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"I Want to Be a Musician." – An Open Letter to Concerned Parents

To Whom It May Concern,  

Back to school time is upon us. Campus bustles with students once again, as they move into their dorms and onto their next chapter of life.


Welcome Weekend is as exciting as it is nerve-racking for college freshman and parents alike. The students wonder who they will meet, what professors extend deadlines, and if the food is edible. Parents hope their money is worth the education and that their child studies a subject with the potential for a successful profession.


Some majors answer that question easily, assuming the student does not change his or her mind. Engineering, Nursing, and Computer Science degrees nearly guarantee immediate job offers upon graduation. Nothing is frightening about these fields of study. But nothing quite strikes fear in a parent like a child that comes to them and says, “Mom, Dad – I want to be a musician."


Despite the effort put towards raising a well-rounded person, their passion for show choir or a garage band followed them to their undergraduate pursuit instead of FBLA or Debate Team. To those unfamiliar with the industry, the apprehension of an unsecure future can outweigh their gut reaction to support their child. Fortunately, Music majors are not destined to unemployment and have a variety of options for a career.


Music Performance may seem like an unsteady choice, but people need musicians in plenty of businesses. Performing arts groups pay orchestral and symphony members for rehearsals and performances. Churches have cantors, worship bands, and music directors who plan the repertory for weekly services to enhance the congregation’s experience. If live music seems daunting, larger recording studios employ session musicians to perform on clients’ tracks as the producer sees fitting.


Students who get a Bachelor of Music in Composition might not write the next top charter in pop music (although they could). However, it can lead to jobs in editing, composing, arranging, and conducting. Music publishing companies employ many people whose sole job is to transcribe recorded music into print music for major labels and independent artists.


Another route for aspiring songwriters is in film or television scoring, and more prevalently, advertising. Agencies need musicians to pull together client ads through sound. The visual media may be stimulating, but the music creates the whole package.


Music Technology poses a perfect option for those who prefer to be behind the music. Music Technology teaches how to work in live sound as technicians or recording engineers at performances, and the science behind acoustics to become a sound designer. In the studio, entire teams work to produce an album from start to finish. Music producers lead the creative decisions in the recording process, while the recording engineers operate the soundboard during a session. Assistants help along the way, and post-production engineers put the finishing touches on the album.


Another option for behind-the-scenes work is Music Business. With this degree, graduates fulfill their careers at record labels, music retailers, tours, music publishers, and even their own enterprises. At labels, there are jobs in publicity, talent acquisition, marketing, management, sales, and artist development. On the road, tour coordinators plan everything from show logistics to lodging, while the road manager attends to any issues that arise and keep the sailing smooth. Entrepreneurial minds thrive in this line of work, and many of these people go on to open their own studios, label, booking agencies, entertainment law firms, and artist management and promotions companies. Dreaming big is encouraged in this major.


Lastly, some musicians want to give their talent back to others and opt to study Music Education or Music Therapy. Educators teach at all levels from Pre-K to college. These professionals educate students on music theory and history and conduct choral and instrumental ensembles. Some tutor musicians in private lessons and even open their own lesson studio.


Music therapists work in schools, hospitals, various clinical settings, addiction recovery programs, community centers, and numerous other facilities to ease people’s stress. People are emotionally invested in music, and these therapists aid people in coping with their pain. They develop strategies toward the road to recovery and take on the role of a counselor and shoulder to lean on.


Young, ambitious music lovers can achieve success through majoring in Music; it opens countless doors of opportunities to those who are willing to work for it. As Malcolm Gladwell puts it in his book Outliers, 10,000 hours of hard work and practice can make you an expert. Musicians are among the most driven people, dedicated to their craft. If this practice begins in undergrad, imagine their success post-graduation. While you may not fully grasp the ins and outs of the industry, you can always be your child’s biggest fan as they chase their dream job. So, when your child does utter that unnerving sentence, just rest easy.



A Music Graduate


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Heartland Sings, Inc. is a nonprofit vocal music production company based in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Founded in 1997 by Maestro Robert Nance, Heartland Sings creates a variety of vocal music productions and educational outreach programs.

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