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January 22, 2008

The sound of success; Change in college's curriculum will allow music students smoother transfer to four-year schools

HAVERHILL - Bonnie Surowiec of Amesbury planned to graduate from Northern Essex Community College with a liberal arts degree and a minor in music.

Her plans will change as of September, when the college offers its first associate's degree program specially tailored to students who want to major in music at a four-year college.

Surowiec, a graduate of Amesbury High School, has already completed several music courses at Northern Essex under the tutelage of Dr. Kenneth Langer, coordinator of the school's music program.

This fall, she'll be offered the kinds of advanced music courses that will help her transfer to a school like UMass Lowell - where she hopes to major in music. Her dream is to become a music teacher.

"I think this new program is going to be awesome," Surowiec said. "I've been planning since my senior year in high school to attend NECC, then transfer. Now I'll be able to get my associate's in music, then move on to a bigger school."

Langer said he developed the new music option after talking with students at the college who enrolled in music courses but wanted something more. He also contacted local high school music directors, who said their students were looking for a music program that would better meet their needs.

"The vast majority of the students at the college that I talked to in the last few years wanted to transfer to a four-year music program," Langer said. "And in talking to local high school music directors, they say their students want to go to a community college like NECC, but they want a program that would help them to transfer to any four-year music program."

Langer consulted with music department heads at UMass Lowell and learned that Northern Essex would need to revamp its program. UMass requires a music transfer student to have four semesters of music theory, and the old Northern Essex program offered only two semesters.

"The new program offers four semesters of music theory, plus four semesters of oral training, or ear training," Langer said. "The whole ideas is that our graduates should be at or near the junior year level of four-year music programs" before transferring to a four-year college.

Kenneth "KC" Spina, 20, of Salem, N.H., is in his fourth semester at Northern Essex. A 2006 graduate of Salem High School, Spina wants to get into the business side of music. His current major is liberal arts with a music option, but he plans to switch to the new associate's degree program this fall.

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