Should I Keep Playing my Instrument in College?
Are you trying to decide whether or not to keep playing your instrument in college? So was Anya, a senior nursing and art major, when she first came to Southern.
What instrument do you play, and how did you start?
I play the violin, and I’ve been playing since I was seven. My family was living in Michigan at the time, and our good friends there had a son who was taking violin. So my mom asked me, “Do you want to take violin?” And I said “Oh, sure!” And then I started taking violin.
When you got to college, what made you decided whether or not to continue in an ensemble?
Well, my first three years I didn’t join an ensemble. I wasn’t in the orchestra because I didn’t think I would have time to practice. And I was correct. I was in the nursing program, and before then I was trying to do pre-med and graphic design together. All of that just felt like too much.
Why did you try orchestra this year?
This was supposed to be my last year. I thought, okay, this is my last year, and I’ve always wanted to be in orchestra. So I thought, last year, let’s do it.
Do you wish you had joined earlier?
I do! I wish. I really enjoy it. I find happiness making music with a group of people, and doing it well. I’ve always been wanting to join orchestra, even though I hadn’t done it. It’s because I really like playing together as a team to create something bigger than myself. It’s a really neat feeling to be a part of something like that.
Did you play the violin in other settings?
My first year I would play for outreach activities now and then. We would go to a nursing home and do a church service for the residents. It wasn’t too often. Sometimes I would just bring it out and play for fun.
How has being in orchestra positively impacted your college experience?
One thing that comes to my mind is friends. I don’t have a lot of close friends in orchestra because I haven’t been there for very long. But, if you’ve been there for like four years, and you’re with the same people for four years, you develop very close relationships. In the short time that I’ve been there, I’ve made some good friends. It’s just good to be able to relate to people who play the same instrument as you. They understand your weird instrument jokes!
And, the other thing is being able to continue and keep up with the instrument that I have put so much time into playing. I know it’s not going to waste. I’m doing something with it. I’m using it for something. Just being a part of something bigger. I enjoy that and find it quite energizing to be able to contribute.
How much time should students plan in their week, realistically, to practice?
There’s this thing called efficient practicing. Mrs. Minner (the symphony orchestra conductor) says that if you just do 15 minutes a day and work on the hardest spots, then you’ll get better. It’s just a matter of doing that.
What would you recommend for students who want to join an ensemble but aren’t sure? Is it better to try it even if they can’t continue?
I would say, try it. See if you can do it. Sometimes it’s hard to gauge because the beginning of the semester is not how it will be later. But I like to just try and see how it’s going. Then, when it comes to drop week, if I really didn’t feel like I could do it, then I would drop orchestra.
What should students consider before joining one of our ensembles?
They should consider how much time they should give to practicing. Because when you are part of an ensemble, you’re committed to a group, and you are committed to making something together. Whether you pull your weight or not directly affects the outcome.
If someone can’t be active in an ensemble, I think there are other ways to use your musical skills. Some outreach programs need musical instruments, dorm worships need instruments, and there are also Vespers praise teams. You could just get together and jam with friends! There are opportunities that you can make for yourself, you just have to go out there and get it. Just like most things in college.
For more information about the several ensembles on our campus, see our webpage. Like Anya shared with us, joining an ensemble takes commitment, but it is also very rewarding. We hope you’ll think about continuing to grow as a musician on our campus.
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