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Becoming a music theory major

Among many music business majors at Belmont University, Caroline Mohler stands out as the only freshman music theory major.

“People always ask what’s your major,” said Mohler. “And when I tell them, they wonder why I chose it.”

Mohler became interested in the subject after she took an advanced placement music theory class her junior year of high school. She now takes 11 classes worth only 15 hours of credit. Her classes focus just on music theory, which studies the practices and possibilities of music such as notes, structure and composition.

“Theory majors inevitably come in not really understanding what they are getting into,” said Richard Hoffman, coordinator of music theory.

Mohler first thought she would major in songwriting because she wrote music for the ensemble at her high school. She changed her major when she realized her love for theory after taking an AP class.

“When I was in theory, I was doing really well, and my parents began to notice I was talking about it all the time,” said Mohler. “My parents also liked it because the major wasn’t as prominent, so they saw lots of opportunity.”

Hoffman says many students do not know the music theory major exists. The AP theory classes student take in high school are not often taught by theorists but by the choir or band director instead.

“They may know they like music and theory, but the idea of becoming a theorist is something they may have never encountered,” said Hoffman.

Michael D’errico, senior music theory major, often feels alone in the music department.

“When I came into it there were at least seven or eight music theory majors ahead of me,” said D’errico. “Now all of a sudden I feel like there are five of us.”

Even with the small number, Mohler enjoys the degree and doesn’t plan on changing.

“I like to hold to the fact that there aren’t many of us,” said Mohler. “I think everyone likes to have something interesting about themselves that not everyone else shares, and music theory is mine.”

Article by Lonnie Oellerich.

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