Every semester, the music department at Slippery Rock hosts a program for incoming freshmen called Music Major for a Day. High school seniors and their parents are invited to campus to spend the day in Swope Music Hall learning about what it takes to study music at SRU.
Assistant professor of music and director of bands Dr. Jonathan Helmick said Music Major for a Day is designed to be an outreach opportunity for high school students considering a career and future in music. He said that music, a field rich in diverse opportunities to establish a career, is often viewed as something that is just meant for performers, and that Music Major for a Day helps introduce students to careers in music education, including elementary music, choral education, orchestral education and band directing.
“This is quite possibly one of our favorite days, for students and faculty!” Helmick said. “It is an opportunity to both showcase our talented students and vibrant music program as well as share our love for what we do.”
Helmick said everyone in attendance learned about the performing ensembles and their recent accolades, and were invited to hear ensemble concerts, as well as stay for rehearsals and sit in with the brass ensemble, concert choir and wind ensemble, to name a few. This semester, students participated in voice class where they learned about proper singing technique and how to develop their vocal skills.
They also had the opportunity to take part in an interactive brass methods class where music majors learn how to play and teach all of the various brass instruments.
“Students and parents in attendance have the opportunity to meet with our outstanding music faculty who answer questions about expectations of music majors,” Helmick said.
Another career field offered by SRU is music therapy, which, according to Helmick, is a diverse field combining healthcare and the power of music to serve diverse populations such as Alzheimer’s patients, patients with developmental or cognitive impairments and people with limited motor functions.
“The students interested in studying music therapy took classes including Guitar II, as well as Assessment, Measurement and Evaluation, which teaches music therapy majors how to manage and use data following interactions with music therapy clients,” Helmick said. “The day culminated with a performance by the wind ensemble, the premiere auditioned concert ensemble on campus.”
Helmick said that over the course of this past year, the music program has been growing and developing quickly; the band program has grown by over 21 percent since the fall semester of 2015. The music department has seen many other successes aside from number growth as well. For example, in December 2016, the wind ensemble performed with the Maniacal 4 Quartet to a standing-room-only audience of over 850 people.
“In addition to connecting our students with nationally- and internationally-renowned performing artists, we are increasing our outreach into the profession and the community,” Helmick said.
The music department has also recently created the first-ever class for winter guard. To Helmick’s knowledge, SRU’s department of music is the first in the state to offer this opportunity for course credit.
“This is part of our commitment to being a cutting-edge pioneer in the field of music education,” Helmick said.
Also recently, Helmick said the vocal department, under the direction of assistant professor of music Dr. Christopher Scott, put on a collaborative concert partnering with SRU photography students to bring Schubert’s Die Winterreise to life.
“This concert was a monumental undertaking, featuring the incredible talents of SRU students from across our campus,” Helmick said.
Helmick mentioned that the music department has also commissioned over six works for wind ensemble over the course of the past semester, including Illuminations by Mark Camphouse and a new work for trumpet soloist and concerto competition winner Wesley Woodward and wind ensemble, Centennial Horizon.Freshman music education voice major Austin Cornelius said his experience with Music Major for a Day in 2016, his senior year of high school, was enjoyable and memorable. Cornelius said he got the chance to observe classes, attend a wind ensemble concert and talk to his future colleagues.
“I enjoyed all of [Music Major for a Day],” Cornelius said. “Meeting and working with the applied professors, the wind ensemble concert and observing classes were definite high points.”
Cornelius also said Music Major for a Day was very influential in his decision to study music here, along with the environment within the music department and the caliber and reputation of the program. This year, Cornelius acted as a guide for the future freshmen, taking them between classes and to talk to professors.
“[My major] has been challenging in the best ways possible,” Cornelius said. “I have learned a lot, and have improved so much.”