James Bennett '25 has been playing the piano for about 12 years. He started playing around the age of six. His older sister had taken piano lessons and Bennett's mom asked him if he'd like to take them too. He said yes and soon he was learning at a quicker pace than the other piano students. It became clear that Bennett had an aptitude for the piano. He continued playing, both learning new pieces and learning to create his own music. In high school, he was part of the orchestra.
Now, Bennett is a first-year music major at Notre Dame who is considering a second major in computer science through the College of Arts and Letters. He says that Notre Dame was among his top schools during his college search and the tight-knit community within the Department of Music, along with an initial practice lesson with Professor John Blacklow, helped convince him to enroll here.
"There are some real plusses to being at a smaller music program just because it feels more personal," says Bennett. "With a smaller number of people, you really grow to know all of the music majors, whereas at a larger program with tons of people you don't get that interaction. So I really liked that interpersonal aspect of [the program]."
As part of his music major, Bennett has so far taken a music theory course, a musicianship course, and his regular one-on-one piano lessons with Professor Blacklow.
"I actually love doing these [individual lessons]. I get a lot of good feedback and [Professor Blacklow] tells me what I should be practicing for the week," says Bennett. He likes having preset goals for the week so he knows what to focus on as he practices.
When he's not in class or playing the piano, Bennett enjoys hanging out with his friends in Stanford Hall, his home on campus. He says the camaraderie between hallmates began during Welcome Week, when first-year students are welcomed to campus with programming both inside and outside of their halls. One of his favorite campus memories so far took place that week when Stanford and Keenan Hall battled through a game of tug-of-war.
Bennett has also joined the Polish Club as he is part Polish and grew up speaking Polish. He has an interest in the Chess Club, too, which is becoming more active this semester, mostly thanks to a friend of Bennett's who is kick-starting club activities.
So far, Bennett is loving his first year on campus, including his classes, his extracurricular activities, and, of course, the opportunity to study music. To learn more about his experience, and to hear him play the piano, check out the video above.
- Explore the music major at Notre Dame.
- Learn about computer science through the College of Arts and Letters.
- Check out the previous First-Year Journey: Misa Muranaka '25 Finds Community, Explores Psychology and Biology