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Thread: Is college worth it?

  1. #1

    Question Is college worth it?

    My son is a junior in high school. He wants to be a music major and play Euphonium.

    I was a band teacher and still work in schools and with a local 4-H community band for kids in my county, so I'm excited that he loves music. I also believe it will be possible for him to have a career in music; he's quite dedicated, talented and I think he has the right attitude.

    He is one of the most promising students I've had, and that includes a handful of professional musicians. I think I have a realistic grasp on what it takes to be a professional musician in some capacity.

    He's been looking at places like Arizona, North Texas, and now Indiana as possibilities. He has been recruited by professors from local universities (Akron U., BGSU, Cleveland State, Kent State and Baldwin Wallace U.)

    We don't make a lot of money, but it's enough that we don't get much financial aid. He is going to have loans for a long time, especially if he chooses to attend an out-of-state university. I have no idea how much scholarship money is available for potential music majors either.

    Especially considering his goal to work in music, is it worth it to major in performance at any of the universities mentioned? I imagine that working, for example, with Demondrae Thurman at IU or Matt Tropman at AU would be great, but there aren't really many traditional avenues for Euphonium players, and honestly, I don't know if it's financially worth it...but on the flip side, I don't know if it's possible to have a career in music without that level of training.

    I know I'm just a worried dad, but I'm having difficulty separating my emotions from my rational mind. I imagine this is even more difficult for my son. I love the idea of him working as a musician in whatever form that takes, but I also have tried to be very clear to him that he shouldn't be a musician because of thinking that would make his parents happy. I want him to he happy, successful and be able to live indoors and eat food.

    Do you have any advice you'd share for a very talented young Euphonium player who is considering spending a large amount on university training? Should he go as cheap as possible? Or if he gets into the Jacobs school of music or another amazing program, for example, will that investment in education pay off?

    Thanks for reading and thanks for any answers!
    Last edited by jakewillis; 09-28-2017 at 09:57 PM. Reason: Clarity
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  2. #2
    Hopefully I can help out here:

    The fact that your son is being recruited by local schools is definitely a testament to his level of playing - that doesn't happen to just anyone (at least, not in my experience).

    Tropman and Demondrae are both top-notch teachers. Any student who studies with them for 4 years will be in very good shape to win a military band job. If your son really wants to play euphonium, then I would go to whatever the best music school you can reasonably afford is.

    I was in a similar boat, seeing that my family made not enough to justify absurd tuition costs, but enough to get denied financial aid. However, many schools will give very generous scholarships for the best players - that's how I can afford to attend Frost right now (which, as a side note, I would look into Frost if your son is serious about euphonium).

    Now, that being said, if you don't get the big $$$ from the top music schools, there's nothing wrong with going to a local school like Kent State for your undergrad, and then getting an assistant-ship at a top-tier school later. The bottom line is that if your son puts in the work, then he can and will be a successful euphonium player.

    I wish you all the best in the future.
    Frost School of Music (UMiami) - BM Euphonium Performance '21


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  3. #3
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    Just to relate an experience to perhaps guide you in guiding your son. My son was a cellist and really quite talented. He never did audition well and I can't quite figure that out. However, his grades in high school were well below average and graduation was in the air until the final days. He auditioned to a few colleges and was accepted by the music departments and the academics disqualified him from entrance. He attended a community college as a music major and after two years accepted with open arms into Temple University as a cello performance major with some scholarship monies. He actually bargained between two schools for more assistance. I had the cello teacher from one college call me to encourage my son to attend his college. The problem was that his credits from community college were not transferable. After the second year at uni, he changed to music education because of the lack of finding any performance on the outside and to shorten his years needed to graduate. After 4 years at Temple plus the two at community college, he failed to complete another year for a degree. There just wasn't any jobs out there for music. I know this to be true because I'm a retired music teacher and the instrumental program where I taught is no longer in existence. In our area, the only music jobs that become available are from retirements and they are normally in the high schools. (marching bands) Many of the grade school positions are being eliminated due to budget cuts. I think the arts in many schools are being cut or downgraded because of funding. A middle school in Lancaster city has a string program that is mainly financed by the community, not tax dollars. I think this is a trend throughout our country where (in my opinion) sports take priority over the arts.
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  4. #4
    Your initial question is "Is Collage Worth it". Well, a music major is not financially worth it. Intellectually, it is very worth it. I have a friend who's son is into opera singing. He has that major and has a minor in finance. If he does not make it at music, he will be a CPA. Then he can continue music as a semi-pro. I have another friend whose daughter majored in opera singing and is now working in Atlanta as a music therapist and as a semi-pro singer. My point, have a back up plan. Music will bring joy his entire life, but he has to eat.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jakewillis View Post
    My son is a junior in high school. He wants to be a music major and play Euphonium. [snip]
    Do you have any advice you'd share for a very talented young Euphonium player who is considering spending a large amount on university training? Should he go as cheap as possible? Or if he gets into the Jacobs school of music or another amazing program, for example, will that investment in education pay off?[snip]
    I highly recommend college, at the best school he can attend.

    As a musician, he'll have exposure not only to his peers, but he'll meet and play with those who are even better. He'll be challenged to extend his abilities. His teachers will have contacts that may help him in his future career, and a good school often has the best placement departments.

    Many talented musicians I know have supported themselves in other fields, often teaching, but even in as varied fields as tax law (e.g., me). The unfortunate fact of being a professional musician is that except for the very few, it's not very remunerative. Having a college degree will be vital for your son, should he want a dual career in music and something else.
    Dean L. Surkin
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  6. #6
    Allow me to ramble for a minute.

    You don't mention what type of job in music that he is considering. Many of us think of a military playing gig, and that was covered above. But there are other jobs in music, such as the various kinds of teaching, music business, etc.

    If a student just plain loves music but has no specific goal, there is an opportunity in college to refine the goal and adjust the program of study accordingly. With ANY planned career path, a job is not guaranteed. I know someone who went into nursing a few years ago because "you can always find a good job as a nurse." The realities of the market are somewhat different.

    So a strong consideration in choosing a school is the complete education AND experience a student will obtain. You want to graduate with a degree, yes, but also with a variety of playing experiences, at least a taste of other music fields outside playing that may be available, and also some "Plan B" experience. There are great many people in this country who enjoy and are fulfilled by playing music, but who work in a non-music job. Music can be experienced in both professional and non-professional settings outside a normal work day if one has enough ambition.

    Keep in mind that this is not a situation unique to euphonium players. Granted we don't have full-time orchestra opportunities available, nor can we work as a studio musician strictly on euphonium, but neither those career paths offer guaranteed income to a trumpet player or a trombone player, and the opportunities there are dwindling somewhat overall.

    So...is the degree worth it? I'd say it is, as much as any degree is worth it. A good college should help to enhance students' depth and knowledge. Serious study in music is a very rewarding and enriching experience, beyond what is purely "the music part."
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
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  7. I strongly recommend that the college degree your son gets be marketable and in high demand. Music as a profession is extraordinary lean, and a music degree is essentially worthless on a resume. I got a bachelors in science and a masters in business while playing euphonium and getting lessons on the side, and I am able to play for enjoyment in high end bands along with financially support my family and not worry about finding my next paying gig.

  8. #8
    I'd also like to throw it out there that majoring in music while showing interest in other, highly skilled professions can pay dividends. I got my BA in Music Performance - Euphonium but made sure to get an AS degree in Computer Science and a CS minor. I was recruited off LinkedIn for my last two tech jobs (including my current one) and one of the defining features the recruiters pointed out why they liked me was because I had a degree in Music. I work full time as a Software Engineer but have gotten to do so many awesome things with the Euphonium - when I lived in PA I was playing 6 nights a week! I wasn't getting paid to play, mind you, but I was SO fulfilled and didn't have the pressure of needing to find a gig to pay bills. Like anything, taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented will open doors to the unimagined.
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  9. I'm a senior in high school this year and I'm in a very similar boat as your son. We're about a month away from all the Early Admission deadlines for colleges, so I'm in the process of getting my auditions figured out. My plan is to go to college as a Music Technology major, but it's extremely competitive. I think I've got the music part figured out, but not so much the technology part. So I have been spending a lot of time at the keyboard, on Audacity, on MuseScore, and in the practice rooms trying to build myself a portfolio. I have a computer science class I'm taking online from a community college nearby and I just started getting into making my own animations. Doing this and maintaining a good GPA calls for some long days and some short nights. It's a matter of me wanting to make money but not wanting to stray too far from euphonium and even just music in general.

    My point is, your son is a junior. He has a good deal of time before the final decision. Have him start researching some other colleges and programs. Some universities let you make your own major, some have double majors, and others have degrees like Music Technology. With his level of playing, there are a lot of opportunities. Speaking from personal experience, if your son can find interest in another field that will complement his talent on the euphonium, like composition or technology, then he'll have a huge weight taken off of his shoulders when he gets ready to start/submit his applications.

    I'm not saying he won't have a future in euphonium if he chooses not to get into other things, but to me it seems like an easier path if he does. Like I said before, I'm just a senior in high school, but I spend a ridiculous amount of time researching colleges. I recommend majoringinmusic.com. They have a nice long list of music schools/programs and conservatories and it's even sorted by region. You have a lot of time; take advantage of it.

    I hope this will help you and your son explore more options, and I wish the best of luck to him.

    -TJ

  10. #10
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    Yes, college is worth it, but I'd like to suggest that your son have a back-up plan or get a second major. I've heard too many stories of students in college for performance degrees then staying for their master's... then DMA or PhD. They stay in college until they get the gig. It's really tough getting one of the few performance jobs out there... especially for euphonium.

    I have a grandson who's a senior and plays euphonium and trombone very well. He's not made up his mind yet on which college, but he has decided not to major in music. He's leaning toward electrical engineering or computer science.
    Last edited by RickF; 09-29-2017 at 03:21 PM.
    Rick Floyd
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