Prestige of music programs encourages aura of competition

After hours of practice and a grueling audition, you eagerly dash to the music building to see the final lists of who made the St. Olaf Band, Orchestra or Choir. After pushing your way to the front, your finger moves down the list, never stopping on your name. You didn’t make any music organization.

Many St. Olaf students will never have that experience, making at least one music organization, if not their top choice, during their time here. But for a few students, this brings back memories. Is music too competitive at St. Olaf? We are, after all, not a conservatory.

There is no denying that music is competitive at St. Olaf, but with six auditioned choirs, two orchestras and two bands, along with several other non-audition groups, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved. In every case, there is at least one musical organization that is less of a time commitment for people whose lives are centered around more than music. This allows many people who might not otherwise participate to do so.

The problem is not musical competitiveness, but rather the atmosphere of it. While the St. Olaf Philharmonia and the Norseman Band are strong organizations that other colleges would gladly call their top orchestra or band, here at St. Olaf they are not given the same level of prestige.

In a continuous cycle, the St. Olaf Band, Orchestra and Choir are given the most funding, the most opportunities for travel and the most practice time. They are, after all, the best, and they represent the college’s best, so they should get the tour time.

The class difference, if you will, between these three top organizations and the others, however, is apparent. Those who normally would have been satisfied with other organizations feel pressure to make the top organization for the title.

In addition, those who wish to make the top organization may find it difficult with less playing time and experience in a lower organization. Once in an organization, it can be hard to break into the next level. Others who have the talent for the top organization, but not the time, find themselves choosing between time and talent.

As Oles, we tend to get sucked into competition and always want to improve or to make the next best music organization. We have to remember that we can’t have it all, and sometimes we have to make sacrifices, which, heaven forbid, could be in music.

When we don’t make something, when we experience failure, we need to remember that many people experience the same thing every day, but the decisions they make afterward are what they are remembered for, not the initial failure. Life goes on, in or out of a music organization.

The musical competitiveness here seems like the best solution and works out for most people. However, there are some people who do not fit into this structure, and they just have to make do. There can never be a perfect solution, and there will always be people who make sacrifices to fit musical ensembles into their schedule. The next time you get into a musical organization, keep in mind the people who didn’t, because they are out there, even at St. Olaf.

Staff writer Kassandra DiPietro ’15 is from Appleton, Wis. She majors in English with a concentration in media studies.