Meet a Real Music Teacher
Name: Chris Medina
Education: Southern Adventist University, Bachelor of Arts in music education
Location: Bass Memorial Academy (BMA), Lumberton, Mississippi
The Job: As the only music teacher at BMA, Chris is in charge of the various music groups on campus, such as band, choir, and bell choir.He meets with each group at least twice a week for practices. In between these sessions Chris also teaches three private piano lessons a day, five days a week.Then there are the music appreciation classes he has to teach, the meetings with special trios, and his involvement with the campus technology center (heís trying to set one up). And this is just on weekdays!On average, Chris takes weekend tours with the music groups once a month. This means traveling long hours on a bus, waking up in a sleeping bag, and giving two or three performances a day.Itís hard work, but by the end of the day both Chris and his students have gained a greater appreciation for music. And for Chris, thatís the best reward.
Words to Live by I think music loses its meaning if Christianity is taken out of it. Thus I try to get students to see Christ through their music. The most difficult challenge is trying to convince each student that they have a great gift from God.Ē
Music for you?
Consider Music as a college major if you're crazy about:
ē music (this oneís obvious)
ē performing (youíd better get over
your stage fright)
ē practicing (some days itíll be just you, your instrument, and a small room)
Avoid Music as a college major if you get nauseated by:
ē being disciplined (Mom wonít force you to practice in collegeóitís up to you)
ē technical aspects of music (ah, the delights of key signatures)
ē criticism (finding out youíre not perfect may be painful)
Jennifer Nixonís earliest "music memory" is from the third grade. "I had a solo in a Christmas cantata at church," she recalls. "And I remember my knees knocking!"
Yet as nerve- (or knee-) racking as the performance was, Jennifer sang well. Afterward a voice teacher in the church offered to give her lessons.
Then in the fifth grade Jennifer saw the movie The Sound of Music. This famous musical about a spirited tutor and seven children enchants most who watch it. But the movie inspired Jennifer. One person in particular caught her attention.
"I saw Julie Andrews, and I told myself, Thatís what
I want to do," says Jennifer.
More than a decade later, Jennifer isnít a tutor for a half dozen unruly children. Instead, sheís a junior voice performance major at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee. And one day sheíd like to perform professionally in musical theater.
Although her dream is still some years away, she got a taste of amateur theater in a recent school
performance of Amahl and the Night Visitors. In this story of a crippled shepherd boy and his mother, who are visited by three kings on their way to Bethlehem, Jennifer sang the part of the mother.
"Amahl was the first performance Iíve ever done. I felt so good, because I felt as though Iíd done something really big," says Jennifer. "You could tell people were moved by the music, and itís an adrenaline rush to know that youíre pleasing an audience."
Sound fun and even glamorous? Yes, but while music enthusiasts may fantasize about everything from musical theater to solo concerts in symphony halls, getting to that point means studying, studying, studying, and more studying.
Listen as Jennifer lets us in on the behind-the-scenes work of being a music major.
On Course: I thought all music majors had to do was practice. What is this about studying?
Jennifer: Most people donít realize that as a music major you have to take many music theory classes.
I have to take four semesters of music theory that involve all the technical aspects of music, such as chord structures and analyzing music. These classes can be very difficult, so itís a lot of hard work.
Also, music majors have to take classes in music history, which deal with the development of music and various composers.
OC: But you do have to practice a lot, donít you?
Jennifer: In my program you have to practice a minimum of eight hours a week on whatever instrument youíre majoring inówhether itís voice, piano, or cello.
Some teachers keep track of your practice hours and base your grade on it. But most teachers base your grade on your progress. I try to get in as much time as I can, which would probably be from five to eight hours a week.
OC: Do you have to learn other instruments?
Jennifer: I think some of the music majors have to learn how to play different orchestral or band instruments. I donít have to, because Iím a voice major.
I do have to know how to play the piano, though. They have something called a piano proficiency exam that you can pass. Otherwise you have to take some semesters of piano lessons.
I think itís better to know different instruments, because it gives you a better understanding of music.
OC: Well, letís talk about your options after
college. You want to get your masterís in musical theater, but what are some other options?
Jennifer: You can take education classes and teach music in a school. You can teach your particular instrument for private lessons. Or you can study to become a music theory or history professor.
I donít know how many performance majors there are, but most music majors go for education.
OC: You mentioned the theory classes. Are there any other things people should be aware of before choosing music as a major?
Jennifer: I would say be prepared for competition.
It doesnít necessarily have to be a competitive thing. But if you want to perform, thereís a competitiveness that comes with it.
At Southern it hasnít been that way, because weíre all friends in the music department. But going out into the music business means there might be competition, and you have to be prepared.
Also, you canít hate criticism. Most of the criticism you receive will be helpful, and you canít take it the wrong way. When people give you advice on how to improve, you have to be able to consider it rather than getting angry. I personally take criticism with a grain of salt and see it as a way to improve.
OC: What kind of people should major in music?
Jennifer: First of all, just like any other major, you have to love what youíre doing. Also, you have to have a lot of patience.
Developing your instrument takes a lot of patience to get good enough to teach or perform. Practicing also takes a lot of self-discipline. So a music major should definitely be motivated.
Music is also a talent, a gift from God. So you have to have certain musical abilities before going into it.
OC: Do you think itís easy to be a Christian in the music industry?
Jennifer: I think a career in music has some spiritual dangers. You have to have a strong relationship with the Lord and trust Him to lead you. And thereís a lot of temptation to perform on Sabbath. So itís a choice between your own glory and Godís glory.
Itís easy for people to begin developing big egos for the performances theyíve been in. They forget to recognize that itís God who gave them the talent.
For me personally, Iím not sure where Godís going to lead me with this, since I want to go into theater. But I want to be a witness for Him wherever I am.