Written by Erin Lobner. Media by Courtney Murphy.
As the end of each semester approaches, many students in the music programs on campus finish preparing for juries. For this performance, they get up in front of a group of evaluators and show off all the progress they’ve made. These are high-stakes events for music majors; their futures ride on their results. Karli Widmer and Ariel Wade described the jury process and discussed Wade’s upcoming jury.
Wade is a Commercial Music major who has her second jury this Friday. For one of her pieces, she has chosen to sing “When I Have Sung My Songs,” with Widmer accompanying her on the piano.
Right now, Wade is completing her lower-division juries. Next year she will have to do her upper-division juries, which involve more intensive skills. Widmer explains the difference between the two types of juries and the pressure that they can cause for music majors. “What we’re going for is just your typical lower-division jury, and then the second one is the big upper-division jury, where you have to be able to sight read and do all of your scales. It can be make-or-break; if you can’t go through upper-division, then you can’t continue in your major. So it’s a big deal, and it’s really stressful for people.”
While many students pass their juries, those who don’t are presented with difficult choices. Widmer clarifies the consequences that can result from a failed jury. “If you miss upper-division you can retry. However, then you still have to get four semesters of upper-division lessons. So your retry might mean you’re here another semester, and I think that’s why people stress out about it so much. They could pass it the second time or they could fail it the second time, and then they have to pick something else.”
The students who progress through the music program reach another important project their senior year. Widmer, who is a senior herself, shares about senior recitals. “Seniors have their senior jury which is right before their senior recital. In the jury, they play through all of the music that they’re going to do for their recital and the faculty can say, ‘You have to cut that song, it’s not up to par,’ or they can say ‘You can’t do your senior recital this semester because your music isn’t where it should be.’”
“It’s the equivalent of a senior project,” Widmer says. “They coordinate so much. They have to get musicians to come and play with them, they’re practicing constantly, they have the lighting engineers, sound engineers, stage manager… So, it takes hours and hours to plan, and I’d say it’s a huge celebration of their time at Greenville College.”
Widmer has played in many juries, both for her own evaluation and as accompaniment for other students, and she
has some advice for students working on some of their first juries. “Something that I wish I would have known… to play your best song first. It’s a little backward because [the evaluators] have 10 minutes, so you want to play the thing that’s going to wow them and sounds great right away, as opposed to putting it last, where it might get cut off. Because a jury is a more formal institution within music, everyone’s going to be more serious. Even your professors who are joking with you throughout the week are going to be more serious. It’s easy for you to get cut off and feel like ‘I was terrible,’ but that’s not it. It’s that they have 10 minutes to hear you, and they have to keep things going. Yes they cut you off, and no they didn’t say anything, but it’s not because you did badly. I wish I would have known that going in.”
Luckily, Wade feels fairly confident as this semester’s jury approaches. She knows all the professors who will be evaluating her, and she has received positive feedback from them throughout the semester. She says that her main concern is, “I’m still messing up the counting on one of the songs.”
If you know anyone in the music program, be sure to wish them luck before they complete their jury. Both underclassmen, like Wade, and upperclassmen, like Widmer, can relate to the stress of preparing for the performance. But Widmer reflects on the end of the process by saying, “The senior ones are always fun because you can see somebody you’ve known, someone you’ve seen grow and then watch how good they are.”