For the first time, Central Lakes College students can now major in music.
Starting in fall 2021, CLC students will be able to pursue an Associate of Fine Arts degree in music. They will have the option to either complete a minor in music or complete the CLC program and continue on as a junior at one of the four-year schools that has an articulation agreement with CLC. Bemidji State University is the only school with the agreement right now, but Jonathan Laflamme, director of instrumental music at CLC, said there is a possibility to add more schools in the future.
“It’s a silver lining of COVID,” Laflamme said during a phone interview Friday, Jan. 15.
With international education trips and work at other colleges halted last spring because of COVID-19, Laflamme had a lot of extra time on his hands and said he couldn’t just sit idle. When he was originally hired at CLC, he was asked to consider the idea of starting a music degree, and now he finally had the time to do it.
So after writing eight courses, finalizing the agreement with Bemidji State University and getting both state and national approval, the program is ready.
The music degree is considered a Z-degree, meaning there is zero cost for textbooks. All of the materials are open-sourced resources, giving students a cheaper option, as Laflamme said music students can sometimes spend as much on textbooks as they do on the class itself.
Another unique aspect of the degree is it’s designed for students who want to try out being a music major but aren’t yet sure if it’s the path for them.
“To be a music major at a university, you have to be all in, all the way. Because if you change your mind, you’re going to be very far behind,” Laflamme said. “… There’s just a lot of classes that you need to take for any type of music degree.”
Music courses, he added, often require long hours for few credits. Remembering back to his college days, Laflamme said he had one semester of 12 courses, worth just 18 credits.
“So what we did here was, I looked at what a music minor would be if you went to a four-year university, and I looked at what most majors require for their general education classes,” Laflamme said. “And we designed what I think is the most economical, feasible and transferable associates of music degree.”
If students go through the program and decide they don’t want to major in music, they’ll still have all or nearly all the requirements done for a music minor.
“It’s a super attractive minor to have,” Laflamme said. “I don’t think students necessarily can appreciate that, but employers do.”
The degree requires 65 credits spread out over eight semesters, with students taking music lessons, participating in ensembles and studying music theory, composition, communications, music history, music education and audio production.
“We want to be ‘the’ two-year institution for music,” Laflamme said, noting CLC has seven music ensembles, a new string orchestra program and offers a European tour travel study program every other year. There is also a pep band in the works.
Perhaps the biggest progress for the music department during his time at CLC, Laflamme said, is the expansion of the College in the Schools program, which offers college credits to high school students. When he started in 2018, he said CLC partnered with about six high schools. Now, CLC works with 24 schools just for the band program and offers students 35 ensembles.
Unlike most other colleges throughout the state, CLC has continued in-person music ensembles throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and boasts no virus transmission through the program. Laflamme said he’s had three students contract the illness, but it was not through CLC and did not spread within the school.
He hopes the new music degree will not only put CLC on the map as a music college but offer music students a unique opportunity.
“They’re going to get a university experience, but with smaller class sizes, lower faculty to student ratios at a fraction of the cost of the university and with zero textbooks,” Laflamme said.