“But I am not from Eastman”: Music Projects for Everyone

“But I am not from Eastman!”

“I am not as good as others.”

I’ve come across these sentiments several times when the topic of music and the opportunity to be involved comes up. A lot of college and future college students are musically talented and wish to continue pursuing their talent once they arrive on campus. For many of those passionate about music, the programs offered on campus can influence their decision on whether to apply.


After applying to universities, I had to decide what college would suit me best, and since I was always involved in music projects, that aspect played a role as well.

Through the Eastman School of Music, which is among the top music schools in the world, the University of Rochester has an extraordinary academic music program. Without question, Rochester is a fantastic place for those wishing to study music on a professional level. That, and hearing about the great campus a cappella groups made me think that Rochester is just the right school for me.

The summer before moving here, I had a deeper look at what the University offers in terms of music. I was not planning to study music professionally, so the Eastman School seemed to be out. However, I found out that students could take instrument and voice lessons there if they auditon successfully. Considering my musical background, I thought I had no chance to either get piano lessons (as I hadn’t played in years) nor voice lessons (as I never really had voice lessons before coming here).

That thought disappointed me, even before coming here and checking out the possibilities. I really wanted to be involved in music but it seemed like I was not going to be good enough. The same seemed to be true for the a cappella groups. Even though I had sung a cappella before, I was certain the campus groups would be beyond my level and thus out of my reach.

After having talked about this to several of my peers, it turned out that I was not the only one worried about not being good enough to be part of some cool music projects. Once I arrived on campus, I fortunately didn’t hesitate to give it a try. In the end, I managed to become part of the YellowJackets (the oldest among Rochester’s four a cappella groups). I am also going to have voice lessons starting next semester.

Why do I tell you this?

Being involved in music-related projects is really much easier than people believe when they come here. And the main reason is that people underestimate their own potential. I have met many people with musical talent who thought they couldn’t be part of groups because they hadn’t done anything professionally. In the end, they managed because they gave it a try.

The level of most musicians here is indeed quite high, but don’t just think that you’re not among them. Besides, most groups (apart from Eastman ensembles, which actually consist of future professionals) are open for a variety of people. The group “No Jackets Required” is an example of a band (or several bands) that allows everyone to become part of their performances. While they have fixed members that were auditioned (everyone can audition), they invite anyone who wants to be involved in their shows to audition for individual songs. That way, you can have your moment on stage without even needing to make long-term commitments to a group.

Another example would be the a cappella group “Trebellious” that was founded recently (in addition to the four established groups) with the idea to make a cappella more accessible for every student. They host weekly a cappella workshops and involve workshop participants in their shows as well.

For me, Rochester was first this great place for musicians, then it was a place where I thought only professionally trained musicians have a chance, and it finally turned into a place where everyone with talent is able to pursue it, even if you’re not at a professional level right away.

Once you come to the University of Rochester (or even if you’re a student right now), make sure you give it a try if you’re interested. No one wants talent to go to waste. There is a reason why the school’s motto is “Meliora  (Ever Better).” If you have a talent, you can be sure to be challenged and improve in what you’re doing.

Don’t be intimidated!

About the author

Bastian Lehmann

I'm a member of the Class of 2020 and I am planning to major in economics. I come from Germany and thus far I have never lived abroad, so attending the University of Rochester in New York is an exiting experience that I will gratefully share with you here. When I'm not in class or busy studying, I really enjoy "making" music. I play the piano, I write songs and I love to sing as well. I am a member of the YellowJackets a cappella group. So far this is the only extracurricular activity I am involved in as it takes around 7 hours of rehearsal (sometimes more) a week plus all the gigs we have!

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