The answer is yes and no.
It all depends on what kind of musician you’re trying to be and how you plan on getting there. For example, I’m pretty sure Eminem and Taylor Swift wouldn’t benefit very much from having a B.A. or B.M. in music because of the style of music they write (i.e. no knowledge of counterpoint or sonata form is needed, obviously). That being said, I do believe that every musician can benefit in some way from having a music degree, but for certain people it may be too intensely classical or too irrelevant for their taste (but specific types of music programs is a whole other blog post 😉 )
Here are some points to think about before getting your degree in music.
Why Have a Degree in Music?
- You will learn SO much about your craft from experienced and active professionals in your field
- You will become a well-rounded musician thanks to classes like music theory, instrumentation, music history, etc.
- You meet people who share interests and talents in common with you
- You can network with people and make connections (maybe one of your professors will help you get a gig in the future.)
- You get to do what you love every day! (if your heart is in it and you know your limits, you won’t burn out. I promise.)
- There are an abundance of careers you can have with a degree- you’re not limited to just performing
- I find it to be a more personalized and intimate major to have. You have to work closely with faculty and peers to make the best art as an individual, which means you won’t just be a number
Why Not Have a Degree in Music?
- College/University/Conservatory is EXPENSIVE –> loans –> debt 😦 (but scholarships are definitely a possibility- 59% of my scholarship award came from music specifically)
- You don’t need a degree to start performing for audiences or writing your own music
- You can work at your own pace- no one is forcing you to learn any concepts (Taylor Swift definitely didn’t need a counterpoint class to write a hit song)
- You can take a break from your instrument if you need it
- You can major in something else that will guarantee you a stable job with a reliable income, (Doctor > Busker) while minoring in music/ doing ensembles for fun
- If you like sleep. And a regular feeding schedule. And free time.
- If you hate practicing on a regular basis or being forced to perform constantly
These are just some general examples and situations to be aware of before committing to this major. Your experiences are also greatly influenced by what type of music degree/ program you’re doing, the type of school you choose, class size, type of raw talent, work ethic, etc., so everyone has different ideas of who should get a music degree.
As I mentioned before, many people do a music minor to learn more about their instrument and to keep up their hobby. There’s also the possibility of double majoring in music and in something else, but that depends on the school. Usually, conservatory style programs don’t allow (or don’t offer) any additional minors or majors to add onto the music major (e.g. U of Southern California, Juilliard, Berklee College of Music, Manhattan School of Music, etc.). So, just be careful when selecting a school or program if you want to minor or double major.
Lastly, some people are lucky enough to pursue their music degree while performing and writing music on the side. A few of them have the opportunity to record or sign with a label/agent as a solo artist, so they drop out of school entirely to take that opportunity as it comes. But, being a realist, that will most likely not be the case for 90% of people (myself included).
Don’t let any of this scare you away from going to music school, but do yourself a favor by doing your research, asking questions, and just being informed before making the decision! Drop a comment if you have any questions or concerns; I’d be happy to help you out!