Music to our ears

When the Santa Monica College music department moved to the Performing Arts Center in 2008, the main campus remained the home of only a few classes dedicated to music. “I’m sure the main campus feels a little devoid of music,” said James Martin, chair of the music department. “Over here at the Performing Arts Center, we’re busy all the time.”

While the college may not have a songwriting class or courses dedicated to every instrument, Martin said he believes music is alive and well at SMC, seeing as the Performing Arts Center is a part of Santa Monica College.

SMC has clubs such as the Chamber Music Club and the Music Industry Club. KCRW, the privately funded radio station that has live performances from artists like Lorde on its airwaves, is based on the main campus as a community service from the college.

The music department was not immune to the budget cuts that sliced into funds at SMC. Casualties of the fiscal onslaught included certain music classes and cuts to professors’ paychecks.

“Cutbacks hurt us too, just like it hit every department,” Martin said. “The cutbacks were evenly distributed among all the departments at SMC. Our budget was reduced by 10 percent, and if that’s happened for three or four years, then yes, that’s a lot of cutbacks. But it could have been a lot worse.”

Even with the trouble caused by budget cuts, Martin has not lost sight of the importance of music in a college setting.

A study done this year by Trends in Cognitive Science found that music can serve as a powerful medicine. Patients who listened to music showed lower rates of anxiety, an emotion that is common in a college environment.

For SMC students who share a passion and love of music, the college offers musical scholarships and concert programs. One of these scholarships is known as the Applied Scholarship, which students have to audition for.

If a student receives the applied scholarship, they are given four semesters of private lessons through classes at the college, all paid for by the department.

“We are drawing lots of very good music students,” Martin said.

When asked what he hopes for music at SMC in the next few years, Martin said he wants to develop quality students who are able to transfer to a well-known four-year university where they are prepared to face a world that is waiting.

“I want everyone to realize how big a part music plays in their lives, because it most certainly does,” Martin said.