LETTER TO THE EDITOR: What if your professors knew you didn’t practice?

When I first came to the Lawrence Conservatory of Music this past fall, I was really impressed with how committed and hardworking the students here were. Everywhere I went people were practicing, working on music theory assignments, and talking about their classes. The students in my theory class always turn in their work on time and just seem really dedicated to becoming great musicians. But as time has gone on I’ve been disturbed by the number of students here who don’t even seem to know they’re in a world-class conservatory at all! Now maybe I’m just confused, but there sure are a lot of students in my dorm who never even seem to set foot in the conservatory. How do you expect to make it at a prestigious and rigorous music school if you’re not practicing? I’ll give you an example: most of the people in my theory class spend a lot of time talking about the funny things our teacher says, or complaining about the amount of practicing they have to do before studio class on Tuesday.

It’s these things that let me know just how deeply committed to music-making they are. But I never hear the kids in my freshman studies class talk about those things. Instead I hear a lot of talk about stuff that doesn’t even have anything to do with how we spend our time, like parties, sports, and dating. Lawrentians, how do you expect to walk the walk if you don’t talk the talk? Or take this guy that lives down the hall from me: I don’t even know what instrument he plays! All I ever see him doing is reading, listening to weird rock music, or “working” in the computer lab. Last week he stayed up all night at the computer, when everybody knew there was an area recital the next day! What reason could he possibly have to spend that much time at the computer? He must be looking at porn. Well, I’m sure that’s all fun, but when is the practicing happening? His private teacher must be pissed.

I went to the library the other day to do my required listening, and I have to say I didn’t really know what to think. I mean, I guess one solution to not having enough practice rooms is to have a whole other building for people to do quiet mental practice, but how come I never see those people in the con? I suspect some of those people weren’t even looking at music at all. But I thought it was cool how you can check out cds, and even listen to them right there. Somebody told me the other floors even have books and magazines about music that you can check out.

And why did so many people in my freshman studies class seem so confused by the Duke Ellington piece we studied? You’d think some of them didn’t even read music. How do they get by in sight-singing!? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m starting to wonder if the admissions policy here is a lot less selective than they make it out to be.

Can somebody explain to me what’s going on here?

—Barry Costian, Jr.,