Music, College and Life After

A number of my cello students are approaching that age of decision. They are rising juniors and seniors in high school and are being bombarded with that “what are you going to study in college/do with the rest of your life?” question.

For me, I wrestled with a few possible careers. I had three things I was debating at that time in my life. They were biology, journalism and music.

I had a kick ass biology teacher. I was not a huge fan of the maths and sciences (more of an art and English student), but I loved biology for some reason. Mrs. Lankford was to blame for most of it. Come senior year I took AP Biology (instead of AP Physics like most of my “smart” classmates). I did great on the AP exam (4!) and Mrs. Lankford took me aside and encouraged me to go into biology and consider becoming a teacher or the like. I briefly considered it, but too much math.

Journalism and writing was something I loved (and still do). I had been writing newspapers since like 2nd grade, and senior year was an editor of my high school paper (sports section!). I think the final deciding factor to take me out of communications was my lack of self-confidence. I wasn’t pretty enough to be on TV. (Remember, there was no internet in 1996 – at least no facebook, google or youtube. Dial up your AOL Nirvana fans!)

So that left me with music. I loved playing in Youth Symphony. I was already teaching private lessons at the local music store and loving it. So music education made perfect sense.

But this isn’t about me. What do you want to do, fair student? Most of my students have come to me saying something like, “I don’t want to major in music, but I want to keep doing it.”

So far, I’ve had a future vet, a future computer programmer, and a future engineer tell me this. And I have the answer: the music minor.

As I explained tonight, you don’t “do” anything with it. You study music, get to play in the orchestra (or whatever ensemble is appropriate), take lessons, learn some theory and history, and get out of whatever stuffy building your major is in to hang out with the completely awesome and fun music majors for awhile. Trust me, music majors have A LOT more fun than engineering majors. (And music majors, if they’re smart, will latch onto engineering majors knowing that they’ll make more money than a music major one day. And if they happen to be musical as well, then SCORE! No pun intended…)

Okay, maybe I didn’t get into the social aspect with my high schoolers, but they’ll figure it out.

But seriously, music can be a great stress relief and a chance to broaden your horizons. And being able to complete additional classes with your major always looks good to potential graduate schools/employers.

And of course, when all is said and done, you can continue playing in a community ensemble. When I got out of graduate school I started working in an office to pay my bills while I worked up my private student teaching load. After about 9 months I realized something was missing from my life. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. For the first time since 5th grade I wasn’t playing in an orchestra. And I missed it. Google in 2004 was a little more advanced, and I was able to find 3 community orchestras in greater Louisville. And I started playing with two of them. One I quit after about a year as my teaching load increased, but I stuck with the other until I started having kids in 2010 and my husband started working nights. I filled in occasionally, but definitely missed it.

Just this month, my husband starting day work after 6 years (and 3 kids) of being on nights. I immediately went back to my orchestra. It seems like a little thing, but to me it’s huge. Orchestra has been a huge part of my life. Granted, my kids are now, too, but being a mom doesn’t mean you give up yourself. If you do, you have nothing to share with your kids. I want my kids to go see mommy play in concerts just like I saw my mom play in concerts. It’s a family tradition.

So, can you still do music if you don’t major in music? HELL YES! So keep on playing!