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Music & Culture: Student Testimonials

Carren Ku

Majors: Psychology and Music & Culture

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I chose Psychology and Music because I enjoy learning about human growth and performing/ composing music. I also have a strong interest in becoming a music teacher and music therapist, so these two programs work really well to bring me the necessary skills and knowledge. By understanding human behaviour and engaging in the expressive arts, I knew that I could become a better communicator in many areas of my life. For example, the skills that I gain from Psychology courses would allow me to interact meaningfully with others and solve problems effectively in various social contexts. Music, which brings happiness to other people, is a practice that involves discipline, concentration and collaboration. By engaging in music, I will develop more creativity, courage and holistic awareness of my present surroundings. These skills are valuable to me and I chose my program areas to learn and improve them.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

The Psychology program is composed of different topics that students can choose to study. Some of the major areas are personality, cognition, mental health, child psychology, social psychology and neuroscience. There are also mandatary courses that help students develop research and data analysis skills. I loved this program because many of the professors spoke of their experience with clinical patients and how they used various assessments and techniques to help their clients. I also gained strong critical thinking skills from reading and writing research papers. The Music and Culture Program is very engaging. Not only are students given the opportunity to learn about music from various cultures and time periods (such as Indonesia gamelan, jazz or music of the Romantic era), they learn music theory and how to compose pieces for different instruments. Moreover, there are wonderful music ensembles on campus such as the UTSC Strings, Band, Concert Choir and Small Ensemble. These courses allow students to improve on their techniques and work with other musicians to develop stronger performance and musicianship skills. I particularly liked that there was individual coaching with professors and that made a big difference in my learning experience.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

  1. Be open-minded and try new courses. Apart from studying within your programs, try to explore other subject areas. It may be a new language, writing or science course that you were always curious about. This will help you learn more about yourself, your strengths, and what your interests are, that may be different from what you originally had in mind. It also broadens your knowledge and helps you develop new skill sets.
  2. Stay active and involved on campus. University is a great time to meet new people and try new things. There are many clubs and events that you can join throughout the year. You may also find relevant volunteer, research and leadership opportunities by connecting with professors and going on to the Career Learning Network (CLNx). To stay healthy and maintain a balanced lifestyle, I went to the Athletic Centre often and joined their drop-in programs and yoga classes. It was really a lot of fun and I encourage everyone to be active while pursuing their studies. 
  3. Plan ahead and use campus resources. It is so important to keep an organized calendar because University life can be really busy. Make sure to mark in your planners when each assignment is due and the date of your tests so that you can manage your time better and arrange other events without overbooking. Throughout your journey at UTSC, there may be moments when you need assistance in writing, coursework or career planning. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the resources available to you such as the Writing Centre, departmental office hours or the Academic Advising and Career Centre.

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
With a degree in music and psychology, there are many career options. One could study music therapy, music education, counselling, social work, research, etc. I hope to become a piano teacher and continue lifelong learning in music. I also plan to apply to some Master programs or college courses related to teaching and counselling.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
First year was the time when I learned to navigate through the University and become accustomed to the lecture hall, general course structure and workload. I explored my interests by enrolling in various subject areas and was mainly focused on keeping a consistent study schedule. In my second year, the Psychology courses became more specific and I developed better note-taking strategies. I worked on assignments together with a partner and made many new friends. I also started to join programs at the Athletic Centre and make appointments with a Career Counsellor to discuss my future career options. As I got into third year, I joined the Music & Culture Program and it really transformed my life. I went to rehearsals and coaching every week and composed several ensemble pieces. I also learned about different composers’ lives and analyzed their wonderful compositions. This was also the time when I joined more clubs on campus and kept a balanced workload of reading music vs. reading psychology papers. In my fourth year, class sizes became much smaller and there were some seminar courses. Professors encouraged us to think more critically and actively participate in class discussions.

Eunillyne Tan Lazado

Specialist: Arts Management
Minors: Music & Culture and Theatre and Performance Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
In high school, I really enjoyed my theatre classes and being involved in my school’s music program such that I wanted to learn more about them in university. All history, theory, culture and performances aside, I really wanted to learn how both of them intersect in interdisciplinary art. Therefore, it became important to me that I do both together. All of the universities I applied to would not allow me to do both, so when Professor Barry Freeman from the Theatre and Performance Studies program said that I can do both at UTSC, I decided to accept the University’s offer. I started my first year with the intentions of doing a double major in Music and Culture, and in Theatre and Performance Studies programs within the Department of Arts, Culture and Media (ACM). I heard about the Arts Management program from my fellow musicians in the UTSC Concert Band. I heard that it was quite intensive, required a lot of reading and writing, and a fast-paced program. However, what made me interested is that I could combine both art and business, which I wished I explored more in high school, in the program. Also, I knew that if I were to find a career, I would want to work in a field that I could see myself enjoying and holds value for me. I applied to get into the program in the summer of my first year, and here I am now in my final year!
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

Entry to the Arts Management program is quite competitive. What I really like about this is that all students in the program have their own major interests; therefore, undergraduate experiences in the program are quite customized for each student. I’d like to think that being an arts management student, I get to have the best of both worlds because I’m not ‘stuck’ in one specialist, but I get the chance to float around and learn more about music and/or theatre. However, don't be fooled: Arts Management is quite intensive, requires a lot of work, and is competitive - it's all worth it, though! :) Similarly, the Music & Culture program is its own community within ACM, as well! With the changes in the Calendar, the program is more flexible than ever! There are three streams of studies: Music and Society; Community Music; and Music Creativity and Technology. You can create your learning experience in music and your course selection based on your interests in these three streams. On top of that, you may pair your Music Major (or Minor) with other disciplines. Many of my peers in our performing ensembles (UTSC Concert Band, UTSC Concert Choir, UTSC String Orchestra, or Small Ensemble) pair their Music Major with studies in computer science, biology, and management, to name a few.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

  1. Keep an open mind and be prepared to learn. We all come to university with our own way of thinking, and attending classes and participating in discussions may or may not change the way we think. Be open to these thoughts, to new ideas, and try your best to apply critical thinking. Most importantly, as a professor of mine ALWAYS says: "Write it down!" Write your ideas down, no matter how small or unimportant they may seem to you, because you never know when you'll need them. Always come prepared to class, and make the most of the resources around you!
  2. Seek help when you need it. You don’t have to go through all of your undergraduate career alone! ACM has the most helpful staff, who will help you when you need to book a rehearsal space, or rent out the AV equipment you need for class or a project. The faculty is superb and friendly; and they have a lot of experience working with not only their research, but also the classes you are taking. Most importantly, they want to help you! Don’t be afraid to say “hi” to them - get to know your professors and visit them during their office hours! One of the things I learned throughout my undergraduate career is that professors are more likely to help people who are proactive in their learning and experiential experience, so take the initiative, and start conversations with them!
  3. Have fun! University is a place to explore, learn and gain more in-depth knowledge on your interests, so use it as a safe space to experiment and step out of your comfort zone. Join student clubs, or even start your own! Gain experience through the work-study program, and see if there’s a way to work with the professor, or department of your interest! Take advantage of all the available opportunities, and use them to shape your own undergraduate experience, because university is more than just hitting the books - it is also about the experience. Get involved, take it easy, and know that you have a support system with you when you need it.

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
This past year, I have been taking a very interesting course on Community Music and how music is being used as a tool for developing communities in various lenses, such as in adult education, social justice, and community music therapy. I have been getting more and more inspired by what I am learning that I am currently applying to the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) for the Master of Education program in student development, as well as community development. I want to investigate how I can use arts-based approaches to develop stronger communities and engagement in higher education, and with the community partners that the institutions work with. On a completely different (but slightly related) note, I would really love to work in developing educational programming for schools within performing arts organizations, such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Canadian Stage.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
My academic journey is quite different than how it might have looked like, had I applied to the Arts Management program directly from high school. Therefore, my journey was quite unconventional. I started my first year with the intentions of doing a Double Major in Music & Culture and Theatre & Performance Studies, therefore, my first year consisted of taking the introductory courses I need for both programs, such as Introduction to Theatre, Listening to Music, Music of the World’s Peoples, and Materials of Music. I also used my first year of university to satisfy my breadth requirements in the Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning categories - I found that the earlier I was to do this, the better, because they are meant to be exploratory courses for first years, and if I already thought of doing further studies after my undergraduate career, it would not affect my final GPA as much. My second year was quite complicated. When I was accepted in the Arts Management program at the beginning of my second year in undergraduate studies, I started taking my introductory arts management courses, such as Introduction to Arts Management and Audience and Resource Development. In addition to these, I also took two introductory management courses from the Department of Management. Because Arts Management is a specialist program, it was not recommended for me to do a Double Major due to heavy workload. After speaking with my program director, we have agreed that I will be doing a double minor instead to satisfy the Arts Requirements within the specialist program. This was a great compromise because I was able to do arts management, and still practice both of my artistic disciplines. With her permission, I was also able to take a few B-level arts management courses due to my previous experiences. I also continued taking music history and theatre history courses to satisfy my double minor requirements. In my third year, I took the majority of the B-level and a number of C-level courses in Arts Management, such as Principles and Practices in Arts Management, which was one of my favourite courses because I had the chance to go on a 30-hour placement with an arts organization. I had the chance to learn about and work with the Toronto Children’s Chorus, one of the world’s finest treble choirs (after finishing my placement, they immediately hired me for that summer. I am currently still in touch with the organization since I joined their Youth Choir). Some of the senior level classes I took during the year were the Legal & HR in Arts Management and Arts Marketing. In this program, most classes are cycled through every two years, therefore it is important to take required courses as soon as they are offered in the year, or you might have to wait for two more years to take it. I also took my senior Theatre and Performance Studies classes, and participated in the annual theatre production, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. After that winter semester, I successfully finished my minor in theatre. Last fall, I completed my requirements for my music minor. A fantastic aspect of both my minor programs is that they are very flexible, and it is up to the student to shape their own learning through the choice of courses. To fulfill my requirements in music, I took courses that included Jazz; Music, Movies, and Meaning, and Introduction to Community Music. At the moment, I am on my way to finishing my degree. I am currently taking two senior Arts Management courses: Fundraising and Development in the Arts, and the Senior Seminar in Arts Management (or simply Senior Seminar). Senior Seminar is a capstone course of the graduating cohort. It allows students to apply what they have learned throughout the past four years in the program into the creation, planning, and execution of a project that is of value to everyone in the class. In addition to these, I have been taking the course, Exploring Community Music, which is a continuation of the introductory course from the fall, which allows me to learn more about community music, and explore other interests/areas of studies in music that is beyond performance and teaching. The past four years have been quite intensive and busy, but I am thankful for the challenges I have encountered throughout my undergraduate career. From interesting course structures, through the experimental things I have done. I even made it through all the calendar changes in all of my programs! It requires a lot of planning, organizing, and road mapping your path every single semester, and the following semesters ahead. I`m glad I came to UTSC, and I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to study what I love, and learn more from it beyond the readings and the walls of the classrooms. I hope you find a home within the community of people you are learning with, no matter which program you choose, and know that there is help all around!

Edwina Chu

Majors: Music and Culture & Global Asia Studies

What factors contributed to you choosing this program? 

I considered two things when picking a university to go to: location and program. When I go to university I knew the main factor was going to be choosing a program I was genuinely interested in. UTSC was the best choice for me in the sense that it was close to my home thus easy to commute and there were plenty of programs for me to choose from. Music is my passion so Music and Culture automatically became my major. It is pretty general in content in comparison to the downtown campus, but we learn a lot and it is an unlimited subject post so anyone can get in with very little requirements. The overall size of the music program is smaller in terms of the number of people in the major so we get a lot more interaction with each other.
I was interested in East Asian popular culture and entertainment, and was learning Mandarin at the time (I still am!). I found out about Global Asian Studies and I figured it would be a program that would suit those interests and give me more variety than just doing art disciplines which was what I was first considering when I came to this university.

Can you describe this program? What is it actually like?
Music and Culture is both theoretical and practical. We learn about a variety of different fields in music that isn't just being a typical musician such as musicology, ethnomusicology, composition, community music, etc. You look at music history, different genres, how music works in society no matter where you are. This is balanced out with performance courses which allow you to show off your musicality and put those skills to good use. It's okay if you have no music background or experience and you are still interested. There are courses that will introduce you to the world of music. Just start from the beginning and work your way up.
As for Global Asian Studies, I have to admit I was a little worried going into this program. This is because Global Asian Studies fall under the Historical and Cultural Department. When I think of history, I think of readings that are extremely detailed which we are expected to know, lots of papers to write when my writing skills are not very good. Yes, there is a lot of reading and writing but at the same time the content was interesting.
This program may not be the most popular in this school, but as a result you get smaller classes and you recognize familiar faces who will become your friends during your university life.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program?

  1. Get along with everyone and befriend them. Since class sizes are small, a lot of classes involve discussions and ensembles, so there will be a ton of teamwork involved. Add everyone you meet on Facebook, create groups for each class. Go to concerts, recitals both as a performer and as part of the audience. Be willing to meet outside of class time to practice together.
  2. Speaking of practice, practice!!!!  Know both your instrument and music theory well. Even if you are not taking any performance courses, you may be asked to play or sing in someone else’s piece or participate in a friends project. You will also be in the running for any solos that your professor has proposed. Side note: for some performance courses, you don’t need to be enrolled in the course; you can just join for fun. This can be used as accountability if you tend to slack.
  3. Be open minded as much as possible. Global Asian Studies covers all of Asia and the interaction with the rest of the world. Although it is easy to just study one country or study your own culture, it will not be enough. There’s China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, India, Bangladesh, and much, much more. There’s also different topics such as law, religion, history, and even migration and food. You might find things you didn’t know interest you and even if the content is not cool, you might like the professor’s teaching style (watching Crash Course in class).
  4. Know your English and how to write academically. Taking courses in this program requires a lot of reading, writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills. I’ll admit, I am not good at any of these skills myself but I have improved since first year. In fact, as an initiative, many first year courses now allow use of the writing centre and its programs count as bonus marks towards your final grade in those courses. 

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

After graduation I hope to get a Master of Teaching degree from OISE or get a Consecutive Education degree from York. I want to teach Elementary students, passing on my knowledge to future generations. If I need teachable subjects, this is where my programs can come in. I could teach music or history if I combine my Bachelor of Arts degree with my future education degree.
Music can be taught to anyone who is interested in learning. It is hard to get into the music industry full time, but learning music whether for a career, or not, teaches us more than just the music itself. It teaches art, math, even communication, and motor skills. It is constantly all around us, so it is nice to know the role that music plays in life.
Global Asian Studies is a variety of different fields in one program. Many teachable elementary subjects could arise from this one program, such as history, geography, language, social studies. This program could potentially lead me into teaching internationally, since I have gained information about a lot of different Asian countries.  Also the academic writing skills that I have improved on over the years would mean I can just teach English alone which is a useful language in every country.
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
Within my program the first academic year focused on the basics of music theory, and having exposure to different kinds of music in terms of genre, world music and music history.  It is making sure you have a strong base of notation, reading music, and honing your listening skills.
In my program the first academic year you are basically defining the term Global Asia in many different ways. You learn about the concept of globalization on a very large scale of the whole world, not just Asia. History is a major part of this program so you will learn things like major historical events and the effect that it has on Asia. 
Use the excitement of being in first year to explore different areas of the school outside of just your classrooms. Go to campus events and start joining clubs that interest you (but don’t have too much on your plate).
Second year, where by the way, is when most choose their majors. You will have a chance to really get to know the people in your program. First year’s general overview of the program will slowly start to break into specifics.
In music, this is a great time to get your performance courses out of the way, especially if you prefer to separate practical courses from written courses. There are courses where you will have to do both equally but this way you don’t have to think about practicing your instrument and studying music facts at the same time in one course.
In Global Asian Studies you will find that each course pertains to a particular region of Asia. You may choose to focus on one topic (ex. Religion, Art, Media), or a place (China, India, etc.), or mix and match. 2.0 credits may be Asian language courses (Chinese, Japanese, Tamil, etc.)  so if you have a language background or want to learn a new language as a skill, do it!
Third year is where you spend the most time on your interests. Compared to first year where you have very few options or all courses are mandatory, there are many courses in this year and most or all could count towards your program requirement. Some students in their third year take advantage of the international opportunities offered to them like summer abroad or exchange.
Fourth year – I know people will probably get senioritis at this point but remember to keep your grades up. You’re almost done! Take steps towards life after university. Start finding jobs (bonus if you are working in your field of study) so you can pay off the student debt. Another route would be to do graduate studies or take apprenticeship. Do your research on these and make sure you have references before you leave school.

Amirutha Sasiharan

Major: Physics & Astrophysics
Minors: Computer Science & Music and Culture

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I tried to choose a combination of programs where I will be challenged, and exposed to different ways of thinking.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
The Physics & Astrophysics program at UTSC experiments with different teaching styles to successfully help students who have different backgrounds and strengths. While the CS program, being highly competitive, allows you to reach new limits and certainly develops your problem solving skills. The Music program creates a great atmosphere for an artist to learn and develop both their creative and technical abilities. For all programs, I can say that a student can get useful help and assistance, whether it is understanding a concept or trying to get portray what the composer intended.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

  1. If your progress in 1st year is not where you want it to be, it's not the end of the world.
  2. Don't be afraid to get the help you need.
  3. Everyone's path is different!

What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

Not sure yet! Maybe attend school for a few more years or explore the technological design industry