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  • Writer's pictureThe Mentorship Spot

Music at Western University

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

By: Ryan Davey

My name is Ryan Davey. I’m a student at Western University, and I’m going into my third year in the Bachelor of Music program (specializing in music theory). I play trumpet, and that’s the instrument that I study at Western. In high school I realized music was my biggest passion, and once I discovered Western’s perfect mix of academics along with a great overall campus experience, I knew this was where I wanted to study music!

Why did you choose this program?

I really knew that I wanted to go into music and, looking at other similar programs at UofT and Laurier, my decision wasn’t really based on the faculty and the program itself, as I think all of these schools offer great programs. A lot of my decision came down to the campus and what it had to offer. When I first came to visit Western for my audition, I really loved the architecture and school environment and could really imagine myself being here. I really loved that the campus isn’t too big and it's really easy to get from place to place. It only takes about 15 minutes to walk from one end of the campus to the other, which is very handy both for classes and hanging out with friends. I also got to know a few people who were in the program already and they seemed to have really enjoyed it so far, which made me think it was a good choice.

What have your first two years in this program been like?

Like a lot of other programs, your first year is a much more general bachelor of Music and you specialize after your second year. Specializations include education, theory, history and performance. Now that I am going into third year, I’m pursuing a theory specialization. In your first two years, you get acquainted with the courses all of the different specializations have to offer. In your first two years, you have to take three credits of theory and four credits of history. You also have the option to take composition and education classes, introducing you to other facets of the music faculty.

What have you enjoyed the most about this program?

The thing that I’ve enjoyed the most is being in an environment where you’re constantly surrounded by people with the same passions as you. In music, I think you have to be very dedicated and passionate to pursue it as a career. There are so many different genres, artists and philosophies surrounding music that you get a great deal of different viewpoints and opinions. It helps that the music building is accessible to everyone all the time which means you can connect with others in your faculty whenever you want.

What are the best skills that you have developed from this program so far?

Music is one of those subjects where it’s very difficult to teach before university. Even if you do a lot of music in high school, it’s hard to develop all of the theory and history knowledge that you need. Coming into first year, they really made it a level playing field for everyone and our theory professors made it really easy for everyone to catch up and be on the same level really early in the semester. Being able to learn about the more technical aspects of music was really useful. In terms of music education, there is a lot of importance placed on that at Western. It was really great to see and get to know lots of professors who were able to teach people of so many different levels and take the time to help everyone get to the same point. From a performance standpoint, going to school for music means that you will definitely get better at performing. Learning from people who have doctorates or masters degrees playing your instrument means that you can draw from all of their knowledge and real world experiences which is awesome. In general, one thing that I’ve really liked is that the program has still emphasized teaching good writing and communication skills. I feel that sometimes there is a stigma around music where people assume all you do is practice. Although practicing is a really big part of the program, I’ve also had to write numerous essays that have involved hours of research. I think that it’s awesome that they don’t slack on teaching you to research, write and cite properly.

As someone who lived in residence during both first and second year, what were those experiences like?

In my first year, I lived in a hybrid style residence, which means that I shared a room with a roommate and we had a suite where we were connected to another two people. I found it to be a good experience and I was lucky to have good, agreeable roommates who I had a great time with. Overall, the residence experience was great because of the design and the fact that even though we were sharing between four people, they gave us enough space to manage it. The floor environment played a big part as well. Our sophs and our don run all the floor activities and they help everyone to get to know each other throughout the year. It was a really great place to be for first year and I know a lot of other people had the same kind of experiences, no matter what type of residence they were in.

Second year, being a soph in Ontario Hall was a really cool experience. I was ready to pass on my knowledge from residence in first year and make sure to help out the first years in the same way that my sophs had helped me. Being able to live on the same floor as first years and experience what they’re going through with them and give them advice was a really great experience.

What do you hope to do with your degree after university?

I’m thinking of pursuing a higher degree and then going into teaching and becoming a professor. In my first year I was very fascinated by discussions I had with professors and the way they taught and I think that this would be a great calling for me. I think that this is a great place for musicians to be in because if you are really passionate about theory or composition, there are plenty of opportunities to write and research them to pursue your interests. People think that music can be a dead-end field but I think that there's actually a lot of flexibility and a lot of people at Western feel the same way.

What is something you wish someone had told you before coming to university?

I wish that I could have gone back to first year and told myself how to manage my time better. Being a soph, that is one of the biggest things that I’ve seen first years going through. When you’re in high school, there is so much time at school to focus on your subjects and a finite amount of time dedicated to certain subjects. In university, it's kind of hard to imagine a day where you have so much free time and figure out how you’re going to use all that time productively and it’s really important to find a balance. At first, I think that I spent too much time for myself, not practicing enough and leaving work until the last minute. This year, I feel that I went too much in the other direction, where I spent too much time on work without taking time for myself. Everyone needs to find ways to do work but also time to do fun things and enjoy your time in university.

What advice would you give a student looking to get into this program?

In grade 11, I realized that I wanted to pursue higher education in music. When I talked to my high school teacher about it, she suggested that I take lessons to prepare for auditions. That led to a long process of unlearning some bad habits and rebuilding my playing with better ones. Going through RCM and conservatory repertoire with my teacher really helped me to raise the level of my playing. For this program, you should at least be able to play Grade 8 RCM Rep on your instrument for your audition. Once you get into the program, the repertoire will become more difficult. Not only that, but taking lessons will also prepare you for consistently taking lessons in university. Other than that, make sure you research the university and your program to make sure you know what the requirements are. Finally, make sure you have confidence when going into your auditions. Universities don’t want to reject you, they want to help you improve and make you a better player, so just go in and do the best you can!

Interviewed and Transcribed by Farzan Dubash

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