pursuing a music degree

I absolutely loved pursuing a music degree1 in college.

I have always had a deep passion for music, and I felt like college was the first time that I could actually focus on my passion.  The problem with majoring in music was being ridiculously busy with courses, rehearsals, performances, studying, practicing, and lots of other requirements.  It was so easy to be confused about where my priorities should be, and looking back now, I would tell myself to focus on the things that would bring me closer to my particular dream career.

That brings up a great question:

What are the most important things to focus on when studying music in college2?


Focus more on the application side of the degree than the theoretical side.
There are two types of classes that you take when pursuing a music degree3:  applied and theoretical.  Applied classes include private lessons, performing ensembles, and places where you “perform.”  Theoretical classes include Theory, Form and Analysis, Orchestration, and History and Literature.

The reality is that music is an applied art form, and focusing too much on the book knowledge defeats the purpose of music.  In fact, you can actually get “knowledge constipation” if you take in information and don’t have an outlet for it.  Remember, always bring any knowledge you get back to the question, “how can I apply this to my future endeavors?”


Make connections with talented students and influential college professors.
You need to keep in mind one thing about your college professors:  they are at the top of their field.  By having these professors as your supporters, they can be powerful connections for acceptance into graduate schools and also in leads for future jobs.  Being the “rebel” student in college is not a smart move.

When it comes to your classmates, try to become friends with all of them.  Now that I’ve been out of school for almost ten years, I am shocked to see the successes of some of my classmates.  I have a close friend from my trumpet studio at Baldwin-Wallace that now plays in the Cleveland Orchestra, and I also have a former roommate that is Composer in Residence for the conservatory.  In fact, there are a lot of people from my college days that have major successes all over the world!  Remember, you never can predict which colleague will become the next “superstar” in your field.


Learn discipline through consistent study habits and practicing.
When pursuing a music degree4, you have a ton of things going on, because of this fact, it is super easy to get behind in your classes and in your practicing.  The secret to creating the discipline that you will want in your degree is to get organized with what you need to get done, when you need to get it done, and what habits you can create to accomplish your tasks.  Make it a mission in your life to kill procrastination.


Leave your mind open to new directions.
A bachelor of music degree serves as an opportunity to get a wide sampling of what is available in the music field.  Whether your major is in performance, composition, education, or any others, you have the opportunity to try lots of different things.  In doing so, you may find your passion, and if you limit yourself, you’ll never get this experience.


College is a busy, busy time, and never forget to take time to “smell the roses.”  Have fun, and don’t forget why you decided your career path.

Question:  What advice do you have for current and future college students that are pursuing a music degree5?



Photo by Werner Kunz. Used under Creative Commons License.

  • Baz Myers

    Great info, too much theory ugh.

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