FINISHING a degree for more than five years might be a disgrace for many, but in the college called Conservatory of Music, students are allowed to stay longer—even up to a decade—to master their chosen craft.

Music student Dave De Jesus, who is set to enter his 10th year in college, said he had no background in music when he entered the conservatory in 2001, which, he believes, is one of the reasons why students overstay.

“I overstayed in Music because I started out without any knowledge in singing. Most of the students in the conservatory have similar cases,” said De Jesus, who majored in Voice after finishing Music Education.

De Jesus also believes excellence in music is developed through time.

“Each one of us has to give time for our talents to develop and mature and this could only be achieved if we stayed longer,” De Jesus said. “You can’t just force yourself to have a higher musicality at a snap of a finger.”

Music Student Council President Roman Gerard Enguero, an incoming sixth year student, said overstaying helps students hone their talents.

“It is more expensive, but through overstaying, I learn more and am becoming a better musician,” said Enguero, who is majoring in Guitar.

Outgoing student council president Kabaitan Bautista said overstaying in the conservatory is “normal,” adding that the policy has ensured that Music students are equipped with the right technique, sufficient knowledge, and attitude when they graduate.

“The curriculum is fairly unique and, with the help of professors, it [has produced] some of the top singers [and musicians], in Europe, US, and Asia,” said Bautista.

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'V'itter-sweet years

For Music professor Anthony Say, staying longer to finish a music degree has benefits.

“Overstaying gives them more exposure, more experiences, and more time to mature while staying under the support of their respective mentors,” Say said.

Meet the requirements

Explaining why Music allows overstaying, Dean Raul Sunico said students have to remain in the University until they meet the requirements set by the administration.

“Their academic set-up has eight levels that measure a student’s performance,” Sunico said. “Upon assignment to a certain level, the student has to meet the set requirements. When he is assigned to a particular level, he should follow the set-up.”

Sunico also said professors regulate the load of their students depending on their performance, and determine if a student is prepared to advance to another level.

Say, meanwhile, said that some students are able to play instruments but their levels are way below the minimum requirement to be able to finish the course on time.

“Some majors, particularly instruments, require a certain span of time to reach the required level for graduation,” he said.

Students are not required to take major and minor exams every semester. They only take their exams when they are ready. This also contributes to the “overstaying”.

Sunico said there are two factors why the students “fail” to graduate on time.

“One, some students cannot meet the requirements of their major and two, they do not enroll full-time because they had to stop for a while to work,” he said.

“It takes time for Music students to develop their skills because it is impossible to learn things overnight,” said Sunico.

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When the 'Great Flood' came to UST

Last academic year, around 150 out of the estimated 600 Music students were “overstaying” in the conservatory.

Before being admitted to the Conservatory of Music, the largest conservatory in the Philippines, aspiring applicants need to undergo auditions and an examination to measure their excellence in their chosen field in music.

This year, more than 50 students graduated from the conservatory.

“Music students are patient Thomasians. It is fine with us if we take a longer time to finish as long as our talents and skills develop more to [reach] excellence,” De Jesus said. “Most of us (music students) want nothing more than to make beautiful music.” Bernadette D. Nicolas

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