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Ellie Fishlock has played the violin for 14 years, and con­tinues to play while at school. | Courtesy Ellie Fishlock

Stu­dents claim they don’t have enough time to keep up music in college. Music Department Chairman James Holleman said he would dis­agree.

Twenty-one years ago when he was first hired, only five percent of Hillsdale stu­dents par­tic­i­pated in the music program. Now, more than 30 percent of stu­dents are involved in the music department.

“When they hired me to be in charge, they basi­cally said ‘Fix it and don’t let any­thing get in your way,’” Holleman said. “We wanted music coming out of every pore of this campus.”

The music faculty ini­tiated a program that would attract a wider range of stu­dents. They gave full access of the music department to all stu­dents, regardless of their majors and minors. The key, Holleman said, was sched­uling and time com­mitment.

“We created the dynamic of our department pur­pose­fully, ” Holleman said. “We, as the music faculty, have to protect the allo­cation of time of stu­dents. We pay attention to the strenuous aca­d­emics of the stu­dents and we have to respect that. So when they are in our building, we set high stan­dards, we work hard, and then we have to let go of these stu­dents, and not have them eat, sleep, and breathe music.”

Yet the strenuous aca­d­emics have not inhibited stu­dents from par­tic­i­pating. More than 70 percent of the stu­dents par­tic­i­pating in music are not music majors or minors, including some of Hillsdale’s most accom­plished musi­cians today.

Sophomore Ellie Fishlock, a vio­linist for 14 years, con­tinues to play the instrument, even though her major is exercise science. Raised by parents who are pro­fes­sional musi­cians, she noted that she could not imagine her life in college without music.

“I would have a lot less joy if I didn’t have it in my life,” she said. “It’s because I love it so much that I don’t want to do it as a career.”

Junior Matthew Clark, who has played trombone for 12 years, said he agreed.

“I don’t want to turn my relaxing hobby into an aca­demic requirement,” Clark said. “It would become a stress-causer rather than a stress-reliever.”

This has not stopped him from taking 21 credits in order to par­tic­ipate as pep band leader, as well as trom­bonist in orchestra, trombone ensemble, and brass ensemble.

As an accounting major, he is grateful for the friends he’s made through music par­tic­i­pation, who are outside his typical social circles.

“It’s allowed me to pursue other friend­ships,” Clark said. “It puts into per­spective the dif­ferent back­grounds that people come from if there’s a shared aspect of music in there. If I hadn’t con­tinued music, I never would have joined Phi Mu Alpha.”

Junior Hannah Stumpf, prin­cipal oboist in the orchestra, chose not to minor in light of her heavy aca­demic schedule. However, music has con­tributed invaluable lessons that her bio­chem­istry major never could.

“I would like to think of myself as a well rounded person,” Stumpf said. “As someone who is in STEM, music really bal­ances that. Music uses all parts of your brain so no matter what else you do, music will play a role in devel­oping your mind. It pro­vides a way to escape from the exactness of science because it’s more cre­ative.”

In addition to devel­oping the mind, stu­dents have found music to foster teamwork, develop time man­agement skills, and improve per­for­mance skills, whether in or out of the classroom.

Year after year, Hillsdale stu­dents have raised a high bar in their caliber of music per­for­mance. Teacher of Music Stacey Jones noted that several non-major par­tic­i­pants are ful­filling top roles in ensembles and are star musi­cians within the department.

“We offer schol­ar­ships to everyone, regardless of whether or not they major or minor,” Jones said. “As a result of this, we receive very serious par­tic­i­pants.”

Fishlock is not sur­prised by the stu­dents who walk the halls of Howard.

“People who are ded­i­cated enough to their per­sonal growth to come to Hillsdale will have been ded­i­cated in other areas of their lives,” she said. “You need a lot of ded­i­cation to play an instrument at a high level.”

Senior Clara Fishlock, sister to Ellie and a winner of the 2018 con­certo com­pe­tition, said she once dreamed of attending music school. When she chose Hillsdale, she was sur­prised by the vast oppor­tu­nities she thought she wouldn’t have. From having the freedom to play a wide range of reper­toire to attending all dif­ferent types of con­certs, Clara said that she under­es­ti­mated her pos­si­bil­ities. Though Clara had a strenuous musical back­ground, she said that Hillsdale changed her outlook on music.

“Hillsdale has taught me to just step back, and enjoy music a bit more,” she said. “My flute teacher has really pushed me but also allowed me to enjoy music in a way that I didn’t in high school. It’s more about the enjoyment that I get out of it and the enjoyment that the audience gets out of it.”

A French and history double major, Clara said she cannot help but inte­grate her love of lan­guage with her love of music.

“I think music is the most pow­erful way to connect with people because it’s uni­versal,” Clara said. “I like lan­guages too, and I really enjoy all of those ways of con­necting with people who you might not connect with oth­erwise.”

Not only has music served as a relaxing hobby for stu­dents, but Hillsdale faculty have not failed to push stu­dents to be excellent in their pas­sions.

Junior Stephen Richmann, 12-year pianist and eco­nomics major, com­mented on his instruction under Piano Instructor Katherine Rick.

“Dr. Rick has been trans­for­mative for me,” Richmann said. “Not only is she one of my best friends on Hillsdale’s faculty, she took my skills coming out of high school and just trans­formed me.”

Senior Gill West, phi­losophy and math major, never intended to study music in college. When he was offered a schol­arship from Hillsdale to play drums for the jazz ensemble, he walked into a brand new world. He said that now, it’s hard for him to imagine his life without jazz.

“Par­tic­i­pating in music has forced me to look into dif­ferent types of music,” West said. “I didn’t listen to jazz in high school. I didn’t play any jazz until I came here. In the musical sense, it’s taught me a whole new area of music.”

For Ellie, music is not just about her own enjoyment. Rather, she sees it as an oppor­tunity to offer a gift to her fellow stu­dents. She said that often she feels that fellow stu­dents come simply to support their friends per­forming.

“But from our aspect it’s ‘Please come hear us so we can share this beau­tiful thing with you,’” she said.

A great mis­con­ception, according to Stumpf, is the belief that stu­dents should solely focus on their major or minor.

“That’s not how life is,” Stumpf said. “When you graduate college, you don’t just have your job. Some people might have that, but I can’t imagine that’s ful­filling. Music can stay with you for the rest of your life.”

For Holleman, ones’ music involvement ought to extend beyond the col­le­giate level. College, after all, is just a part of life, Holleman said.

“Our stu­dents are going to be com­munity leaders, on school boards, on church boards, on local pol­itics, on national pol­itics,” Holleman said. “If we show them how music can fit in their lives, in society, and in service to the com­munity, then they will make deci­sions that show music is important in com­mu­nities. We are showing how music can function in society and in the com­munity without it being a pro­fession.”

For Richmann, it’s even more simple than that.

“If some­thing brings you joy, it’s almost always a worth­while thing to do.”

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Great article.