Working for Kennedy Violins, I am constantly immersed in music–and I like it that way. There was a time in my life, though, when I reached a crossroad that would determine exactly how music might, could, or would be a part of my future. It’s a crossroad many young musicians face.
As high school wound down to an end, I had mixed ideas as far as my future plans were concerned. I went from feeling reluctant to go to college to eagerly applying with the hope of a scholarship. Then, during my senior year, I really started considering not just where I would gain my higher education, but in what emphasis of study I’d immerse myself. At the time, I was very dedicated to two creative pursuits: the visual arts (painting) and the performing arts (classical string bass).
When I approached my private bass teacher, the principal of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, with my decision, he surprised me with the question, “Are you sure you want to major in music?” At the time, the symphony was facing serious financial troubles with a lack of funding and drama within the board of directors. Sometimes, apparently, the music business can be no fun.
I went on to major in music–mostly because playing the bass was something I was good at, so why not keep going with it?–but looking back, I wish I had considered some of the following questions regarding my decision, my goals, and my future.
Now that ten years has passed since graduating high school, I am grateful for my music degree and to still be performing, teaching, and sharing a skill (not just a hobby) developed during my years of collegiate study.
So if you (or your child, friends, or associates) are facing the decision to study music, ask yourself the following questions to bring some light to the subject:
- What do you think about when you don’t have to think? What occupies your thoughts (when you actually have a moment to think) is a good indicator of what’s important to you and what really interests you. If you find yourself jotting down melodies, humming the theme from a favorite symphony, or mentally practicing a piece you’ve been working on, these are signs of your interest in or passion for music. Don’t major in music if you’re not seriously passionate about it.
- Do you plan to seek higher education? Really assess not just your desire for further education, but the path to get there. “Planning” to go to college includes actually having a concrete plan! Talk about it with your parents and guidance counselor. Access all the resources you can. Research scholarship opportunities and financial aid. Learn about different schools and the programs they offer. Put application deadlines on your calendar and schedule time to complete the mounds of paperwork and online forms. If you want to gain a higher education, do all you can to realize the opportunity!
- Do you like to practice? Does anyone really like to practice? Well, sure! Practice isn’t drudgery when approached the right way and with a desire to improve. But SERIOUSLY, you need to have a high tolerance level for being in the practice room. If you major in music, you will practically live there. And if you dread stepping foot into the practice room, you’re going to be a miserable music major. You have to be really dedicated to your craft to understand the value of diligent practice.
- Do you perceive music as a hobby or a potential profession? Maybe music something you simply do for fun or as a social outlet. But perhaps you’re interested in applying your skills in a way that influences others on a greater scale. Consider whether music is something you simply do for yourself and your own enjoyment (and this is great!) or if you want to share your talent for music more broadly in your music community through performance and education. If you hope to share music effectively with others, majoring in music will provide you with effective means to do just that.
- What are your career goals? Do you want to be a dentist or a doctor? A journalist? An accountant? Your professional ambitions don’t have to eliminate your musical involvement, but you will need to invest in an education that enables you to reach your professional goals. (Note: You can actually still minor or even major in music and still access those career paths through graduate and doctoral studies.)
- Which do you hope to do more: teach or perform? This question will help you decide whether to pursue a degree in music education, music performance, or general music. All music majors can teach privately, but if you plan to teach in a public school, you’ll need a teaching certificate attained through a music education program.
- Are you hoping for a scholarship? Whether you major in music or another field of study, you might be eligible to receive a music scholarship! There are so many scholarships, grants, and awards available to musicians. Do some research to find these, and again, be sure not to miss any deadlines to apply or audition!
- Will you regret majoring or not majoring in music? This is a hard question to answer because you may not know until after the fact. Whatever you decide to do, I hope there will be no regrets as you look back on the decisions you’ve made and the doors of opportunity you’ve opened. I hope you’ll find success and joy in your future pursuits no matter what they are.
And remember, even if you don’t major in music, there will always be opportunities to study music and be active in the music community throughout your life. (Visit www.kennedyviolins.com/lessons to learn more about lessons offered in our private studio.) Whatever you decide, we hope music will continue to play an important and enriching role in your life as a music performer, teacher, or lover. Either way, it’s totally worth it. Best of luck!
Looking for more advice? Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-779-0242. As usual, we love hearing from you!