strings, one for percussion, one for voice, and two for your opposite instrument family. (Yes, I had to play a tuba. Yes, we were about the same size.)

Your class meets twice a week for an hour and a half. You definitely will be practicing whatever instrument you are assigned for 30 minutes a day because these classes kick your rear. This is 3 hours of class plus at least three hours of practice time, plus delightful written exams. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

After that is the capstone instrument class, affectionately known as Boobie Band, where you are assigned an instrument that is not yours and the class has to function as an ensemble. This is another two and a half hours a week plus practice time. And you will practice because a master of this new, strange instrument, you are not. For all of this, you earn one credit hour.

Then there are the various electives you might decide to take if you decide graduating on time is not for you. Electives include improv, recording, deeper study into other instruments, minor ensembles. All of these are one credit hour.

We did have classes that were more standardized, three hour classes like Music Theory or Music History. I think Conducting was two hours, maybe? But a three hour class was an exception, not the rule, and usually took less bandwidth rather than more. My schedule generally consisted of two or three three hour classes and six or eight one hour classes to make up a full time schedule.

The way they got away with this is that most of our classes were classified as Labs. You remember when you took your three hour chemistry class and it had an attached one hour lab that met for three hours once a week? Like that, except a whole degree's worth of them and no attached lecture classes. Just time consuming lab after lab after lab. Don't you wish you were a music major too?

1 comment:

Kharking said...

It was a truth universally acknowledged that the hardest majors at my college were music and biology. The crazy number of practice hours on the one hand matched against the highest number of credit hours required to complete the major (the college can require a certain number to graduate but the department sets the number for the major). There was a usually friendly rivalry about how many hours one could spend for what one was earning in terms of credit hours. My department didn't offer credit for labs though--they were attached to classes in that you earned credit for the class but not the lab but if you did poorly in either you still failed the class. Fwiw, a lab might be scheduled for three hours but that doesn't count the two hours of pre-lab prep, up to 8 hours unscheduled time completing or maintaining an experiment and 4-20 hours writing up the report for each lab each week (the science major's version of practice time). In order to graduate on time, one had to take slightly more than two lab carrying classes per week. I liked labs but I certainly do not miss the write-ups. I knew a number of people who came in intending to major in biology and minor in music (or vice versa). I knew none who actually accomplished it. We didn't have juries though, so there is that.