Let It Snow (the phenomenon of music, and the lack of anything else)

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.

10 thoughts on “Let It Snow (the phenomenon of music, and the lack of anything else)

  1. I just have to laugh. I wasn’t a music major, though close enough in many ways. I didn’t major because I was scared I would start to hate it and didn’t want that to happen. I took at least 18-20 credits a semester & practiced 4-6 hours a day (piano & french horn) for fun. I totally relate to the lack of a social life, and at the time I thought I was very social. (until my roommates told me otherwise, most of which thought I was completely crayz, and were probably right) I was happy to skip the stress of juries and solo recitals. Ahh, memories. I actually didn’t start really wearing make-up until I was married! (Isn’t that usually reversed?)Very nice essay by the way.

  2. What, you didn’t have an impossible reading list for your English class? You got to write about what is or isn’t “real life” and get away with it? You didn’t have to read Middlemarch and Paradise Lost and Canterbury Tales (in the original Middle English) and try and write some kind of intelligent analysis of them, along with three other thousand-word essays all due within days of each other, all while studying for midterms or attending interviews for co-op jobs (where you had to dress up and wear makeup, even if there was three feet of snow on the ground and you were wearing a skirt with ski-doo boots and carrying a pair of heels in your knapsack with twenty pounds of textbooks). Oh, and all the while maintaining a 75% average or you get kicked out of co-op. Pah!

    We used to roll our eyes at the ones who took the easy road, too.

  3. I remember reading this essay while we were in school… didn’t it get circulated around the snow building for a while? Ahhh the memories 🙂

  4. April, REALLY? I had no idea. Maybe you were in my class. Did you ever take English from Papworth?

    Karen, it was just a 200-level comp class, and the assignment was to probe into ourselves and write a personal narrative (if I remember correctly.) Thus no analyses of Middle English literature.

  5. I remember reading that too. I think you were so proud of putting down on paper all of our lives that you had to make sure everyone read it.
    ..Or maybe it was posted on one of the bulletin boards… 😛 Anyway I remember reading it too!

    I have a fish bowl story that I’m working on too! I’ll have to email this post to composer dude. I think he’d enjoy reading it too!

  6. I actually majored in Elementary Education and minored in music. I shocked my entire ward, and high school band director when I took off to college and told them of my intentions. I actually had some people mad at me, which made me laugh and I believe I blithely said, “It’s my life!” 🙂 Most people at Ricks were surprised too, especially with the ammount of time I “lived” in snow building. (Some semesters I was just trying to escape nasty roommates) 🙂

  7. I was thinking about the motivation behind what you had written (not your motivation, but the common thread that bound all you Ricks music majors) — and my reply — and I came to the conclusion that one of the ways students who choose difficult courses get through it is by convincing themselves that they are special, or different.

    Co-op students at Waterloo were constantly being accused of arrogance by the other students. I think I understand why now.

    Of course, I could be way off the mark here. (Just my arrogance speaking, you know…)

  8. Maybe we can combine the Heather’s School of Hard Knocks course with Mike’s Reality 101 course.

    Co-op studnets are special and different but not arrogant. Those who thaought we were arrogant wer just too jealous. But then, I was a Math major so everyone had it better off than us. 🙂

  9. I always knew that there was a reason that I had a deep respect for you Heather. Your dedication and discipline was always a huge inspiration to a slacker like me in high school and now, as a mom, your dedication to your life, your son and your husband in just as inspiring!

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