Name: Michelle Brown
Year: Class of 2008
Hometown: Melbourne, FL
The summer before I headed off to Hopkins, I was talking to my dad in the car about how excited I was to sign up for my classes. “I can take private lessons from the Peabody professors, and I can cross-register for any of the classes they offer, and I can get free tickets to any of the Peabody concerts, and…”
My dad cut me off. “You know Michelle, if you want to major in music, you know that’s ok, right? You haven’t stopped talking about Peabody since you got into Hopkins.”
Aw, dad. I appreciated the sentiment (he wanted to make sure I was happy!), but you raised a daughter who is self-assured enough to major in what she wants to. I knew I didn’t want to be a music major, but it was still a huge part of who I was, and the music minor program at Hopkins gave me such a wonderful opportunity to make sure that music stayed in my life as much as I wanted it to.
I decided to minor in music because I really wanted to study music in a systematic way. I wanted it to be integrated into my curriculum with the same rigor that my neuroscience studies were. The fact that Hopkins has so many cross-registration opportunities with the Peabody Conservatory is such a fantastic opportunity, I wanted to take advantage of it.
The music minor has a series of requirements. “Intro to Western Classical Music” is required for all minors, it’s an overview class where you study some of the most important composers in the history of music. Then, you are required to take a sequence of Music Theory- 1, 2, and 3. (There is an intro class called “Rudiments of Music Theory” which isn’t required but recommended for those who have a weak music background.) The minor also requires 2 semesters of Music History classes and 2 semesters of practical music performance, which can be either performing with an ensemble, or taking private lessons.
If you wanted to, you could complete the entire Music minor without setting foot on the Peabody campus. Every class you need to complete the minor is taught at Hopkins, by Peabody professors who come over to Homewood. I took my Music Theory sequence at Hopkins, which most music minors do, because the Peabody Music Theory classes are structured differently (They teach more theory, faster, for fewer credits, so you would end up doing a LOT more work if you tried to take your Theory classes at Peabody.). Also, “Intro to Western Classical Music” is taught on the Hopkins campus by a Peabody professor, and isn’t offered at Peabody. However, I completed my Music History requirements and my practical requirements all through Peabody. For Music History, Peabody offers a more traditional course of study- they offer Music History I, II, III, and IV, each covering a different time period (Medieval, Classical, Romantic, Modern). Hopkins, on the other hand, offers more thematic history courses, such as “History of Pop Music” or “History of Musical Instruments”. I also took private lessons at Peabody for my practical performance credits, though my participation in the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra and the Hopkins Wind Ensemble also would have sufficed.
My classes at Peabody were absolutely fantastic. I loved taking the 10-minute shuttle ride every week to a different campus with a completely different atmosphere. Peabody has a gorgeous mix of the old and the new in it’s campus- it recently underwent a $23 million renovation of its main hall, which has gorgeous new marble floors and staircases. However, other parts of the building have a great old feel- like the classroom doors with ancient doorknobs, which are narrower than modern doorways. The best part about Peabody is how music is EVERYWHERE. You can walk down the hall and hear a different instrument coming out of every door. Students sit on the cafeteria patio composing their latest homework. The music library is filled with students listening to any of the tens of thousands of recordings that are available.
My music history classes were especially fun because I was the only Hopkins student in a class of music performance majors. My professors liked that I had such a different perspective- my Music History II professor always asked me neuroscience-related questions in class (which seemed to go over the heads of most of the Peabody students). On the flip side, I was nowhere near the level of musicality of the people around me. I was surrounded by people who had pieces they had written performed in commercials and films before they hit high school. One of my favorite anecdotes that describes how different the Peabody students were came from my Music History IV class. The professor gave us a list at the beginning of the class that outlined how we could reach a certain number of points. It was something like, you got 100 points for each of the 2 required exams, and 50 points for the required paper, and you had to get 400 points to get an A, so you had a lot of options of how to make up the difference. One of the ways to earn points was to perform a piece for the class from one of the composers we were studying. I quickly nixed that option in my mind, because I knew my performance would have some mistakes in it and didn’t want to be compared to the Peabody kids who practice several hours a day. I much preferred the “Write an additional research paper” option. However, the Peabody kids would do anything not to have to write another paper, so every single week we had solos (or trios or quartets) of performers playing a piece from a relevant composer. There were saxophone quartets, violin solos, even a marimba duet from an adorable percussionist couple who each rolled their 5 octave marimbas into class. It was phenomenal.
There are lots of ways to participate in music outside of the classroom. Hopkins has a Symphony Orchestra, a Wind Ensemble, 2 jazz bands, and countless A Capella groups and choirs for the singers. Plus, if you’re determined (and talented) enough, you can try to snag an audition for one of the Peabody groups- their Wind Ensemble is phenomenal. However, they usually only accept Hopkins kids if they’re lacking Peabody students in a particular section, so that’s not a guarantee. Still, there are so many ways to participate in music without even leaving Homewood that you will find somewhere to play or sing if you want to. (Check out my blog about Wind Ensemble at Hopkins.)
I am so glad I got to experience music through the Peabody classes the way I did. It gave me a great perspective on music, and actually, hanging around the Peabody kids reassured me in my decision not to major in it. (They all kindof have their own brand of crazy. Just ask any of them, they’ll tell you.) But I am so grateful for my fabulous music professors who gave me a wonderful basis for continuing music in the future. I now work in San Francisco, and I’m still playing with a volunteer orchestra out here. I think that majoring in music helped me to keep it a priority in my life so that I didn’t bury my musical side in the stress that was “being a neuroscience major”. It’s really important to me to keep music in my life, and the minor helped me do just that.
Click here to access more information about the Music Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Music question thread.