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Three and a half years of music school has taught me a lot about myself and the world around me.  While these have been some of the most challenging days of my life, they are certainly the most rewarding.  As my time in undergrad rapidly draws to a close before student teaching, I’ve been reflecting on the overall experience and what advice I can offer to other music majors.  This isn’t necessarily a list of “do’s” and “don’t’s,” but rather four main pieces of advice that I encourage you to heed throughout your own career.

Go to class.  Get out of bed and go!  A lot of music courses require attendance and even deduct an insane amount of points for each absence.  I’ve met far too many lazy musicians who never attend class except for the day of the midterm and final exam.  Do not do this!  Why pay beaucoup bucks for tuition if you’re not going to show up?  Be financially responsible by attending your commitments and attending them on time.  This is a solid habit for musicians anyways.  If you wouldn’t show up late for a gig, don’t show up late for class or rehearsal. 

Own your education.  It’s all yours!  Display a healthy dose of entitlement.  Absorb everything that you can.  Ask a lot of questions, read a lot of books, print a lot of sheet music, learn a lot of random tunes, and make a lot of great friends in the process.  Find people who are interested in the same music as you.  Put yourself out there to meet new people and network as much as you can.  Grow close to your professors, as well.  You never know when a connection from music school will benefit you down the road!  Invest in your own future through campus jobs and internships if your busy schedule allows it. 

Practice over homework.  Sometimes…actually, all the time.  Music school is the perfect setting for you to practice practice practice.  Sure, homework is important; however, you’re in school to master your craft, so you might as well use these years wisely!  Do the assignments that you know will benefit your education, but don’t stress over every minuscule project or paper that has little impact on your grade or future endeavors.  Decide what’s important to you and your GPA and accomplish what you can.  Then spend the rest of your time creating and doing what you love.  Someday, you will miss these days dearly.

Avoid overloading yourself.  Make a schedule and follow it well.  It’s easy to say yes to everything, especially when you’re surrounded by people who share your passions.  Plan out as many aspects of your day as you can, but leave plenty of space for practicing, attending rehearsals, and having extra lessons.  Over time, you’ll get to know yourself and what you can handle.  Some musicians can survive the 14-hour days of art from 8 am to 10 pm, while others need some downtime during the day for long nights of performing.  Make sure to eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and sleep enough.  It’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves amidst the busyness, but self-care is important and we cannot perform well on an empty stomach and under-served soul.

I wish you the best of luck in all your endeavors!  Love music and be kind to one another!

Hannah Shively

Youngstown '22

Hannah Shively is a senior pursuing her bachelor's degree in instrumental music education from the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University. She's very passionate about a lot of things: Jesus, music, coffee, fruit snacks, dogs, the cello, and being barefoot. She adores traveling, especially to the beach. You can often find her hanging out with friends, making music, eating delicious food, and going on new adventures.
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