The First-Year Music Major: Strategies for Success

PDF The First-Year Music Major: Strategies for Success 1st Edition

Lesson Books
  1. Kerry B. Renzoni
  2. Victoria J. Furby
The First Year Music Major

Designed to address the many challenges that first-year undergraduate music students often encounter, The First-Year Music Major: Strategies for Success provides concrete approaches that will help anyone embarking on a degree in music develop the knowledge and skills needed to complete their first year successfully.

The chapters demystify the path of majoring in music, and address key topics including:
  • Planning a road map for the degree
  • Developing needed musical, academic, professional, practice, and performance skills
  • Building financial, mental, and physical well-being strategies
Written by a group of experienced professors and advisors in roles across the faculty of music, this book offers a comprehensive resource for first-year music students that will help them develop foundational skills to pursue music degrees and careers. An online e-resource accompanies the book, providing downloadable worksheets and materials referenced in the chapters.

Rooted in research and extensive practical experience, The First-Year Music Major is suited to use both in introductory music courses and by individual students and advisors.

Kerry B. Renzoni is Coordinator of Undergraduate Music Education and Associate Professor of Music at SUNY Buffalo State in Buffalo, New York, USA. She serves as advisor for undergraduate music majors and music education master’s students. An active music education researcher, she also serves as
online editor for the International Journal of Music in Early Childhood and on the editorial board of Research and Issues in Music Education.

Victoria J. Furby is Music Department Chair and Associate Professor of Music at SUNY Buffalo State in Buffalo, New York, USA. In her role as de- partment chair, she serves as advisor to all music majors. She is active as a researcher and has served on the executive boards of the New York Choral Directors Association, the New York Society of Music Teacher Educators, and New York College Music Administrators Program.


The First-Year Music Major: Strategies for Success addresses the many challenges that first-year music students often encounter and provides concrete strategies to develop the knowledge and skills needed to complete their first year successfully. The book highlights common challenges, such as planning a road map for a degree with the assistance of academic advisors, developing needed musical, academic, professional, practice, and performance skills, and building financial, mental, and physical wellness strategies.

This book is organized into three sections. Part 1, Degree Planning and Success, includes information on understanding different degree and career possibilities, reflecting on motivations for majoring in music, getting the most out of advising, and developing important foundational professional skills. Part 2, Music and Academic Learning, and Practice Habits, focuses on building specific music and academic skills related to majoring in music, such as aural skills, piano, music theory, study habits, and more. Finally, Part 3, Wellness, provides helpful information for becoming and staying mentally, physically, and financially healthy while pursuing an undergraduate music degree. Each chapter within this book is on a standalone topic, though the content and activities presented often connect with and build upon other chapters. Though chapters can be read in any order, this book was organized for information to be cumulative. For example, the knowledge and skills developed in Chapters 1 and 2 will prepare readers to better understand content presented in Chapter 3.

Each chapter includes the following features and activities that help bring content to life for readers.

  • Opening vignettes from current and former student perspectives: These vignettes feature perspectives from current and former music students. These vignettes help engage students in understanding discussed content from the lenses of people closer to their experience.
  • Chapter objectives: Each chapter includes a bullet point list of chapter objectives, which can help focus instructors on planning class instruction and student readers on knowing what to expect to learn.
  • Practical examples and tips: Chapters provide real-life, concrete examples of how student readers can apply chapter content immediately to their life circumstances.
  • Step-by-step directions: When needed, step-by-step instructions for how to complete a task are included. For example, Chapter 2 provides step-by-step directions on determining your personal values.
  • Discussion questions: Each chapter will end with discussion questions. Instructors can use these questions to guide in-class discussions or out- of-class written reflections. Advisors can use these questions as points of departure for having conversations with their advisees.
  • Assignments: Each chapter includes an assignment that instructors can ask their students to complete.
An eResource with downloadable and printable assignment worksheets and resources is available for this book. Please visit www.routledge. com/9781032159966.

To Students

First-year music majors come from all walks of life. You may come directly from high school and are simultaneously dealing with degree expectations and developing personal independence. You may transfer from at least one year of study at another college, often a community college, and need to adjust to different collegiate expectations. Perhaps you are a second career student and are already immersed fully in the challenges of finding a work-life balance. Regardless of your background, the secret to being a successful music major is taking the time to develop skills needed when challenges arise—from taking control of your time and finances to learning when and where to seek help.

As a first-year music major, you will encounter many challenges. Navigating a variety of academic expectations and sifting through campus resources can leave you wondering where to start. As a music major, you also have many degree-specific challenges, such as high performance expectations, academic demands, and the development of necessary professional skills. Additionally, you may receive pressure from family members who may not understand how a music degree works. Along the way, your reason for pursuing a chosen music degree may also shift. Whereas many college students wait a semester or two to declare a major, music students typically declare their major on day one. You may choose to pursue a music degree with the thought of “I love music and can’t imagine doing anything else.” However, the reality of the demands of a music major can soon set in and challenge that initial notion, prompting you to question if a degree in music is truly for you. Finding ways to preserve that initial motivation while adjusting to degree demands often requires careful guidance from experienced educators.

This book includes topics that are typically important to first-year music majors. It is organized into three sections that will help you develop foundational skills for success in your degree programs and beyond. The Degree Planning and Success chapters focus on thinking broadly about long-term degree and career goals and building general skills needed to achieve those goals. Navigating potential roadblocks by developing time management skills, learning how to seek help, communicating with others, understanding professional expectations, and building requisite technology skills can assist you in achieving your goals. The Music and Academic Learning and Practice Habits chapters hone in on specific skills that can help you thrive in performance, academic, and music education courses. The Wellness chapters prompt you to look inward to develop healthy financial, mental, physical, and life habits. Each chapter includes perspectives from current or former students and questions to spark reflection.

This book is designed to help you complete your first year as a music major with confidence. However, you may find revisiting many of these chapters throughout your years of study will be of immense value. Best of luck on your journey in the music field!

To Course Instructors and Academic Advisors

This book is grounded in research, best practice, and years of faculty advising and teaching experience. Book contributors provide diverse perspectives: they range from administrators to professors; from alumni to current students. Contributors are all affiliated with SUNY Buffalo State in Buffalo, New York, and come with a variety of educational and life experiences from across the United States, Europe, and Asia. SUNY Buffalo State is a college located in the city of Buffalo and its student population includes those graduating from the Buffalo Public Schools, surrounding suburbs and rural areas, and students from the New York City area. Students range from first-generation college students to those whose family members hold advanced degrees. Our first-year student population includes a balance of freshmen, transfer students, and second career students, many of whom work at least one part-time job.

It is suggested that this book be paired with an introductory music course. Consider using the guided questions in each chapter as a starting point for reflection and discussion. If there is no such introductory course, departments are encouraged to share this book as suggested reading on syllabi or during orien- tation meetings with first-year students as a helpful resource. Departments and instructors may also find using the eResource helpful.
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