One fundamental part of spending time at Luther is that you will always be surrounded by music. Even if you try your very hardest to avoid everything music-related, you will inevitably fail. You will walk past a practice room in your residence hall and hear someone wailing on a trumpet or someone in the stall next to you randomly break into song. Luther is known for its great music program and many students major in music—I am not one of those students. However, Luther’s music program is special in that non-music students are encouraged to take music courses and to engage with music in various ways. What this means for an environmental policy/sociology major like myself is that I get to learn and work with extraordinarily talented musicians even though music is not my chosen field of study. Many students at Luther fit this category and it makes the community that much more dynamic and interesting.
This semester I am playing recorder in Collegium, Luther's Baroque and Renaissance ensemble (as I have every semester thus far) and am also taking a class called Principles of Improvisation. This is a jazz improv class made up of six students on different instruments and also our instructor, Jon Ailabouni. We meet once a week on Monday nights and then get immersive assignments to complete for the next week. We listen to classic jazz albums, write about the musical techniques we hear, transcribe (listen to and then write out) famous solos and melodies, and improvise or compose solos over various chord progressions. Delving into this new musical world has been an amazing experience for me and every week I am left with new appreciation for or interest in a certain artist, song, album, or concept.
I am the only student in the class who does not take regular lessons for their instrument so I often feel like I am in over my head. However, this is again where I am so thankful for the environment of the Luther music program. All the students are more than happy to answer questions I have and are incredibly supportive of my work and playing. Our professor, Jon, is a wonderful and enthusiastic instructor and actively works for each student so that everyone can succeed.
Many prospective college students who have a love for music but don’t foresee themselves majoring in it can often be sad—like they have to “choose” between music and another field of study. However, Luther provides an excellent opportunity for students to engage in music as much or as little as they want while still maintaining an incredibly high standard for the music program as a whole. I am thankful for this open environment and hope to keep taking advantage of it in the future.