My Experience as a First Year Student Studying Music in Post-Secondary

By Lucas Redwood, Bandology staff

Performance with Western University Symphonic Band

Choosing a post-secondary program can definitely be a challenging decision, however, doing the research and asking questions can help as there are plenty of resources out there to help you.

For me, I decided to evaluate my strengths. I knew I was strong in both music and business, however I couldn’t decide what I wanted to focus on. I researched many different program options and decided that I wanted to pursue a dual degree program at Western University for both music and business so I could continue to pursue both of my strengths.

If you have been involved in your high school music program, I would 100% encourage you to try your best to keep music in your life. There are many ways to be involved with music at a post-secondary level even if you are not studying it. At some schools, there are options to take music electives, minors in music or to join an ensemble. If there is no option to join an ensemble at school, I would recommend joining an ensemble outside of school if it fits within your schedule. 

I experienced both highlights and challenges in my first year of studying post secondary music and wanted to share my learnings with those interested in studying it as well. 

Once you have decided to pursue a post-secondary music program, the first step is booking an audition. You will need to check the school’s website for who to contact and audition requirements. Once you have booked an audition, you will need to start preparing. For my percussion audition, I had to prepare three contrasting pieces as well as scales and there was also a sight reading component. 

On the day of the audition, I checked in and the faculty were very welcoming. They led me to the audition room and wished me good luck. I was very nervous for my audition but it went very well and a couple weeks later I got offered admission!

After accepting admission to Western, the next step for me was getting ready for ensemble auditions which happen during the first week of school. For these, I was required to play excerpts of pieces. 

For each standard bachelor of music program, the required courses usually include music theory, music history, ear training and private lessons. 

I would definitely recommend keeping a good study schedule for yourself as I found the workload was significantly higher than high school. It would also be a good idea to set priorities and goals for yourself.

One element that I found helped me a lot was asking upper year students for advice if I was struggling with any concepts as the material moved at quite a fast pace. I also asked my professors questions if I need clarification over anything they discussed in their lectures.

Performance with Western University Percussion Ensemble

My favourite experience of first year was joining a pit band for a musical theatre production. It was fun to perform outside of school and meet new people from other programs.

Another highlight of first year was studying under percussion professor Dr. Jill Ball. She taught me to think critically about the sounds that I was making from the instruments and how to play percussion in the most efficient manner. She also helped prepare me for my end of year jury exam, which all first year music students are required to do. The jury was similar to the audition and we were required to perform pieces in front of a panel.

At the end of the first year, I was required to fill out an intent to register form for what speciality of music I wanted to study moving forward. Western’s specialties include: music performance, music education, music composition, music theory, or music history. 

Western was a fantastic school that really helped me learn more about the academic side of music.

After spending quite a bit of time thinking about my career pathway, I decided that despite all the great experiences I had at Western, I wanted to try a different type of music. 

Throughout high school, I was always into contemporary music and wanted to perform regularly, so about midway through the year I decided I wanted to apply for Humber College’s Jazz program to gain different knowledge about music.

Humber’s program is very hands-on focused, with significant amounts of time spent playing or practicing on your instrument. Similar to Western, they have courses in music theory, music history and ear training, but they also have a course dedicated to improvisation on your instrument. 

I am really happy I switched to Humber to gain an additional perspective but I am also very thankful for attending Western as I learned many new skills.

No matter what program you decide to attend, my best advice is to make sure you think about your career pathway. Knowing your career pathway will help influence the decisions you have to make while in school, but also keep in mind that it’s okay to change your mind.

Performance Week December 2019 at Humber College