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March 10, 1989 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-03-10
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Secluded in practice rooms on North Campus, mastering their craft,
music students often find themselves isolated from University life

Peter Witte, a senior French Horn major at the School of Music,
practices his instrument for many hours a day.
By Michael Lustig
Photos by Alexandra Brez

M7fusic is an important parti
of almost everyone's
life. We turn on the
radio whenever we get into a car. We
pop in a tape, or compact disk, to
help us study or to relax. We wait
hours in long lines for and pay small
fortunes to see our favorite perform-
ers in concert.
But to a few people, music is
more than just background noise. It
is life. It is a commitment to endless
hours of practice - playing that one
chord over and over, stretching the
vocal cords to hit that one note, and
doing it again to make sure it's
right. For many students in the
University's School of Music, their
instruments, or voices, are their
While much different than study-
ing economics or physiology, the
mission of the School of Music is
really no different than the mission
of the University as a whole.
"We try in our own way to be
consonant with the research-oriented
mission of the University," said
School of Music Dean Paul Boylan.
"We're creating new knowledge."
Boylan added that music faculty want
their students to be "inquisitive and
Lustig is a Daily reporter, Brez is a
Daily photographer.

intellectually curious," just like lib-,
eral arts students are supposed to be.
"I believe the School of Music is
one of the crown jewels of the Uni-
versity," said University President
James Duderstadt, "contributing
enormously to the intellectual and,
cultural life of the rest of the Uni-
The history of music education at
the University is undoubtedly bound
up with former Dean Earl Moore, for
whom the music school building is
named. Moore, who entered the
University as a student in 1908, be-
came the first dean of the newly-des-
ignated School of Music in 1935,
and remained in that position for 25
years. "There is hardly a feature of
the musical life of the University of
Michigan to which Dean Moore did
not contribute," Boylan said in the
school's Spring, 1988 newsletter,
Music at Michigan. As a composer,
Moore wrote "Varsity," a theme
heard at Wolverine football games.
As a music educator, he cemented
the foundations of the School of
Music, and, through a national
organization, helped outline a gen-
eral college music curriculum.
The school's library collection is
the heart of this foundation, which
attempts to represent the role of
music in different cultures through-

out history. A significant part of
this is the Stearns Collection, do-
nated to the University in 1894. It is
"one of the finest, if not the finest"
collections of ancient instruments
anywhere in the country, Boylan
The school possesses one of the
only collections of Javanese
gamalans, a collection of drums and
gongs, in the United States; early
synthesizers, like the Moog synthe-
sizer, and an extensive, 22,000 piece
collection of early 20th century
American sheet music. That collec-
tion has over 270 songs by Irving
Berlin, and more than 4,500 items
by Black American composers.
The library also has "perhaps the
largest collection of recordings of
women composers" outside of the
Library of Congress, Boylan said,
and an extensive collection of 17th
and 18th century compositions.
The music school moved to
North Campus in 1964, with the
completion of a building designed by
famed architect Eero Saarinen. Many
students and faculty find the setting,
on a hill overlooking the road up to
North Campus and almost com-
pletely surrounded by trees, serene
and idyllic. A piano-shaped pond in
front, is a popular place to relax on
warmer days. Recently, a lone
snowman stood overlooking the ice-
glazed water.
nside the building, it is sound
that one notices. In the class-
room halls, the sounds are
somewhat ordered; a group of trum-
pets in one room, a group of violins
down the hall. It first seems to be an
echo, but one quickly realizes it is
repetition, the artist striving to get
the note right.
The practice halls resemble the
carrels of the Grad Library, long off-
white colored, tiny rooms with hot
pink fluorescent lights glaring down
from above. But in the Grad one is
deafened by silence. In the practice
halls of the music school one is
surrounded by a cacophony of music
in the making: lips gripped around a
reed, forcing notes from a clarinet, a
taut, horsehair bow gliding across
the strings of a cello, fingers mov-
ing up and down the length of a pi-
ano keyboard, a soaring soprano.
It is practice that dominates a
music student's life. Laura Sankey, a

junior majoring in oboe, says she
knows people who practice from 30
minutes to six hours a day.
Amy Van Roekel, a junior voice
major, practices about two hours a
day, but, for fear of damage to her
vocal cords, must do it in smaller
blocks of time. She also spends
about an hour a day listening to
music, where she focuses on the
singer's style, inflection, and the use
of voice.
"You don't want to copy," Van
Roekel said, "but you try and think
of what she's doing and put it in
your own."

The School of Music is small -
810 students were enrolled in the fall
term according to University Statis-
tical Services. About 43 percent are
graduate students, and over half,
about 54 percent, are women. Many
students, however, see the small size
in somewhat of a negative light.
The curriculum is structured so
that all first-year students take
mostly the same classes. For a
bachelor's degree in music, a student
must take 90 of 120 credits in music
classes. This includes a major course
of study, two terms of piano, four
terms of ensemble performance, and

classes in music theory and music
history. Most incoming students
also live in Bursley residence hall,
so they spend most of their time on
North Campus.
"It was like I wasn't even part of
the University - a lot of people fall
into that rut," Sankey said, recalling
her first year. "Half the people in the
music school don't even know we
have a university."
Sankey, who is the School of
Music's one representative to the
Michigan Student Assembly, said,
that as evidence of their isolation,
The Daily was not delivered to the

music school until this year.
The nature of practice is one that
promotes solitude, she said. "Two,
three, four hours in a room by your-
self, looking at four walls, is isolat-
Monica McCormick, a graduate
student in violin, purposely chose to
live in Ypsilanti, saying the atmo-
sphere of the music school is
"almost detrimentally isolating."
Associate Dean David Crawford
sees the isolation in both positive
and negative terms. Isolation is bad
because students aren't socially ac-
tive, but it is good because some

students are frightened by the
"bigness" of the University and find
the small setting of the music
school "comforting."
But McCormick said people in
the School of Music may be getting
a bit too comfortable. Many people
did not know, for example, that for
Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1988,
hundreds of students on Central
Campus boycotted classes.
This year, she said, there were
activities and recitals. Minority stu-
dents, who comprise a little over 9
percent of the school, also performed
recitals at the Michigan Union
weekly during Black History Month.
McCormick, who is a minority
peer advisor, said minority students
are beginning to become more fo-
cused in what they want out of the
school, "but they're tired of com-
plaining" and want to see some
positive changes. Many have joined
Artists for Cultural Equality (ACE),
a group of music, dance, and theater
Positive changes have occurred,
she said. Last year, for Black History
Month, a display on Black music
and the civil rights movement in-
cluded pictures of Michael Jackson
and Aretha Franklin. When students
complained, no one would take re-
sponsibility for arranging the dis-
When the same pictures went up
this year, McCormick said, com-
plaints were met with an immediate
dismantling of the display.
McCormick said minority stu-
dents at the music school are some-
what isolated from activities of other
anti-racist groups, such as the United
Coalition Against Racism. "I don't
know about a lot of UCAR things at
all," she said.
ACE is trying to do some of the
things for the School of Music that
UCAR and the Baker-Mandela Cen-
ter for Anti-Racist Education are also
trying at the University level. It
sponsors speakers and visiting pro-
fessors, and is planning a welcoming
committee for prospective minority
A goal of ACE is to try and get
across the message that "just because
it's a Black composer doesn't mean
you only have to have Black stu-
dents performing it," McCormick
said. "It's music, period."
Crawford said there has been a
committee reviewing the overall

curriculum of the music school for
about a year asking, "What is the
proper mix of European tradition and
musical life in America?"
For Van Roekel, an answer would
be more jazz. She sees the School of
Music as being too focused on its
classical traditions, and even though
she is most interested in singing
jazz, she must major in classical
singing because that is all that is
"I want to do more than get up
and sing Carmen," she said, adding
that she knows people who have left
the School of Music, and even the
University, because they cannot get
a degree in jazz. Western Michigan
University, Van Roekel said, offers a
degree in Jazz Studies.
Van Roekel did note that im-
provements have recently appeared.
There are more bands, more classes,
and more teaching assistants this
year than before, she said.
usic may be their lives,
but for only a select few
will it be their
livelihoods. "There are people here
just to practice - and they'll be in
Carnegie Hall next year," Van
Roekel said. But only a lucky few
will get that chance.
"As musicians, most of us just
aren't going to make it," Sankey

Senior Ann Cancilla, an organ and music
in one of the many practice rooms at the

said. To
work, wh
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which, vw
gives the
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The Earl V. Moore School of Music Building houses many budding young performers who daily spend hours perfecting their music.



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