College Major Advice
Hi, I am a long time lurker here, and have learned so much from the members here, and I have a bit of a “crisis” which perhaps some of you could guide me through.
A bit about me: I am 16 years old, just finishing up my junior year of high school. While I am defiantly not a prodigy, I have been told I am “advanced” I have been playing violin literally longer than I can remember. I started informally, as I come from a family of mariachi musicians and literally everyone sings, plays guitar and at least one other instrument. We emigrated to US from Mexico when I was 10 years old, and despite really not being able to afford it, my parents got me formal lessons with a good Suzuki teacher violin teacher and also a piano teacher. In 8th grade I won a full scholarship to study with a professional symphony player who graduated from a conservatory and has taught and at some well-known colleges. I’ve played in All State Orchestra, the local youth symphony, with my school orchestra and chamber groups. I also do mariachi with a pro group. I still study piano/music theory, sing and play guitar in pop/rock group. I’ve done concerto completions for the last three years and have never won, but got 2nd and 3rd places. I’ve done some summer music festivals every year of high school – this year it’s Interlochen and VIA Academy (both on-line this year)
I have been set and training to be a violin performance major for the last few years now, and last fall had trial lesson at colleges throughout my home state of Texas, and also did some trial lesson in NYC at some well-known conservatories. All the violin teachers were actually very encouraging, and indicated that I had what takes to be a violin performance major. They said my technique is on track, I’m getting good instruction, and my repertoire is at the appropriate level. Even some of the smaller state colleges said I could probably get a scholarship and have leadership roles.
So, everything sounds pretty good right? But ever since I’ve been stuck at home due the Covid 19 shut down, I have slowly stated questioning if violin performance is right for me. Up until I was about 13 I never got nervous at all performing. But now I suffer from performance anxiety and I really hate this feeling! I thought about changing my major but I have no other talents outside of music.
I’ve talked to my school counselor and he told me I should consider music education, but I can’t picture working a big group of kids. He then recommend a BA in Music, which he explained was more general, more academic classes (which I don’t mind) . He said with my knowledge of music I could possibly test out of the first year of music theory and piano. He said I could still do violin lessons and play in ensembles (which I like) but not have to do major solo recitals (which I don’t like) He said I could minor or do a double major in a subject from the liberal arts, which would help in many different careers. He said if I decided to study something outside of music altogether, I would have less scholarship opportunities.
So here I am, about to be a senior in high school, with just about 5 weeks until I start applying to colleges and I am not sure what to do with my life. I guess I could see myself teaching violin privately, gigging and holding some sort of office or retail job. I am bilingual and have been told that’s a plus. Do you think a BA in Music makes sense for someone like me?
J Ray really was able to burrow to the heart of the matter - You literally may or may not have used "literally" to J Ray's liking.
Thank you Mr. Ray for the English lesson. I get that a lot since English is not first language. I meant to say"everybody" or everyone in the family from my grandparents to the grand- kids, including the generations before me. Both your points are well taken. Thank you.
You need to ask yourself: "can I see myself doing anything else besides going to music school?" If you have any doubts there, the reality is that you can still pursue a lifetime of music-making without having to make it your college major and only vocation.
Hello Mr. Lesniak,
Thank you Micheal Kennedy for your thoughtful reply, which made me feel better :)
While things may have changed over the years, my understanding was that two types of people did a BA: those who were not quite advanced enough to qualify for a performance degree, and those who had academic music aspirations and were planning on going on for graduate work (ie musicology, theory).
I don't think it's as simple as Michael Kennedy makes it out to be. Before you pick your schools, you do want to have some idea what you want your life to look like; if you are undecided, you will want to choose schools that leave you significant flexibility to choose during your undergrad years.
J Ray is being a jerk. Not sure why he feels that's necessary.
I agree with Susan. I actually think that the BA in Music is a terrible idea, as it both essentially ensures that you will be unprepared for a performance career, and that you won't really have great employment prospects in general. If you can't make up your mind, do the BM, but combine the performance degree with coursework in other things that are useful -- marketing, communications, etc. (An increasing number of programs offer business-oriented coursework to BM candidates.)
Lydia I think the idea to combine music with something complementary is good way to deal with how difficult it will be to get a job performing. As an example, a kid my daughter knows just started dual degrees in performance and music production at Thornton; one of the symphony cellists we know fairly well probably spends at least as much time working in production as he does playing. I am encouraging both of my high school age kids to develop specialized expertise in multiple, complementary fields like this.
Hello Ms. Leong,
From the perspective of a non-music job, you are no better off with a BA Music than you are with a BM. You are pretty much, with either, equally qualified to work a job at Starbucks or a low-level admin (clerical) job. And with the BA Music you are much less qualified to work in the music field than someone who has a BM.
So far it seems like only Irene Chen thinks a BA in Music is a good idea.
Lydia, it is incredibly difficult to do a BM at a school/level that will prepare you to be competitive and take any substantial number of classes in any other field. While it sounds like Marie's APs might get her out of gen eds, freeing up some credits, you're still looking at a limit of probably one academic class a semester, and scheduling for orchestra / chamber music / studio class is going to majorly limit what's possible. It really isn't as easy as "take coursework in other things." Doing a performance degree AND another concentration for most people is a great way to not get much out of either.
Irene, I was thinking of programs that are designed to allow a BM Performance student to pick up some reasonable career basics. As far as I know, more BM programs are recognizing the need for students to have the skills they need to deal with the fact they are a small business of one person.
How advanced are you? Just curious.
I usually find, in online forums, that grammar correction is unnecessary, unhelpful, and off-topic. Spelling, ditto. If the statement is not comprehensible, a paraphrase without condescension is adequate. Not everyone is a native English speaker or has autocorrect on their phone. Sure, lots of people use an unnecessary "literally". It's a quirk of American speech.
Are you intending to go to college for the educational advancement or for vocational advancement?
Marie Diaz! What an amazingly bright, cheerful, forthright, intelligent, hard-working, warm, articulate, and talented young person you are!
For you it might be beneficial to attend a large state university that has a breadth of programs. You never know what you might be interested in until you get some exposure to the subject matter itself. You could end up studying Food Science or Psychology, You never know.
Hi Marie, If you are thinking about having a day job, why not get training that would make a day job more rewarding? For example, you don't need to be a chartered accountant to find accounting work - basically every business needs someone with accounting skills, so it is always possible to find work. Also, accounting is something that usually doesn't require shift work, so it could combine well with being a professional musician. Would it be possible to find a university program where you could study violin or music with a scholarship, while also taking business and accounting courses?
I am guessing that you may have been involved with the young strings program in Dallas.
I'm not knowledgeable enough to advice you on the differences between a BA or BM, but I think it would be a shame if you dropped your mariachi gigging, since you like doing it and have the connections to build on.
Hi, Marie, I'm also in Texas (San Antonio) and want to congratulate you on your All-State placement. That's a real accomplishment in Texas, far more so than in many other states. I'm wondering if you're at HSPVA since you describe your high school as having a conservatory--you don't need to answer that though!
Prof. Berg has given you a great gift here. It's called an "ice-breaker."
Bruce and Mary's suggestion of Baylor's program with a performance minor is a great one. As far as I know, the Baylor program is fairly unique, as most music minors are normally designed for music as a liberal art, and may have a minimal or zero performance component.
Good morning everyone, I very much appreciate everyone's advice and I am reading each post over and over again taking notes. I hope to answer each post personally but I'm pretty busy with helping my uncle with his landscaping business and have some gigs this weekend. Next week I'll be doing a course through the New World Symphony and after that I'll doing the Interlochen on-line course. Both programs offer private lessons so I'll try to speak to the teachers about post high school options as well. Thank you again for your advice, you all have given me so much to think about.
Hello Xuanyuan Liu,
Thanks for your reply Marie, I am a sophomore in high school and am curious about what other people around the same age are playing.
"Majored in chemistry!" Music to my ears. :) But, it's not for everyone. Had I majored in violin performance, however, I'd probably be in prison by now, for crimes against art.
Marie -- don't sell yourself short. You are through all the standard rep pieces now and ready for some of the bigger pieces. Yes, there are kids who are further along, but not by that much for the most part -- just a couple of years or so. And the prodigies don't always continue to do well. Many run in to roadblocks when they get to college. They burn out; they hit musical walls. If you play the pieces you listed well, you are well on the way to where you need to be.
Hello Marry Graham,
Rice is very, very, very hard to get into as an undergraduate performance major. Like, Juilliard hard. I know someone who got into the top studio on her instrument at Jacobs whose prescreen did not even pass at Rice. There’s nothing wrong with applying to it as your reach school but you should definitely have backup plans in that case.
I'm curious if you find your current performing-arts high school environment to be unpleasantly stressful, or if you're feeling like you're handling it just fine. There's a good chance you're overestimating how much more stressful the conservatory environment would be. I'd guess that in some ways that a good conservatory environment would be more collegial and supportive. Violinist at the high school level, especially, can be pretty nasty to one another, but that fades off as people mature.
I think in general there are better options than a BA in music. If what you envision is some sort of day career that allows you time and space in the evenings and on weekends to continue playing mariachi and maybe doing some teaching, then a major that could lead to such a career is a better choice, with as many performance-oriented electives as you can fit in. This is what brought Baylor to mind. I have a former student who is finishing an engineering degree at Baylor with a music performance minor, and he is doing very well.
Good question Lydia Leong,
Marie, you seem to have a great work ethic and a realistic sense of who you are, and those are two significant advantages over many of the students who may seem to you to be more privileged.
I would add that I would certainly take into account the demographic make-up of whatever school you are considering. You may feel more comfortable at a school that has a greater amount of diversity, especially if there are numerous international students for whom English is also a second language.
You've had a lot of good advice so far, without anything jumping out as the perfect solution. It seems that the major theme in the discussion is that you will probably be finding ways to combine music and non-music disciplines first in your academic life, and then when you hit the bricks afterwards.
Baylor, Rice, and the University of Southern California are about 15% Hispanic/Latino enrollment. University of Texas is about 23%. At Virginia Tech, where I teach, and at University of Michigan, it's about 5-6%. (data is from www.collegefactual.com -- hopefully that is a reputable site). The diversity of your peers in college also depends on your major.
Marie, et al, -
Doubt, and performance anxiety, as you expressed in your first post, are very common. Feeling like you do not belong is also very common. It is all part of being human, but it does not make it any easier. Know that you are not alone in how you feel.
I "slept" on this and finally what Lydia Loeng and Mary Ellene Goree are saying about the BA in Music is making sense. I'm still not sure which way to go, and my mom and dad told I'm stressing out way too much, and which ever direction I go, I could always change or find a way to make which ever direction I work for me.
16 is pretty much the definition of the "age of uncertainty." Yes the decisions before you will be hard. Agonizing. But you have what it takes. You're going to do well. So if you get a couple of years in and you find you want to be on a different path, that's going to be possible -- for you -- because you have a strong personal foundation. Sounds to me like your family did very well bringing you up. I know you are grateful to them, looking backward. But you also shouldn't underestimate the value of that upbringing going forward either. All the things you have been doing -- including landscaping, by the way -- will be wellsprings of strength and versatility.
I think the advice Paul Deck gives in the previous post is the clearest and the best of anything I've seen in this thread. He cuts through a lot of confusing details and lays it out clearly with one sentence, "You're going to do well." That's it in a nutshell. Take a deep breath, do the best you can, have a sense of humor about all of this, and enjoy the ride.
I agree with Mary Ellen and Lydia. The BA will not be a good choice for you since you wish to up your performance skills. Every BA string player I heard at Baylor suffered from a lack of practice time. You will have the same problem, if not worse if you double major, unless you are academically super superior.
I am not a violinist, but chose a life as self employed visual artist.
>He said if I decided to study something outside of music altogether, I would have less scholarship opportunities.
Depending on the school, you might be eligible for a music scholarship even without being a music major. A former student of mine--a solid player but not at the Texas All-State level--got a music scholarship from the University of Alabama, and in return for that he was obligated to play in their orchestra and (I think) take private lessons. This is only likely to be an option at schools with an overall weak music program.
This is such a beautiful threat. It has been forming the beginning of a "bio-movie" in my mind, but one that will not be ready to write for years to come. It demonstrates participation of our "regulars) at its very highest standard. I hope that Marie continues to visit here from time to time so we can follow her progress.
Mary Ellen's comment about the typical (almost universal?) and impending pre-screening audition deadlines -- yes, that's really what motivated me to suggest a gap year. And if Marie is not already preparing these audition materials, that causes me to ask whether her current teacher is the right person to help her through this.
I wish I had time to comment to everyone that has responded today, but yes I am working on audition material now as we speak : )
*phew* that's a relief. And you don't need to feel compelled to respond to everyone individually. Sometimes a general response to the broader themes of the discussion is useful to know that the individual who made the original post has not entirely disappeared, but you've already gone way beyond that.
Thanks again everyone for the very thoughtful advice. I still don't really know which direction to go (BA/BM performance or another major/minor) I got a little time to think about, but meanwhile I'll be working on preparing the best audition I can, bring up SAT scores, applying to colleges and doing the best in my academic when school starts. I will be doing some violin camps (virtually) next week through August, so I maybe a bit busy to come back and reply for quite awhile. I just wanted everyone here to know that this is a fantastic community and thank you for welcoming me.