What it’s like to be a music major at Portland State

The PSU Wind Ensemble Fall 2019 Concert

PSU is home to many different majors, minors, and certificates that range from sciences, humanities, social studies, and the arts. The College of the Arts comprises the School of Architecture, School of Art and Design, School of Music and Theater, and School of Film. As a music education major, I spent my undergraduate years in the School of Music and Theater which is found in Lincoln Hall. It’s where I study and learn from 9 am to 5 pm during the week. 

Looking at the classes I have taken during my past three years at PSU, my schedule has consisted of back to back classes starting from 8 am or 9 am with my last rehearsal ending around 5:30. First and Second year music students take all of the same classes before branching out into our own fields. These classes are our “music general education” courses, including theory and aural skills. During this time we have a weekly class called “Performance Attendance” which is a time where we get to spend an hour listening to different performers (either other students or outside performers) and we have to write a reflection about what we heard and different aspects of the performance. 

The other main class music students take, and can be the most intimidating, is applied lessons. This is a weekly lesson that is one-on-one with the professor of your specific instrument. At the end of each quarter, you perform a piece for your professor and the rest of the music faculty. It can seem scary at first but the music professors use this as a reflection of what you have been working on that term and if you have accomplished your goals. 

One comment I hear a lot from non-art majors is that I have it easy because I don’t have “actual” homework which is simply not true. I might not be studying in the library with textbooks and loads of notes but I am practicing and playing music during that time. I have a binder of music that I look at and work on everyday and it’s not all just for my main instrument; I am keeping up my piano skills and starting to learn new instruments like the clarinet. I do have readings and worksheets that I work on for some of my classes but the majority of my time is spent with an instrument in my hands. 

The biggest part of being a music major is performing. It has been a little different because of the pandemic, but generally each big ensemble (Band, Choir, and Orchestra) has one big concert a term. For winter 2022, the Wind Ensemble is performing a Unity Concert on January 31st at 7:30pm in the Lincoln Performance Hall. Studios and individuals will also have recitals  that are free to watch and happen all throughout each term.

My Winter 2020 Recital




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