Walton's misadventures as a music major

Like several of the people I know in the public relations major, I also began my college career in a different department. Before my major change, I was a music education major. The cruel irony, however, is I should be the last person to ever educate someone on music.

In high school, I loved choir. To be honest, I was pretty good at singing. I was the first person from my high school to ever make it to the Kentucky All-State Choir. This cemented my decision to pursue music not only as a passion, but also as a career. So when I got to college, I declared myself as a music ed. major.

This is when I was introduced to the bane of my existence: music theory. For the uninformed, music theory is the study of written music. This is where you learn to read time signatures, key signatures, how to compose music and so on. As with most subjects, it starts off simple. But then you move onto the more complex concepts. Unbeknownst to me, if you sign on to be a music education major, the professors expect that you know the basics of music theory going in. Put another way, you would not elect to be a math major without knowing addition and subtraction, would you? Well, I had apparently put myself in that very situation.

I remember showing up to class on the first day and receiving a pre-test. It consisted of ten simple questions in order to gauge what the class already knew about music theory. I remember the professor joking with the class saying that they knew the test was easy, but they wanted to make sure we all knew the basics. But as soon as I was handed the test, I quickly realized I was in trouble. I did not know a single answer. I handed it back blank, while I watched every other person in the room quickly fill theirs out. This is when I learned that I was never taught basic music theory in high school. I found out later that most of these people had taken AP music theory in high school. Finally, after a lot of tutoring, and crying, I managed to squeak by with a C in music theory. However, my misadventures as a music major had only just begun.

The next semester, I had to start learning instruments. Sounds exciting, huh? Well in order to learn to play instruments, you have to have a solid grasp on theory. Imagine my disappointment as I came to this realization. The first instrument I was tasked with learning was the trombone. The metal one with a slidey thing. About two weeks into class, everyone had pretty much gotten the hang of it. Everyone except me. My professor, clearly frustrated with my poor performance, looked straight into my eyes and asked -- in front of the entire class, “What’s your major again?” Fighting back tears I managed to muster a pathetic sounding “Music education.”

The second instrument I tried to learn was the tuba. I found this equally as challenging as the trombone. One day when we showed up to class, we had a written quiz waiting for us. I did not know about half of the answers. After I turned in my half-complete quiz, the professor looked at it a bit confused and said, “You know half of these are blank right?” Annoyed, I responded “Yeah, I didn’t know we had a quiz today.” The professor retorted “Yeah, nobody did. It was a pop quiz.” Cue my embarrassment and a glowing red face.

As I struggled through each semester, I felt like I was drowning. Each class became increasingly harder to squeak by. You always hear people say that if you want something bad enough, you can achieve anything. I realized that I was crippling my mental health by following this mantra. I felt like if I gave up, I would be a failure, and giving up on something is something I never do.

So after two years, I finally decided that I was not cut out to be a music major. I am not sure what the final straw was. Was it the one semester I was taking ten classes for thirteen credit hours? Could it have been the hours of tutoring and studying to end up with a C in most of my classes? Could it have been the hours of hopelessly practicing my brass instruments, only to produce pathetic farts of noise? Possibly the embarrassment of looking like a complete idiot in front of my colleagues? In any case, it was time to step away from the music department. I learned that just because you want to do something, it does not mean you should.

I still love music, and I respect everyone over at the music department, but I will not be going anywhere near the Foster Building ever again. Struggling like I did certainly instilled a better work ethic in me, even though the fruits of my labor turned out to be sour grapes.

I really enjoy my new home in the communications department. When you are a new public relations student, you learn from the ground up. You do not need a head start in order to succeed. Your fellow classmates have not been taking advanced public relations theory classes in high school. Being a public relations student allows me to express my creativity and put it to work at the same time. I think this is why there is a significant overlay of students involved in music and public relations.

I think the saddest part of my story is I took so many music classes that I only need two more to complete the minor. However, I will not be doing that. One of the two classes I need is Music Theory II.

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