Hi everyone! We're back with another installment of College Plans to explore different college majors. This month we will talk to Chelsea, the office coordinator for Oregon Tutor. She graduated in 2009 from Henderson State University.
What was your major? Why did you choose this field of study? Did you have a specific career in mind when you started, or was it a general interest?
My college major was music and I knew that I would study it ever since junior high! I grew up in a musical family and my mother has taught music for 30+ years. Music has always been such a key part of my life and I always knew I wanted to teach so it seemed not only logical, but my only option. If you asked 11 year old me, I said I would get a PhD in Music History and teach at the university level but that path changed course. Instead, my sophomore year I attended a workshop for elementary music and knew instantaneously this was the path for me! Getting to share my passion through play didn't equal a job - it was paid recess. Plus, I am a percussionist and elementary instruments are almost all percussion. The glove fit!
My undergrad school was geared toward secondary music instruction so focusing on elementary pedagogies was a challenge. I pretty much had to sculpt a custom degree plan much to the chagrin of some of my professors but I knew it was necessary to give me the training I needed. I declared a minor in dance at the end of my sophomore year after recognizing that elementary music combines a lot of movement and folk dance. If I wanted to market myself as a commodity to districts, having dual specialized training would be the ticket.
What do you do now? If it is in your degree field, what about your college experience helped best prepare you for your current work? If it is not in your degree field, would you change your major if you could go back? Why or why not? What was the most challenging course you took in your specific field of study?
Currently, I am the office coordinator for Oregon Tutor so it is not in my degree field but there are opportunities to still teach a little! Prior to joining Oregon Tutor, I was an elementary music specialist in Dallas, TX. Sculpting my own degree track was most helpful to me since I studied music, dance, and elementary education. Each of these disciplines contributed a different flavor to my teaching style I wouldn't have developed had I focused solely on one area of study.
The most challenging course I took had to be my graduate music history courses. History has never been my strongest subject and a lot of that has to do with the structure of how my history courses have been taught. A lot of early music was based around the Catholic church and I don't have a context for the structure of Catholic mass so that made it even more difficult to organize. I managed to make it through the class but every assignment was a struggle. Its important to understand the roots of something but it was most interesting for me to see how trends migrated around Europe and evolved into more recognizable techniques.
What was one thing you dreaded going into college that wasn't as bad as you feared?
Talking to professors! Usually when I have questions about a course or assignment, I brood. I remember being told something in my first theory course that I knew was a false statement but it wasn't my place to argue with the professor. I called my mom on the way back to my dorm and she encouraged me to stop by his office and ask for clarification. There was no part of me that wanted to voluntarily interact with this professor! However, he ended up being my favorite. He explained that my understanding was correct but I was coming into the class with a higher understanding than some of my peers and he didn't want to jump the gun. Even though it was frustrating to go through some of the lectures, there was a method to his madness and I gained a great respect for him. Had I not stopped by his office and initiated that mentor relationship, I don't know that I would have felt the encouragement to keep pushing through the hard classes.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in pursuing the same major you did?
Prepare to have little time for life! (Just kidding, sort of) Majoring in music is definitely time consuming and takes strong time management skills. Rehearsals, private lessons, concerts, etc...there are plenty of classes that require more outside hours than you'd think. However, my biggest piece of advice would be to not let a lack of "traditional" music education stop you from pursuing your dream. There can seem like a lot of prerequisites to this major but universities are starting to re-evaluate the course load and recognize non-traditional music backgrounds such as singer songwriters. Everyone can start at a different place and work to gain the same fluency according to your aspiration. Like the old saying goes, "If there is a will, there is a way."