Don't let the music die

Students find ways to continue their musical passions at UB

On July 1, 2013

Kevin Beuler felt something was missing during his freshman year at UB. He had been a musician for 13 years and then, suddenly, he wasn't.

Beuler is now a senior mathematics major with a minor in music, and he's an active participant in the UB Concert Band.

There are over 300 students continuing their passion for music after high school at UB who aren't music majors. They are a part of UB Symphony Orchestra (UBSO), UB Concert Band, UB Chorus, UB Choir and various other ensembles. All of these groups perform on campus and enable students in any major to pursue their musical hobby. Beuler had been playing music since he started playing the piano in kindergarten. He then picked up the trumpet when he was in fourth grade and music became an integral part of his daily life. He learned how to play the violin his sophomore year of high school and taught himself the guitar.

Beuler did not want to stop playing music just because his academic career was focused on getting into medical school. But as a freshman, Beuler didn't know his options. He knew something was missing in his life.

It felt strange to take a year off from music after constantly playing for so many years. He didn't know what to do because he thought getting involved in music would cause his grades to slip. Daniel Bassin, the music director of UBSO, said this is a fear many incoming freshmen share.

"While juggling a busy schedule of required courses, electives, extracurricular activities and the major life change that is the transition to college, it can be easy to look at various activitieswe were able to keep up before college as expendable, and to weigh performing music in an ensemble as a time commitment that will be hard to find time for," Bassin said.

He said, however, in his experience, "The students who make the time in their weeks to continue playing their instruments find the engaging, collaborative act of creating music an important compliment to their course of study."

Bassin suggests students get involved as soon as possible, so playing music feels effortless, and not like an extra burden, in their schedules.

The music department offers many options for students with this fear of complete commitment to a major.

One popular option is picking up music as a minor, which is 28 credits and can be either performance or academic based. Performance requires participation in an ensemble and eight applied music credits, while academic requires more non-performance based electives.

Beuler chose to add a performance minor his sophomore year because taking music lessons and performing was easier on his schedule than taking music classes. His instrument of choice was the trumpet, though he continues to play piano and guitar.

Beuler feels these classes offer "peace and solitude from the monotony of [his] other classes."

"I have a good share of math classes and science or medical classes, but with music in the mix it offers such a great variety," he said. "So I'm never bored or feel like I am getting lost and just going through the motions. College can be very stressful and feel very overwhelming at times, and I think being involved in music helps lower the stress." 

Another perk of the music department are the ensembles, according to Beuler. Beuler is an active member in UB Concert Band. He loves how rehearsals fit into his busy schedule with only two one-hour meetings a week.

Jon Nelson, one of Beuler's favorite professors runs UB Concert Band. Beuler feels he is gaining a technical-music education from Nelson, but according to Beuler, Nelson is exposing the band to a wide variety of music.

"We get through so many pieces of music, our programs sometimes include six, seven, even eight songs, and some of those songs include several movements," Beuler said. "There are times where we think he is putting too many songs on the program for us to play, but he always has great faith in us."

At their last performance in the spring, the audience gave the concert band a standing ovation for the first time.

Nelson is proud to say his band is comprised of students with a variety of different career goals. Eighty-five percent of the band is made of students with math, engineering or science majors, Nelson said.

"[The band] is a nice challenge intellectually and it's a creative release for those students who are in the lab or classroom all day," Nelson said.

Students can also join UB Marching Band (Thunder of the East) or other ensembles to stay involved. 

UBSO is comprised of approximately 65 members, and a majority are not music majors.

Bassin, the UBSO music director, loves the constant reward of challenging students to "push themselvescreatively and technically, while also engaging them intellectually," by choosing the right repertoire.

Recently, they have expanded their audience beyond the members of the UB community and into the greater Buffalo area, according to Bassin.

"The members of the UBSO truly distinguished themselves this past year in the hard work theyput into a tremendously diverse range of music, which spanned three centuries," he said. "I feel extremely fortunate to get to work with them."

Students must audition to become a part of any of on-campus music groups.

The faculty aims to make the auditions less competitive and more positive, according to Bassin and Nelson. They want to encourage students to keep music in their lives, whether it's right out of high school or after a year or more of not practicing.

Auditions require prospective students to prepare a piece of music "that they love," an excerpt from something the group will be playing the upcoming semester and some sight-reading.

"This gives me the best sense of all aspects of a student's musical development," Bassin said. "It also begins our work together as I use the excerpts as an opportunity for the students to engage with the musical concepts that will be central to the semester's work."

Any student who gets involved with a large ensemble can also be eligible for free private instrumental lessons with a faculty member.

Each departmental group performs two free recitals throughout the year. Nelson encourages his students to bring their friends and family to watch the concerts. He feels it's important to encourage the general public to get involved with music or art to "support a more cultural society."

"It's better for everybody because people who are interested [who do not become professionals] are the people who will support musical education when they grow up and when their kids are in schools," Nelson said. "And they are the people who will attend the concerts."



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