Abigail Meredith, Assistant Arts Editor

For music majors, stress begins during the first year of college, and manifests itself in a very different way from most majors.

Jennifer Watson, a junior vocal music education major, explained how stress impacts her during the academic year.

“Our major is very busy. We have a lot of things to do,” Watson said.

“We may not have as much reading as nursing majors do. We don’t spend 15 hours doing homework every night like science majors, but music majors are thrown immediately into their actual majors, while most majors wait until junior year when they get their Gen Eds out of the way. It’s a different world.”

Pictured: Emily Ewbank, a music major at OBU. Alena Blakley / The Bison

Emily Wright, a sophomore vocal education major, also offered insight about the nature of her stress.

“Stress for music majors is on a completely different level than with other majors because other majors can get through college purely with academics. But with music, it’s not just academics. It’s your performance level. So, for music majors it’s the stress of performance and academics at the same time.”

This stress manifests itself in different, often overwhelming ways, affecting everything from the typical freshman concerns to spiritual life.

Matthew Westfall, a senior church music major, recalled how the stress of being a freshman and a music major affected him.

“It was hard to find time to do homework and have a social life. I was staying up until late hours talking with friends because that was the only time I could. I remember falling asleep in Glee Club which is surprising, to be singing in a choir and then fall asleep.”

He went on.

“I remember one time freshman year there was an event on the hall where the guys played a prank on me. It was harmless but I just lost it. I blew up at them and it was horrible. It happened because I kept all that stress inside, and kept it to myself.”

Wright recounted how stress affected her spiritual life.

“There were classes that made me think ‘I’m not good enough for this major.’ I was thinking on the negatives and not thinking ‘Look at what God is doing. He is pushing me, He is giving me grace.’  In fact, this summer I considered changing majors. That was because Satan was telling me ‘look how you stressed about these certain classes. You’re not good enough. You’re not going to make it.’ But that’s a lie,” Watson said.

“God has given me peace this year knowing that I’m supposed to be a music major,” Watson said. “That these classes that are hard for me are just little road blocks. He is going to show me a way to get through them, and it might not be the easiest way, but it’s going to be worth it. Through that mindset I have had peace and trusted God.”

Often times stress seems inescapable. Watson offered some advice on making time for homework, practice, God and rest.

“Homework and practice are things you need to make time for. It’s not going to happen if you don’t make a plan for it to happen. Make a schedule and stick to it. As for spirituality, find time just to sit and remember that your priority is God. He is the one that’s important and He’s the one who is going to guide you in your life.

“I would suggest taking something to do for yourself. Music so far in your life has been an extracurricular activity, and now it is your life. It’s just so much music. You need to take some time and find something nonmusical that you enjoy doing. Take time to recharge. I know for vocal majors, you can’t be tense. Your body is your instrument and if you’re tense the music just doesn’t come out right.”

She suggested lying on the ground with your feet on a chair, a relaxation tip Dr. Louima Lilite gave to her when she was a freshman. Westfall also had advice for music majors that he wished he’d been told earlier.

“I have different people I talk to about my stress. I talk to my mom. I talk to my friends. It takes being willing to talk to different people,” he said. He also suggested that students remember that this is all worth it–in the end majors emerge educated, trained and blessed beyond measure.

Talking to professors was also encouraged.

“The music faculty is close knit. We all know each other’s struggles. We want to know,” Westfall said.

He went on to offer one final bit of encouragement.

“My biggest piece of advice as a music major is fall completely in love with your instrument. Whether it’s piano, voice, string, it doesn’t matter. I just learned this now and I wish I knew it earlier. You need to fall completely in love with what you do.”

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