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Music Degrees - What Are My Options?

Heather Luhn

July 5, 2016

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Gone are the days when students major in music solely to perform. We live in a world that is changing SO fast, and that means more choices of study and career paths are popping up every day.

My Journey to Music School... What Are My Options? 

When I started taking violin lessons in grade school, I never thought music would become my career. After begging my mom and promising her I’d practice every day, I began this incredible series of music activities, including school orchestra, private lessons, solo and ensemble festivals, youth symphonies, and the list goes on. Music was something that came to me naturally, but also allowed me to thrive at my own pace. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I starting researching careers in music.

At that time (we’re talking 2004-2005, the birthyears of Facebook and YouTube), music videos were watched on MTV, I played all my CD’s through a personal player attached to the tape deck in my car...you get the idea. Its safe to say I was under-exposed, maybe naive.

I did some research - well, I could teach, I could perform, or I could go into music therapy (if I learned piano, guitar, and drums). Those seemed to be my options. My teacher and I had a pretty long talk about these options. I remember thinking, “I’m probably not going into music therapy, and I’m not sure I love performing to make a career out of it, so I guess that leaves teaching. I wish I had more options.”

I entered college with the intent to double major in Music and Hispanic Studies. I enjoyed learning a second language, and I enjoyed music. I didn’t really consider if the fields aligned or would provide job opportunities; I wanted to continue what I enjoyed. There were only two degree options: Music Performance and Music Education. I already knew I wasn’t great a controlling a large group of kids, so I figured Music Education was out. Where did that leave me?

Finding My Path in Grad School 

After college, I decided to continue pursuing a more specific degree - String Pedagogy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This would allow me to focus on the kind of teaching I enjoyed in undergrad. I was right; String Pedagogy at the graduate level dove into topics I never knew existed. I improved my own playing and learned how to communicate with students of all ages, dove into the study of teaching, and was more inquisitive than ever. I loved the creativity and fire this program gave me! I felt lucky to have found a program that fit me, and that wasn’t the traditional performance track.

Even 5 years ago, there weren’t as many programs of study outside of music performance or education. Some production and technology programs were slowly appearing. Now I’m seeing something different. Schools are changing, modernizing, and creating new opportunities of study for students

Other Exciting and Modern Degree Options (in no particular order):

Berklee College of Music - Boston, MA

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  • Electronic Production and Design
  • Contemporary Writing and Production
  • Music Therapy

The Boston Conservatory - Boston, MA

  • Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy
  • Graduate Certificate in Music and Autism
  • Master of Music in Music Education - Autism Concentration

Northwestern University - Evanston, IL

  • Master of Arts in Sound Arts and Industries
  • Music Education and String Pedagogy
  • Master of Music in Composition and Music Technology
  • Master of Science in Leadership for Creative Enterprises
  • Music Education and Piano Pedagogy

New England Conservatory - Boston, MA

Oberlin Conservatory - Oberlin, OH

University of North Texas - Denton, TX

  • Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies (instrumental, arranging, or vocal)
  • Master of Music in Jazz Studies (performance, composition, or pedagogy)
  • Doctor of Musical Arts in Performance with local concentration in Jazz Studies (emphasis in performance and composition)

film_scoring.jpgUniversity of Southern California Thornton School of Music - Los Angeles, CA

Eastman School of Music - Rochester, NY

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI

Indiana University - Bloomington, IN

  • Certificate in Entrepreneurship
  • Bachelor of Science in Audio Engineering and Sound Production

Peabody Conservatory, Johns Hopkins University - Baltimore, MD

Los Angeles College of Music - Los Angeles, CA

McNally Smith College of Music - St. Paul, MNViolin_making.jpg

Musicians Institute - Los Angeles, CA

The Chicago School of Violin Making - Chicago, IL

North Bennett St. School - Boston, MA

Other than the degree choices mentioned above, see this extensive career list put out by Berklee College of Music to help you see the possibilities of careers in music.

There are MANY directions music can take you, definitely more than are listed here. But, hopefully this will help open the door for continued research and exploration into the subject of a music career. Not everyone will be a performer or teacher, so we need to encourage our students and children to keep their minds open and never close the door on music because they don’t “fit” into the traditional music careers.

Have you been through a program or found another interesting program not listed here? Please share with us in the comments below!

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