Response to a Worried Parent of a Music Major

by Barbra Weidlein –

A worried parent of a music major confided in me that the four years her daughter spent in music school might have been put to better use. The daughter, who joined the Peace Corps after graduation, discovered an interest in public health, and wanted to pursue a master’s degree in that field instead of teaching music.

“Not only do you have nothing to fear,” I told the parent, “but as a music major, your daughter actually set herself up to do so many other things beside music.”

I proceeded to enumerate some of the skill sets her daughter had gained that are applicable to anything she wants to do in addition to music:

  • ability to think, troubleshoot, and problem solve (think: improvisation, dealing with the myriad problems that can come up just prior to or even during a performance)
  • ability to plan ahead (think: taking the time to learn music, plan a performance)
  • ability to take responsibility (think: learning a part for an ensemble, band, orchestra or chorus; showing up on time for classes and private lessons)
  • ability to communicate (think: talking to audiences, setting up and promoting performances and gigs)
  • ability to collaborate and work effectively with others to meet goals (think: being part of an ensemble, orchestra, band, or chorus)
  • ability to think in and understand patterns (think: learning and performing music)
  • ability to manage time well and handle several projects at once (think of all a music major has to juggle!)
  • A music major just needs to understand how their education transfers to areas other than music. They need to know how to “package” what they’ve learned in terms that match the internship, job, or graduate school application they’re filling out. And they need to have faith in their ability to parlay what they’ve learned in music school into whatever they choose to do next.

Four years in music school may actually lay the groundwork for a career in areas in addition to music far better than most any other undergraduate major. If you don’t believe me, start paying attention to the backgrounds of some of your favorite medical doctors, math professors, writers or publishers, lawyers, engineers, or business people. There’s a good chance at least one of them majored or double-majored in music. And they’ll be happy to tell you how their music school background has served them well in their chosen professions.


  1. Matthew Richter

    A number of attorneys, architects, doctors and usually thought of as highly paid professionals retire as soon as possible or quit altogether to take up music careers.

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