OXFORD, Mississippi — Music students at the University of Mississippi have a range of opportunities, with ensembles, recitals, classes and extracurricular projects to keep them busy. But at the heart of their time at UM, and what keeps them grounded and growing as musicians, is the studio experience.
The “studio” includes the teacher and the students who play a particular instrument. Each week in the instrumental studio, students have private lessons with their main teacher and also meet in a full studio. In addition, chamber groups rehearse and train with their teacher.
It’s an intensive experience that yields impressive results, said Adam Estes, associate professor of music and director of the saxophone and bassoon studios. That’s the subject of the latest episode of the Music Department’s podcast, “The yoU Me Music Hour.”
Estes works with each student in his studio with one goal in mind: that student’s growth.
“Student success can be seen in obvious things like winning a competition, whether it’s the concerto competition here on campus or a competition off campus,” Estes said. “Another level of student success is the day-to-day growth, week-to-week growth, semester-to-semester growth, year-to-year growth that each student does.
“But the most important student achievement for me is seeing them become independent thinkers in their own musicality.”
The studio is a place where all kinds of experiences and learning come together, he noted.
In the studio, students integrate what they “see in the curriculum with music theory and music history, their applied courses, their chamber music, their ensemble playing, so that by the time they leave here they have the skills in place to be thoughtful musicians who can diagnose problems on their own and diagnose problems in others’ playing, and have the tools to improve their own playing and teach others how to use those tools to improve,” Estes said.
“The studio experience has been amazing,” said Will Nelson, a freshman bassoonist from Flowood. “My favorite thing about music at Ole Miss is the connections you make with other serious musicians.
“Being able to see other musicians at work, learn from them, and work with them is incredibly rewarding and inspires me to constantly create beauty with music and want to be a better musician.”
The studio experience offers more than an incredible learning environment, said young saxophonist Mayuka Ishii, from Tokyo.
“The saxophone studio is my family,” Ishii said. “Especially because I’m not from America, I’m so grateful to have a saxophone studio because they always help me and they’re with me. We all play the same instrument, and that means a lot.
Such connections are especially helpful for students who are away from home, said Amanda Fliflet, podcast producer and faculty member in the Department of Music.
“It’s always nice to have a close group of friends with similar interests that you can rely on when you’re at university – especially for students like Mayuka who come from other parts of the world,” said Fflilet said. “That connection can really make the college experience special.”
The connections students experience through their instrumental studio — both with their peers and with their teachers — are central to what makes the Ole Miss musical experience so special, Ishii said. She noted that the face-to-face time and mentorship in the studio was invaluable.
“I have at least three face-to-face hours every week with Dr. Estes, and I love it,” she said.
Students aren’t the only ones who appreciate and benefit from the studio, said Michael Rowlett, associate professor of clarinet and head of the instrumental area.
“I have to say that working with students is my favorite thing because I share with them the thing that I love doing the most,” he said.
“To see them express themselves and learn the crafts, commerce and art that I love so much, and to see them grow into independent thinkers and creative artists is incredibly rewarding, and I don’t think there is any better only that.”
Learn more about the experiences of instrumental music students at Ole Miss in the latest podcast, available here. The episode includes interviews and performances.
Look for upcoming episodes of ‘yoU Me Music Hour’ on the second Wednesday of each month; the second season runs through June.