Want to Major in Music but off to a Late Start?

It’s possible to major in music even if you’ve gotten a late start and don’t have years of training and performances under your belt. While most serious musicians start fairly young, there are many instances where students start taking music lessons late in high school, major in music, and even go on to professional careers in music.

 by Tom Hynes

These generally involve students who:

  • Close the ‘ability gap’ in various ways
  • Take longer to finish their degree
  • Select a musical career that is appropriate to their abilities and interests, as well as professional realities

Close the Ability Gap

Closing the gap refers to intense, focused instruction. Study with an outstanding teacher who knows how to prepare college-bound musicians. Participate in ensembles, master classes, and workshops to develop your skills. (See Preparing to be a College Music Major for additional suggestions.)

Getting Your Degree

I prefer to see some music majors delay the start of their program at a four-year music school if their skills are deficient, or if they have only recently become serious about music.

Consider taking a year or two off to study and practice before beginning the major. Those who do this are typically much stronger students when they arrive, and are more likely to get the most out of the degree experience. It does delay the completion of a degree — but not all music majors finish a degree in only four years, anyway.

A number of general education classes can be taken at a community college, reducing both the total cost of the degree and the amount of time spent in coursework outside the major once the university program is started. Music classes can be part of that mix. While some students take community college classes with the intention of having those credits transfer to a four-year school, others use the experience to get accepted to a competitive music program as a well-trained freshman. In my experience, slightly older freshmen are often more focused and mature, and better able to take advantage of the degree program in the fullest sense — all the more important when one considers the cost.

The Professional Realities

Consider professional opportunities and realities carefully. Your chances of becoming a full-time professional string player are fairly small when you start late. But there are many professional opportunities in music beside performance. Explore other areas such as education, publishing, music business and promotion, composition and production. (See What Can You Do with a Music Degree for additional ideas.) In some cases, your story and experience may be an asset.


Tom Hynes is a professional guitarist, assistant professor of music at Azusa Pacific University and instructor at Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Comments

  1. Gabriel

    I’m 31 years old, have a masters in business, but music has always been my passion, I’ve performed with bands and played in bars or coffee shops many times, nothing major. But I have good experience playing, but I lack the reading aspect. I’ve played with people that have their masters and phds in music, obviously not at their level, but good enough to sit and play with them. I always wanted to pursue a career in music, mostly teaching and performing on the side. What would you recommend. The fact is I’m afraid of he financial aspect, investing money on a career that is very competitive and does not pay well…

    • Finding work in music requires a combination of at least these: skill, knowledge, musicianship, passion, perseverance, and networking. Perhaps passion needs to be first on the list, because without it, it’s difficult to move forward to attain the rest of what’s needed. And still there are no guarantees. Many musicians find they need to be competent in several areas of music and on several instruments in order to work in music. Not sure if you’re referring to sight reading as a problem – if so, this article about sight-reading may be useful even though you are older than the audience the writer was addressing.

  2. Dominc

    I am currently 17 and looking at colleges I would like to attend. I have been playing guitar off and on for the last couple of years and started taking it seriously a couple months ago. Due to the lack of time between school and sports, and my recent learning, I am not at a level where I would pass an audition. I am planning on majoring in Journalism and would love to minor in some sort of music study to learn theory, composition, and ideally, take lessons. Here’s my question: Is there a possibility I can minor in music without having to take an audition? What would you recommend I do?

  3. Jared

    I have an Associates Degree in Communication, but studying music has been my life’s passion. I play contemporary and folk guitar, but not classical guitar. I want to learn everything I can and be aroung serious musicians and earn a degree in Theory. I’m pushing forty. Do all degrees in music require an audition to get in? I don’t play any classical instruments, but I am fairly versed in Music Theory and took it in high school. I’m not as worried about getting a job. I just want to learn theory, music history, composition, language and voice in a classroom setting.

    • Since a job in music isn’t your immediate focus, you may find your needs can be met at a community college with a good music program, where you can take classes you’re interested in without auditioning. You’re likely to find highly-skilled professional musicians teaching classes at the CCs.

      There are some programs especially at liberal arts colleges and certain universities where you would not audition until you were there, but you’d need to check the application/audition specifics at schools you’re interested in to find out what their policies are.

  4. Diego

    I’m currently a freshman attending my local community college. I transferred here because I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do as a career (I’m a former computer science major). I’m currently enrolled in a basic musicianship class, which I find enjoyable. Lately I’ve been considering music as a potential option, more specifically music production (I’m a big fan of electronic music and would like to learn and study how it’s all created). Problem is I barely have any music experience (aside from choir, which I love and have been doing since elementary school). My school doesn’t offer a music degree, but does offer dozens of music courses. I planned on taking my general education courses for the next to years, then transfer somewhere else. Should I start taking music classes here first? What steps should I take if I want to take this potential career in music production more seriously? Where do I start?

  5. Dante

    Well this might be a long shot but I want to start to study piano and I’m 22. Could I ever be able to achieve a professional level?

    • There’s no way to know how far you can go with any instrument until you start taking lessons, practicing daily, and delving into the other aspects of music such as aural skills, music theory, and sight reading. But if you’re drawn to the piano, why not start? Even if this doesn’t lead to professional work, you may find your life vastly enriched as well as discover new skills to share and collaborate on with others. Community music schools, and even upper level students and graduate students (and possibly college faculty) at colleges/universities are great places to look for lessons. Be sure to get with a teacher who can teach proper technique so that you can avoid repetitive motion injury and other problems that pianists can incur.

  6. Jovi

    I graduated with a BA in Music in 2003 with a concentration on violin. But I have since then went into healthcare and have worked in the healthcare field for about 13 years. I am now interested into changing back to music to teach. I am afraid that I may not remember some of what I was taught while I was pursuing my music degree. I’ve talked with my music adviser last summer and she said there are no worries. She said I can go for the MAT in Music Education which is great and I would have to take a few courses to satisfy the requirements. My concerns are will I be well prepared to teach? I’m sure the program at my former college is good I am just concerned about performing. I haven’t touched the violin in years but I do sing. I’m not sure what route to take at this point unless I could teach chorus or do something else.

    • We suggest you start by looking at the application requirements for any program you are interested in attending to get your teaching credentials. Check for prerequisites and corequisites. Also review the curriculum for M.A.T. at various schools.

  7. Michelle

    I am a senior in high school and I want to major in Music Theory and composition. I took a normal music theory course in my 10th grade of high school and I also took a AP music theory course in my junior year. I have been playing guitar since 7th grade but I don’t believe I am good enough if they require an audition. I also play a little piano which I have been teaching myself starting last year as the piano is essential in music theory courses. Do you think I would be able to make it as a Music Theory major?

    • Look at websites of schools you may be interested in attending – and at the schools on MajoringInMusic.com. Which ones offer Music Theory as an undergraduate major? (Many schools offer it on the graduate level only.) Then, look at the audition requirements for undergraduate music theory applicants. More competitive music schools are likely to require an audition on your primary instrument plus an essay and/or interview. Your audition may be to show the level of proficiency needed to be part of an ensemble. You may also be asked to demonstrate keyboard skills.

  8. Courtney

    I have recently considered doing a double major to earn an arts degree in music. I have always had the desire, as music is a huge part of my life, but never thought it possible. I am a singer, who has years of competition experience, plays guitar, and practices my vocals super often. Once I heard about the option of just taking a Bachelor of Arts in music rather than a Bachelor of Music, I was thrilled! I love everything to do with music, and hope to learn it, the history, critical analysis, etc. without just the performance aspect. Bachelor of Arts in Music programs generally do not require an audition or proof of theory knowledge (even though I do know the basics), however I’m in grade 12, and am going into applying for programs only having grade 10 music and grade 10 guitar course prerequisites.I had to fill my timetable with academic courses. My question and worry is, can I even get in without grade 11 or grade 12 music? People say it is easy to switch degrees once you are in second year, as long as you take the right courses. However, I would really like to apply direct from high school. Will they even consider me without grade 11 or grade 12 music courses on my transcript? Thanks for any help!

    • Most BA programs are likely to require an audition, although you may find some liberal arts schools that will ask you to audition once you’re accepted to the overall school. At most schools, an offer of admission is based on how well your audition goes rather than the years and courses studied. We suggest you look carefully at the application and audition information on websites of schools you’re interested in. If any of those schools participate on MajoringInMusic.com, use the forms on their participating school pages to ask your questions. We’ll make sure they get right to the people in charge. If your questions are STILL not answered, contact the admission directors. If possible, take a lesson at some of these schools. Ask for feedback on your performance so you have a better sense of whether you need to do anything else in order to prepare for your audition. Switching degrees may be possible at some schools but not at others, depending on how competitive the school and program are. If you want to double major and not be required to be a proficient performer, also check out music minors.

  9. Katie

    Hi, Im 16, and I have been playing bass guitar and piano since I was 14. Music surrounds my life. I spend hours and hours, day after day trying to be the best musician I can be. You’ll find me either sitting down with my bass or with my headphones in keeping the rhythm going. Any spare moment is musical. This year I’ve really started making music theory an essential part of my training. I’m fascinated more and more each time I get deeper into it. I’m no expert, but I’m always working at becoming better than I was the day before. I’m aware how mastering an instrument takes years, even lifetimes, and I’m completely ready for the journey. I don’t practice because of some idea, I practice because I love the way it makes me feel. Being a junior now, my parents have really started asking me about college. I found myself in music. It changed my life and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with it other than music. I’ve really considered going into music production and/or bass. I know wanting to go into music professionally is a tall order since I had such a late start but it almost feels like it would be wrong to choose any other major. My parents aren’t fully on board either. They love me playing music and have always supported it 110%, but having two very successful parents, they’re not fully on board with the idea of me taking it on as a career path. My overall question would be, am I really too late to take this passion on professionally? I’m completely open to suggestions, but I know what I strive for and what would make me happy but I have this dark thought in back of my head all the time that says maybe they’re right? I know where my heart stands and I think I could get there. Am I being to unrealistic? What would you suggest? Thanks for your time.

    • You sound like you have the passion needed to survive the ups and downs of music. And it sounds like doing anything else would be unimaginable to you at this time. The good news is that majoring in music provides many transferable skills that are useful in most careers even outside of music. Share some articles on MajoringInMusic.com with your parents – especially the one on Transferable Skills plus the entire section for Parents (see the last big green button on the homepage). Another option is to Double Major, if that’s something that you’re interested in. We’ve got a great article on that as well.

  10. Charlie

    I am 35 years old and have been playing clarinet for 23years. I was in the Navy band, have played in many community bands and orchestras. I currently play in a community orchestra as well. Is it too late for me to go back to school to get my performance degree? I only have 1 year of college under me after I graduated from high school.

    • Have you considered taking a year or even two at a community college that ideally interfaces with a 4-year school? Taking some music theory, applied lessons, and musicianship classes could help you figure out if you’re ready to take the plunge and also get you back into the academic swing of things.

  11. Megan

    Hi, I am going to be a freshman in college this fall and my heart is telling me to go for music, but my mom disapproves of it. I’ve been playing the violin for 8 years and I haven’t been able to afford lessons (except for about half a year). I’ve participated in my local youth symphony and was 5th chair in the 1st violin section (out of 12). I’ve gone to ISSMA State for the past three years and won gold for my solo and a few ensembles each year. I’ve been the concertmaster of a fine arts school for the past three years, even though I haven’t had a private lesson teacher. Recently, I’ve had a few free lessons from a violin professor (out of the kindness of his heart) and he says that he believes I could be successful, even though I am a little behind on technique. I work hard (I was the valedictorian of my high school), and I love music (even though I’m not a prodigy). I have a lot of decisions to make, and I’m confused on if I should remain undecided or if I should try to become a music major now. I’m worried because I missed the audition deadline to become a music major and I’m conflicted because my mom does not want me to pursue music but I feel like I should see what it’s like as soon as possible (especially because I don’t want to be behind). Should I try to change my schedule to be a music major? Or should I keep my schedule and feel out what college is like (for my mom)? I hope to become a violin professor someday as well, what type of degree would be best to pursue?

    • It sounds like you are talented and passionate. It also sounds like you haven’t auditioned to become a music major, so unless you’re going to a liberal arts school that doesn’t require declaring a major right away, you’ll need to wait until your school’s next audition season if you really want to become a music major. To become a violin professor, you will likely need a DMA in music, and to get there, you will need undergraduate and master’s level degrees in music. You may want to ask your mother to read the Answers for Parents section of MajoringInMusic.com – there are some helpful articles there.

  12. Diego

    I guess this is far beyond, after reading the previous posts. However I´d like to expose my case and see if there is any treble, sorry, trouble with my expectations. I am 32 years old, been playing the bass guitar since the age of 14 but never thought of studying music until now when my musical taste has grown a little mature. I have taught myself and I am able to play in a band but I want to take it to the next step. I want to be able to read and play music scores fluently and be able to play professionally. I would consider it my passion becoming my second income.

    • A way to start would be to check with community colleges in your area to see which one/s offer music theory classes as well as lessons. If you were to apply to and be accepted at a 4-year school later on, several levels of music theory would be required so it’s a good idea to get started as soon as possible. And music theory has a lot to do with understanding music and being able to compose music.

  13. Camille

    Hey I have been teaching myself to play guitar since 17 and now I’m 20 and thinking about studying music. I’m a fairly good good rythymn guitarist and can play some solos. I’m now in the church band but would like to take my music dreams further. Is this possible?

    • Music is an incredibly competitive career field. So much of where you can go with it depends on your goals, how proficient you can become, and how well you learn to market yourself as a business. Read our articles on entrepreneurship as a good starting place. And remember that you can keep music in your life as you’re already doing while improving your playing through lessons, practice, jamming, performing – without depending on it as your main source of income.

  14. kasady

    I just graduated high school and I’ve played in flute for 8 years, tenor saxophone for 4 years. The college I’m going to has music as a major but doesn’t have a concert or marching band because of their size. If I take a year off and transfer my sophomore year to a college that has a band will I still be able to play or will they not let me join?

    • Schools are always looking for strong players who can make a commitment to the band or ensemble. Keep up with practice, continue to take some lessons, and get opportunities to jam and perform with others so you can be a competitive candidate at your next school. This will also serve you when you audition for that school. Read this article on transferring schools.

  15. Jessica

    I am a Freshman in college and I am currently attending a community college where I am taking my core classes along with some music classes (Music Theory, Class Piano, Aural Skills, Music Appreciation, Choir, Private Voice Lessons). I plan on majoring in Music Education and Psychology once I transfer to a four-year school. I started singing in a choir when I was 10 and continued to sing in different ensembles all the way to my senior year. I never made it to the All- State choir or even past region auditions and I never took professional voice or piano lessons. I know how to sing and I really enjoy music, but I feel that my experience is not going to get me into a music program.

    • Talk with the music faculty at your community college – see if they can give you feedback about your chances of successfully auditioning. Does your community college have a relationship with a 4-year school you’d want to attend? If so, talk with music education faculty at that school. Consider taking private voice lessons with a faculty member, graduate student, or upper level undergraduate to strengthen your proficiency and improve your chances of getting into the Music Education program.

  16. Tegan

    I started playing cello mostly self-taught when I was almost twelve in my middle school orchestra, and I started taking some lessons with a rather easygoing teacher after about two years of learning by myself. I just recently got an actual cello teacher who has helped me a great deal. I also play in a youth symphony in Sacramento, but I feel my playing is not nearly as polished as some of my peers in the symphony. I also sometimes play in small ensembles during the holidays mostly, but not too often. There are eight-year-olds that are on the same level or higher as myself. I would love to pursue music as a career and to play many different styles, but I feel discouraged at times because my peers seem so far ahead of me. And I’m also a really nervous auditioner so I worry about that when applying to music school. Is it possible that I may still be able to make it into something like a conservatory or be able to find jobs playing various styles? I’m willing to do almost anything (within reason) as long as I know it is still a possibility and I won’t be homeless or in debt forever. Thank you if you reply to this.

    • You sound passionate about music and about performing, which are key ingredients for moving forward. It’s great to hear that you are in a youth symphony – that should provide lots of practice and performance opportunities as well as good mentoring. Are you signed up for a summer music program? There are so many ways in which these programs are helpful, and they almost always help students reach a new, higher level of proficiency. They also typically provide music theory training, which is very important for anyone planning to major in music. There are still programs on our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page that have openings – we encourage you to move quickly on this.

      We also suggest that you ask for a lesson with a faculty member of a school you’re interested in applying to, to get candid feedback about your proficiency level. If you can get in to a summer music program, wait until it’s over to do this. You may even want to consider a gap year in a program that provides focused training in anticipation of applying to music school – see our Gap Year article for more information. Also find ways to work on your self-confidence – check out our articles about music performance anxiety and audition anxiety.

  17. Bob

    Hey,
    I am in 10th grade, and I love singing. I have been learning violin for the past 4 years, but never really enjoyed it. This year, I tried out for the highest level of choir at my school, and I got in. I really enjoy singing and I am thinking about majoring in music. I have no previous piano experience, or music theory. Is it possible to still have a shot in majoring in music?

    • Since you still have time in high school before needing to make college decisions, we suggest you take summer music programs where you can get some music theory background, piano experience, and more in depth training, practice, and performance experience on the instrument you would want to focus on in college (voice? violin? other?). You’ll also get a much better sense of whether music is really the right path to pursue in college.

      Look at the 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page here on MajoringInMusic.com. Many of these programs still have room in them, but we’d advise you to jump on this ASAP if you want to get going with something for this summer. Read our articles about music theory, including our AP Music Theory article. These may be helpful. And know that even as a non-piano major, you will need basic keyboard background for whatever field of music you focus on. And remember: whether or not you end up becoming a music major, you can always keep music in your life.

  18. Ally

    I am currently a junior in high school, I have been playing the clarinet for about 7 years now, since I was in 4th grade. Music has always been such an important part of my life, I wouldn’t be able to survive without it. Though just recently (as college is becoming a more relevant thing to consider) I have decided to major in music. It’s a little bit of a late decision, as I haven’t done much outside of school (such as all county and all state) to really show that I’m passionate about it. Would colleges even consider me? I’m often first chair in my school’s symphonic band, the more advanced band, and plan on completing 4 years of marching band, I was chosen to play in a local honor band, and I have taken a music theory course along with being in the jazz ensemble playing the alto sax. I stay after school to practice often, about 2 hours each day, I really try to work hard to be the best I can be! As far as playing abilities, I know I’m not a prodigy or crazy talented student, but my heart is telling me to go with music, and I just wanted to know if this is enough for colleges to consider me into their music program? It sounds silly, but I’m just worried since I can’t imagine music not being the main part of my life.

    • We encourage you to go for it! You seem to have passion and skills that could be strong enough for many college music programs. We also to encourage you to sign up for a summer music program where you can hone your performance skills in preparation for auditions in the fall. Consider a program at a music school where you may want to apply – they’ll get to know you and you them, a very good plan. See our Summer Music Camps & Programs page – there are still openings in several of these programs.

  19. Nicole

    I’m a senior about to graduate and I play French horn, sing, and piano– I’d say my ability is in that order. I started horn in seventh grade and honestly have had little success in it. I auditioned for all-state all four years of HS and never got in and never got in to the top band for all-district. However I am one of the better ones in my band and I have taught private lessons to three middle schoolers on horn. For voice I sing as an Alto II in my school a cappella group and I have sung (and directed) in church choirs. I’ve kind of always known that I would never be able to major in music because I’ve never been good enough and I don’t know if it’s a suitable major for me.

    My main question is how can I stay passionate and involved in music in college and the rest of my future without majoring in music? Because I LOVE music. I’m planning on auditioning for college band but the thing is I want to have time to practice piano and horn and I really want to be good at the instruments just for my own self. Will I still have time for much practice in college with a difficult major? I’ve considered also a minor in music but I’ve heard it’s extremely difficult to do with time. So ultimately, how, in college and the rest of my life, will I have time to become the best musician I can be? Because I don’t want to end up like one of those adults who has a dusty instrument they haven’t picked up or played in years.

    • The fact that you’re even asking these questions tells us you will be someone who actively keeps music in her life even without majoring in music. By all means, try out for the college band as well as other ensembles. Also consider choirs at your school – you are likely to also find an a cappella group there as well. Minoring in music is different at every school. Check out what’s required at yours and see whether you can handle the extra load. Consider music electives as well as private lessons as well. Note that there are also community music ensembles, choruses, etc. that welcome college students. You’ll also find many opportunities to attend student and faculty concerts, master classes, and concerts by musicians brought to campus. As long as music is a priority, rest assured you will find ways to incorporate it into your life always.

  20. Ashley

    Hi! I’m a senior in high school and I graduate in just a few months. I’ve just decided recently that I wanted to major in music. The thing is, I’ve missed most audition deadlines for the fall semester for the schools I was interested in. I don’t know if it would be better for me to wait for the spring semester or if I should go to a community college, take music electives and transfer within two years. I’ve been stressing about this a lot because graduation is approaching soon and I still haven’t decided on a college choice. I just regret not taking things more seriously in the beginning of the year because now I’m behind on so much and I don’t know what to do.

    • Have you already applied to colleges and gotten in to at least one? If so, check with schools you’re considering to see if you could even audition for spring – some schools allow this while others do not. Remember that you have until May 1st to accept one of the schools you’ve been accepted to.

      You don’t say anything about your background in music and music theory, or how strong of a musician you are. So based on what you’ve asked, we suggest you get feedback about your musical abilities from a teacher who has successfully worked with students who’ve gone on to music school or even a faculty member at a local college where you could see yourself attending. As for starting at a community college, that may be a good way to begin. But be sure to read this article: “Community College for Music Students: Guidelines for Making It Work”

  21. Aleisha

    Hello, I’m a senior in highschool and am currently attending ODU in the fall to be a music education major. They have accepted me in both departments. I’m scared that everyone will think I’m stupid for not knowing any piano, but throughout my life I’ve been to poor to own one or pay for lessons.

    • You will need to learn some basic piano/keyboard for any area of music – check the curriculum at your school to see how and when this is offered. Getting a few lessons over the summer would be helpful. You may find lessons to be more cost effective by checking with your local community college, a local university where upper level undergrads and grad students may be available, or a local community music school.

  22. Emily

    I’m 13 and I’ve been playing the violin for a year now, and I was wondering if majoring in music was a viable option even at my age. I have a recital coming up in a week and I’m playing with the kids that have been playing for several years (our hardest piece is the Minuet in G by Beethoven). Music has always been an integral part of my life. I have been really thinking and I REALLY want to be a violin major. But my only concern is that I haven’t been playing long enough. Since I’ve only been playing a year is it at all possible for me to be a violin major? Thanks.

    • As you continue with lessons, practice, and performance opportunities, you will learn more about whether majoring in music is the right path to take. You’ve got several years ahead to learn more about what else you are passionate about and how music fits in with this. We encourage you to take summer music programs where you can really focus in on the violin, learn some music theory, practice a lot, perform, and be with others who are also passionate about music. This will also help you figure out whether majoring in music is the right way to go.

  23. Tristan

    I’ve recently gotten really interested in music but the problem is I have no experience at all and I’m a senior in high school. I still want to like pursue music but I’ve already applied to a college and gotten everything set up, so it would be impossible to undo it all now. I started looking into singing teachers already to get experience but I have no idea what to do. I want to pursue but its hard to set it up right now. Any ideas/help?

    • Without a background in music – lessons, practice, performance – you would not be able to apply and audition to be able to major in music. You may or may not be able to minor in it, depending on the school you go to. But you can certainly start lessons at any time, take music classes as electives, possibly even sing with a chorus on campus or informally with a group of friends. If you enjoy music, we encourage you to incorporate it into your life in every way you can.

  24. Hannah

    Hi, i’m a freshman in highschool and have been playing piano for about 6 months now. I really enjoy and I am starting to think maybe I would like to major in music for college. I was wondering what it would take to get into a music college, in four years for now. I am determined to do whatever it takes.:)

    • We’re so impressed that you’re asking these questions now, while you have plenty of time to consider whether music is the right direction to go in, and plenty of time to prepare. We think this article would be very helpful to you: Prepare to be a College Music Major. Also this one: Sight-Reading: A Necessary Skill for Music Majors. We also highly recommend summer music programs for many reasons: they help you clarify if this is really the right direction to go in, you get lots of practice time and lessons and performance experience without having to deal with school, you learn basic music theory (so important for music majors to have this BEFORE college), and you get to be around amazing music teachers, mentors, and fellow students. See our Summer Music Camps & Programs page for more.

  25. Morgann

    I am currently a sophomore in high school. I learned to play to ukulele in middle school, I sing and I have been learning guitar over the past year. I am thinking about majoring in music or music technology. Do you have any advice on which colleges/universities I should go to? Or on what I need to do to get into those schools?

    • Our suggestion is to start focusing on what instrument you would want to pursue in music school, and get lessons, practice a lot, and perform with others whenever possible. Read everything you can on our website and elsewhere, about majoring in music and what it takes to get in to music school, and what you can do with a music degree. Look at programs at different schools that offer what you think you may be interested in – what would you be studying in those programs? Does that excite you? Can you see yourself using that education in a career?

      Also – we strongly encourage you to take summer music programs where you can explore your interests – and discover new ones. See our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page for getting started. MajoringInMusic.com does offer fee-based consulting sessions for students and families, so keep that in mind too.

  26. Monaheng

    I am a completely self taught piano player with absolutely no training…formal or informal (well except the YouTube video lessons I watch from time to time!). There is a piano at my school (doing IB diploma at Machabeng in Lesotho) but no music teacher and so there are quite a few of us self teaching. I have been playing for close to maybe two years now and have developed a huge passion for the instrument (I even forfeited a school trip to China one time to save up and buy myself a keyboard) and can see myself perhaps doing some sort of double major in music (piano in particular) {and maybe math..}…do I have any shot of applying [getting accepted] to a music school and if so how could I go about it?

    • To get into a music school as a music major (or double major) you would need to be proficient enough on piano to pass your audition. Sorry to hear there is no music teacher at your school. There are, however, many fine music teachers who will give lessons on the Internet through Skype. Whether that would really get you to the level you’d need to be by the time you’re ready to apply to college and audition for a music school is not something we can predict.

      Consider taking a summer music program where you can get lessons, practice, and perform with others. You’d also want to find a program that would offer you some basic music theory training, because a college-level music program will require you to take a lot of music theory. We feature excellent summer music programs on the 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs page. Most of these are in the United States, but you will find several foreign program options.

      Another possibility would be to major in math or another area and minor in music, or even just take piano lessons once you get to a college that offers them. If you love piano, stick with it no matter what!

  27. Lauren

    I am 24 years old and have played flute and piano for a like 7 years and just recently took up opera. I have been busting my butt with practice and I hired a classical singing instructor. Is it too late for me to consider a major? I am preparing for an audition but is it even worth it?

    • What would you want to do with a degree in classical voice? Or in any area of music? That should drive your decision, along with feedback from your instructor to see what’s realistic. Once you and your teacher feel you’re ready, you could also request a lesson with a faculty member at a school where you’d consider applying – to see whether you have a chance at auditioning successfully. If opera is what draws you, remember that most classical singers’ voices don’t mature until they’re out of school – they continue studying, practicing, performing with festivals, internships, summer events, etc. as they prepare for auditions. It’s not an easy path and takes enormous dedication with no guarantee you’ll land where you want to. Remember that you can always include music in your life and even find opportunities to perform on a smaller stage if you feel passionate about it, should you not end up going on to get a degree in music.

  28. Kira

    I’m a freshman in high school and I want to major in music. I’m first chair Violin and I can play Viola too. I want to major with Viola, but my teacher won’t let me switch instruments for next year. I’ve been involved in community choirs, all state choirs, and I’m in a choir outside of school. I’m pretty good at sight reading and theory, but I can’t play the Piano. My family can’t really afford private lessons for Viola, but I try to practice a lot. I don’t really know what to do to continue work on the Viola and possibly majoring. Thanks

    • f your intention is to major in viola, it will be important to take the next few years to hone your proficiency on the instrument. That’s hard to do without private lessons. So look to community music schools (they sometimes offer scholarships), community colleges, or viola grad students or upper level undergraduates at a nearby college-level music school to find affordable lessons. Once you become a stronger violist, getting into a youth orchestra in your community will be useful. In addition, summer music programs will be helpful. We’ll be posting our 2016 Summer Music Programs page beginning in December so visit often. The sooner you apply to programs that will take you at your skill level, the more of a chance you’ll have for a scholarship.

  29. Makaela

    I am currently a junior and could not be in band in middle school to start off in music. I want to major in music but I have only so much experience. I am asking my peers that are in band and music theory classes to help with guidance with reading all types of music. I just want to know if I still have a chance in getting into a music school and majoring music despite all the people that tell me I won’t be able to.

    • Are you taking private music lessons? Practicing every day? Is your proficiency on your instrument improving? Can you plan on taking a summer music program to help you strengthen your skills, learn introductory music theory, and be more prepared when it comes time to audition in your senior year? These are all steps you can take if you are serious about wanting to major in music.

  30. Ivan

    I am currently a Junior and have really been considering a career in music. I’m moderately advanced in guitar playing, am decent at bass, drums, and piano, and know a good amount of music theory, although I currently lack some sight reading and vocal skills. I currently rank 1 in my school so I feel I’m free to pursue whatever I wish, which I feel is music. I’m taking both a guitar and piano course at school currently, and I have a crazy idea for senior year. Ive already taken more courses in each subject than necessary to graduate, so it is possible for me to take 5 electives next year. Is it crazy to take 5 music courses, perhaps Orchestra, Piano, Guitar, Choir, and Band and throw away my academics if music is my passion? If I major in music, would that be seen as a good decision? Thank you for your time.

    • Great question! A few thoughts: First, what do you think you want to do with a music degree? Second, if performance is your focus, which instrument are you strongest on and that you’d audition on and plan to major in? Strengthening your proficiency and starting to focus on your audition should be the focus of your efforts at this point in time. Third, throwing away your academics is not a good idea! Music schools want well-rounded students; some weigh academics pretty heavily while some do not UNLESS they need to make a decision between you and another student with similar audition chops. Fourth, since you’re a junior, we HIGHLY recommend taking a summer music program to a) help strengthen your skills; b) get a sense of who else is out there who will be competing for spots in the kinds of programs you might apply to; c) get lessons, lots of practice time, lots of performance time, collaborative experiences, and opportunities to explore areas and genres of music you’re not familiar with.

  31. Austin

    I’m currently a Senior in High School. I’m the captain of our Drum line and I’d consider myself fairly talented as far as drumming goes and on the percussive instruments such as snare, bass, or maybe even timpani. I can read rhythms rather well too. I want to do SOMETHING in Music, I just don’t know what. But I’m afraid because I can’t read any notes very well. (Treble or Bass.) Do colleges offer classes on that?

    • You bring up an excellent point. You can go far in high school music without being proficient at some of the things that music majors must be able to do, such as sight-reading. Auditions are likely to require sight-reading. Music theory will also be required in music school for several semesters, so it’s best to enter a music program with some background in it. So you may want to look at liberal arts schools where you don’t have to declare a major until the end of your freshman year or even into your sophomore year. And concentrate on learning how to read music and getting a background in music theory. But there are other areas you could consider where you may not need to audition, including music business and arts management. And regardless of whether you major or even minor in music, you can always play in a band, even try out for marching band, and keep music going in your life.

  32. Mason

    I am in the tenth grade and started playing tuba last year and I love it. I want to be a music major for music education but I don’t know where to start.

    • You may find the support you need at a community music school in your area, at a local university where you can study with a graduate student or upper-level music undergrad, and certainly at summer music camps and programs.

  33. Lindsey

    I am a senior in high school. I absolutely love music. I plan on majoring in music, but I am late on things. I have played a little guitar, but that’s not me. I am very serious and determined about playing the drums, but I have no experience. I was going to wait about a year before starting college to practice and learn more about percussion. I’m just afraid I will struggle because I am new to drumming… but like I said, I am VERY determined to do this!

    • Majoring in music requires that you are proficient enough on an instrument (which could be voice) to be ready to move forward in a big way in college. It’s also important to have some background in theory. Look at another article by the same author, “Prepare to be a College Music Major” for more information. Since you haven’t started in on the instrument you think you want to play, getting lessons as soon as possible would be very useful. You may or may not find that you are a good fit on the drums. But with prescreens and auditions starting this fall, you won’t be ready to be a serious applicant. So think about other options, such as continuing to take lessons once you’re in college, and taking music electives. Liberal arts colleges are worth looking at, where you can hold off declaring a major for a while and take lessons, and then maybe minor in music if your proficiency level on your instrument is high enough. Regardless of how you move forward, you can keep music in your life in so many ways.

  34. Kathleen :)

    I’m a senior in high school and thinking about majoring in music. Do college courses require you to sight sing in front of the class? The idea of that kinda freaks me out so could I avoid that by minoring in music instead?

    • It all depends on your major. You can expect to do a lot of solo and ensemble sight singing as a voice major, and maybe as a music education or music therapy major. Sometimes, instrumental performance majors will be asked to sing their music to help them “get” it. Individual courses and instructors will vary in their approach to sight singing, but you’re likely to find them and your classmates very supportive.

    • Julia

      Hey, I took AP Music Theory my senior year and I was terrified of this as well because I heard about it from my friends. I’m a very shy person and I have a bad singing voice and terrible vocal range, but I was actually good at sight singing and didn’t feel nervous at all after the first time. Sight singing is purely about intonation (and a little rhythm). The quality of your voice doesn’t matter. And I know that doesn’t help a lot because even if you get a good grade it still seems super humiliating to sing badly in front of your peers, but everyone else (except vocalists) is in the same boat! Just because you’re a good musician doesn’t mean you’re a good/confident singer, and nobody knows this better than music majors. Sight-singing is a very small part of music theory, and your music theory classes, in turn, will only be a fraction of your experience as a music major. Honestly, sight-singing is a pretty small thing. And honestly, it built a lot of character for me. Because my teacher made me sing by myself in front of the class, I’m much less nervous about singing and doing other musical things in front of others, which has opened me up to a world of collaboration and freedom with music. Seriously. Don’t let something as small as sight singing stop you from following your dream, if music really is your dream.

  35. Mia

    My name is Mia and I am a sophomore in High School. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember. I’ve been a part of many choirs and ensembles, and have always been praised for becoming a valuable member of the group. I love performing also, and have done a good bit of musical theatre. I love the stage and performing in general. I hadn’t started taking vocal lessons until about a year ago. I know that I am not amazing, there are surely two or three girls at my school who could beat me easily, but I do have a passion for singing and music in general. I also haven’t started taking piano lessons from a professional until about three months ago. However, I’ve been teaching myself to play for about two years and I practice every single day. I have definitely have been improving. I am not passionate about many things. Music comes first and will always be a huge part of my life. It makes me who I am. A few years ago, I came to the school I was previously attending and met the choral director there. She was a huge role model for me throughout my middle school experience. From day one, I felt as if she had taken me under her wing and pushed me out of my comfort zone. In three years I went from being a shy girl who loved to sing but was too afraid to get up in front of a crowd to the girl who got a roaring applause after a show and lead the chorus and ensembles through warm ups. She also taught me a new found appreciation for choral music and I’ve fallen in love with it. The more I watched her at work, the more I realized how much I would love to take on a job like that… in my current situation there is nothing else I can see myself doing. It is something I want so badly but I feel I may be too far behind to catch up. I’ve been studying theory on my own for a good while using books and internet resources so that I could hopefully catch up with some of the more musically inclined kids at my school in order to take an AP Music Theory class that I feel would be extremely beneficial to what I’m going for. In short, is it too late for a beginner student with “natural talent” and a passion to catch up enough to become a music education major? Also, what should I look into learning in advance before taking this step?

    • The fact that you’re asking these questions as a high school sophomore speaks volumes about your interest, dedication, passion, and willingness to do whatever possible to reach your goals. Congratulations! And it is not too late! You’ve had a great role model and you see that a good teacher is more than someone who can sing or teach singing. By continuing with your voice and piano studies, as well as getting a good education that includes good communication skills, you’re preparing for your future. You’re also preparing for your senior year, when you’ll be applying and auditioning. In the meantime, you might find it useful to get some experience assisting with music programs for younger children, to get a taste for teaching. Also look seriously at summer music programs, where you can hone your skills, meet great mentors and fellow students, improve your theory knowledge, and immerse yourself in music without the added complication of school.

  36. Eddy

    I’m 23 now and looking to go back to school for music. I spend hours every week either practicing or writing new material. I’m decent at reading and writing and not too bad with theory. I am a little stuck between either going to school for performance, (I would love to travel and be able to play with many people and gain experience) or to go to school for composition (I also like the idea of writing for other major talents). Is there a certain area to study that would best fit my pursuits? And in terms of getting accepted into the school, would it be a good idea to get a private teacher to show me exactly what I need to know to audition well?

    • We suggest you visit the websites of various schools you’re interested in to see what they require from applicants. That may help you with your decision, since composition majors are typically required to present a portfolio of their music in addition to auditioning, and performance majors audition and often are required to do prescreens as well. We also suggest you read the article about majoring in composition on MajoringInMusic.com. Either way, you’d be wise to work with someone who can help you prepare for your audition. We also suggest you get a lesson from a faculty member at any schools you’re serious about – ask for feedback and get a good sense as to whether you’d want to work with any of these individuals for four years in their studio.

  37. Arnold

    I want to study music composition or performance in college, but am unsure whether it’s too late or not. I’ve been playing piano for 5 years, and took lessons for 2. I dropped them because I didn’t get much out of the class. I also have been taking double and electric bass lessons for two years in school. So I’m okay at piano and I have a great bass teacher. But is it too late to choose to major in music? Up until now I thought I’d major in engineering and was lazy with practice. I’m starting my senior year in a month and I took full IB last year and I’m contunining them now. I’m afraid that will get in the way because of all the work. Should I drop some classes or will they benefit me in college? And I know I need good piano lessons soon and singing help, but what else do I need? I have been lazy up until now. I started practicing seriously, even with some friends sometimes, and I’ve written a few songs. I really do love it, but is it too late for me to study music in college?

    • You’ve described yourself as lazy twice in your comment, and we must inform you that there’s no room for laziness as a music major. It is far too intensive and demanding, and you must be passionate and dedicated every step of the way to survive let alone flourish. You will also need to have an instrument you’re proficient enough to competitively audition on – and for seniors, those prescreens and auditions are coming up in just a few months. We suggest you read the articles on this website under “Thinking About Majoring in Music” to get a better sense of what the major entails and to see where you really stand with this. You may be able to minor in music with far less pressure and expectations, and we certainly encourage you to keep up with at least one instrument and take a composition class regardless of what you major in.

  38. Cindy

    I’m in my junior year and have been playing piano since I was little. I decided to major in music last year (sophomore year). I know this is kinda late that I decided to major in piano, so I know that I will not be able to get into those good music institute schools such as Juilliard or Curtis. I am interested if it’s possible for me to transfer from one college with a music major to a high rank music conservatory. Do those conservatories usually accept transfers from other colleges. Also, I wonder what should I take in my high school year if I know that I will be majoring in piano. Do I still take regular academic classes or additional classes ( and AP classes). Can you also recommended me a good college for music major? Is it possible to transfer in my freshman year of college?

    • Begin your search for schools by taking an inventory of yourself: what do you need and want in a college-level music school? It’s very important to find a good fit for you, rather than apply to schools just because they have a good reputation. As for transfers, every school has its own policy, so check each school you’re interested in possibly attending. You’ll see that conservatories including Juilliard and Mannes do accept transfer students. But you’ll also need to check out the criteria by which they assess and audition transfers. These articles may be helpful to you: Sight-Reading: A Necessary Skill for Music Majors and Prepare to be a College Music Major. AP and IB classes show your capability to meet challenges and stretch beyond what’s easy. But don’t take those classes just to impress schools. If you get 4’s or 5’s on AP/IB exams, you may have more room in your schedule for more electives, but are not likely to advance your standing when you enter any school’s music program. Note that music schools do recognize that interests outside of music inform your performance and composition capabilities and facilitate creativity.

  39. Denise

    Hi! I’m 17 years old and I have been playing the violin for quite some time now. I started off when I was 12 years old and I stopped for 2 years but then I continued playing again for 3 and a half years. At first, I wanted to learn the violin but I never had the intention of taking it seriously in the future, which was why I originally considered taking up Communication in college. Then, during my senior year, something hit me really hard, telling me to pursue music in college. I couldn’t back now (or could I? AGHH I don’t know) because I have submitted my application forms and required documents and I’m ready to start college with Communication as my course in July. But then I suddenly thought of switching to a music course soon. So I immediately had lessons last April (I’m still currently having them) and I’m in Suzuki book 4 (that’s the method my teacher gave me). I don’t know if I’m good or ready enough to audition for a music school in college. Am I? Please help. Thank you.

    • If you will be attending a college or university with a music department or music school, we suggest you meet with violin faculty there as soon as you arrive. See if you can get a lesson and feedback to find out your chances of auditioning successfully there. Find out if it would make sense to take introductory music theory as a freshman so you don’t fall too far behind if you do get into the music program. Keep up with your music over the summer if you are at all serious about moving in this direction. Remember that being able to read music – and sight reading – are important components of being a music major and sight reading may even be a part of your audition.

  40. Rachel

    Hi! I am 17 and about to finish my junior year of high school so obviously this means I am going to be focusing a lot on preparing for college this summer. For about the past year I thought I wanted to major in Communication Design (essentially graphic design) because I love art. Art and music have been my two passions forever. But last year I started taking voice lessons and fell in love with it!!! And so I started thinking I might want to do that but am worried I don’t have enough training or experience. Now I really want to major in it but I just am worried. A little background info on my musical career: I started piano in kindergarden and played through 6th grade until my teacher moved away and then I quit (I SO wish I had kept playing) – I still can play and could probably get it back with practice and so because of piano I actually do understand how music works and some basic theory. I also play guitar and ukulele (guitar not too well haha still working on that) for about 4 years. I also played flute for 5 years but quit before high school because my high school does not have a great program. I’ve sung all my life and have been able to harmonize naturally since I was little. Everyone in my family and my mom’s side of the family is musical. I just joined choir this year and will be in the Honor Choir (Chamber Singers) for my senior year. I’ve sung on my youth group worship band since freshman year. I am extremely dedicated and passionate about music, its the thing that brings me the most joy 🙂 I am willing to do whatever it takes. I’ve gotten lots of compliments about my voice and got a superior at Solo and Ensemble this year (first competition for voice, did these for piano and flute when I was younger though). I just would love to know your opinion. I really want to do it and I think I have a good voice though my confidence while performing could improve haha 🙂 and I am willing to do as much music theory (I really love theory its SOOO fascinating to me!!!) or competitions or lessons as possible.

    • It’s great to hear about your love of music and how you incorporate music into your life. That said, there’s a huge difference between enjoying singing in school and church choirs and seriously taking up the study of voice. To help you figure out how to proceed, we suggest a couple of things. First, find a summer vocal music program. Look at our Summer Music Camps & Programs page for ideas. Some of these programs still have room, but jump on this now. Read the text on that page as to why this will be so valuable. Also, read the ABCs of Voice Degrees – that should also be useful. Then, try to set up a lesson and get feedback from a voice faculty member of a school you’re considering for college. How do you stack up against the kinds of students who audition well there? What else can you do to get ready for auditions?

  41. Taylor

    I’m 16 and in 10th grade. I’ve been playing flute since I was 9 in the 4th grade. I also haven’t played in a while, like almost a year, so I’m trying to get back in the swing of things. I want to major in music when I leave high school, but I have never had any private lessons or formal training. I am going to take lessons soon, but I feel like I’m not going to have enough time to get everything I need to know. I’m also thinking about taking a year off after high school to better my playing and skills. I just really want music as a career and not just a hobby.

    • We strongly encourage you to sign up for summer music programs starting this summer and until you graduate. Your performance skills will leap ahead and you’ll be better prepared to resume private lessons in the fall. You’ll probably also get some music theory. As someone who wants to major in music, it’s ideal to get some theory under your belt before you head off to be a music major. Check out our page of Summer Music Camps & Programs to get started – many of these programs still have room in them. Also, as soon as you are ready, get yourself into your school concert band or orchestra. The opportunity to practice and perform with others is important for your future plans.

  42. Cal

    I started on the classical guitar around age 13 but was unmotivated until just recently. I’m now in my early twenties. Do you think If i took a couple years off to just work on my technique and learn some basic music theory, I would be able to keep up at a university? I currently have one private teacher and soon to pick up another teacher ( I want separate teachers for classical guitar and acoustic fingerstyle) and I also plan to enroll in a music theory course come summer. On top of this, I also practice my instrument 2-4 hours a day. I’m trying my best to close the ability gap but some days it seems hopeless as I feel like I’m heading more towards the path of someone who enjoys music as a hobby instead of someday finding a career in it. Any advice on how I can speed up my progress?

    • After taking some more lessons, consider taking a lesson with a graduate student or faculty member at a nearby music school where you might consider applying. Get feedback on your guitar proficiency and on what it would take to audition successfully. It’s also important to consider this question: What you want to do after music school and where can you get the skills to help you do that? Assuming you get green lights with the above and have the finances to follow through with the plan you describe, yes, this should put you on track to audition along with any prospective freshmen.

  43. Justin

    I am 23 years-old and I would like to go back to school to study music (I already have a B.S. in renewable energy). I have worked two different jobs out of college, but am now realizing that I need to follow my dream of becoming a professional musician. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12 years old, and absolutely love to play jazz, blues, and folk music. I have a strong grasp on basic music theory, however, I have never had any formal musical training and I do not know how to read standard music notation (except for guitar tablature). I have always wanted to learn jazz theory and improvisation but felt intimidated about pursuing jazz band in high school, which makes me a little nervous when considering applying to schools. Would it be difficult for someone like me to return to school to finally pursue a formal education (maybe a jazz studies program)? Would learning how to site read during my studies be possible, or do most schools require it upon application? Any suggestions or tips?

    Thanks!

    • Most college-level music programs require students to audition in order to be accepted. If the program is part of a university, one would need to be accepted at the university as well. That said, you may find a few music departments that accept students and then audition them for placement. Sight-reading is typically a component of the audition. Several semesters of music theory are also required of music majors. Your sight-reading skills would then be strengthened through a great deal of practicing and performing and applied lessons.

  44. tubaplayer101

    I’m a 11th grader and I’ve been playing guitar and singing since last year and doing theatre since freshman year. I joined band this year and got stuck with tuba and now really enjoy and like it. Is it too late to pursue tuba?

    • Good tuba players aren’t abundant, so if you have a passion for it and can get private lessons and become proficient enough to audition on tuba if you want to major in music, go for it! And if you are interested in possibly majoring in music, we suggest you seriously consider a summer music program to hone your technique and much more. Check out our 2015 Summer Music Camps & Programs page to see some of the many options. Also note that liberal arts colleges with strong music departments are great for students who are really interested in music but not sure whether they want to major in it. See this article for more information about going to a liberal arts college: Majoring in Music at a Liberal Arts College. If you’re not planning on majoring in music, we still encourage you to explore your enjoyment of playing the tuba as much as you can.

  45. Alaina

    I am a junior in high school and have taken music lessons since I was in 1st grade, but I have never spent a great deal of time on my studies. I only recently began to realize that music is my passion and that I want to pursue a career in music, but I fear that it may be too late because I am not very proficient. I have always been focused on my academics and sports, and therefore haven’t been able to put in enough practice time. Is it possible for me to “catch up” and pursue a music career, and if so, how?

    • There are many areas of music to consider. We suggest you read this article: “What Can You Do with a Music Degree?” and click on any of the live links to learn more about many of the fields of music described in the article.

      If you plan to major in music, it is likely that you will need to audition. Now is a good time to start seriously planning for next year’s audition season, through lessons, dedicated practice, performing whenever possible. Look seriously at attending a summer music program. Check out the 2015 Summer Music Camps & Programs page as soon as possible to learn more. Some people come away from summer programs realizing they love music but don’t want to major in it; others get energized to do what it takes to get themselves into music school. Either way, most people find that summer music programs open many doors for moving forward.

  46. Lian

    I didn’t learn to play an instrument until I was Junior in High School. I started learning everything about playing music in 11th grade, when I picked up Saxophone for the first time. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I studied with a Private teacher from week 1 onward, had to practice at least 2 hours a day including memorizing some of my music to catch up. I’m now a College music major, second semester freshman. I also took a year off before I went to college, but I did not focus on music which actually slowed me down. I’m still playing catch up on the instrument, but progress happens everyday, and I am top of my class in music theory and aural skills. It’s lots of work but it’s worth it. I’m going to a small liberal arts college, so it makes a difference where you apply, I find that this small music department has been vital in my growth as musician. The professors can really work with you at your level if you prove you are willing to work hard and the small setting makes it possible. Most importantly, Hard work trumps talent any day.

  47. Feefa

    I really want to major in music, but not because I want to pursue it as a career. None of the career options are appealing to me. However, I love music and am keen on achieving greater skills. I want to enhance my knowledge in music and become a skilled musician only because I’m passionate about it. I want to major in it because I really enjoy it. I can’t imagine myself studying anything else apart from music. However, is it wise for someone like me to major in music? Will it be a waste of time and money since I’m not exactly planning on pursuing it?

    • Majoring in music provides more than just an opportunity to improve your performance skills and your understanding of music theory and composition. Not that those aren’t enough! But in addition, it requires you to learn how to collaborate, think on your feet, develop good time management skills, juggle several things at once, network, and much more. These skills are important to any career.

      Majoring in music is a lot of work – you’re likely to take more credits than peers in other majors, have to juggle academics with lessons, practicing and performances. So you’ll learn quickly if it’s really the right field for you to major in. And of course, you have to be accepted, which often requires pre-screens and auditions, depending on the schools you want to apply to. A liberal arts school with a strong music department may be worth considering. It may be less competitive and offer more opportunities to figure out what beside music you may want to pursue after college.

      Assuming you do major in music but know you want to establish a career in another field, be sure to explore your options while you’re still a college student, in order to make the most out of your undergraduate education and all the resources you’ll have there, wherever you go to school.

    • Lian

      If you don’t want to go into the field I would consider a minor. At most schools that I’ve looked at and I know for sure at mine, the music minor looks like the first two years of a music major, so you would study a full year of music theory, piano, sight singing and ear training, and then two years of private instruction on your instrument, and a participation in an ensemble all four years. It’s a good option if you want to study something else for a career, also considering doing a bachelors of arts in music (B.A. Music) not a B.M like the site has suggested, that way you get lots of music classes but you have room for electives and you have to take a good bit of core classes. That is what I’m currently doing to become a music librarian.

  48. Katrez

    I can sing really well but don’t know the music theory. I want to major in music performance (Vocal). Will colleges allow me to take some music theory classes to catch up in my freshmen year?

    • If you major in music, you will be required to take several music theory classes. However, you are much better off learning some beginning music theory in advance of going to college, either in a classroom, with a private instructor, or online. That will make college-level music theory easier to deal with. Read the music theory articles on this website to learn more.

  49. Christopher

    I want to major in music education. It’s my 1st year of college and I am going to change my current major (engineering). Currently I’m enrolled in a community college and I have a concern about a music education major. It’s been 5 years since I last touched an instrument (tuba). My knowledge of playing music is now out of shape. Can a person start following a music education major with a lack of any knowledge of related music prior to now?

    • Music educators need to be strong musicians in order to teach. You will need to audition to become a music education major at most 4-year schools. So we suggest you start taking private lessons again ASAP and get some music theory under your belt to see if this is really the right path for you to be taking. Also, talk with your current school to find out which schools they have articulation agreements with to see which classes you should take at community college in order to transfer without losing credits. This article will be helpful: Community College for Music Students

  50. Karl

    How about if you have played your instrument for a reasonably long time but have just recently gotten serious. I have played violin since 4th grade (I am currently in 12th) and back then I practiced for about 30 min 5 days a week. come 10th grade I started practicing an hour 7 days a week (missing maybe 2 or 3 days a month) and have now gradually worked up to practicing 3 hours a day when I have school and 6 hours a day when I do not. I calculated that I probably have somewhere around 2250 hours give or take of practice currently. I am the concertmaster of my HS orchestra (but it isn’t a very good one) and I am in the highest level of my youth symphony which is a reasonable feat as I come for a reasonably ‘artsy’ town. we are playing things like Beethoven’s 1st, Danse Macabre, and the ballet music from Faust. They are only edited with dynamic markings and such otherwise they are the original works. If I were to take a year off between senior year and college, practicing 6 hours a day, do you think I could make it as a performance major?

    P.S. I have had private lessons since 4th grade.

    • It sounds like you are working very hard to catch up! Can you get a lesson with a music faculty at a nearby college who can help assess your level of proficiency? Can you get similar feedback from your current private teacher as well as the director of your youth symphony?

      A beginning course of music theory will help you when you get to music school – see if you can get some of that under your belt too. You may find that you don’t have to wait a year to audition, especially if, as an undergraduate, you’re not trying to get into the most competitive schools.

  51. There are many ways to keep music in your life beside becoming a full-time musician. If you find yourself doubting the extent of your passion for a life in music, consider other fields that you’re also passionate about, with the promise to yourself to continue to practice and play music alone and with others.

  52. Leonore

    What about those students who are really late – Who studied, performed and loved music as teenagers, but went off to be the doctors, engineers, etc first, and now 30 years later would like to begin a second career in music? Are there conservatories or universities out there who have programs folks folks like that? Perhaps full or part-time programs toward a degree?
    It seems to me that the “ultra-mature” student might have a lot to offer in various ways so that programs might exist. Do you know of any?

    • A good place to start is by taking lessons on the instrument of choice. Find a teacher who is adept at teaching adults through freelance studios, local colleges, or community music schools. See what it’s like to commit to a practice schedule. Also consider deepening your knowledge of music by taking a theory course at a community college or online. Look to community music schools for opportunities to join ensembles and bands. Also consider summer music programs for adults – there are many of them that offer several days to a week or more of intensive study and performances. This may lead you into more formal study or it may open the door to a wonderful avocation.

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