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Thursday October 21st

UNC Department of Music program provides novice instrument lessons

<p>Professor Timothy Sparks sings with a student in 2015. Photo courtesy of Kelly Archer.</p>
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Professor Timothy Sparks sings with a student in 2015. Photo courtesy of Kelly Archer.

Timothy Sparks said he didn’t take music seriously growing up, but through the guidance of his high school choir teacher, he realized his passion.

Now, Sparks is one of an assortment of professors in UNC’s Department of Music who give lessons that are available to UNC students.  

Students are able to take private or small-group music lessons on a variety of instruments ranging from the harp to the organ, and some, like the bluegrass guitar, are open to complete beginners.

People can enroll in applied music lessons after getting permission from an instructor and turning in the appropriate paperwork to Hill Hall during the regular University registration period.

“It’s important to have somebody hold you accountable,” Jason Foureman, who teaches bass through the department, said. “It’s important for someone to mentor you in some way; even if it's for a little bit, it’s also very important to see and hear what a professional sounds like — what the difference actually is.”

Foureman believes being a musician makes people mentally tougher and can help differentiate students applying to graduate schools from their competition.

“You develop this sort of confidence that makes things that aren’t music seem easier,” Foureman said. “If you have to perform your jury, recital class or your own recital, that’s much more intimidating than doing the defense of your thesis or taking your orals or something like that.”

Instruments like the organ, which is taught by University Organist Susan Moeser, require students to be proficient in piano before they can start taking lessons, due to the complexity of the instrument and limited availability.

Moeser said her students have a wide variety of backgrounds, from political science to the medical field, and even one person who works for the NBA.

Catherine Zachary, communications coordinator for the UNC Department of Music, agrees that music is everywhere.

“It's in our cars, when you take a shower you probably put on some music, when your cell phone rings there's music, when you turn on the TV every single ad has music, every single show that you watch has music, every movie," Zachary said. "If it's not there, the absence of it is striking, right?”

Maria Cade, a UNC student who is minoring in music, encourages any interested student to take lessons.

“The music program at UNC really fosters a sense of compassion and really allows for students who are passionate about music and want to perform further into their lives, they really make that a priority and value students' creativity,” Cade said. “So that's something that I really loved about the music department.”

Sparks believes it’s important for someone who could be hesitant, self-conscious and wanting to explore music to know that voice classes are the place to start.

“You get to immerse yourself in the vocal technique, you get to explore some interesting repertoire, but you get to do it in a group dynamic, which is safe,” Sparks said. “It’s a familial connection and you don’t feel spotlighted all the time as it would be for one-on-one classes.”

Sparks also encourages any student to take music lessons while they are at UNC and said that being in college is the perfect time to explore their interests.

“I've had so many students come to me in their senior year, they've finally decided to take lessons and they enjoy it so much,” Sparks said. “And I said, ‘Well, why didn't you make your inquiry sooner?’ They said ‘I don’t know, I just kept on putting it off, I thought I was too busy.' You have to seize the day.”

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