As we wind down on choosing our spring semester classes, there’s something tragic about the loss of creative freedom as we get older. When I arrived at NC State, I knew that quite a few of my friends were going to drop some of their artistic passions in search of the practical. The loss of future musicians, poets, writers, artists, actors and photographers is truly saddening, as both a hobby or as a future career aspiration. I’m sure we can all relate to the deaths of our creative aspirations. Maybe your middle school sketches weren’t so good, your YouTube channel and Soundcloud page did not blow up, or you look back at your past writings as cringe.
However, this article is not an elegy to the death of the creator. It’s an ode to a creative medium I personally feel that improves students’ lives: music. I see way too many students scared of even the thought of a music class, and here is where I’m going to interject and say that you’re missing out on a transformative experience.
Students’ first fear of even moving their cursor into the MUS section during class selection is likely the performative aspect of music. However, the music department is more than a concert. Chris Branam, assistant director of the band program here at NC State, told me in an interview that “There’s different classes that are offered here at NC State outside of performance, for example jazz history, Intro to Music Lit, and even Intro to the Music Industry.”
NC State’s music department offers a small yet diverse arrangement of classes, ranging from music appreciation, instrument performance, music history, contemporary music studies (such as studies in women composers, African American music and global music) and music technology (such as learning to use DAWs for producing, mixing and mastering sound). Like a symphony, the music department offers a vast array of classes to create a beautiful product. There’s something for everyone in the music department.
When asked whether music classes are worth it, Branam also said, “Unfortunately, they [students] feel as if band is too much, but it actually gives them relief from things such as stress and anxiety.” He’s not wrong. Music has been proven to be relaxing from stressors in our lives, a viable form of therapy and a strong neural stimulant when performing.
There’s also something socially alluring about the symphony. A good band director believes in the unity of the ensemble, and I’ve genuinely experienced the sense of unity in the sole band class I’m taking this semester. There’s a sense of friendship between sections, between classes, and a sense of caring and commitment. It’s something that can’t be simulated in the lecture room, nor easily achievable in the classroom. Branam calls it the “esprit de corps” that music brings, and I’d go as far as calling it a sense of community. Harmonization, if you will.
Labeling NC State as a STEM school feels inaccurate; it leaves out the creative individualistic aspect of every single student, regardless of what they are majoring in. When talking to Branam, he often mentioned that he preferred to call NC State a STEAM school, since he felt our arts department is growing into a considerable strength. This label feels more appropriate. It doesn’t ignore the creative outputs of the individual and encourages us to believe in a synergy between the arts and the sciences.
Music follows us, shapeless in form but consistent in structure and sound, and it is still a wholly personal experience. It’s rare to find someone who wholly dislikes music, and I’d argue it’s equally as rare to find someone who has never dreamed of being some sort of musical star. There’s something mystifying about music, and I encourage students to participate in music. Attend a concert, take a class or watch the marching band’s halftime show. Don’t let that passion die out, but rather follow that spark to wherever it leads.