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The Breakdown

As we all know, music is the universal language.  No matter who we are or where we come from, music has the unique power to stir up a well of emotions quickly.  We can rock out to a great pop song, find comfort in a mournful ballad or marvel at a beautiful symphony.  If you’re happiest when you’re strumming a guitar or belting an aria then music is likely the academic path you seek!

If you decide to major in music, you’ll certainly get a great overview of the subject.  Indeed, most departments take both a practical and analytical approach.  This will allow you to hone your ear, develop a greater understanding of the evolution of music and enhance your appreciation of the art form.  You will take classes ranging from the music of Asia and Miles Davis to film scoring and steel drumming.  Though some programs offer a general music degree, many ask their undergrads to choose a specific concentration.  These are often divided into categories like music history, performance, theory/composition, cultural musicology and jazz.  Regardless of concentration, most schools also require their students to participate in some type of music ensemble and to take instrument or vocal lessons.  Lastly, you can expect to complete a senior project.  These often entail either the presentation of an original composition or a recital/performance of sorts.       

Undergrads who pursue a music major tend to be creative types, armed with a good ear and a great sense of rhythm.  They are also adept at handling abstract concepts and have solid communication skills.  Moreover, they are dedicated to their craft and don’t mind logging lots of hours in the rehearsal room.  Finally, they are usually able to make marching band uniforms looks (somewhat) cool.   


Nuts and Bolts

As a music major, you will have the opportunity to engage with all sorts of genres in classes such as: Introduction to Listening, Classical Music in Western Culture, Jazz Performance Workshop, Music Theory I, Contemporary Popular Composition and Arranging, American Musical Theater, Music of Brazil, Choral Literature, Advanced Harmony, African Drumming Ensemble, Instrumentation and Orchestration, Tonal Forms and Post-Tonal Techniques and The Romantic Period.

Decisions, Decisions

Music majors are obviously passionate about their chosen discipline and thus love to study all applications of it.  Therefore, they might also be interested in majoring in music history, music therapy, musical theater, dance, journalism, music education, art history and criticism, conducting, jazz studies, radio/television/film, music performance, opera studies, ethnomusicology, percussion, voice, piano, strings and woodwinds.

What's Next

All right – so music majors cannot bank on becoming the next Leonard Bernstein or Wagner or even the next Bono.  However that doesn’t mean they need to lock their trumpet in the closet and shelve their musical aspirations as soon as they cross the graduation threshold.  Certainly, music majors have a number of professional paths open to them.  While many might hope to become working musicians, some grads earn a living as arrangers, accompanists or transcribers.  Others might enter the field of arts management or find gainful employment within the music licensing business.  Additional possibilities include becoming an agent, journalist or critic.  Some also flock to music publishing or instrument repair.  Audio production is another popular field and majors can find positions ranging from audio and recording engineer to producer, music director and studio manager.  And of course, a larger number ultimately become teachers, working anywhere from public schools to private lessons.  No matter what you ultimately decide, rest assured your life can always be filled with music.



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Don Munce