Podcast Gets Inside the UM Music Studio Experience

Studios accelerate learning through skill development, performance and mentorship

UM music professor Adam Estes (front right) coaches the Ole Miss Reed Quintet between takes of a recording session in Nutt Auditorium. Photo by Lynn Adams Wilkins/Department of Music

OXFORD, Miss. – Music students at the University of Mississippi have a range of opportunities, with ensembles, recitals, classes and extracurricular projects to keep them busy. But at the heart of their time at UM, and what keeps them grounded and progressing as musicians, is the studio experience.

The “studio” includes the professor and students who play a particular instrument. Each week in the instrumental studio, students have one-on-one lessons with their major professor and also meet as a full studio. Also, chamber groups rehearse and coach with their professor.

It’s an intensive experience that yields impressive results, said Adam Estes, associate professor of music and head of the saxophone and bassoon studios. That is the topic of the most recent episode of the music department’s podcast, “The yoU Me Music Hour.”

Estes works with each student in his studio with one goal in mind: the growth of that student.

“Student success can be seen in obvious things like winning a competition, whether it is the concerto competition here on campus or an off-campus competition,” Estes said. “Another level of student success is the day-to-day growth, week-to-week growth, semester-to-semester, year-to-year growth that each student makes.

“But the most important student success for me is to see them become independent thinkers in their own musicianship.”

The studio is a place where all kinds of experience and learning come together, he noted. 

UM music students Emory Booth (left) and Will Nelson perform during a recording session with the Ole Miss Reed Quintet in Nutt Auditorium. Photo by Lynn Adams Wilkins/Department of Music

In the studio, students integrate what “they’re seeing across the curriculum with music theory and music history, their applied lessons, their chamber music, their ensemble playing, so that by the time they leave here, they have the skills in place to be thoughtful musicians who can diagnose problems on their own and diagnose problems in other people’s playing, and have the tools to improve their own playing and teach others to use those tools for improvement,” Estes said.

“The studio experience has been amazing,” said Will Nelson, a freshman bassoonist from Flowood. “My favorite thing about music at Ole Miss is the connections that you form with other serious musicians.

“Being able to see other musicians at work, learn from them and work with them is incredibly rewarding, and inspires me to constantly create beauty with music and to want to be a better musician.”

The studio experience provides more than an incredible learning environment, said junior saxophonist Mayuka Ishii, from Tokyo.

“Saxophone studio is my family,” Ishii said. “Especially because I’m not from America, I’m so grateful that I have saxophone studio because they always help me and they’re with me. We all play the same instrument, and it means a lot.”

Such connections are particularly useful for students who are far from home, said Amanda Fliflet, podcast producer and a faculty member in the Department of Music.

“It’s always nice to have a close group of friends with similar interests that you can rely on when in college – especially for students like Mayuka who are from other parts of the world,” Fliflet said. “This connection can really make the college experience special.”

Archive Photo: Members of the Ole Miss Saxophone Studio, including junior Mayuka Ishii (center right), gather in Nutt Auditorium following a 2019 performance. Submitted photo

The connections that students experience through their instrumental studio – both with peers and with their professors – are at the center of what makes the Ole Miss music experience so special, Ishii said. She noted that the face time and mentorship in the studio have been of enormous value.

“I have at least three hours face-to-face each week with Dr. Estes, and I love it,” she said.

Students are not the only ones who enjoy and benefit from the studio, said Michael Rowlett, associate professor of clarinet and head of the instrumental area.

“I would have to say that working with students is my favorite thing I get to do, because I am sharing with them the thing that I love to do the most,” he said.

“To see them expressing themselves and learning the craft and the trade and the art that I love so much, and to see them becoming independent individual thinkers and creative artists is incredibly rewarding, and I don’t think there’s anything better than that.”

Learn more about the experiences of Ole Miss  instrumental music students in the latest podcast, available here. The episode includes interviews and performances.

Look for upcoming episodes of the “yoU Me Music Hour” on the second Wednesday of each month; the second season runs through June.