Are you apprehensive about majoring in music? Are your parents worried about a performing arts degree or trying to convince you to go in another direction?
Here are the top five concerns music students have shared with me over and over again as they approach their college applications. If any of these ring true for you, addressing them directly will help you get to a place of making better choices and decisions that will serve you well in college and beyond. Some of these questions are applicable to any performing or visual arts student who is trying to decide on a major.
Remember: It’s easier to opt out of music if you find it really doesn’t work for you than to switch to music or try to add it later in your college career.
1. What if I’m not a prodigy?
Not to worry. Most musicians who’ve done well in their careers were not prodigies, either. They learned early on to practice effectively and work hard to become successful.
While you’re in high school, find a good teacher to help you develop your technical skills, your artistry and a basic foundation in music theory.
Develop an efficient practice schedule that improves your technique. Learn ways of preventing performance-related pain and injury. And look to summer music programs to take your music to the next level and help you see whether music is really the right path to pursue in college.
2. Am I a good candidate for majoring in music?
Are you passionate about music? Are you already somewhat proficient on an instrument or as a singer? Does recording or producing music fire you up?
If you can’t imagine spending your time in college focusing on anything other than music, then majoring in music is definitely worth exploring. There are many areas you can pursue as a music major and college-level programs list them on their websites.
You don’t have to limit yourself to just music. An increasing number of students double major in music and science, math, engineering, psychology or other nonmusical subjects. Others pick up a minor or two. Sure, it’s more work. But the good news is that the broader your knowledge base and skill set, the more options you’ll have when you graduate.
3. How will I earn a living?
In the 21st century, musicians have to be able to do more than excel on their instruments in order to pay rent and put food on the table. If you major in music with the intention of building a career in music, be sure to learn some relevant business and communication skills while you’re still in school. Get some basic entrepreneurship training as well. It will prove to be useful regardless of your instrument, genre or focus.
Seek opportunities for practical experiences in goal-setting, networking, organizing gigs and collaborating with other artists while the safety net of college is still available. Take advantage of the vast knowledge and experience of your professors. Apply for internships that will deepen your knowledge, enhance your skills and open doors to future work possibilities
4. Will I be able to handle the competition?
The competition in music can be pretty fierce. So you’ll want to do everything possible to face it head on. Use your time in college to develop your unique sound and talents to differentiate you from everyone else. Seek opportunities and support to build your confidence in yourself and what you have to offer.
5. What if I change my mind and decide I don’t want a career in music? Will I have wasted four years and a boatload of money?
If you earn a degree in music and then decide to go in a different direction, you won’t have wasted your time. Music majors acquire valuable skills that are useful in pretty much any field. You can highlight these skills when you’re applying for a job or graduate program.
As a music major you learn:
• To be creative and think outside the box through improvisation, composing and dealing with the kinds of challenges that crop up before, during and after performances.
• To plan ahead by scheduling lessons, practice rooms, rehearsals and performances.
• To take responsibility by learning to be well-prepared and on time.
• To collaborate and work effectively with other students.
• To manage time well and handle several projects at once.
Majoring in music is an exciting way to experience college. It’s also a demanding and intense path that requires planning and preparation before you ever start music school.
As a music major, you’ll discover new interests and passions. You’ll expand your musical capabilities as well as your knowledge of the historical and theoretical underpinnings of music. And you’ll gain inspiration and support from peers, professors and other mentors that will inform the rest of your life in music.