Just like the advantages and drawbacks I discovered about taking a Music degree, there are several other important things to note about taking one. Music is like any degree; there are a wealth of opportunities available to you but you only have a limited amount of time to take advantage of them. I hope these five things I have learnt since will help out anyone wishing to take a Music degree, and make your time at university more worthwhile.
You create your own opportunities
In a successful music department there will always be extra concerts, projects, workshops happening. There were many times when I looked back wishing I had got involved in a project instead of being lazy or apathetic. I used to weigh up the pro’s and cons of a project instead of taking the plunge. Be brave and get involved.
Doing your own work outside of submissions is vital
There will always be something you are interested in in the world of music that does not have its own scene at your university. For me this was heavy metal. Start your own society or make your own project. You will find people who are interested, and this will make your experience at university much more rounded. It is also extremely important to do your own work. Produce an album, write a symphony or explore a musical theory in a thesis. Most people taking a music degree want to take this further when looking for a job, so make sure you have several pieces of work you can showcase to employers.
You are not taught about the music industry, or how to market yourself
From what I have heard, there are several courses that do offer ways of teaching this vital part of music. However, learning about the music industry and how to promote and market yourself is still extremely rare on a Music course, even in 2015! You might be the best performer, composer or sound engineer in your region, but you will get nowhere if you cannot get yourself the right contacts and connections. Get to know the local scene and keep in touch with local promoters and record labels.
Music departments will always have their cliques
The jazz band, the sound engineers, the opera singers and the Early Music crowd – these are all examples of cliques I encountered at university. It is important to note that there is also competition within every music department, some more than others. My university was not that competitive, however musicians will often stick with like-minded individuals. Don’t let this intimidate you. Do what you want to do and learn what you want to learn. This may go against the crowd but in the end this is your degree.
The skills you learn as a musician are extremely versatile
This may be the most important thing you will ever learn at university, and is the key to getting a great job. All the skills we possess are only ever applied in musical situations, but in fact they can be applied in completely different areas of work. People who sing in a choir or play in an orchestra have exceptional team-working skills. Performers have to be comfortable in front of large numbers of people and when things go wrong, they have to make decisions in a matter of seconds. Reading music requires exceptional attention to detail and the ability to process information very quickly. Those involved in sound engineering get to grips with many different types of computer software that can be applied elsewhere. Musicians are also extremely creative and are often lateral thinkers. Music is a chaotic subject, and working under pressure is second nature to us. These skills can be applied to practically any job, so if you think you are lost and will never get anywhere in the world of work, take a step back and think more broadly about what you can do and what you have achieved.
There is a lot more to a Music degree than people realise. I hope that these five “lessons” will give those wishing to be a Music major a wider view on how to take advantage of the opportunities available during your time at university and on what is possible once you have graduated. Do not be intimidated or restricted by what you think you can do – many musicians take their abilities for granted. Use all the opportunities while you are at university, and then apply what you have done to the outside world. This is an extremely important part of the transition from university to the world of work.
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