How can we better counsel our music students and their families?

I've written about this very important topic before, but in light of the decreasing numbers in collegiate music programs across the country, and some very disturbing information regarding how higher education fails to support and appreciate its music programs, saying it louder for those in the back...

These additional factoids come from a presentation I recently gave at the Wyoming Music Educator's Association conference, a presentation which was well-attended by high school students from the All-State honor ensembles on break from rehearsal. Budding musicians want to explore their chances in music, but parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and universities themselves sometimes have them convinced they'll be living in their cars if they try it. And this is just absolutely not true--at least, not any more true than it might be for anyone else if they fail to develop the skills they need to succeed. If you or someone you love suffers from this unfortunately not-rare cognitive malady, please share:

Fact: On average, American workers will hold 12.6 jobs throughout their working lives. Students feel pressure to choose the one perfect, practical thing they will do for the rest of their lives, but a forever career isn’t a necessity or probably even a reality. So why not study what you love?

Myth: Music majors are destined for a life of struggle and financial instability.

I could go on and on here, but let's just take my favorite example: witness, for instance, a little company called Chipotle who hires a DJ and supporting staff to create playlists for all 1400+ of their restaurants.

The music industry simply isn’t the same as it used to be. It is now driven by technology, innovation, value, and entrepreneurship. Musicians who adapt and change easily, and who are creative and entrepreneurial, are more likely to be successful.

Myth: The only jobs in music are in music education

Teaching is only one of many career options for music majors. From composing to performing to arts management to music therapy, the possibilities for music majors continue to expand. Though the landscape for earning a living as a musician is constantly changing, jobs for those with a musical background are not going away, especially in the technology sphere where Silicon Valley giants like Apple, with their acquisition of Beats, and Google, are trying to fundamentally change the way we consume music.

Myth: The American orchestra is dead 

American orchestras are learning to shift their business models in order to survive. They’re discovering new performance venues and exploring collaborative opportunities to broaden their appeal, especially to younger audiences. For instance, the Utah Symphony is presented concerts in the National Parks. Small chamber groups are growing into the symphony model (eg.,Alarm Will Sound, Eighth Blackbird), with concert tours and subscription concerts. Even the New York Philharmonic is teaming with music ensembles like Bang on a Can to create a new sound for the new millennium. All of these collaborations require teams of knowledgeable people to make them happen.

Fact: Studying music develops transferrable skills, for those who eventually pivot to an other field as one of the 12.6 jobs:

1. Ability to be creative and think outside the box

2. Ability to plan ahead

3. Ability to take responsibility

4. Ability to collaborate and work effectively with others to meet goals

5. Ability to think and understand in patterns

6. Ability to manage time well and handle several projects at once

And here's my original (incomplete!) list of jobs music school graduates might hold.  Reach out if you're looking for more career-related resources, comment below, or visit my counseling page here