By Anna Herl
Seniors with music majors say the lasting friendships they have made and the professors who have challenged yet encouraged them are some of the highlights of their time at Concordia.
Rebekah Guilford, a music education major, said the past couple years have gone by faster than her first two years, which were more of a trudge because of COVID-19.
“Sophomore and junior year were, for me, where COVID-19 took over the world. It felt like music was hit especially hard in those days,” Guilford said.
Nathaniel Mars, a church music student who also is in the pre-seminary program, said time flew by after his freshman year when classes were online. Now, he can hardly believe he has one semester left.
“My semesters have been extremely busy, and that certainly is one reason why they fly by so quickly,” Mars said. “I also love being with my friends and making music, so I am rarely wishing for the time to go by faster.”
The seniors said being able to make great relationships with both fellow students and professors played a huge part in their academic and personal journey.
“For students specifically, I have gotten close to many of the music majors through time spent in ensembles or music classes,” said Renata Peperkorn, who has a double major of music education and church music. “I have gotten close to multiple professors, specifically those music professors that I have had multiple classes with.”
The students agreed that many of their friendships were formed through the music classes they took.
“Due to the close-knit community of music majors and especially music education majors, I have made many lasting friendships with my peers in this program,” Guilford said.
“I am probably closest to Dr. (Jeffrey) Blersch, since I have had organ lessons with him every week as well as several other classes,” Mars said.
Guilford said these relationships are possible because Concordia is a smaller college that “ensures that we can form meaningful relationships with our professors.”
To Mars, the music department at Concordia is very strong.
“The teachers challenge me to do my best in my music classes, but they also encourage me along the way,” Mars said. “They are all very smart and well qualified to be teaching at Concordia, and it has been an honor to learn from them.”
Guilford said that she is especially thankful for the guidance of Dr. (Kurt) von Kampen as well as (adjunct professor) Kate Matthews, who has provided her with personal guidance and conducting experience.
“These are just two of the fabulous group of professors in the music department, and everyone in the music department has been crucial to my own development as a musician,” she said.
Being a music major can be rewarding, but it is not without its challenges. Peperkorn said it requires time management and delayed gratification.
“It is important to know your own schedule and manage your time because you get to a point where you cannot just throw everything together last minute,” she said.
Guilford emphasized the importance of practicing.
“Practice and practice often,” Guilford said. “Life is so much easier when you establish a routine that includes practicing rather than only doing it when you feel like it.”
Performing is important for CUNE music students. Students gain music experience by getting involved in vocal and instrumental ensembles, choirs, and orchestra, in addition to taking personal lessons. Participation in these activities is not exclusive to music majors but it is expected that music students seek out such opportunities.
According to music professor Dr. Joseph Herl, music majors have to be in an ensemble along with their applied lessons every semester.
Mars said that comparing himself with others has been a personal struggle.
“I am far from being the best musician on campus, and so it can be discouraging at times,” Mars said. “My goal in studying music was to learn how to serve the church and how to glorify God… and also have some fun with some good music along the way.”
Mars said keeping these goals in mind has helped him continue studying even when he was discouraged. Performing helped to remind him of what’s important.
“Along with these goals, playing for church and performing in concerts with ensembles often reminds me why music is so important and why I love it,” he said.
There are a number of job opportunities for music majors, but there also are career paths where a background in music could be helpful as well. Guilford is a music education major who is interested in teaching music in a secondary school.
“I hope to have a job teaching instrumental music in a public middle school or high school,” she said. “A few years down the road, I’d love to be teaching high school band and working on a masters in wind band conducting.”
Mars plans to attend Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, Ind. “My ultimate goal is to become a pastor, but I hope that studying music before entering the pastoral ministry will help me in that vocation,” Mars said.
Herl said music majors “know how to work hard, organize their time, and think creatively,” which are valuable skills that can be applied in any type of career or vocation.
Mars, Guilford and Herl also gave some advice on whether or not music is a right fit for incoming students, or for anyone in general.
Herl said that for music majors, exposure to different types of music and a little experience with piano could go a long way. “Listen to as many different kinds of music as possible,” he said. “And learn to play the piano at least a little bit.”
Guilford said burnout can happen but things improve. “Burnout happens,” Guilford said. “Don’t feel like you’re broken if you experience it. It gets better, I promise.”
Mars said to remember that music is for the glory of God. “It doesn’t matter if you are the best at music, but as long as you pour your heart and soul into making music, it is worth it in the end,” he said.