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A Day in the Life of a Music Major

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

AJ Choffo

PHHS '19, New Jersey City University '22

If you have ever wondered how a college musician lives, here’s some insight. First off, I am currently entering my sophomore year at New Jersey City University which, if you can guess, is in Jersey City, NJ.

A typical day for a music major is classes, classes, and more classes. DO NOT BE AFRAID! It is not as bad as it seems. Music majors have tons of classes because most music courses are worth a small amount of credits. Therefore, you must take more classes to make the credit requirements. For my freshman year, I took one look at my schedule and panicked. There was an abundance of classes along with the fact that I was living on campus and being separated from my family for the very first time. However, I had no trouble dealing with classes. They were very moderate in terms of work and they taught me a lot, especially about time management. Above all, if you are a music major, you need to know about how to manage time. With all of these classes it may be hard to find time to do homework, practice, or work a job. That is why you must plan your days out in advance and always know what time you have to be somewhere. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself up late at night practicing or doing homework.

For the music aspect, I am a Jazz-Performance Major. I play in NJCU’s Big Band as well as the Mingus Ensemble. Big Band sounds just like it is: a 25+ piece ensemble. The Mingus Ensemble is a smaller combo of about 6 musicians. There are larger and smaller ensembles at every school. We also have weekly jam sessions where we can play with our fellow musicians and just have a good time. In the music major world, you grow so close to one another that you become a family. There are also music classes where your ear and mind are trained. These are Harmony and Ear Training classes. In these, you have to sing as well as compose music (don’t worry if you don’t have the best voice, God knows I don’t!) Some courses that all music majors have to take are Jazz, Classical, Theatre, etc. It is very important to pay attention in these classes because musicians need to know information like this in order to compose.

Performing is another aspect. I have performed with ensembles both in the school theater and in New York City at the Zinc Bar. Performances are a great way to show off your talents. And, depending on what school you go to, you may even be compensated for some of the gigs. Also, you may find that certain people in the audience who like what you've played will come up to you after the show to introduce them self and offer you a job. Make sure to always play your best when performing; you never know who is watching.

The next, most important, thing for a musician to do is network. There are a couple of ways to go about this:

1) Watch and listen. As a musician, you must constantly learn about music and other musicians. The way to do this is by watching and listening. You should be going out to see performances regularly, learning about musicians in your field and studying them. Learn their names, look up information about them, introduce yourself to them. These are the steps to not only become known by others, but to find work. This is how I met the famous Jazz trumpet player Wynton Marsalis who I am standing next to my the picture.

2) Now that you have watched and listened, it is time to do some playing of your own. It is a must to play out at jam sessions, especially for Jazz musicians. Once you play at jams, you become more familiar with others and they become more familiar with you. Soon after, you’ll be exchanging phone numbers so that you can hire them or they can hire you for gigs. Now you are networking and becoming known. Since jams are a necessity, it is important that you have access to New York City. That way, you can be in the heart of the music scene.

Overall, being a music major is difficult but the rewards are tremendous. You must be a good time manager. You can’t be afraid to go out to places in order to make yourself known and network. If you have any questions or need advice about the music field and major programs, please do not hesitate to ask me.

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