Non-music majors make music at FIU, perform at festival

Meghan Gonzalez playing at a concert during her high school years.

Meghan Gonzalez playing at a concert during her high school years

Meghan Gonzalez fell in love with the violin when she was just eight years old. Since her early childhood days when she would listen to classical music with her mom, music has held a special place in her heart.

She attended music magnet programs during middle and high school. And she is an avid opera fan. But she also realized she liked chemistry and wanted to become a pharmacist. So, when she started at FIU, she decided to major in chemistry.

But she knew one thing: there was no way she was going to stop playing the violin.

And thanks to FIU’s School of Music she can continue making music. Both degree-seeking and non-degree seeking students can audition for choir and orchestra placements — regardless of major. If accepted, students enroll in the appropriate ensemble class. And then, they receive the same instruction and training as the music majors.

They become full-fledged ensemble members. The School of Music’s setup allows students the freedom to pursue a career outside of music, while maintaining their musical abilities and deepening their knowledge of music.

Gonzalez, for example, will be performing at this year’s Music Festival on Oct. 26 as part of the FIU Symphony Orchestra. And she couldn’t be happier.

“I didn’t want to give up music altogether,” Gonzalez says. “Realistically, if you go to college and pursue another major, you say, ‘I’m not going to lose the violin,’ but you do. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I’d put too much of my life into this.”

Even after graduating and pursuing her pharmacist career, she hopes to continue playing the violin at her church and perhaps also like to join a community orchestra.

Besides being an outlet and offering a chance for Gonzalez to unwind from the day and focus on music, it has also taught her important life skills — skills any professional needs.

“Being in an orchestra is being in a team,” she explains. “You have to listen to each other, you have to work well and be open to criticism. It teaches you how to interact with people in the real world. It has definitely enriched my experience. I can’t imagine my experience at FIU without orchestra.”

Singing their hearts out

For biology major Angela Di Nunzio, the opportunity to get back into formal singing classes was priceless.

After years of choir, a capella and musical theater groups, Di Nunzio graduated from high school — and stopped taking choir classes.

Ten years later, Di Nunzio has found her way back to singing at FIU. She has sung in various FIU concerts and will also be singing at FIU’s Music Festival as part of the choir ensemble.

Choral Conductor Kathryn Longo and one of her choir classes during a concert

Choral Conductor Kathryn Longo and the FIU Concert Choir in 2015

Her days are long. She takes classes, works in retail, and attends three-hour choir rehearsals once a week. It may seem that adding rehearsal into the mix is too much– especially for someone that’s not earning a music degree. But Di Nunzio says rehearsals are worth every moment.

“The experience of singing in a choir is a very unique thing,” she says. “You share a bond with people. You hear their voices, and you can recognize them. And then you’re laughing and you hang out. You spend a lot of time together. When I don’t have choir in my life, I feel like I’m missing something.”

Choral Conductor Kathryn Longo, who teaches three different choir classes, says the phenomenon of non-music majors taking music courses is quite common. Of nearly 80 students in her classes, she says about 35 of them are non-music majors this semester.

“They miss singing,” she says. “It’s about having music go on through their college career. That feeling of making music together [in a group] is powerful and it’s valuable for students to do at a university level.”

Tonight the women’s chorus will perform at a concert for the Music Festival. And to catch a performance featuring FIU’s Symphony Orchestra, Choirs, Marching Band and Wind Ensemble, attend the concert Oct. 26. For more information about the Music Festival and its concerts, click here.