V.com weekend vote: Do you have a degree in music?

January 24, 2020, 6:21 PM · Last week at the 2020 NAMM Show, a speaker from Yamaha named Dave Gerhart showed us a chart that had 227 possible jobs that you could pursue with a music major!

music graduate

Whoa, who knew? When I posted the story that contains his chart, one of my FB friends reacted, noting that when she was in music school, "they only spoke of two viable tracks: music education in primary schools, or a career as an orchestral musician. No one talked about the hundred of other doors."

Music education, from early childhood on, confers all kinds of advantages on those who receive it, preparing the brain for all kinds of other subjects while also training for competence an innately pleasurable and lifelong activity.

As for having a music degree, people can be quite dismissive about it, but frankly people with music degrees tend to be highly competent workers in whatever field they land, be it music or something else. Of course, there are those with music degrees who have jobs in orchestras, teach at schools or perform in some way. And there are those who go another direction, where that music training continues to benefit them. For example, several of my friends with music degrees were admitted to highly competitive law schools -- based on their bachelor's degrees in music -- and went on to be successful attorneys. There are many scientists and medical doctors among us as well -- V.com member Diana Skinner wrote an entire article about six scientists who credited their violin training for giving them an edge in their scientific endeavors.

As for myself, I do have a bachelor's degree in music, and I also have a master's degree in journalism. For me, each subject shed light on the other, and I wound up with a rather interesting profession, as editor of Violinist.com. I noticed, studying music, that earning this degree was quite immersive as well as collaborative. There were hours alone in the practice room, but also much time spend in rehearsal with other musicians. And the theory was plenty mathematical, history had plenty of social studies, etc. etc It used all areas of the brain!

I'm curious about how many of us have a degree in music, or are working on one. Please participate in the vote, and then tell us about your studies and how they relate to music. Do you have a degree in music? Do you have a degree in something else? Are you in college, or pre-college? Perhaps you have no degree at all? And how does your pursuit of music relate to the other things you do in life?

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January 25, 2020 at 02:38 AM · My vote was, "No, and I don't plan to get one in the future".

I have an engineering degree and an mba. My "piano/violinist" friends are also engineers or medical professionals. Like me, they don't have any degree in music. But some are active in community orchestras, and some, like myself, are not.

When I was in high school, I seriously considered getting a music degree. But truth be told, I also considered my future earnings. As faith would have it, I was a better math/science student anyway than I was a violinist. So, engineering it was for me (lol).

January 25, 2020 at 07:15 AM · I voted yes, but there is a difference between a BA in music, which is a liberal arts degree, and a Bachelor of Music in performance with the major being a specific instrument. Technically, my degrees are in violin performance, not music. Apologies for being pedantic.

January 25, 2020 at 08:38 AM · No degree in music. Considering eventually going back to school for a BM at some point, but probably won't.

I graduated from high school with a British DipABRSM in piano performance and probably could have majored in piano performance in a third-tier BM program or gotten a degree in music education, but it would not have been worthwhile compared to my other options. Instead I got my bachelor's degree in biology at one of the nation's top science and engineering schools, attended medical school for two years, and dropped out to switch to law. (When I graduated from high school, I was still a self-taught beginner on violin, so violin or viola performance was not an option.)

Ironically, I became a much more serious musician when I was already an undergrad at a school with no music department at all. I took up the viola as an undergrad, and made my fastest progress in the year after dropping out of med school when music was my escape from depression and I practiced viola for 3-5 hours a day. While in law school I successfully auditioned for a serious community orchestra that was transitioning to semi-pro, and by staying in that orchestra I found myself in the strange situation of being an almost completely self-taught player in a viola section where every single other member had some kind of music degree. (Admittedly, fewer than half were in violin or viola performance; one was in composition and the rest in music education.) Of course this does not mean they were all professional musicians or music teachers; two of the other violists who had music degrees were a doctor and a lawyer.

In my other orchestra, the concertmaster actually has a dual career: she is a lawyer but only works 25 hours a week at that job, concurrently teaches privately with a studio of 5-10 violin students at a time, and subs in professional ensembles once in a while.

January 25, 2020 at 09:28 AM · My BA is in Music, but with performance as the major option.

Like Ben David, I have a scientific leaning, but I lack the mathematical ability to back it up, so I stuck with my best subject..

January 25, 2020 at 02:14 PM · My first bachelor's was in mechanical engineering; I also attended grad school, but didn't finish.

After a career working in IT, I retired and went back to college this past fall. I'm working toward a BA in music, with viola as my principal instrument.

January 25, 2020 at 02:31 PM · A BS in Business, hired by Bell Labs as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) in Supply Chain Management which was my primary career. Many comment that "I think like an engineer."

Music is just personal joy and when I teach young musicians I try to communicate that joy of making music while at the same time focusing on the bio-mechanical skills required to make music with a violin.

Being over 70 the idea of pursuing another degree is not remotely possible.

January 25, 2020 at 03:07 PM · No degree in music, is it an entry requirement for orchestral and other music jobs? I imagine that they get so my applications for each post that applicants without a music qualification get thrown out at the first stage.

January 25, 2020 at 03:10 PM · Yes -- a degree in violin performance. What motivated me to major in music was my childhood ambition to become a professional symphony player. I'd been listening to classical music since early childhood, even before entering school, and had always liked it.

As a music major, I had some heavy-duty orchestral training via the CSO's training school, which helped me get the required semester hours in orchestra; but toward the end of the degree program, I could now see that orchestra playing, although I had always loved it as a listener, wasn't what I wanted as a player. So I decided to resign my chair and let someone else have a shot at it -- there was always an in-depth waiting list of eager associate members, hoping for such an opening.

During school, I worked part time in the business field and decided to continue in this direction full time after graduation -- till I went into business for myself in 1996. Journalism, mentioned in the blog, isn't my field, but working with words is -- mostly other people's words. I'm not a publisher; but I have helped authors get their material into submission-ready condition before they send it to publishers, and some of these people have had their books accepted. I have little time at present for my own writing -- although I have a couple of book ideas percolating.

As for music: If I could turn back the hands of time, I wouldn't change my major. The music training has carried over well to other areas of life. I keep up the fiddle -- actually three fiddles -- and can manage up to 3 hours of practicing and playing a day. The fulfillment I get from this is something I couldn't put a price tag on.

January 25, 2020 at 04:38 PM · I spent a long time in school, have a PhD, and ironically I don't have a degree in anything that I do day to day. I am a science teacher without an education degree and a violist and violinist without a music degree. At least for the music, I'm perfectly content not to have a degree. I still enjoy taking private lessons and I think that's the model in which I learn the best.

January 25, 2020 at 06:59 PM · No degree in music - I'm afraid I'm merely a retired hobbyist, so probably pretty untypical.

I do take my playing seriously and have tried out various genres to see what would suit me - baroque, klezmer - before settling on folk music.

I am a retired English teacher and have an MA in the study of traditional ballads, so I take what I learn about traditional music pretty seriously, and I feel committed to learning as much as I can about 'The Golden Age of Fiddle Music' in Scotland (the eighteenth century) - the likes of the Earl of Kellie, Niel Gow, William Marshall and Robert Mackintosh.

January 25, 2020 at 08:11 PM · I voted, "No, and I do not plan to get one", as my chances of actually pursuing a music degree are small but not zero. I don't quite know what I'll do when I grow up yet.

January 25, 2020 at 10:21 PM · I am working on my PhD in biochemistry and I don't have a music degree (and won't plan to go back and get one), but I feel like I am a lot more serious about my violin than I was when I was in high school. Lol but I do agree that my violin studies back then have helped me with my scientific endeavors now!

January 25, 2020 at 10:49 PM · I have a BA in art and psychology and an MFA in art. I’m a professor emeritus, and won’t be getting a degree in music...however, I do have private lessons and am looking into some string classes at the university here!!

January 26, 2020 at 03:55 AM · I have 2 law degrees and an MBA. I play in a string quartet with friends, I have played in some amateur orchestras in the past 10 years, I attend summer chamber music camps for adults each year and I take violin lessons throughout the year. I am in my 60’s and have thought about going back to school to obtain a music degree but I doubt that I will pursue it.

January 26, 2020 at 08:54 AM · No, don't plan to. Actually, I did think about it, post career. I have a BSc in Biology, PhD in physiology and ran a research lab in basic neuroscience for ~35 years while a professor. I went back to the violin in late career and did consider going back to school to study when I retired. However, I probably would not get in, and in any case, I need all my available time to work on performance and now I no longer consider it.

I've actually found a much better option for me, private lessons with an accomplished soloist who is on the faculty at our conservatory.

January 26, 2020 at 09:05 AM · I joined violinist.com when I was struggling to self-educate myself as a violin teacher, after 25 years as an occupational therapist. I now consider my self-education to be a success, though always a work in progress. I'm very happy with my new career. I asked a friend whether the music degree she has, helped her to learn to teach and she said "no". That sealed it for me. No music degree, although I like to think I would have passed the entry audition.

January 26, 2020 at 12:54 PM · No I don’t have a degree. I gave up a scholarship to study violin at the University of Michigan because my dad wanted me to go to nursing school. I have a nursing degree and am now disabled from several health issues, primarily rheumatoid Arthritis. I started playing at age 11 and knew I always wanted to play my violin again for personal pleasure some day. Although my arthritis woes sometimes get the best of me, starting playing again 1 year ago and most days practice till my fingers are hurting, but it gives me so much joy and I forget about my aches and pains. I’d love to get a music degree, however, my physical restrictions from arthritis won’t allow me to put in the practice required to get one. I’m an avid Florida Orchestra concert attendee, and my husband and mother also enjoy when I play. I’m happy I’m almost back to the level of playing that I was at in high school. It’s a great feeling to have not lost all my musical ability. I’m hoping I can find a community orchestra for old timers that I could play in or even a chamber music ensemble.

January 26, 2020 at 01:28 PM · @Sharon Leon: since you mention you're a Florida Orchestra fan, you must live in the Tampa/St Pete area, yes? If you're thinking about community orchestra, feel free to contact me and I'll tell you about the ones I know of.

January 26, 2020 at 06:40 PM · I have a BS in Math/Computer Science and work in the software industry. I started violin lessons at age 5 and my violin teacher in high school had hoped that I would apply to a music conservatory. However, it was never in my plan and I stopped playing after high school. Two+ decades later (in 2011) I took up playing again as a hobby. I was inspired after attending a recital of Anne Akiko Meyers. Today, I am concertmaster of a local community orchestra and play for fun with small chamber groups. Occasionally, I will perform solo with my orchestra (I have done Mendelssohn and Bruch).

January 26, 2020 at 09:05 PM · To Mary Ellen's point, I received a BA in music, then went on to get a Master of Music. Although the bulk of my career was spent in the business world, I'm with Jim: I wouldn't change my two college majors. My music degrees have helped me in so many different ways and the musical foundation in theory and counterpoint was critical.

January 26, 2020 at 10:59 PM · I do not have a degree in music, however I hold a DipABRSM for violin, and I plan to take that further in the coming years, hopefully an LRSM. I am also studying for the ACTL on viola with Trinity College London, which will take me a good couple of years to achieve I think, but certainly doable.

The current trajectory is to do a masters in social policy and politics, continue studying viola to as high level as possible, and generally just enjoy music making and teaching my little students, which is something I thoroughly enjoy.

I think looking back I would have pursued music as a performance BA, but I am not sure I would enjoy music as much as I do now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

January 27, 2020 at 12:40 AM · I'm loving pursuing my music composition degree - I graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, which was a liberal arts school, and I loved every one of my non-music classes alongside all my music studies. Playing piano and violin there alongside composing was always fulfilling and helped me through my day. While I'm not performing actively at UIUC (for my Master's, I am in the second half of my first year), I am teaching, and spending my time working hard on composing my pieces and learning about electronic music. For me, being a composer, being able to continue to study theory and work with professors and be immersed in music has been amazing, especially throughout these past couple weeks coming back. As I am looking at internships, part of me is wondering if there's a secondary thing I could look into that could help me sustain myself as I am composing in my life - but I would not trade my music degree for a second! Music is and always be my greatest passion in my life, and composing has always brought me so much happiness to hear my pieces performed. I'm so thankful for those opportunities to get my pieces performed through my degree requirements.

We'll see if my opinion changes at all as I go into real life... *shudders*

January 27, 2020 at 02:27 AM · No degree in music. My education was from classical records my mom bought at the local A&P grocery store and I listened to on a tiny record player. It was American Bandstand on weekdays, Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on Sunday, AM radio in bed at night, and Friday night dances at the YMCA in Saginaw, Michigan. I had a bad experience with the violin at age 9, then I took up trumpet – first chair in beginning band – in seventh grade, until my jerk of an orthodontist said I had to quit because it would mess up my teeth. (Something that still doesn’t make any sense.) It was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, February 9, 1964, a $20 guitar in my basement playing the blues and rock & roll. Classical guitar lessons in my 20’s, nothing in my 30’s and 40’s (I had kids to raise.) Then in my 50’s I took up Bluegrass guitar lessons once a week on Saturday mornings from a guy who smelled like stale Friday night whiskey, but knew what he was doing. I took up old time music, played in Bluegrass jams, organized a jug band called, King Kennedy and the Cruisers, songwriting, played in dozens of dive bars, restaurants, and other venues. Learned mandolin from the book, Mandolin for Dummies, and then violin lessons from an amazing teacher playing anything and everything. That’s it.

January 27, 2020 at 04:40 AM · In the 7% that voted "Working on one at the moment". Will graduate with a BM in viola performance next year. Considering possibly doing a master's in either viola performance or music ed; or just going straight to PhD in musicology/music theory. Bought my first own Baroque bow this weekend—in fact, two bows, a violin bow and a viola bow. Looking forward to playing Uccellini, Marais, Leclair, Schütz, Corelli, Biber, and many, many tenor viol sonatas on viola da braccio. At the moment, I'm teaching a few students, auditioning for and subbing in local freeway philharmonics and opera orchestras. Hopefully I'll get a tenure job teaching violin, viola, or music academic subjects or conducting, but if not, freelancing is never easy, but definitely possible.

January 27, 2020 at 04:52 AM · No music degree. BS and PhD in Chemistry. Amateur violinist and pianist.

There are actually lots of ways to organize university training. BA vs. BM no longer seems like a "standard" way to divide the hard-core performance majors from the liberal-arts dilettantes. At my university, which doesn't have a well-known music program at all, there is just a BA -- but you have to choose an "option," among which is the "performance professional" option, presumably our version of a BM. Other places (including other places within my university one can have multiple "majors" organized under a single "degree program." Yes ... you need a three-credit course in all of that bureaucracy just to figure it all out. I've been doing curriculum-type service for 12+ years and I've probably only got about half of it figured out.

But like I say, nobody would pay attention to what my university is going as an indication of what is "standard" in the business. So let's look at University of Michigan. I think it's fair to say they have a good music school there. They have two degrees. One is called Bachelor of Music in Performance and the other is called Bachelor of Musical Arts in Performance. Which is which?

January 28, 2020 at 02:29 AM · Paul, the BMA in performance at Michigan is probably at least somewhat analogous to the BA in music with a "performance professional" concentration at your university. I am quite sure both include more non-music academic classes than does the standard BM in performance but more critically, both almost certainly have fewer credit hours granted for the lessons. The consequence of getting fewer credit hours for lessons has nothing to do with the lessons themselves, which are likely comparable, but it means that the student has less time to practice because more credit hours are tied up in academics.

I'm very recently well versed in this because at one of the schools my daughter auditioned for, the professor was interested but had already filled up her studio with grad students and wanted my daughter to enroll as a BA in music, at least until a spot in her studio opened up. I looked into it and the BA in music would have been ONE credit hour per semester for the lessons, versus six for the BM. That was a hard NO for us. It's a shame, because that particular school would have been very much less expensive.

Here's the Michigan link: https://smtd.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/BMAPERF-2019-2020.pdf

January 28, 2020 at 06:34 AM · My version of that: Did not pass the entrance audition for the first-tier music school, so started as a math/hard science major, switched back to a violin performance emphasis within a BA music major, then switched to Ethnomusicology, then went back to biology lab AA program, and got a day job as a lab. tech. I don't recommend anyone follow my example.

January 29, 2020 at 06:54 PM · No music degree. Very mathematical: BA in Math, PhD in Statistics. I was surprised at how many of my undergrad professors were highly trained musicians. And in grad school I was part of a little music group that performed at department functions. My son, who is also very mathematical, considered a music degree. He got into music theory to such a degree that he dreamed of teaching music at the college level and did an independent studies course in 12 tone music. His teacher considered his final paper to be original research--I regret that he never had it reviewed outside of the school. He ended up an auto mechanic and used his mathematical abilities to figure out electrical systems instead.

January 29, 2020 at 07:28 PM · Francesca, to your point, I was double degree at Oberlin and my BA is in mathematics.

My father was a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) and had more than a few colleagues who were excellent amateur musicians.

January 29, 2020 at 09:36 PM · Regarding scientist-musicians, I got a rather impressive composition lineage in a completely unexpected way. When I was an undergrad -- again, this was at a school with no music department and no music classes other than performing ensembles -- I actually studied composition informally with one of my biology professors. She was a former professional musician (horn player and composer) and a student of Nadia Boulanger.

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