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What's New With Music at OU

By Brenda Christensen
On December 4, 2017

Photo by: Ashley Alonzo

Ottawa University is well known for its sports, since most of the students on campus are here on athletic scholarship. The university has everything from soccer to men’s volleyball to women’s wrestling.

What most people don’t know about Ottawa University is it has a fantastic music program. There are a variety of ensembles including jazz band, jazz singers, choir, pep band, concert band and orchestra. Students also have the opportunity to take private lessons from instructors. Music education majors often have students of their own to teach, giving them a better chance to learn more about the specific field they are going into.

Serena Eichorn, the university choir director, is new this year and is very excited about the program. She has been teaching choir for 10 years at middle, high school and collegiate levels. 

“It’s a very young program. There’s a lot of room for change and growth and improvement, and everyone really wants to see it succeed. There are a lot of things that I can actually do and effect change, versus going to a huge university where everything is established and you just do your job,” Eichorn says.

Despite being such a new program, Ottawa has high-quality materials at the disposal of the music majors. Boyd Wilson, a jazz studies major, says he was really intrigued by practice rooms the university has to offer when he was first considering attending OU.

“They are incredible, I haven’t seen better practice rooms anywhere,” he says.

Ottawa has also been named an all-Steinway school, which means that every piano in the school is a Steinway. That’s a really big deal, considering there are only 137 schools in the world that are all-Steinway schools.

Eichorn says there is a recording studio getting set up for the communications and music departments to use where music majors will be able to practice and record their own CDs. The studio will also be used for the radio station starting up next semester.

One of the best things about the music program is the level of instructors. Jacquelyn Houts, majoring in vocal and instrumental music education, jazz studies and vocal performance, raves about the professors at OU.

“We’ve had like famous people be our teachers. They are calm and subtle about it but they are monsters in the best way,” she says.

Wilson was also inspired by the instructors upon coming to OU. 

“I was impressed with their ability and slightly intimidated which is important in a mentor. I knew they had a lot to offer as far as knowledge goes. Their students were doing very well, and I wanted to be like that,” he confides.

Chris Smith, an instrumental music education major, says he loved “the staff and their willingness to help motivate students to do what they want to do.”

Aside from the amazing professors, OU also has amazing students. These students were recruited and are on scholarship like many of the athletes and put just as much time into their music as any player does with their sport.

Student athletes are very busy with classes, practices, film studies, work and many other involvements. Music majors are the same way. Just like with any major, they are required to take certain classes. Some of these are music theory, music history, conducting, diction in French, German and Latin. Music students often take private lessons and sometimes teach lessons of their own. They even take pedagogies, which are classes that teach them how to teach. Along with all these classes, they are expected to practice at least four hours a day.

Music majors have been playing music for years, just as many athletes have been playing their sports since they were young. Rochelle Brown has been playing the flute, baritone saxophone and singing in the choir since 5th grade. Liz Hernandez was born singing and has continued as part of choir ever since. They are very good at what they do and are excited to learn even more.

“Music has been my life for the past eight years. I haven’t really focused on anything else. There isn’t anything else that I like,” Brown says.

Music majors are also required to do progress reports of a sort. Each semester they perform in front of a jury, which contains all the music professors, to get judged. It is a lot scarier than asking a teacher to sign a paper.

“I’m busy. I think all music majors are. It’s not a hobby, not done at leisure. To say that it’s a hobby is really a slap in the face,” Smith expresses. “But the music program is happening, and it’s growing. And I’m super excited to be a part of it.”

Just like with any sport, these students are passionate about what they are doing.

“I’ve always loved music. I was the little girl that danced around with a fake piano and sang songs to myself,” Houts shares. “It’s mostly about people. I’m learning about music so I can learn about people. They need something to relate to and I still believe that it’s music that they turn to. So if I can be the person to relate to them on that level, or if I could create the music on that level, that’s what I want to know, that’s what I want to do.”

Smith advises, “In anything that you are passionate about, go at it like you don’t have a fallback. You are 100 percent dedicated. I knew then that I wanted to do something with music. I’m here right now doing what I love: studying music with some amazing people.”

If you are interested in joining any of the Ottawa music groups, contact Serena Eichorn or Michael Pagan. Their offices are on the first floor of Atkinson Hall. 

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