So you really love your instrument: piano, bassoon, xylophone, whatever floats your boat. Or you’re some kind of child prodigy and have been writing and mixing your own music from the tender age of two. You just love listening to music–from the songs on the radio to elevator music to cell phone text tones, and want to know more. Whether your interests lie in music composition, artist management or really intense and cerebral music-listening, all are welcome in the music major.
What You’ll Be Doing
The great thing about a music major is you’ll never be doing the same thing every day. Music majors have a lot on their plate: extensive and (more than) slightly terrifying theory and composition classes, classes on specific composers or musicians or random things like noise and skills classes where you actually have to learn that instrument whose name you can’t pronounce. That seems like a lot—and you’re right, it is—but you’ll never be bored.
1. “You take classes and perform with the same people on a regular basis for four years and they really understand what you all go through on such a personal basis. As you do more performing, you meet people from all over who all know each other, and it’s a very tight knit, supportive network of people.” – Abigail Smith, Boston University Class of 2014, Graduate student in Opera Performance at Binghamton University
2. “I had the time to hone my craft and gain the confidence in my work that is required when pursuing music as a career. I am very comfortable putting my work out there and going to bat for myself when it comes down to the music I’m writing and producing.” –Samuel Beebe, Northeastern University Class of 2009, Composer/Audio Producer
3. “You learn how to adapt to changing situations. For example, a piece you’ve written turns out to be too complicated to be played without a conductor (Nice going Einstein! You’ve known for a month and a half that the musicians would only have one practice for it. What were you thinking?). Which means it’s time to step up on the stage, grab the nearest baton-like object, pencils and whittled sticks both work, and conduct as best you can.” – Matthew Keim, Northeastern University Class of 2015
1. “My biggest problem with my specific major was not being taught how to network, how to use my skills for commercial use, how I should charge people for my time and work. The most important lesson as a composer is that your time is valuable and so are your skills. If you don’t put a price on them, no one else will.” – Asha Iwanowicz, Northeastern University Class of 2012, Production Coordinator/Composer
2. “Many music majors require classes that may not be directly related to the student’s concentration. During my undergraduate and current masters studies in music technology, I’ve had to take classes in ear training and music theory. I’ve found these classes the most challenging.” – Callum Plews, Northeastern University Class of 2014, Graduate student in Music Technology at New York University
3. “There is a lot of work involved in being music major. At least six hours of class a day, three hours of rehearsal and you must find time to practice daily. You do have to make sacrifices (more work, less play) in order to get your work done.” – Michael Aniolek, Boston University Class of 2015, Graduate student in Vocal Performance at University of Colorado Boulder
Video games, movies, plays– you name it. If there is music involved, then there’s a need for someone to mix it. You have the ultimate level of control over the final product: if you’re all about that bass, bump it up. Alternatively, you can just toss on a big pair of headphones and move your hand around a record player and call it a day.
Become a teacher at any level, from basic skills teaching to advanced performance training. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be the crazy middle school teacher with an entire closet full of music-themed ties at your disposal. But if that is your dream, go for it.
You have full reign over all the accoutrements of live music performance: mics, projectors, lighting, mixing equipment. You will be the one with all the power at every high school play in the county. They want a microphone? They have to go through you. How empowering.
What could be better for someone passionate about making music than a job where you can play a different instrument with a different band in a different style nearly every day? Recording agencies and live venues need musicians who can adapt. This is assuming that you don’t make it big and collaborate with Mariah Carey on her next album.
Upcoming and even established artists need someone on their side that really understands the ins and outs of both the music industry and music itself. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’ll be the one to fetch Ariana Grande a sandwich whenever she asks. You’ll be like a professional wingman helping other artists sing their siren song to all of America.