My Year Studying Music At Austin Peay State University, 2003-2004

8 01 2008

This evening I thought I’d take a break from writing about cancer and good nutrition.  I enjoyed teaching my 50 year old piano student this afternoon.  Next week, I will begin work with a another adult.  I’ve always loved music.  I have my mother’s piano, that my father bought her around l949.  It is the piano I banged on as  toddler and learned to actually play as a child. 

In my forties,  I began studying organ.  My church wanted me to learn the organ so that I could substitute ,when our regular organist couldn’t be there.  Thus, I began an intense four years of study.  After three years of hard work–I talked with my teacher about my desire to study music at the university.  He began coaching me on the music theory that I would need to know–in order to pass the entrance exam.  I worked very hard.  I took my music theory book to my substitute teaching jobs and studied it on my planning periods.  For five months–I prepared myself.  Finally, in August of 2003–I sat with many young people who took the entrance exam.  I passed it.  There were some with richer backgrounds in music that I had–who didn’t pass it.  Really, all it meant was that those who passed got to take music theory for credit.  Those who didn’t, had to take a class that got them ready for real music theory–receiving no credit hours.

Although I had a college education, I had never studied professional music.  Thus, I was in classes with alot of 18 year olds.  I was surprised to see one young man from my town that I had taught many times as a substitute teacher.  That was a strange feeling.  So I began with a full schedule of music theory, two classes of music history ( one freshmen level, one junior level) , private piano, and a class on piano accompaniment.

My work out began!  In music theory, we had days devoted to actual theory and days devoted to ear training.  In the theory part, each week we worked out the meat and potatoes of music.  For the first time in my life–I learned what a C clef was.  I was quized on reading music from a C clef scale.  I caught on– but it took some real concentration to be able to understand such a strange concept.  In ear training, we had to learn rhythms and sounds.  We also had to learn to copy music precisely.  Each week we had to copy two major scales with their two minors.  The music had to be copied meticulously.  Points were taken off for work that was not precise.  We would turn those in each Monday morning.  Students were often slouched in the hallways–cramming to get this work done, before our teacher came and unlocked the door to start class.

Freshman music literature was fairly easy to me.  It did involve a great deal of listening.  We had listening excerpts on assigned material for each test.  The junior level was a killer.  I accidently signed up for this (a course way beyond my  scope) and decided to stick it out.  We, in a very detailed way ,worked our way through the history of Western music.  Tests were all of the discussion variety.  We also had some tough theory questions and very difficult listening bites to identify.  A research paper was assigned to us .  I wrote mine on J.S. Bach.  I only made a B in the class . Yet,  I have always thought it an achievement, considering all who were in this class– had taken two full years of music theory.

Private piano was worth 2 college hours of credit.  My teacher told me straight up that I had played enough of Bach and that it was time I learned other periods of music. She also had the irritating habit of assigning me music where the left hand carried the melody.  “You are weak in this, Nichole.  You must develop an ear for playing the accompaniment in the right hand and the melody in the left.”  Over and over again, she made me play those kinds of pieces.  Then she would assign me pieces where I had to “hear the poetry.”

My teacher didn’t throw all of my Bach pieces out. However, she chose pieces that highlighted skills I was weak in. She  wanted me to practice 10 hours each week.  I did this only half the time.  However, I never played less than 5 hours a week.  I wouldn’ have dared to get by with any less.  I always left my lessons feeling very bad.  One day, she got mad at the way I was playing Mozart.  She told me:”Mozart would never have played it like that!”  I thought, “Who cares, he is dead!”  I was so angry at my piano teacher that day.

In piano accompaniment, I not only learned how best to serve the singer.  I also learned a great deal about chords and improvising. 

My first semester I made all A’s except for music theory and the junior level music history.  I made B’s in those classes.  The next semester was even harder.  My attitude got very bad at times.  I strived to do the best I could.  Private piano was now a 3 credit hour course. I played harder, longer pieces.  I heard more about learning to hear the “poetry” in music. The ear training part of music theory became a nightmare.  I only managed to pull a C that final semester.  I made A’s and B’s in all of my other music classes.  I was also in the chorale that last semester.  It was a wonderful experience.  I hadn’t sung with a chorale in over 20 years.  We gave a spring concert that was spectacular.

In the end, I decided that devoting myself to that much intense study was a bit much for a 50 year old.  I longed just to play games with my little grandson, bake and cook– and just do ordinary things.  I regret the “chip” that was often on my shouldar.  However, I can’t regret that year of study.  It has enhanced not only my music skills, but also my life skills.

Today, I love to play music where the left hand has the melody.  I also love to listen to the poetry of the music.  My students are not getting college credit from my teaching–so I’m not as demanding of them.  However, I’m working with them on these kinds of skills.  I ask them to listen for the sound of an opera voice, or a cello, or violin in certain piano scores. “Can you begin to hear it?”  That is a way of teaching that I would have never picked up without this professional training.  I’m grateful for that one very difficult and intense year.

I continue to challenge myself with my own personal piano playing.  I try to keep different styles of music going at all times.  I can still hear my teacher urging me on for the right sound, the right rhythm—as I practice.  “Nichole,  your rhythm is off.  Nichole, you are not hearing the poetry.  Nichole, would Mozart have played his sonata like that?”  Oh, they are good memories.

May God bless each of you!

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2 responses

9 01 2008
nichole3

Thanks for unlocking your memory and sharing it with us readers. May God continue continue to bless you in all your activites for Him. Love, Herman

9 01 2008
nichole3

Thanks hubby for your kind words.
love,
Nichole

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