Being a non-music major in the UWL Concert Choir


The UWL concert choir in rehearsal. Photo retrieved from @uwlacrossechoir on Instagram.

Jessica Fitzgerald, Arts & Entertainment Reporter

At the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, the Truman T. Lowe Center for the Arts houses various vocal and instrumental ensembles that practice and perform music throughout the academic year. Though many of these ensembles are auditioned, they are not limited to music majors. The webpage dedicated to UWL’s music ensemble notes ensemble inclusivity across all majors and colleges at UWL.

UWL junior Alex Perry is a member of the UWL Concert Choir. She said, “I think that most of the people in the concert choir are made up of people that aren’t music majors. Sure, we have quite a few that are, but many of the people that I know are in areas like education, biology, psychology, and even computer science.” Perry herself is majoring in psychology with a minor in criminal justice.

Although music is not her main focus of study, Perry is an active member of the UWL Concert Choir and she occupies a space on the Choir Council as the social media manager. She said that she wanted to take on a leadership role in the choir because she had done so in high school, and also so that she could make connections with other members of the choir.

Perry said that she was intimidated coming into a college-level choir as a freshman, but that she has since learned that musical background is not a requirement. She said, “I think that being a music major helps with knowing the foundations of our pieces, but I don’t think that not being one hindered me in any way. Our director makes sure to refresh specific musical concepts each year, and other members of the choir are very helpful as well.”

Maria Laurent is another UWL Concert Choir officer who serves as the vice president. Laurent is majoring in broadfield social studies (BFSS) education with an emphasis in history. She said that being a non-music major did not intimidate her from taking on a leadership role. She said, “I don’t think my not being a music major impacts my ability to be a good leader in the choir. As far as musical skill goes, I’m definitely adequate. But it’s more of a charisma thing if anything. You just need to be able to reach out to the other members.”

As a non-music major, Laurent feels that non-music majors bring a different type of appreciation to the ensemble because of how ensemble participation is required for music majors. “To them, it can end up being just another class. For non-music majors, this is our outlet. I would genuinely be so sad without the choir. Not just because I have so many friends in it, but because music is so important to me,” said Laurent.

Laurent carries her value for music outside of the choir room. She said, “There are so many studies that show that participating in music helps you succeed academically as well. I used to struggle with math when I was little, but as I got more involved with piano, math started making more and more sense. Music makes you well-rounded.”

Esther Hammen is a junior at UWL who is majoring in English and theater. She is another participant in the UWL concert choir. She said that music is important to her as well and that she has been involved in it her whole life. This lifelong involvement, however, didn’t keep her from feeling the pressure of joining a college-level ensemble. “Singing in front of others, music majors or not is one of the most intimidating things you can do. Honestly, sometimes I just hate it. But what I never hate is the end result. The ‘I did it’ moment. Even if it hurts to get there, you know you’ve participated in something truly beautiful. You’ve made someone proud. You’ve made someone smile. That’s what it’s all about for me,” said Hammen,

Even though she feels the pressure, Hammen said that being a non-music major has not prevented her from success in her ensemble. She said that being adaptable and willing to learn is far more important than any strict musical knowledge that you may learn with a music major.

When asked what non-music majors have to bring to an ensemble like the UWL Concert Choir, Hammen said, “Everything they have. That goes for anyone. It’s unfair to ask for anything more than your best, and everyone has different ‘bests’. You will get out of it what you put in. It’s as rewarding for you as you want it to be.”

UWL senior Kirsten Amann is another non-music major who has been active in music her whole life. Amann is majoring in both archaeology and German at UWL, and she participates in both the UWL Concert Choir and UWL Symphony Orchestra.

Amann said that regardless of major, music education is beneficial. She said, “Music is all about teamwork and creating something bigger than the individual. It helps me practice precision and my attention to detail. Being in an ensemble requires me to know how to listen and follow directions as well as know when to lead and direct others. I think there is nothing better than music for developing those skills.”

Amann encourages other non-music majors to consider joining an ensemble at UWL. She said, “Go for it! Dr. Davis and Dr. Hathaway are always welcoming to new students. Even if you don’t have much experience in music at all, there is no better time to start than now.”