One of the big jokes between my friends and I during high school was that I was going on to “fake” school, while they were all going on to “real” school.

Except for Columbia, I applied only to music schools ? places where I was expected to lose all remaining traces of academic knowledge and slip into the psychotic world that consisted only of practice rooms and rehearsals.

Despite the fact that I enjoyed our little joke about “fake” school, I felt genuine concern about the change of lifestyle that I was about to undergo. All throughout high school, I surrounded myself with academically motivated people.

We shared AP classes, SATs ? otherwise known as a several-hour waste of my time ? and a genuine caring about learning. This is evidenced by the fact that three out of four of my closest friends from high school are at Ivy League schools now, studying the sciences and suffering through brain-teasers like organic chemistry.

When I finally arrived at Eastman last year, I enrolled in my classes, and was dismayed to realize that I was only taking two “non-musical” courses. I soon found the stress of music school to be enough, though, and joined the horde of Eastman students that are forever complaining about the amount of endless work and practicing that they need to do.

Despite feeling completely overwhelmed, I still found myself missing the rigor of some of my advanced high school classes. I finished freshman year without exploring River Campus at all, and I kept myself sane by reading lots of books on interesting subjects ? sort-of giving myself my own history courses.

When I came back to school as a sophomore, I was ready to be more adventurous, and I enrolled in a Spanish literature class on the River Campus. My biggest concern was that getting to and from River Campus was a complete waste of time ? a 75 minute class took more than three hours out of my day. Like most Eastman students, I was apprehensive about losing that much practice time.

However, I went through with my plans and stayed in the class. Much to my surprise, I found the added stress of going to River Campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays to be rather motivating. Reading weird Spanish novels and attempting to speak Spanish enhanced my practice time, and having large amounts of academic work made me feel lucky about the workload here at Eastman.

Taking classes at River Campus has not convinced me to give up music as my main subject of study, however. Torturing myself by practicing many hours a day remains a “fun” thing in my book.

Going to River Campus has helped to keep my mind open and fresh, and not feel completely saturated with musical knowledge.

We Eastman students should feel lucky to be connected to a university. Unlike many other conservatories, we have a lot of free academics and possibilities available to us just a few minutes down the road.

I would encourage anyone who has been reluctant to check out a River Campus class to do so before they graduate.

Frisof can be reached at

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