May 7, 2014
Squonk. Squeek. Pffft. Squeeeeeek. Squonk.
That was pretty much the sound of the first “music” I made. I was in fifth grade and we had the option to learn an instrument. I chose the clarinet, mainly because my older sister had played it and we had an extra one around the house. I kind of wanted to try the flute, but my other older sister was still playing hers so clarinet it was.
It took me a little bit of practice, but eventually the squonks and squeeks became notes and the notes became songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” They weren’t concertos by any stretch, but I was making music. But even to my young, untrained ear, they still sounded pretty dull.
It wasn’t until I got to music class and we put the clarinets together with the trumpets, flutes, drums and other instruments that it really started to sound complete, full, layered and kind of beautiful. Granted we were still fifth graders, but it was the start of a realization that songs were more than just one part.
I quit the clarinet after a few years, but joined the choir in high school. Without bragging too much, we were very good. We had an excellent program with lots of students and a dedicated director. We performed well at festivals and even recorded albums. Just like with the clarinet, my first soprano voice always sounded better when mixed with the tenors, basses and altos. Alone, we were all pretty good. Together, we were something special.
The MSU Wind Symphony is something very, very special. This spring, after practice, practice, practice, they had the honor of performing at Carnegie Hall in New York. Check out the beautiful MSUToday video/narrative feature, “Taking Center Stage,” to learn about the incredible experience and what it took for one student to get there.
That student, Jane Sylvester, a recent College of Music graduate, shares more about her studies and reflects on her time at MSU in the STUDENT VIEW: Final Bow.
Arrange the same instruments and notes in a different way, and you have a different kind of music than a symphony—like jazz. MSU’s Jazz Studies program is highly respected in its field. Its success is due to many things, including some top-notch faculty dedicated to making the program the best in the world.
Rodney Whitaker, director of the Jazz Studies program, is a prime example. Not only is he an incredible performer, he’s dedicated to teaching, mentoring and building a world-class program. Read his FACULTY VOICE: Jazz Tradition and Innovation, to learn more about his perspectives.
Where would the symphony be without violas? Or jazz performances without the bass? Or choirs without the tenors?
Isn’t that really how life is? Aren’t we all better when we band together with others and create something more than just the sum of ourselves? (Band…see what I did there?)
Guy Laliberte, entrepreneur and co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, has said, “We are each but a quarter note in a grand symphony.”
He’s right. We are all playing different parts that make the end result better. We’re all part of something bigger and if one piece is missing, the final product suffers. It’s the essence of music, it’s the essence of life. It’s also the essence of MSU.
MSU is a big place, to be sure. But being big means we have so many opportunities for students, researchers, performers and the community. The university offers more than 200 programs of undergraduate, graduate and professional study. We have students from every county in Michigan, all 50 states and more than 130 other countries. We have half a million living alumni around the globe. Each one of those programs alone is different and special. As is each student. But put them all together as part of Team MSU and you have something truly awesome. You have a Spartan symphony that really is changing the world for the better.
So whether your squonking and squeeking or at the top of your game, play loudly and with others. You will make beautiful music.
Photo by G.L. Kohuth