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.