mellicious: pink manicure (Longhorns)
[personal profile] mellicious
This is especially for [personal profile] columbina because I know he's the one that's really interested in it, but this is my Christmas gift to all of you guys: the end of the music story.

Here's where the story starts, and it runs through several installments but basically stops with me being in All-State Choir my senior year in high school, which was an eon ago, in 1977. The main thing I have to say about high school other than that is that I imagine by that time I was pretty insufferable. I had gotten pretty good (after an awful lot of work), and I knew I had. I was still awkward and chubby and socially inept, but at least I was smart and I had something I could do well, which is more than a lot of kids ever have in high school.

If it hadn't been for the whole music thing, I would have probably wound up at Texas A&M, because that's where everybody else from Alvin went. Or else Southwest Texas or maybe Stephen F. Austin - but hardly anybody went to UT. I don't really know why. Partly, I guess, because Alvin is a small, semi-rural place, or at least it was then, and agricultural subjects were big there - a lot of kids were in FFA (which is Future Farmers of America, for you non-rural types) and showed lambs and things at the rodeo in Houston and so forth. But whyever that is, the fact was that Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University didn't, and I guess still doesn't, have a music department. And I don't really even recall why I eliminated Southwest and SFA, but I did. Also I was smart enough that I got recruited a bit by other schools, because I was a National Merit Scholar, although I've gotten the impression that that's a bigger deal nowadays than it was then. There were a couple of problems, one of which was that I wanted to be a music major - some schools didn't seem to know what to do with that - and the other was that my parents were making too much money at that time. Not that they were rich, but my mother was a schoolteacher with a good steady income, and more importantly, my dad had become a commercial shrimper and at the time it was paying off very handsomely. Between the two of them they were making enough money to make me ineligible for a lot of scholarships, but they weren't making quite enough money that they were prepared to send me to a private school, and especially not an out-of-state one. (Although college tuition was incredibly, incredibly cheap, compared to now. You'd cry if I told you.)

Oh, also there was a family brouhaha about my age. This was part of the out-of-state equation as well - I was still only 16, and would turn 17 shortly before graduation. Actually my parents wanted me to stay home at least another year. They made noises about commuting to University of Houston or even going to Alvin Junior College for a year. But I kind of held a trump card and I had no problem playing it - I threatened to just not go to college at all, for that year. (I meant it. I really didn't want to stay home.) And they were afraid something would happen - I don't know what, that I would fall in love? or just get a job that I liked, maybe - and would never go to college at all. And college was a must, they thought, so off to UT I went.

UT was huge, by the standard then - although A&M is about as big, at least nowadays. I think that's mostly why I didn't want to go to UT at first. But once I got into the dorm (even though the dorm - Jester Center - was huge too) and got started in classes and everything, I loved it. Jester Center was also co-ed, which was very radical in the 70s - there were boys right down the hall. I lived on a floor that had a bunch of Fine Arts people, although they seemed to be mostly dance and drama people. I thought they were mostly awfully crazy, I remember that.

My roommate was really strange and mostly barely spoke to me, but my suitemates and my closest neighbors were pretty nice, and I hung around with them quite a lot. And another choir person from Alvin lived a couple of floors up, so although we weren't really buddies, I still hung around with her and her friends, some, too. I was in the University Chorus, which was a lot of fun, and I took piano and voice lessons, and had a really strange German teacher, I remember, and an English class that I liked a lot. I was burned out on piano lessons and wasn't very interested, but I loved Voice, of course, and I did well in it. At the end of my freshman year I made an A in my jury, and apparently that was very unusual for freshmen. (I think I sang "Auf Flugeln des Gesanges".) And I started taking music literature, which was supposed to be my actual major, and which I loved immediately, and music theory - which I didn't like so much. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hated it, but it was tedious. I was never good with things that I found tedious. And you had to take a lot of it if you were going to major in Music Lit.

So that was a problem. And the other problem was that I had a lot of interests besides music, and the music department didn't really encourage that. Music majors were supposed to be very dedicated, and I was... up to a point. But I also wanted to go to football games (my freshman year was also the year that Earl Campbell won the Heismann) and, y'know, do the things that normal college students do, and I also wanted to take electives that (*gasp*) weren't related to music at all. And in the fall of my sophomore year, I looked at my prospective spring schedule and realized the music department wanted me to sit in, I can't remember, something like nine hours of labs in addition to the fifteen hours of normal class time. Music theory labs. Yuck. And I couldn't stand the thought of it, and I changed my major. (To English.)

I've never been sure if that was a good decision or a bad one. It's very debatable. (For one thing, even if I'd stuck it out at the time, I'm not at all sure I could have stuck it out another two and a half years.)

But the very, very best compliment I ever got on my singing, better than the damn All-State Choir, came when I told my voice teacher I was changing my major. She was a tough person, and I was a little bit afraid of her. And she cried, she actually cried when I told her. Still blows me away, to this day.

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