SMUsic (SMU Music)

This past weekend I went to Dallas to visit Southern Methodist University to have a voice lesson and to sit in on some music classes. The first class I sat in on was a music theory class for Sophomores. There were about fifteen students in the class, a big class for SMU, and they all had to bring little keyboards to the class. Most of what they did that day was aural: sight-singing, interval recognition, and harmonic dictation. If I had sat in on the class two years ago, when I had no knowledge of sight-singing, intervals, or harmonic dictation, I would have been done right there and decided not to major in music. What they were doing, identifying notes and intervals and singing them, would have seemed almost arcane to me. As it was, I was still impressed by their level of aural ability.
The next class I sat in on was a conducting class. It was smaller, with only six people, and not near as intimidating as the theory class. One student would have a piece prepared to conduct and then the other students and the professor would sing the song in a round as she conducted, with the professor giving feedback at the end. The atmosphere was very relaxed, and very enjoyable to sit in on.
After that I had my voice lesson. The Distinguished Professor of Voice with whom I had my lesson had been a professional opera singer, and had an impressive history of performance throughout the United States and Europe. The song I sang for her was in Italian, and being a professional opera singer, she did not hesitate to hammer me on my improper diction of the Italian language. It was not until after the lesson began that I realized how long it had been since I had seriously sang anything in Italian. Despite my shortcomings in foreign language diction, the lesson was very good. It was a little odd to work with a teacher I did not know and whose teaching method I was unfamiliar with, but it was nevertheless a beneficial lesson.
Overall, my favorite thing about the day was being around a lot of people who were absolutely terrific at what they did. From the professors to the students, everyone I encountered in the SMU music department excelled at what they were either teaching or learning. As a high school student interested in music, I am often around some people who are very good at what they do with music, some people who are pretty good at it, and a majority of people who are average at what they are doing. But at SMU it was different, and that is something that I like, because although I like to feel like I am among the best at what I do (which is how I often feel when I am not around people who are better than me), I realize that being around a lot of people who are as good or better than me is far more beneficial. Being around people who excel pushes me to excel even more.


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