Is Music for ME? - True Events from a former Struggling Musician
OCTOBER, a month some people love because it’s finally sweater weather, they adore the warm colors of the leaves, pumpkin spice is everything, and a “little” holiday called Halloween appears, where you can dress up as a pineapple with absolutely no judgement. For these folks, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but then for others this might be the most horrific month to encounter (I’m talking to all of you struggling students out there!)
LET ME GUESS, you’re trying to get by all those nasty midterms, pulling all-nighters to finish any assignment given to you when you’re not being a social butterfly or sacrificing time at your part time job, and BONUS if you’re a music major and spending any of your free time in the practice room so your next lesson, performance class, or rehearsal doesn’t completely crash & burn on your end!
That was a lot, right? I can relate to the second scenario in MANY ways, as I felt all the feelings throughout the 7 years of school that I had sacrificed my heart & soul to.
LET’S FACE IT, being a musician is tough, and the first year in school is always going to be the toughest. I had felt constant, negative emotions of doubt about musical capabilities, loneliness from the soul-crushing, judgement I received from colleagues in rehearsals & classes, and anger from thinking about why I was going through this sh*t experience in my first year of college when I was watching all my former high school peers having the time of their lives at football games, parties, and all the smiling, sorority poses that said, “My life is soooo amazing right now!”
As that first semester went through its tough moments and finally ended in relief, I remember returning back to that second semester noticing some missing faces in my classes, and as the next year appeared, I realized even more of my colleagues had left the music major scene. When I saw the numbers dwindle from my first to last year in music school, I knew this career field was no joke. For some people, I knew that as they continued to play their instrument daily, their passion had faded away, some thought the classes were too much to handle (I mean if you had Aural Skills I at the bright & lovely time of 7:30am every Tues/Thurs & classes going all the way to 8pm, your mental state would go insane as well.), and others told me they simply wanted to make money and music wasn’t a lucrative career.
I myself went down a rabbit hole & pondered if this field was really for ME.
I wasn’t one of the confident souls on my first day of school saying, “MUSIC IS MY CALLING”, but I gradually grew overtime to love music more in my lessons, rehearsals, performances & listening to various classical works in my daily pizza deliveries. I went through many failures, learned a lot of lessons and continued to improve in the best way I could, so I could live the life as a musician once I finished school, no matter the multiple doubts and critical judgement I received from others. In simpler words, I worked my ass off.
WHY AM I TYPING THIS SOB STORY OUT? I know that there is someone out there reading this, who is probably on the verge of quitting, probably wondering what the heck they got themselves into, and if they made the right decision for themselves. Maybe you’re a prospective college student looking into trying out music but not sure WHAT to do (hey guess what, that was me too!)
If you are relating to these scenarios in any way, here is my advice to hopefully ease your struggling brain:
1. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE DEGREE OR THE OTHER.
When I first applied as a music major, even though I had the option to choose education or performance, 17-year-old me knew that I wasn’t passionate enough to teach a whole classroom of obnoxious teenagers, and I wasn’t quite up to date on the skills & confidence to pursue performance. Instead, choosing a Bachelor of Arts degree felt like the perfect starting option for me to figure out myself. I had the freedom to take other classes outside of music while deciding if music was for me, and if so, what would I concentrate my focus on?
If you’re school provides this option (even a minor degree), then try it out if it speaks to you!
2. TRY OUT AN OUTSIDE CLASS THAT INTEREST YOU!
When 18-year-old me was in limbo about music, I took a dive outside of my musical comfort zone by taking a theater appreciation class. As much as I had admired people on the stage and wished to have been as confident & talented up there, I found out that I really wasn’t. Yes, I gained better knowledge about plays, musicals, writers and the different practices behind it all, but I realized that the real passion I had on stage was with my flute. Honestly, taking a course outside of my musical bubble gave me more of an idea & focus of what I wanted to pursue, and I have no regrets from that experience!
3. IT’S OKAY TO PURSUE ANOTHER PASSION THAT ISN’T MUSIC!
You do not have to feel pressured in continuing a field that you are honestly not sure about. Nowadays, I see a lot incoming freshman doing double majors in what they’re interested in (more power to ya’ll), people completely changing majors in the middle of their education, & former music graduates digging into other interests that eventually become their careers. If this is speaking to you, here are 3 words: GO FOR IT. I have many friends venturing into the world of analytics, coding, & medicine post music school, yet they still value their music experience. If this is you towards the beginning, middle or end of your education, STILL GO FOR YOUR PASSION because there is no such thing as being “too late” doing what you love!
4. TALK TO SOMEONE YOU TRUST.
If you can’t figure it out by yourself just yet, go to someone who can guide you to some options and will help you figure it out! Talk to your teacher, an advisor, a good friend, your mom (you know she worries about you!) or someone in your support team that wants you to succeed. (If it weren’t for my support team at the time, I probably wouldn’t be writing this out!)
No matter what path you take or decide, remember that this is YOUR journey.
Find the passion that speaks to you the most, even if it’s a constant struggle bus of confusion.
Just remember that you are strong, fearless & will kick ass in whatever life brings you!