Music on Campus Should be for Anyone and Everyone

I’m not afraid to say that I’m a classical music amateur. As evidence, I have cultivated my own playlist—”Supreme Classical Fav’s”––which currently contains 403 of my own personal favorite pieces. If the playlist was a concert going nonstop without intermissions or pause, it would last for 2 days and 48 minutes precisely. It’s one of my proudest possessions, and it has taken me years to add and arrange pieces to have it make programmatic sense. 

There are pieces for everything I do throughout the day. Walking to class feeling nervous about a test or presentation? Felix Mendelssohn’s piano trio no. 2 captures the anxious vibe. Sitting down for a long study sesh? Richard Strauss’ “Don Quixote” or Johannes Brahms’ piano concerto no. 1 are both literally 45 minutes long, perfect for planning hours of study with intermittent breaks. Feeling whimsical some morning while walking to get coffee from Nordic Brew before you have to get to class? Maurice Ravel’s string quartet in F major compliments that just fine. For me, classical music is a regular part of my day, whether I’m listening to it or playing it. 

Here at Luther there are many opportunities to be part of ensembles and groups, but for someone who is neither a major or minor in music, most of my day is spent with people outside of the music department. On top of that, the pandemic years made it particularly hard to make that musical connection with others. Looking back now as a senior, I wish I seized the opportunities I could to perform with others, but also wished that there was a program in place specifically for nonmajors to be part of.

I realize it’s a really small thing to write a CHIPS opinion about—and I can already hear the counterargument of “well, maybe you should have studied music then”—but what I feel strongly about is this: there is a need for having opportunities for anyone interested in music to have those chances to participate. Whether it be in large group ensembles, small chamber groups, or whatever else in between, in my experience music enhances the quality of life of everyone involved and should be promoted regardless of academic pursuits. 

While I was in Vienna, Austria, on tour with the Luther College Symphony Orchestra (LCSO), it really struck me how much music in general connects people of all backgrounds. I would regularly take the subway and walk from our hotel blocks away from Stadtpark to the Klavier Galerie on the west side to practice piano. Of the several times that I went, there were kids, parents, and their instructors going in and out, lesson after lesson, and ensembles rehearsing echoing through the doorway out onto the Viennese streets, even late at night. The entire Vienna experience itself, of being surrounded by music and musical people for weeks, was filled with experiences like this — music was everywhere. Music is part of Vienna’s identity, and it is treated as such. 

I was financially fortunate enough to be able to go to Vienna, to attend concerts, and to be in the very spaces that giants in the classical music realm were and currently frequent, but what makes Vienna “Vienna” is the number of opportunities it presents for collaboration. As a liberal arts college, our institution has been established to bridge the gaps between multiple disciplines, and thus too is positioned to facilitate collaboration amongst people of various backgrounds. What I think should be considered is having something akin to intramural sports, for musical prodigies and novices alike outside the music major to sign up and organize smaller ensembles.

I have no idea how this would work—what immediately comes to mind is literally a Craigslist ad or bulletin board for those interested to sign up. But, what I do know is that it can be hard for those not majoring in music to connect with other musicians like them, outside the major, but wanting to be involved in making music. I’ve enjoyed being in LCSO, and in my experience, the music department at Luther is very strong and passionate about music. That said, I think including more non-music majors will be enriching for campus life.