This is a post from double bassist from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music student Nicholas Hart. Nick will be contributing weekly posts to the bass blog about life as a music student in one of the nation’s most exclusive programs. I think readers will find this different perspective on the double bass world and the music world in general to be quite interesting, and I am looking forward to reading these posts. You will be able to read all of Nick’s contributions under the articles link in the menubar or in the sidebar under contributors. Enjoy!
This past week was a tough week, and always the toughest week of the quarter – Finals Week. For us music kids, finals week is pure torture. Having to take 7 tests when the average student takes 2 or 3 is a lot of work. CCM happens to be one of the more academically based conservatories and my schedule last quarter consisted of 9 classes not including my lessons I thought I’d give you a look at what my schedule for this past quarter looked like.
8am Everyday – Theory/Musicianship
9am MW – Music History
10am MWF – Intro to Psychology 102
10 am Th – Music History
11 am T Th – Intro to Conducting
12 pm MWF – Secondary Piano
1 pm T – Scale Lesson
2 pm W – Lesson
4 pm MWF – Orchestra
7 pm M – Studio Class
7 pm T – Rep class
As you can imagine this is a very full schedule and having that many classes means a lot of studying when Finals week comes around. Practice time is near impossible and bad grads on my finals means I can have my scholarship revoked. Is this beneficial to me becoming a musician? Not at all. But is this beneficial to me becoming a well rounded person that is employable in musical fields other than playing in an orchestra? Absolutely.
I’ve realized after this quarter that taking all these classes leaves open a bunch of possibilities for grad school. I can go and get a master’s degree in an academic field, I can get my masters in Music History or Theory (which you can do after any BM), but it opens up more possibilities like becoming a teacher. Being required to take conducting is great because if I don’t end up playing professionally but instead become a teacher, it is a skill that has to be mastered and that I need to be comfortable with. I enjoyed conducting probably more than any other class this quarter and it’s something I’m going to keep studying to make myself a better musician. It has helped my communication skills when playing in small ensembles, it has improved my ear, and it taught me to learn all the parts of a symphony I was playing. This is such an important factor in playing well in an ensemble.
As orchestral players we need to listen for pitch from other instruments, entrances from other instruments and listen while we’re playing to play together with a group of 30 musician over 100 feet away. Conducting taught me the entire score, each part, what notes the winds have, where to listen for pitch or rhythm or for an entrance and that is what makes a great player. I was reading somewhere once that a New World Symphony musician asked Max Dimoff how he never misses an entrance and he said to listen and that when that oboe comes in, that it’s this many whatever until the next entrance. That is the key to being a great player, knowing what everybody on that stage is doing, including the conductor.
Mr. Laszlo always says that there is a big difference between a musician and a solid player. And that while a solid player who never misses anything is what an orchestra is looking for, with the field becoming so competitive you need to be a musician as well. After taking all these classes I learned that in order to become a musician and not just a solid player, we need to have an education in all forms of music. The best musicians play jazz, bluegrass, and pop music. They studied conducting and the liberal arts, and they have an understanding for all music. All music is intertwined. And the more I know and the more I understand the more employable I am.
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