College. The word used to intimidate me. I didn’t know when I should visit colleges, how to set up a visit, or what colleges to visit. When I looked at college websites, the information they provided overwhelmed me enough that I gave up on research. I didn’t know what to do with the propaganda the colleges send me daily, each claiming to be the best school for me. Some claim that everything I could ask for is waiting at their college, but they don’t know who I am. Others tell me their college has the best facilities for the major I plan to study, but they don’t know my planned major. After I got past the stress that it brings, college research became easier.
I believe a key principle to a fulfilling life is to find personal happiness. My path to happiness introduced itself when I first picked up a flute, later a guitar and a keyboard. I can’t decide on a particular career in music right now, but some ideas are solidifying in my head. My first choice is a performing musician, and my second choice composing music for movies. I have an opportunity to become a lighting engineer, because of my previous experience, but I want to focus on music for now.
I figured that a good first step was to find a major to declare. As I did my research, I realized that knowing the difference among music majors would be helpful to determine a major I want to pursue. After visiting several sites, it became evident that the music majors would change based on the university, but the majors that stayed the same among schools were generally Music Performance, Music Education, Music Business, Music Engineering (or some form of it), and Music Composition (Berklee.edu). Based on my personal interests, I narrowed this list to Music Performance and Music Composition.
I used those two majors to start my search for colleges. Knowing what I wanted to do made this process a lot easier than it would have been. Mrs. Kelley, a guidance counselor of mine, told me that Scituate High School does “have colleges come to visit our school but generally it is for seniors and they come in the fall” (E-mail Interview). I started my search with colleges I already knew about, such as URI, Salve Regina University, and University of New Haven. I toured these schools during the February school break, so these schools were natural places for me to start. URI and Salve Regina both offer a ‘Music-General’ degree. The University of New Haven’s majors, on the other hand, include Music, Music Industry, and Music and Sound Recording (University of New Haven : Undergraduate Programs). I found myself a little discouraged that none of them had any music performance majors, but I continued my research for University of New Haven because the Music and Sound Recording major sounded interesting. Their music department houses two fully-equipped recording studios, which appealed to me. I was able to obtain the class schedule for each of their three music majors as well, and the Music and Sound Recording major includes performance classes, as well as recording classes, music history classes, and film music classes (University of New Haven). From looking at the schedule, I think that the classes are well-rounded and they may meet my expectations. Berklee tore me apart mentally because they offered not only a music performance major, but also a composition major, and a film scoring major (BERKLEE | Programs and Majors at Berklee). These majors appeal to me, so I would find it difficult to choose one, but I would most likely choose the performance major.
I knew that I would find better programs and classes if I went to a strictly music school, so my research shifted to a Google search of the best music schools in the country. The results included Berklee College of Music, The Blair School of Music (in Vanderbilt University), Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Juilliard School of Music (Zheng). After visiting the websites of these schools, Berklee remains at the top of my college list, because it focuses the most on contemporary music. I play both flute and guitar, and I want to be able to continue my studies for both of these instruments in college. I’ve concluded the freedom to study both instruments will be a limiting factor because the opportunity is very rare in colleges. None of the schools I have looked at so far will allow me to study both instruments; they make you declare a principal instrument. Once again, Berklee remains the best choice because even though you are still required to have a principal instrument, they have ‘labs’ that allow you to study other instruments (David Jiles Jr., Tour Guide Berklee College of Music). I’m receiving a keyboard for my birthday soon, and I will be learning that as well as voice, so I know it will be helpful to attend a school that will be flexible with instruments. My private teacher for flute, Mrs. Deborah James, told me that “many private teachers in college don’t like you playing more than one instrument because they feel they have to fight for your time on a particular instrument” (Personal Interview).
Another not-so-pressing factor in choosing a school is the location. In an ideal situation, I would be in a school located in a big enough city to have a decent music scene, but in an area where I also have the opportunity to get away from people for a while, because I need that balance in my life. The one thing I wouldn’t enjoy about attending Berklee is living in the middle of Boston. Any school in New York is a similar situation. University of New Haven was opposite, because it was very secluded, but it was too secluded for my liking. I think I’ll be able to compromise and live in a big city if the school is exactly what I want. I think in the long run, location isn’t extremely important, but should be considered.
Musicians don’t really need degrees for their line of work. During my interview with David Jiles Jr., studying at Berklee College of Music, he said that “having a degree in music can greatly help you, because there’s a higher chance that employers would hire you if you can prove that you’ve actually studied music at a university, rather than just picked up and instrument and taught yourself” (Telephone Interview). Employers like to see the accreditation that a musician has so they feel more confident about who they’re hiring. My dream job has always been to be a lead guitarist in a band touring the world, but I’ve realized that there are other good opportunities for work as a musician. One option is a studio musician, or session artist, during which I would co-write songs and help record them in the studio for use in TV shows, movies, and video games (Session Musician – Music Career). I think this career would appeal to me, but I wouldn’t get the same kind of thrill from it as from being a performing musician. Another option would be writing film scores for movies. This would include composing original pieces for a specific movie, and conducting the orchestra that plays the music. If I choose film scoring, I will need to learn a lot more about how to use Digital Performer, ProTools, and Finale, as well have a “working practical knowledge of music theory” (Cerny 1). The music industry is always growing, and I’m sure that there will be a job for me.
I know that getting into school requires a lot of work, dedication, and effort, but I think I’m finally ready for this challenge. I’ve been able to keep my grades up in school, and I’ve been heavily involved in music since an early age. I am confident that I will end up in a school I will be happy and successful in. Doing the research for this paper helped to open my eyes into more colleges and careers sooner than I probably would have otherwise. I am now planning more visits to colleges, and will be looking into preparing pieces for my auditions at colleges. In short, I’m really starting to look forward to the rest of my life.