People inevitably collect “soundtracks” for their lives, and everybody has “cry songs” and “joy songs.” Elite athletes carefully collect “psych-up” songs, and people in all kinds of intensely physical jobs use music to keep them going. All day every day, music enriches people’s lives. If you have a gift for making music, you know the peace and joy you bring into the world. With this gift, you not only have soundtracks for your moments in life, but you probably also do the following:
- Perform. Although every skilled musician “practices” for hours every day because it just feels so good, professionals willingly admit that they always play their best before enthusiastic audiences. Often they admit that they play better than their best when they perform with their best friends. Vocalists need orchestral accompaniment and bassists seldom play solo. Find a few kindred spirits, choose a few favorites and play on.
- Compose. Still rockin’ at 61, Warren Whitely has been drumming in marching bands, symphony orchestras and classic rock groups “since the Eisenhower administration,” he reluctantly admits. Whitely earned his degree in music so that he could contribute more than just the back beat and rhythm to the ensembles he joined. He grew into a fine arranger and composer. “Of course, I love playing all the old favorites,” Whitely agrees, “but there’s inexpressible joy and satisfaction in playing my own original compositions or innovative arrangements.”
- Produce. Throughout his teens, Brandon Himes perfected his musical skills with the help of an old Macintosh computer; the magical machine provided both instruction and performance software and the rest “just came naturally,” he says. Because of his combined technical and musical proficiency, newly formed musical groups in search of their own signature sound call on Himes to produce and record their best material. “Nothing is more exciting or satisfying than helping a group go from funky fledgling garage band through cutting demo CDs to producing and releasing their first professional album,” Himes exults.
- Conduct. Exceptionally proficient musicians with finely tuned ears often rise through the ranks to conduct the symphony orchestras or big bands with which they have played. When people think of famous conductors, they typically think of Leonard Bernstein, but Max Weinberg who toured as drummer for Bruce Springsteen ultimately became better known as the leader of Conan O’Brien’s house band. Nowhere does it say that only classical musicians may conduct or that conductors must wave batons.
- Teach. Most professional musicians play gigs only on Friday and Saturday nights, and they often play more for love than money. Instead of slugging away at ordinary day jobs, many choose to teach music. In fact, many teach all day in public elementary or high schools and then give private lessons after school and in the evenings. San Diego studio owner Jerry Michelsen admits, “I probably could make more money in almost any profession, but no other job would keep me so close to the music or bring me such great satisfaction.”
Taking Your Love One Step Further
“It’s not what the degree can do for you,” says Warren Whitely. “It’s the four years of sustained music study that help you come-of-age as a person and a musician.” Whitely explains that his college music major provided structure, discipline, curricula and competition he could not have found on his own. He explains that instruction in music theory gave him profound understanding of rhythm and harmonics he would not have developed if he had focused exclusively on performance. Whitely admits, though, college performances always were exciting. “Especially playing in the marching and ‘pep’ bands combined heavy duty practice and fierce competition with the thrill of playing before sell-out football and basketball crowds,” he says with more than a little nostalgia. “During those four years, I matured from pretty good drummer to full-fledged musician.”
Once you have completed your studies, there is a whole world of opportunity out there for you to advance in your musical career. In most cases, you will find yourself in a position of teaching others, which is very rewarding for any music lover to be able to pass on the knowledge of their passion to others. While you teach, you will also have the opportunity to work on your own music, and now you can do it with more knowledge than you had before your educational and professional advances. Having a career in music where you can benefit financially is a dream for music lovers as they can play all day and still support themselves. A degree in music can help you to go from a starving musician to a thriving one.
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