What can be done with a Music Degree?

Inspired by this thread.

I have a friend. Nice guy, bright, hard working.

He graduated 3 years ago with a degree in music. He started college going for a science degree, but quickly realized that basic chemistry was not his friend. So, he switched to his other love, music.

He plays several instruments reasonably well, but not well enough to make a living at it.

He doesn’t have the patience to be a music teacher.

He could be a composer, but he’s daunted at the difficulty of that prospect, particularly where to start.

Since graduation, he’s been working in a warehouse, gradually slipping into deep depression.

Anyone got ideas?

Play in a band?

I have a friend who graduated with a Vocal Performance degree, and he’s now working in a sleep lab in Dallas, more or less as a technician.

Like those of us with English degrees, there are a lot of jobs that only care about the parchment, not the major. My friend’s sleep lab job was one of those, and it’s ended up being a really nice living.

All of the major railroads in this country need entry-level managers (generally called Assistant Trainmasters) and only require a 4-year degree, with no requirement for major. I turned down a job with Kansas City Southern about a month after graduation, and they were throwing some pretty decent money at me.

I’m not sure about specifics for a musician, besides the obvious of playing in a band or becoming a studio player. Graduate school is an option, I suppose, and you generally don’t have to go into a field related to your undergraduate major.

First: what did he do to earn his degree? Few things are less informative by themselves than ‘music degree’. If I was in a job interview which wasn’t directly connected to music, I would expect to explain exactly what I did to earn my qualifications.

Second: maybe it’s how you phrased it, but ‘slipping into a deep depression’ sounds like a whole different matter. Did you really mean it to sound this drastic?

Third: A brief list of what people I know have done/become with their music degrees: teacher, performer, lawyer, owns his own studio, accountant, owns her own supply teacher agency, still in academia, computer consultancy stuff, planning on becoming a commercial pilot.

Since the answers will involve informed opinions, let’s move this to IMHO.

samclem GQ moderator

If he is religious at all, and if one of those instruments is piano, churches are frequently looking for organist/pianists. This usually involves playing for service and practice and is not a full-time gig, but the people I’ve known who did this liked the fact that it kept them active professionally in music and supplemented their full-time job. If he’s really religious, some large churches hire music ministers, which comes closer to paying a living wage. We almost lost one pianist to a cruise ship gig, which might also be an option for your friend.

Thanks for the replies so far. We’ve been encouraging him to pursue whatever job looks interesting and just use the degree as a resume filler, but he’s sad at the idea that he might have wasted his time in college. He’d really like to do something related to the degree, but he’s not sure what or how to get in.

Good idea. I’ll suggest it.

It’s fairly drastic. He followed a good friend of his to this warehouse job in the next state because it was something to do at the time. Now, the friend got married and my Music buddy is feeling like a 5th wheel. And the married friend got a better job somewhere else, so the warehouse job isn’t as appealing at it was. From what I can tell, he doesn’t have any other close friends nearby, just acquaintances. No family nearby. No girlfriend and no good opportunities to meet one.

Add to that the obscured career goals and things are pretty grim. His parents are encouraging him to go for an advanced degree, but that seems even less useful to him than his current degree.

Good idea, but the holy ground would scorch his atheist’s feet.

ETA: The cruise ship idea is a good one. I’m not sure where his piano skills are at, but he should be able to work them up enough for that.

I must have soles of asbestos, then :wink:

Asbestos Soles

Band name!

James May of TV’s Top Gear has a music degree.

Asbestos Soles

Band name![/QUOUTE]

I think you mean Asbestos Souls.
Did he get a teaching certificate? He could teach music.

If he wants to stay related to music, he could look for work in a music store, or a company that makes instruments, or at a radio station. There’s lots of different ways to go, depending on if he is classical, jazz, or rock oriented.

He’s really got to get out of his slump of thinking that his years in college were wasted. There are zillions of successful people out there working at jobs that are not directly related to their college majors.

I disagree with his parents. He should not go back to school for an advanced degree in music unless he is really focused on getting it and knows why he wants it.

Private instruction, session work, academic teaching (any levels), luthier, instrument sales, audio engineering, composition, studio ownership (recording or rehearsal), solo gigs, band gigs, piano tuning, instrument setup and repair, festival promoter, instructional material author, instrument appraiser/collector.

Just a few things I’ve done with mine.

You don’t need to be religious to be a church musician. I’m an agnostic Episcopalian who sings in a Congregational Church choir (for pay), and I and my wife (lapsed Catholic) are in rehearsals right now for the High Holy days at a local temple. A friend of mine is director of music and liturgy at a local Catholic shrine, and plays piano at another temple in town. Yet another rather stereotypically Jewish friend was a cantor at the Catholic cathedral (during the tenure of a very conservative archbishop). I know many musicians who perform in religious institutions that they have no affiliation with. Some churches/temples/synagogues might care. Most do not.

I agree here. And as I said in the English major thread, I would venture that the majority of jobs don’t give a damn whether you’re an English major, a music major, an archaeology major, etc., as long as you have a degree from a college. A bachelor degree has become a prerequisite for most jobs the way a high school degree may have been oh, I don’t know, thirty, forty years ago? Maybe less?

It really doesn’t matter. I don’t understand this idea that you have to do something related to the field you studied. It’s a liberal arts program at a university; it’s not an engineering degree or a trade school. It’s not supposed to be preparing you for a specific job.

Incidentally, and I don’t know if this is still true, but in the mid-90s when I was taking pre-med classes, the major with the highest acceptance rate into medical schools was music.

No, no! Soles is funnier. Although either would work for an atheist running a church choir.

I don’t think I could convince him to pursue a church gig anyhow. The conflict of ideology would grate on him too much. Besides, he could avoid the theological and get travel to boot if he got a cruise ship gig.

Instrument sales is an interesting idea. How does one become a luthier, anyway? Do you have to go to trade school somewhere?

Teaching is right out. Unless it was one-on-one with well behaved students. He’s meek and would be overrun by unscrupulous kids. Plus, I’m pretty sure he doesn’t feel like his performance skills are good enough to be telling others what to do.

Piano tuning is an idea. And I have connections that could get him to be a certified tech. I’ll bring that one up when I see him next weekend.

I’ve always thought the radio station idea would be a great fit. He’s too nervous to be a DJ, but his knowledge of classical music is amazing. He’d be great support staff. Plus, he has experience with AV stuff from working as a stage monkey. Last time I brought it up, though, he shrugged.

As a grad student, I can agree that higher education is only for the utterly dedicated :slight_smile:

Thanks for all the great ideas! Keep them coming. I’m totally going to launch an Encourage Jonny campaign when he’s here.

I have a music degree. One path I tried out was interning for an opera company. Strictly back office stuff: marketing, advertising, arranging travel and accomodations for performers, transporting performers, setting up for recitals or masterclasses, etc. My musical knowledge came in handy when talking to singers and directors in terms of building a good rapport/business relationship.

It wasn’t really my thing, but my friend (who was in the same music program I was) loves it, and has made a career out of “arts management.”

I came in to second the idea of working in radio; specifically, public radio. If any of the stations in your area have locally-produced classical music programming, they are always looking for people who are knowledgeable about it. If your friend doesn’t like the idea of going on the air, maybe he wouldn’t mind writing scripts for shows, which another announcer would voice.

If the station airs all the classical musical events at the local university or public performance theater, or the opera, they need someone to write the program that will feature the performances. If my experience with public radio is any barometer, they will be happy to have a staffer who is a music expert. If your friend has any digital editing skills, they will serve him well if assembling programs sounds interesting to him.

Yes, if you want to be good at it!!