Updates – School

I returned to school as a full time music student back in September. My plan had been to just take an ear training class and maybe a theory class but it turned out that our local community college required enrollment in all of their music classes. It was not possible to just take one class so I dove in and signed up as a full time music student.

In order to get into the music program I first had to take a music fundamentals class over the summer. I had the option to pass a test but since I didn’t have any formal music training I opted to take the class. It’s a good thing I did because I would not have passed the test. After the first week everything was new to me. Before I took this class I didn’t know how much I didn’t know.

I passed that class easily and started the full music program in the fall. This is a two year school so I need four semesters each of theory, aural skills, and applied music and two semesters each of piano and music history. The first six weeks of theory was basically a recap of the fundamentals class and then we got into new material and school got a lot harder.

I’ve discovered that it takes me much longer to do anything compared to the rest of the students in the class. Our professor will put a problem on the board or ask us to complete a set of questions in the workbook and expect that we will finish in a few minutes. Everyone does except me. He will give us homework that ‘should take half an hour’ and I spend several hours doing it. Tests are extremely challenging. I totally understand the material but I have to rush through the tests and I end up making really stupid mistakes.

I have different issues with aural skills. I used to have a really good ear. Since I started playing the horn again I’ve had problems with intonation and that was one of the reasons that I started thinking about taking an ear training class. Well I’ve learned that my good ear is not so good anymore. One of my problems is that I am having lots of trouble hearing harmonic intervals. In the first semester we got up to 5ths and sometimes I can recognize the interval instantly and other times I miss them by a mile. The farther I get from my vocal range, the harder it becomes for me to recognize the interval. Fortunately I do better with melodic intervals and therefore do reasonably well with dictation and sight singing.

Piano class was easy last semester but is much harder this semester. I have a different professor and her requirements are actually more stringent than those for our major instrument. I’m supposed to spend more time practicing the piano than I am practicing the horn. I don’t because the horn will not come in second to piano but I have to put in enough time to keep up an A grade.

Getting along with the other kids in the classes has been remarkably easy. I didn’t really know what to expect and considered ‘ugh, who’s that old lady in our class’ as a possibility. I’m very outgoing so I started to talk to them right away and fortunately after about three weeks they started to open up and talk to me and I think now that I’m thought of as just another ‘kid’ in the class except when they start cursing and then, amazingly, they apologize. My response is to thank them and point out that I have four kids and have ‘heard it all’ before.

So far I’m very happy with my decision to go back to school. I love the challenge and I’m doing well. I also have more playing opportunities than I would ever have without school. My horn lessons are going well and I’m improving slowly but steadily.

2 thoughts on “Updates – School

  1. Hi9 There

    Remember me? Richard Ilomaki, the retired guy at the IWBC in Toronto and at teh BTI in NJ?

    I too am back at University and am experiencing many of the same phenomena that counteract my increased wisdom.

    I’m in general Arts program at York University and will switch into Fine Arts Music if I pass the audition in a few weeks Strauss 1, slow movement and Mozart K407 rondo.

    I’m also in the York Orchestra and wind Symphony- doing Eric Whitacre’s Ghost Train and Alfred Reed’s El Camino Real- great stuff.

    Will you be in San Francisco for the IHS Symposium?

    Cheers and keep up the good work!!!


    • Hi Richard,

      Of course I remember you. That’s great that you are back in school. Lot’s of hard work but also lot’s of fun. I am not going to the IHS Symposium. I am thinking about going to the Northeast Horn Festival in New Hampshire.



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