Studying music is often seen by the average American as a decision to follow your passion before practicality, pursuing a career plan that resembles the lyrics of “Don’t Stop Believing” more than anything a career counselor would suggest. This, as well as the idea that ability in music is based off of talent alone, are two tremendous misconceptions that have hurt both funding and recruitment for music programs across the country. Broader Minded has sought to relay at what kids are experiencing when they go into a music class. We’ve gathered stories of increased confidence, communication ability, and learning to love hard work in addition to the joy of making music. While this is clear to music teachers from coast to coast, translating this message to those outside of the classroom can be challenging.
We do not expect all children who study math to become accountants, or all those who study science to be scientists, but we do demand that children have access to these subjects because it teaches them important ways of thinking for the rest of their lives. Music must be looked at in this context, as a subject that engages a child on every level as they learn to emote, communicate, and connect. Forbes brought in Liz Ryan, a vocal performance major and CEO of Human Workplace to break down exactly how studying music equips students for success in a wide range of fields.
The kids are back in school, meaning that one out of every four high-schoolers is entering his or her senior year. That’s college-picking time, and for some parents it’s a stressful ordeal. We get calls from concerned parents. They want to know “What major should my child choose? Which majors will lead to the most secure jobs?”
We tell them “Let the kid study whatever subject grows his flame. That’s where your child will grow the most.” Parents are befuddled. Flame? Growth? They want to know which course of study will give a kid job security for the rest of the kid’s life.
If you’re Swiss and connected to the right people you might be able to get a job in the Swiss Guard at the Vatican. I’d imagine those jobs are pretty secure. The rest of us are living in a gig economy. The only job security possible is the kind we carry around in ourselves. If your kid is musical, let the kid study music! A kid who grows the muscles every musician ends up with will never wonder how to make a dime. Musicians learn lessons kids in more ‘secure’ career paths have no notion of!
My five kids are musicians. I picked a practical major in college myself — vocal performance. Here I am today, singing, writing, drawing and speaking about the topics that interest me! There is nothing la-la or impractical about a music degree.
Band kids get up at the crack of dawn to sit on buses and nail their routines in tough competitive situations. Orchestra kids do the same, and learn to show up at a gig never having seen the music and play it all the same.
Singers stand on line in drafty churches and auditoriums waiting for their chance to audition, then brush it off with a nice gelato and carry on with their lives. This is the way all our kids should operate!
We delude ourselves when we sentence kids to practical courses of study that don’t light their flames. I know, because in our business we are overwhelmed with career-coaching requests from people aged 45 to 65 who wish they’d followed their hearts instead of the ‘safe’ career course. It’s never too late to get back to your passion, but they wonder “What would have happened if I’d taken a different road?”
A kid with a music degree isn’t limited to a performance or teaching career. Musicians are everywhere. We are project managers, marketers, Finance folks, IT people and engineers. In my twenty-some years as a corporate HR person, I was always impressed by the way musical people excelled at logic and non-linear thinking, both.
Musicians are tough. Any kid who’s talented enough to major in music has his or her choice of other degrees to pursue. Music kids outperform other majors on standardized tests, and they’ve got the chutzpah to follow their passion to a non-cookie-cutter career. Who would hold a kid like that back? Believe me, if the kid ends up finding the music business not to his or her taste, Oracle ORCL will be happy to hire the kid as a programmer, and the kid will do a bang-up job.
Let your child follow his or her passion. That’s the way to build muscles in a child. When we tell our talented children “No, darling, don’t study what you love in college. College isn’t about you. It’s about getting hired four years from now” we tell the kid “I don’t have confidence in you.” These are the kids who grow up not believing that they have the right or the ability to follow their dreams. That’s why, in our workshops, we tell the participants “If you still have your viola or your oboe, get it out of the closet and play it! If you don’t have it, go to the second-hand music store and buy one.”
Music turns on your brain in a way business-work doesn’t. The good news is that music is free for the taking, and available to everyone. These days you can learn to play an instrument by watching Youtube, so there’s no reason for anyone with a musical bent to silence the inner voice that says “Play!” Kids who are drawn to music as a college major are special kids. They’ve already put in the time and effort few children are capable of at a young age, and it’s our job to encourage them rather than to tamp their flames.
Life is long. You can do anything you want professionally with a music degree, and young people go out of music performance and music-ed programs into law school, business school and even med school every day. When your child says “Mom, Dad, I want to major in music” get a grip on your own parental fear (“What if s/he fails, and starves?”) and say “That’s magnificent, my darling! We are thrilled that you’ve discovered your passion at an early age.”
Liz Ryan CEO & Founder, Human Workplace www.humanworkplace.com Reinventing Work for People”
Original Article on Forbes
Kristen Rencher Nuss, Social Media and Online Community Engagement Coordinator. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)