Transitioning from college to the professional world can be a nerve-racking experience, especially for student musicians. For this year’s graduating music students, however, UCLA has provided the practical experience necessary to instill in them the drive and motivation to succeed in such a competitive field.

According to the students in the music and ethnomusicology departments, UCLA has a very free-form program that allows students to gain whatever they desire from the curriculum. While at times trying, this setup forces students to stand on their own two feet and motivate themselves.

“UCLA has taught me that if you want to do something, you’ve got to do it yourself, and I look at that as a good thing,” said Will Magid, a fourth-year ethnomusicology student with a jazz specialization. “All the networks I made I had to do on my own. There was no one spoon-feeding me gigs or musical ideas.”

It’s a shared experience that allows students creative room within their fields.

“As an ethnomusicology major, it really depends what you make of (your education). You have a lot of space to develop your own thing,” fourth-year ethnomusicology and English student Jacqueline Munguia said.

But with the custom-tailored program comes responsibility: Students must work diligently in order to distinguish themselves in a university and a city rife with musical talent.

“You can make or break yourself,” fifth-year harp performance student Jacqueline Marshall said. “It has taken a lot of personal initiative … to spend all the extra hours practicing and going to rehearsals when you’re exhausted from classwork, and not only to do that, but to keep a steady pace of practicing really hard for five years.”

When students put in the time and effort, however, they’re rewarded with world-class opportunities. UCLA and the arts mecca of Los Angeles provide student musicians with opportunities they never could have received elsewhere by fusing the “real world” with the university curriculum.

“The dichotomy between the so-called “˜real world’ and the university world doesn’t exist anymore. I’ve had the opportunity to tour internationally, play with Grammy winners, play in a band in Africa, play at the House of Blues and every other major venue in town. It’s not that UCLA has or hasn’t allowed me to enter that world ““ that world exists simultaneously,” Magid said.

With many music students spending at least four hours a day practicing individually and in performance ensembles, they’re proving that they are just as dedicated as professionals in the field.

Music and ethnomusicology students often function on little sleep due to the combination of UCLA’s rigorous course work and the countless hours spent rehearsing.

According to Rob Ashley, fifth-year double bass performance student, only those who focus mainly on their area of specialization survive.

“You really want to practice as much as humanly possible without injuring yourself,” Ashley said.

In the end, the nonstop hours of practice pay off for musicians, even when confronted with the daunting task of seeking out job openings in orchestras and other performance ensembles.

“Some people say they’re going to be doctors and make money, and music students say they are going to be musicians and be happy. But everyone’s going to be miserable at some point in life, and everyone’s going to be happy,” Magid said.

Although they acknowledge that the relentless practicing may compromise their happiness on occasion, music students, like those in any other field, sacrifice their free time now in order to prepare for rigorous, competitive careers later.

“It’s really hard to be one of the people with a job in this field, so if I’m going to do it, I better do it all the way,” said Marshall, who will continue her education at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music next year along with her boyfriend, Ashley.

“I just poured my life and all my effort into becoming the best harp player that I can be.”

“The classical music industry is not nearly as volatile as other aspects of the music industry,” Ashley said. “My grandfather always said if you wanted to catch butterflies for a living you could. You’ve just got to be the best at it.”