I confess that when I was applying to and later choosing to go to Santa Clara University, having music as a second major was not on my mind. Singing was one of my top extracurricular activities and I definitely wanted to keep doing it in college, but just as that, an extracurricular activity. That would all change when I had my first rehearsal with the Chamber Singers, our school’s auditioned choral ensemble.
Before I delve more into my personal experience, a little overview of the Music Department. Like all the arts at SCU, Music here is incredibly inclusive and covers all varieties. You’ve got your choral singing in the forms of Concert Choir, which anyone can be part of regardless of past experience, and the aforementioned Chamber Singers, which allows for people who have experience singing to take it to the next level, singing more challenging and rewarding pieces.
On top of that, here in the music department we’ve got you covered with the SCU Orchestra,
our largest instrumental ensemble with a mix of strings, winds, brass, and percussion, and Wind Ensemble, which allows for our wind instruments including flutes, clarinets, and bassoons to especially shine. Any jazz enthusiasts out there will find an awesome home in either Jazz Ensemble or Jazz Combo, the smaller cousin of Jazz Ensemble that allows for even further focus on technique and improvisation.
If you want to have some more out of the ordinary music experiences, check out New Music Ensemble, which will change the way you believe music can be played, or World Music Ensemble, which explores the beats, percussion and vocals that were brought across the world’s oceans by traders, slaves and others centuries ago. Lastly, SCLORK (the Santa Clara Laptop Orchestra), is dedicated to live electronic music, utilizing human/computer interaction, programming and sound design with cutting-edge technologies to again, take music to the next level.
What all of these ensembles have in common is that they do not stick to just what you’re used to them playing. In Chamber Singers and Concert Choir for example, I’ve done everything from Carmina Burana and Bach’s St. Matthews Passion to traditional songs from all across the world including South Africa, Haiti, and China, to versions contemporary hits like Pretty Hurts by Beyonce. Overall, if there is a genre of music you are interested in, then there is an ensemble here that is open to performing it.
An important thing to stress is that you do not have to be a Music major or minor to be part of Santa Clara’s ensembles. You’ll find people from all three schools with all kinds of majors are able to find the time to keep their passion for singing or playing alive outside of the classroom. Additionally, all you have to do is be a part of an ensemble to get free 30-minute weekly private instruction in singing, conducting or playing any instrument. These free lessons have done wonders for my voice and is one the top things from this school that I have seen myself benefit from.
Now, if you decide you do want to minor, or even major, then things really start to get fun. In my first quarter here at Santa Clara when I was in Chamber Singers, I was surrounded by many talented seniors who were in fact Music majors. In fact, it was seeing and taking part in one of the girls’ senior recitals and hearing the songs she was singing, composing, or conducting, that made me realize that I wanted to do this myself. With the music major or minor, classes include sequences in music theory and musicianship, which help you develop all the skills you need to read, write and perform music, two classes from the Intro to Listening series (Western, Global, Electronic, Jazz), all geared towards giving you to strategies for listening to, analyzing, writing about, and ultimately truly appreciating these types of music, participation in Private Instruction and one of the performance ensembles mentioned earlier, and then a certain number of upper division classes, with at least one centered around Ethnomusicology/Music History, depending on if you are a major or minor. Some of these Music History classes include the History of Hip-Hop, Sacred Music and the Church, Jazz: Race, Culture and Spirituality, Music of the Baroque ad Classical Periods, Music Since 1945, Music, Technology and Society and more. With these requirements, a Music major or minor will graduate from Santa Clara University as a greater performer, composer, or all-around enthusiast than they were when they first signed up four years prior.
As for my personal experience, I will say that being involved in the Music Department has changed my career at SCU for the better. I think the fact that SCU is already a small school and this department itself is one of the smaller ones allows for those involved in the ensembles or the major/minor to stand out even more. It gets to the point where all the professors in this department know who you are, even if you are not involved with their ensembles or in their classes. They are always there to help you when you’re struggling with any homework, and you can have conversations with them about anything. On top of that, the students who you find in the Music Department will be some of the most dedicated, passionate, creative, unique people you will find at Santa Clara, which is saying something at a school like Santa Clara. I’ve made some of my closest friends in this department, and I can’t imagine SCU without them. And who knows? If you sing or play, want to learn how to do so, or just enjoy music, maybe you will too.
Julian Nesbitt is a Student Ambassador at Santa Clara University, class of 2020. Learn more about him and his involvements, along with the rest of our student ambassadors, here.