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‘The workload is a double-edged sword’: Living like a music major

Music students at Miami have a hefty workload.
Music students at Miami have a hefty workload.

Miami University's music department puts on countless shows for the community, such as the upcoming Catacoustic Consort

These breathtaking productions are the result of hours of hard work by music and art students. Many students in the music department max out their credit hours semester after semester — alongside an array of extracurricular activities — to keep up with the competitive atmosphere of the creative arts world. 

Natalie Czarnik, a first-year music education major focusing on choral and general music, juggles her combination of activities alongside settling into a new town after moving from Chicago.

“All of the skills that we learn through these experiences are very important to keep up with other music programs around the country, but burnout is very real, affecting many students — not just at Miami, but around the country,” Czarnik said. “So I think that is something where more support could be needed.”

Czarnik took 19 credit hours of courses her fall semester, along with marching band and choir, and she is unwinding from being a vocal coach for the recent production of “The Addams Family.” 

Her work on “The Addams Family” included pre-recording parts of the show to share with cast members for reference, creating homework assignments to improve the team's vocal skills, making sure the sound was evenly distributed throughout the theater and much more. The projects that Czarnik completed for the team improved an already extraordinary show while adding a lot to her plate. 

“It was harder to stay on top of my work with the ‘Addams Family.’ I would often get back around 10:30 or 11 p.m.  and have to start my homework then.” Czarnik said.  “I'll either work on homework or practice to keep up between classes, so it's always go, go, go.”

Czarnik is only one member of a community that faces these challenges. Dani Jacobs is a sophomore studying arts and music, with minors in entrepreneurship and arts entrepreneurship. Jacobs has worked countless hours at Miami to earn a spot in the music department and recently received a spot on the Miami University Dance Theatre team. 

With these successes have come many long nights of practicing the piano, going over sheet music and studying for exams. With every night of practice that Jacobs put in, they were getting one step closer to their goals, surrounded by the supportive environment of the music department.  

“The workload is a double-edged sword,” Jacobs said. “You have so much room to explore different departments and specialties, which is one of the great things about the music department, but it can add up to a lot on your schedule.”

Seeing the layout of the classes required to be a music major and the conversations about the division's difficulty can be intimidating to an incoming student. What makes the course load of the Miami Music Department manageable is the community present throughout students’ journeys. 

“If I were going to give advice to an incoming student in the music department, it would be to not come in with any preconceived ideas and be open-minded,” Jacobs said. “Miami's music department will help you find your place. Remember that you are not alone in this, and as long as you keep your head down on your work and find ways to support yourself, everything will be okay.” 

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