By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Band and choir are far more than extracurricular activities.
They’re preparation for a future career.
That was the message Thursday as nearly 30 high schoolers gathered at the University of Nebraska at Kearney for the first-ever UNK Music Day. Hosted by the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, the event gave students a chance to learn more about UNK’s music degrees while experiencing college-level classes, lessons, rehearsals and performances.
“We know students have a passion for music, but they don’t always feel that can continue into college, so we want to let them know what the degree opportunities are here and what the professional opportunities are after they earn that degree,” said professor Sharon Campbell, who chairs UNK’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance.
Students who attend UNK have a variety of music programs to choose from in areas such as piano, instrumental or vocal performance, musical theater, composition, music business and music education. There’s also a general Bachelor of Arts in music degree that allows students to train in the musical areas of their choice while receiving a well-rounded education. That program is accompanied by a minor or second major.
By interacting with UNK faculty and students, attending class and breakout sessions and observing rehearsals and performances, the high schoolers at Thursday’s event were able to visualize their preferred path and identify any additional steps they need to take before arriving on campus.
“We have students who are surprised by the music major experience – how rigorous it is – so we want to give them some preparation to know what collegiate music study is like so they can make a great choice as they start their college career. That will make their UNK experience all the more positive,” Campbell said.
For Rachael Kearney, a junior at Lexington High School, the UNK event reinforced her decision to pursue a degree in music education.
“It also made me realize that I really want to try to play cello,” she said with a laugh.
Kearney discovered her passion for music as a fifth grader, and she’s currently part of her school’s varsity choir and concert band. She plays the alto saxophone, piano, guitar and bass guitar and writes her own music.
“I just love the feeling of performing,” she said. “I just like the rush of it – the endorphins I feel while I’m performing. It makes me super happy.”
Kearney hopes to share those feelings with her own students in the future.
“I want to pursue music more in order to give people the opportunity to express themselves in a way they thought they never could before,” she said.
The event, which Kearney “highly recommends,” also served as a showcase for UNK. Participants got to listen to the Thornton String Quartet and observe auditions for the annual Concerto/Aria Competition. They performed with the UNK Wind Ensemble and Choraleers, as well.
As a smaller university, Campbell noted, UNK provides plenty of opportunities for students to “be the stars” of its productions and ensembles.
“There’s a caring, family atmosphere here,” she said. “I think coming to UNK is a good opportunity to be both challenged and nurtured.”
The Department of Music, Theatre and Dance plans to host UNK Music Day each fall.