Note: this is an essay I found in my Dad’s basement this week. I wrote it in ’98 for an English class.
“This is not real life.” How many times have you heard that? How many times have you told it to yourself? Probably more than you would like to admit. Let me let you in on a little secret: there is one group of people who very rarely say that. Ironically enough, they should be the ones saying it most, after all, they aren’t real people, and their lifestyle is completely different from anything anyone else can fathom. Music majors are not real people, and I should know, I am one.
It took me a long time to figure out just why I was so different from my roommates. It wasn’t until I started to observe those of my own kind that I realized just how off the wall we really are. But let me share with you a few discoveries I have made to help you better understand your own music major roommate.
On our first day of school of our first year of the programme, the teachers sat us down to tell us that if we wanted 4.0 averages, money when we’re older, or social lives, then we should drop the major now. It was like signing away all frivolous activities and accepting the contract for what it was: a lot of hard work, and very little play.
(Funny how one of the first people I ever met said, “Oh, you’re a music major? Oh how fun! All you do is play all day.”)
My roommate once asked me why I bothered to pay rent, and why I didn’t change my major on that first day of school. These are well-known commentaries, or one-line sermons, if you will, on music majors. Music majors normally hold about 18 credit hours per semester, but the course load is so heavy that we continue for six semesters. We have endless hours of practice, rehearsals, and small groups on top of our regular homework. I was discussing this phenomenon with a fellow Snow Building junkie who laughed in agreement. We sleep in the fish bowl (the lower lobby for you non-Snow frequenters), keep food in our lockers, get to the Snow at 7 a.m. and leave after 11 p.m..
(Yes, after curfew; in our information packet before school we were recommended that we all get late passes.)
Now, tell me, how am I supposed to have a social life when I spend over ten hours a day in the same building? I’m not, obviously, and I’ve just had to come to deal with this. Actually, by music major standards, I have a thriving social life: I have a boyfriend. We plan regular library dates where we sit together but work on things for our opposite classes. Isn’t that romantic? While I’m analyzing a Bach fugue he’s doing his accounting and while I’m practicing piano he’s doing his math. For music majors, that is a thriving social life.
You have to understand, dating and music majors aren’t really compatible terms. Oh, it isn’t that we’re horribly undesirable slobs (or at least I hope that’s not what it is), it’s just that we don’t really date.
Music majors, more than girls of any other major, are less-likely to wear make-up, spend lots of time on their hair, and do things with their outfits. Musicians are also less likely to concern themselves with dating in general. Is it apathy? Is it priorities? Are we terrified of growing up, or have we grown up so fast that we have a calm reassurance that dating will fall into place as we do everything else?
Our idea of a date is a group of thirty music majors attending a concert. Even so, the concert is part of a mandatory class, similar to FA 100 but requires 10 musical concerts EVERY semester. Pretty special, eh? The other main dates are called Music Lit Parties where everyone watches Carmen by Georges Bizet, or pseudo-documentaries like Amadeus. Incidentally (hee hee, music pun,) the Music Lit Parties are homework assignments, too.
So we date our own kind, and do it as homework assignments, however study dates are rising in popularity as they threaten the ever-popular concert attendance dates. The old “Ricks Stand-by’s” for dating –ASRC dances or a $2 movie– are such rarities among us that they have become escapes and novelties. But such a date is hard to come by.
I think it’s based on priorities. Music is an essential essence of our lives, and we require it in anything we do. One defining rule is that we don’t date outside of the major with very few exceptions. It reminds me of the age-old warning to not marry outside of the Covenant. It’s a matter of common goals, respect for talents, and mutual morals. Non-musicians just don’t understand the time and passion required.
I dated “outside of the covenant” once with a guy who tinkered a little on the piano, but that was all. I am adding that chapter into my book of Heather’s School of Hard Knocks, available in a classroom, and in a correspondence course setting. He expected me to devote my every minute to him and often had a hard time accepting my absence (or the omnipresence of my homework.) He couldn’t understand my diligence and discipline, driven by my passion for the soulful expression available to me only through the outlet of rhythms, pitches, melodies, and harmonies. He couldn’t appreciate the many painful hours and sleepless nights that go into a performance. He didn’t understand the gripping dread of tendonitis or arthritis that left me sleepless in a horrific daze for nights on end. He couldn’t fathom why I deliberately rose at 4:30 a.m. to practice.
Now who, other than music majors, would schedule a study group for Friday at 5 p.m.? Who, other than a music major, knows the janitors of their main building because the janitors are still there when he gets to school? Who, other than a music professor, would post his office hours as 6 a.m. daily because it really is the only hours of the day in his 52+ hour week? Who, other than music majors, chooses not to go out with the roommates on Friday and Saturday nights because he’s behind in his practicing and wants to get some extra hours in?
I’ll tell you: no one. Musicians are the only people I found, and I’ve met a lot of different people in my travels, who are so conscious of their discipline that they have little or no inclination of social demands.
Back to my original questions: are musicians just too apathetic to care about the opposite sex? Do we not date for fear of marriage or lack of time? Are we really just undesirable slobs?
Now, many of the girls in the programme are very attractive girls and receive lots of attention from men, but they still make less of an effort to “make themselves up” than most girls do.
I think they might be on to something, something we’ve been taught all of our lives, but that becomes very profound once inside of us: that beauty really is inside, and what we take with us when we die really is our talents and not our toys. It’s what’s inside that counts. We work hard and we’re happy; we’re doing the best we can to be the best we can.
Now I must get out of here, too much time in the library could be disastrous, I’m out of the Snow and surrounded by people.
Author’s note: I have been brainstorming for this essay for a long time; I guess I began the research long before the essay was ever explained. This is my life, and I’ve always wanted to explain to everyone else why I’m so different. My roommates never understood. I had the ideas, but nothing flowed, and it came down to the night before the due date when all I had was a couple of looseleaf sheets with chicken scratch. I fell asleep on the couch. My roommate woke me up and sent me to bed where I wrote another sentence and fell asleep with my binder as a pillow. And now, a couple of hours before the class, hours before an audition, and minutes before a sight singing exam, I make my final back-against-the-wall-nowhere-else-to-turn attempt to describe in words what goes on in my world.