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UMN music classes allow students to explore musical talent

Music ensemble classes offer students a relaxing break.
Image by Daye Stager
The University of Minnesota’s flagship audition choir, the University Singers, smiles for a photo during a rehearsal on Monday, Nov. 17. The University Singers are currently rehearsing for their upcoming winter concert, which will be held on Dec. 12 at 7:30 PM at the Jehovah Lutheran Church in St. Paul.

The University of Minnesota offers a variety of music classes available for students of all majors and musical talent to enroll in.

The School of Music (SoM) at the University offers choir, band, orchestra, world music, jazz combos and big band ensembles. Some ensembles do not require auditions while others do, but no musical experience is necessary to enroll in some of these courses. 

Kenny McAndrews, a third-year student, said he is in a University band and jazz ensemble. While he is an anthropology major, he said he takes music classes to help him relax. 

“It is a class, but I take it like a club or an extracurricular, as a way to wind down a little bit,” McAndrews said. 

The University’s music classes are not a large time commitment, according to McAndrews. He said the band meets once for three hours each week and the jazz band meets for 50 minutes three times a week. He typically plays the trumpet for two hours outside of class, mostly just for fun.

“I don’t really need to practice much unless the music I get in class is really difficult or something,” McAndrews said.

Students need to audition for certain University band classes, but McAndrews said the process is not difficult and that all the materials are posted on the SoM’s website.

McAndrews said he especially enjoys having Betsy McCann as his professor, as she contributes “high energy” to the class and the instructors take input on the pieces they play. 

“She’s wonderful,” McAndrews said. “She makes having an ensemble late on a Monday night just a blast.”

He said most of the people in his classes are not music majors.

“It’s all people that chose to be there and are up to the challenge,” McAndrews said. “It’s always fun because no one is really in it 50%, and everyone’s really excited about what they’re doing.”

Lauren Anderson, a third-year student, said one of her friends invited her to join and she decided to take choir as a way to destress.

“It’s hours of my day that I don’t have to worry about other schoolwork or work,” Anderson said.

Anderson said in choir they do several bonding activities which make it easy to become friends with students in class. She added it is fun meeting new people from all different majors.

“I sit next to a girl who’s majoring in kinesiology, and otherwise, I never would have talked to these people,” Anderson said. 

Anderson’s choir class performs two concerts a semester and she said she enjoys working towards a performance.

“It feels gratifying, especially when you’re working on a really hard piece, and you finally get it,” Anderson said. “Then thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not a music major. I’m just doing this for fun.’”

James Lin, a third-year student at the University, said he started playing the violin in third grade and now continues to play in a University orchestra ensemble because he loves performing.

“Playing music is fun and all, but it’s good to have something come out of it and be able to have something to work towards as non-academics related and have that kind of balance,” Lin said. 

Lin said he has made friends easily with students who sit near him, adding the class has led him to explore playing in an orchestra outside of the University.

“This campus orchestra was kind of like a gateway for me,” Lin said. “I’m actually doing another orchestra now because I like it so much.”

Lin added he thinks it is important for the University to continue to offer choir, orchestra and band classes that any student can enroll in.

“Diversity of study is super important for a lot of people on campus,” Lin said. “It’s the same reason why they would keep up intramural sports, it’s like an opportunity to get involved on campus.”

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