August 24, 2013 at 2:48 AMIn response to my last post, "Decisions, Decisions: Should I Major in Music?", I had a reader contact me at Kennedy Violins interested in advice concerning the option to double major.
First, if you have interest in opportunities for dual degrees at specific schools such as Julliard, Eastman, Oberlin, or any other university of interest, I encourage you to speak with or e-mail directly a representative from the school such as an academic counselor.
From my personal experience though, I did try to double major and it didn't turn out to be an ideal experience. To finish both majors would have taken six years instead of four, so I ended up with my music degree and an English minor, finishing in five years instead.
In my opinion, double majoring is not ideal because you aren't able to fully immerse yourself in both studies. If you try, you'll likely be overwhelmed, over-committed, and stressed which may lead to an exhausting and negative academic experience. Not to mention that over-committing cuts into practice time and puts grades at risk. If a student does double major, sacrifices made in each area of focus can lead to incomplete focus in each major. Getting two degrees in one go can be done, but often with each major at the expense of the other.
A comment was made on this post reiterating the truth that just because you don't major in something (like theatre) doesn't mean you can't be involved in it or even go on to become a professional in that field. My sister is a great example--she studied photography and now works as a food photographer for a major network. But she's also very passionate about acting and musical theater. In addition to her day job as a staff photographer she has taken acting lessons and voice lessons from professional coaches, auditioned for musicals, and landed roles in off-Broadway productions--with pay. Way to be a pro in both fields!
So, in essence, my advice to those interested in double majoring would be to choose one thing to focus on for four (or however many) years and really, really get the most out of that focused education. Maybe minor in the other interest. But there is still plenty of time beyond that undergraduate education to pursue more education in other areas whether in a university setting or a private setting. I tried double majoring because I could, but it didn't add to my collegiate experience in the way I expected it would.
Good luck! I wish each of you great success in any and every endeavor you pursue!
Than again, if you have more moderate abilities and motivation, but still are committed to a double major, you can always seek out an institution which is not as demanding as others, and be successful in both majors at that school. There are many ways to reach a goal. Explore them all.
I hear a lot of musicians saying they're glad they majored in another field for job security in the future. For those who prioritize the "other" field of study over music, there's another decision to be made. Is obtaining a music minor or private lessons outside a university setting enough, or is the double major the way to go?
I would say if you hope to gig for pay on the side or in addition to a day job in a separate field, the full music degree gained through a double major is probably the best preparation for a future as a professional player.
On that note, I always encourage young students to pursue education in preparation for future career goals. What you study and what you plan to do when you're done studying should be directly connected.
So on that note, the music degree is perfect preparation for professional performance opportunities. I believe college degrees prepare you to contribute to society in various, meaningful ways, so don't major in something you don't plan to utilize beyond your graduation day--it would be a sad waste of a good education. Choosing to double major will prepare you to contribute to your community as a well-rounded individual.
So you can't go wrong double majoring UNLESS you struggle to do well in both subjects, which compromises your future effectiveness as a pro in each field. I like the comment above about students who have a record of high academic achievement. Consistently high-achieving students are more likely to do well with a double major. Just be careful and know there are only so many hours in a day!
This is a great discussion. Thanks for the comments!
That's good advice, but for many it turns out to be way too limited. As some of the earlier posts on this thread (not to mention on many other v-com threads) indicate, a large number of--very successful--people now have a career in an area very far from their original 'goal' or vision for their lives.
If you plan your education exclusively around what you "know" you want to do (at 18-22) you may have major difficulties later when your vision for your life changes. That's the principal reason so many (myself included) still advocate and endorse a general side to education--it prepares you better than early specialization can for a jump to whatever area looks better later.
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