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What can you do or have done with a degree in music?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by Jean Rodriguez, Nov 25, 2016.

  1. slobake

    slobake resident ... something Supporting Member

    I would also add that I have worked in middle management for some very large corporations. At one point I realized that I hated working in that environment and left to pursue my own personal dreams. I never regret that. What I do regret is devoting my life to these companies instead of my family. My son was a teenager at the time and I wasn't there for him at a time when he really needed me.
    Of course, not all corporations are alike and not all people are alike. Some folks may thrive in those environments but I didn't.
    Gaolee likes this.
  2. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    My son majored in music performance. He's making a meager living playing his trumpet now. My wife and I told him that success or failure isn't whether he gets his name in lights or makes a huge amount of money, but was whether he pursued it as completely as he could. If it worked out and he was satisfied with the living he was making, that's fine. If he decided that he wanted to do something else because his goals changed in five years or ten years or some other number of years, that's fine, too. Failure is only if he didn't do the things he needed to do, like wait tables or something else like that, to make it possible. He's now taking on private students and playing a whole lot of gigs without making much, but it's enough to live on. So that's success for however long he decides it's what he wants.

    I was too uptight to do things that way, but it's OK. My uptightness gave me the resources to allow him to pursue what he wants to do, and that's good enough for me.
  3. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    You could be like Nathan East and play with everyone who ever recorded music.
  4. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Nashville, like NYC or Hollywood-LA is chock full of talent. Who's most determined is usually gets the good long-term gigs that mean anything.
  5. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    The very specific skill sets of sight-reading, aural analysis of harmonic structures, etc, yeah, I'll admit have little direct application to other industries. However, the "intelligent, talented" part is what allows musicians who are narrowly trained to successfully pivot/expand to other industries.

    The assumption that holders of music degrees do not possess skill sets to succeed in other industries needs to be re-examined. And while we are at it, let's examine the assumption that students are better off with "practical" degrees, especially the generalized degrees that try to be everything to everybody (like degrees in "business," "management," "entrepreneurship," "leadership," "communication," "organizational psychology," and the trendy flavors of a lot of "IT" degrees." These aforementioned degree programs promise the acquisition of a wide range of practical skills that employers want. But if you actually look at those skills, they are skills that could be learned by someone in a music degree program (remember that many degree programs, especially BA programs, allow for the election of an upwards of 11 courses, all of which could be practical skill acquisition courses like programming). But at least the holder of the music degree has a specific skill set that we know takes intelligence and talent (and work ethic) to acquire (Whereas in a business degree program, most anyone on campus can walk in off University Drive and sign up!).

    A person with a music degree is a lot like a person with a degree in chemistry or math. These degrees require oodles of talent, hard work, and intelligence. But for any of them to be gainfully employed, the student must identify the transferable skills in their program and be able to apply their skill set to the other industry (whether tangentially related, which is preferred, or completely unrelated industry) outside of their music (or chemistry or math) training. The difference between the two degrees is that the chemistry or math major probably gets the benefit of the doubt when they try to crossover to another industry, whereas the music major runs into people like you who believe that music majors do not have the skills that are applicable to other industries. Fortunately, many are not like you, and I know this because I'm an adjunct advisor for a metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Advisory Board, and I sit at the table with representatives from the private sector where we sometimes talk exactly about the points on this thread.

    Now, my assertions, of course, do not apply to industries that require industry certification like Accounting, Public School Education, Nursing, Social Work, Architecture, Optometry, etc. However, for the many industries that do not require industry certification, and only requires the ability to "get poopie done," then whether or not a person has a music degree should not close doors any more than a generalized ambiguous skill set business/leadership/management/communication/entrepreneurship/etc. should open them.
  6. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Your assumptions about smart intelligent people extend WELL beyond musicians. And when an employer is choosing between multiple applicants, the ones with the most applicable degrees will get the shot....no matter how smart the musician may be.

    Deleted another comment, but I'm a bit struck by the irony of your commentary on business students and degrees.....
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
  7. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Almost. When an employer is choosing between multiple applicants, the ones with the most applicable verifiable skills will get the shot, although I will concede that in an initial filtering done by HR drones, the applicants with the most applicable degrees will get the first look. In the end however, the degree is secondary. It's the verifiable skills that the employer wants that will get the applicant the job. A friend-colleague of mine works for google. He got himself an entry level job at google and worked his way up. Now he plays a big part in a lot of the hiring for the technical jobs at google (his area is in networking for data centers--physical layer). He doesn't care much about what degree an applicant has. He only cares about what they know and what skills they have that his area needs. And he will TEST and GRILL applicants on what they say they know. What he has found is that, as far as his sub unit within google is concerned, the degree earned and the major are not really indicative of much, beyond giving a clue about potential. The degree type helps a little with sorting, but that's about it. Oh, I forgot to mention. The person I'm talking about studied music when he attended college.

    Initially, I included the above paragraph in my first response, but I deleted it for ironic reasons, as well . . . . .
  8. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Verifiable skills......

    When a "hr drone" is sorting applicants via verifiable skills, they either look to education or prior work experience. People like your friend don't get to see those that don't pass the first "drone" filter. For a technical job? Good luck telling a drone that your music degree "taught you how to learn".

    A music degree is a handicap if you are looking for a job in abu other field, just like a business degree will handicap you if you're looking for a chemistry job. It's just a fact. You might be able to get an entry level job in another field, but even entry level jobs today go to those with more specialized degrees.

    Everybody knows "a guy". It doesn't change reality for the vast majority.....

    Study music if you want to do music and understand the realities of what that entails. If that doesn't suit your future plans, financially or otherwise, study something else!!
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
  9. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Wanna teach double bass? Apparently, there were only 4 tenured positions available in the whole country this year:

    this year's searches for double bass professors

    It's just an example (your example) of how limited and competitive music academia can be. Those that don't get those limited jobs end competing for adjunct jobs, lower school jobs (with shrinking programs and funding), or private lessons (competing with every youtuber and starving musician in town). It's a reality that must be faced by those considering a music major. And if you feel certain that you'll need to go outside your major for employment, why not study something else from the outset?
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
  10. BD Jones

    BD Jones

    Jul 22, 2016
    I haven't read this entire thread, but I have a degree in music ed (with an instrumental emphasis on trumpet). At the university I went to, the music majors all took the same music classes, so the music ed and music performance majors had the same musical skills. The only difference was that the music ed major took education classes where as the performance majors took more electives. Needless to say, most music majors were music ed majors since they could do more with it.

    I was accepted to Berklee (on bass), but didn't go due to finances and family commitments. I don't really regret it. I've been a successful music educator (band director) for nearly 20 years. I've still played with numerous groups and have had a fulfilling musical career. I'm also a composer of band, orchestral, marching, and jazz music. I've presented numerous clinics and workshops, had articles published in numerous musical periodicals, and more importantly, developed countless new musicians. All that without wanting to really be a teacher. I was really reluctant to teach. But, I've made a good career out of it. However, I also know plenty of music majors who went into publishing (one former band director friend of mine just recently sold his publishing company to JW Pepper). I know several who have gone into music therapy, music management, and even non-music related careers such as financial planning, school fundraising, and IT. Basically, you shouldn't let your degree define what you do; you decide wha to do with your degree.
  11. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Having multiple skills does increase your odds at success.

    creator SCOTT ADAMS: I’m a perfect example of the power of leveraging multiple mediocre skills. I’m a rich and famous cartoonist who doesn’t draw well. At social gatherings I’m usually not the funniest person in the room. My writing skills are good, not great. But what I have that most artists and cartoonists do not have is years of corporate business experience plus an MBA from Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. In the early years of Dilbert my business experience served as the fodder for the comic. Eventually I discovered that my business skills were essential in navigating Dilbert from a cult hit to a household name. My combined mediocre skills are worth far more than the sum of the parts. If you think extraordinary talent and a maniacal pursuit of excellence are necessary for success, I say that’s just one approach, and probably the hardest. When it comes to skills, quantity often beats quality.
  12. denhou1974


    Mar 6, 2008
    Q. What can you do or have done with a degree in music?

    A. Go into debt.
  13. denhou1974


    Mar 6, 2008
    You don't need to switch careers to get Work Life Balance.

    I lead software development teams and have done quite a bit of hiring. I don't care if someone has a degree or not. In a nutshell, I'm looking for smart people who have done things [that we do] and can get things done [that we need done].
    Jmilitsc likes this.
  14. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Yes, I posted that. However, I have never asserted that obtaining a job as a bass professor was non-competitive, and I have never asserted that there were many opportunities to obtain good jobs as a double bass professor. Don't put words in my mouth.
  15. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Yes, that's if the HR drone chooses to sort that way. Internships (inside and outside of the company), short-term certifications, portfolios, references & networking, test scores (internal company tests as part of the application, SoundCloud, for example, used to test an applicant's ability up front by making applicants solve programming questions), GPA can also come into play, if allowed. It sounds like if you were HR, you would limit the sorting parameters. I would not, but I prefer to have larger pools because it's better to err on the side of making sure talent does not slip through the cracks. And HR might well do something dumb like require 5 years experience with a tool that has only been around for 2 years.

    It's much more fluid than you make it out to be. Yes, for some chemistry jobs that require a chemistry degree, you will probably be handicapped for the line authority jobs, but not necessarily for the staff authority jobs. Likewise, some music jobs require a music degree. Some don't. The point is that a degree choice does not forever lock you into one field.

    To say that a degree choice confines future choices is ludicrous. A degree choice simply means that in the four years after matriculation, more attention will be paid to the study of a particular field. That's it. And if you believe that a degree choice confines choices, well, I sense this back-and-forth will be ending soon, as the best we can hope for is to agree to disagree and drop it, and go back to our own respective realities. Your reality seems to work for you just fine, so go there and be happy. I don't want to upset your apple cart.

    I try not to tax people's time with long, repetitive responses, but it seems you want one. I know plenty of "guys" with music degrees who hold well-paying professional positions with primarily non-music companies like Apple, Google, HubSpot, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo, DOD, CIA, Baxter Travenol Laboratories/Allegian Corp, Ralcorp, Union Pacific, among others, not to mention those with music degrees who go to law school and medical school (yes, you can get into medical school and law school with a music degree). The list is not meant to be exhaustive because it can't be exhaustive, but rather to demonstrate the breadth of industries where a music major could end up if their dream of being a performer (or music professor--I tip your hat, sir, to your interest in my posting history) does not work out. But even if they don't live the dream, that music degree did not shut them out of doing other productive things. Still, you could argue that everybody has their list of friends with music degrees that were successes in non-music fields. The reality is that choosing to be a music major does not narrow your career path to "music or bust" any more than a chemistry degree does not narrow your career path to "chemistry or bust."
    Jmilitsc and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  16. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
  17. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Pretty much starve!
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    Primary TB Assistant

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