Alex Franck is a music performance major with a concentration in horn. A junior from Alabaster, Alabama, she plans to attend graduate school after graduation and study accessibility in experimental music.
How did you choose your major?
Honestly, I think the turning point for me was in eighth grade; I was at a joint middle and high school band concert and I heard the top high school group playing a Leonard Bernstein transcription with some killer horn parts. Ever since that night, I knew that I wanted to be doing something related to music.
Later in high school, I got involved in programs more geared towards strict classical music, and I realized that I could probably make a career out of this. Basically, all of these good experiences were due to the quality of the teachers and programs that I was around — your environment matters!
Speaking a little more specifically, I love the aspect of live performance, and any opportunity to have that be a key part of my life is one that I am definitely going to latch onto.
What do you like about studying music at UA?
First off, the UA School of Music is incredible. They have some wonderful programs and so many great educators (special shoutout to Skip Snead, director of the School of Music and professor of horn) that really allow me to push myself musically. The performance degree program here is very centered on training students to be successful performing musicians, which is even more useful in a scene that’s getting smaller and smaller, while the number of people looking for work grows exponentially.
There’s also a big emphasis on your own accountability. Your own practice and hard work are what really drive your progress, nothing else. If you’re not committed to doing everything you can to maximize the already great benefits of the program here, you won’t be growing much as either a musician or a person.
What are your career goals?
Simply? I want to be happy! My interests have turned a lot more to the experimental art side of things in the past few years, so I’ve been pursuing that in my own practice. I suspect that I’ll be forever chasing the perfect job or the perfect life, but as long as I’m immersing myself in things that I love along the way, I’m satisfied.
In terms of plans for further education, as much as I love UA, I also want a change of scenery. I’m looking into graduate programs with heavy emphases on contemporary performance and potentially more research-based curriculums. I’d love to study accessibility in experimental music, getting this incredible art out farther than the audiences that already know and appreciate it.
Talk about any job-related experiences you’ve had. How did you find these opportunities?
I’ve had several freelance performance opportunities show up on my radar screen because of my colleagues in the horn studio. These were beneficial not only because I got a taste of real gig life but also because it really opened my eyes to the power of community. Older students were giving me gigs as a freshman because they trusted me and thought I needed the experience, and I’ll always be thankful for that extra boost in my self-confidence when I was starting out.
I’ve also been involved in multiple competition settings, both regional and international. Again, it’s a question of getting experience. I didn’t even make it out of the first round at my first regional competition, but I took first place at another one the next year and managed to win best performance of one of the compulsory pieces at an international event. Putting yourself out there and not caring if you fail is just as valuable as doing everything right all the time.
What surprised you the most about college?
I fell into a groove very quickly when I was not expecting to. I can definitely attribute that to the routine inherent in my major, but I’m willing to bet a lot of freshmen have felt the same way at some point or another. College is only as sprawling as you make it, and there are plenty of opportunities to find your own niche.
How did you make friends and find community on campus?
I’ve mentioned it before, but the horn studio here at UA is one of the most tight-knit and familial groups I’ve probably ever been in. I made almost all of my serious friends instantly just by way of coming to UA and playing the horn. It’s such a strong community, and it’s also a testament to the power of an educator’s dedication. Skip puts so much into his work, and we feed off of that and give it back in the form of fostering this sense of belonging.
I also was very lucky to have good roommates (most of whom I’d known and been friends with since high school) in different programs and social circles; I’ve met so many great people because of all of them, as well.
What advice would you give to incoming students?
Find your passion and find your community! Building a good environment for yourself to grow in can take time, but it’s one of the most important things to do. Surround yourself with people who share your same interests, whether that be by finding friends in your major classes or joining clubs.
There’s also so much to be said for figuring out what makes you excited about your future. The more you can work towards a goal, however intangible at the moment that it might be, the more you can get out of your degree.