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3 Realities of Being a Music Student

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Having spent my college career immersed in various fields of the music industry (performance, production, business, and journalism), I’ve come to a different perspective than when I began. We as students are redefining ourselves while building foundation for the rest of our lives- a laborious feat. Sometimes we develop wrongful assumptions of the journey ahead and it handicaps us into misunderstanding our professors’ intentions, leaving us lost in what’s beyond. Implementing these principles will control the chaos in a way so we can craft our erratic careers into whatever we desire.

1. Don’t Worry About Other Students.

GIF via Giphy

GIF via Giphy

When we size each other up, we handicap ourselves. Unfortunately this is incredibly difficult to refrain from. School ensembles are built and class levels are decided through auditioning and our competition is our friends. Rivalries become of students who study alike instruments and can diminish their experience. Sure, competition drives greatness but sometimes it’s misinterpreted and unmotivating. The talent of other students is trivial and our college career is finite. We should focus our limited time on honing our skills and mastering our craft. We shouldn’t compare our progress with others in the same boat. Everyone learns at different paces. There is a lot we can gain by empathizing with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Being jealous of a fellow student is like a baseball player who’s jealous of his teammate for scoring too many runs. Post graduation, the competition is with artists who already established a living at their craft. We should aspire to those standards, not the guitar player ripping through the modes of melodic minor at 200bpm in the next room over.

2. Don’t Chase the Money

GIF via Giphy

GIF via Giphy

School can be expensive and there’s nothing wrong with funding our education by working part-time jobs. However, it shouldn’t get in the way of our goals. Many of us can be distracted by the trivial dramas of our part-time jobs- a poor manager, an annoying co-worker, or a rude customer. We shouldn’t let this drama consume us unless we’re employed somewhere pertaining to our career. We have one major goal at school- to master our craft. When our only concern is money, we can lose sight of what our goals were in the first place and miss opportunities for gigs that reward our art instead of our wallets. This is the time to discover ourselves and make mistakes. The greatest in the world got where they did not by washing dishes, folding clothes, or delivering pizzas. Sure, everyone has worked a job like that at some point in their lives, but the greats never let the trivial part-time jobs consume them. They immersed themselves in what they loved until it paid.

3. We Can’t Always Get What We Want.

Gif via Giphy

Gif via Giphy

It happens too often that when we’re challenged by a class not pertaining directly to our craft, we can disregard it. We only want to do what we want to do. Our industry doesn’t exactly work that way. It can be very unpredictable. We can find ourselves anywhere in the industry at any time. We must be chameleons who counteract the unexpected difficulties that inevitably arise at every gig. Our professor’s’ intention is to prepare us for those unwelcome surprises through ancillary classes required of our major. Whether we gain anything from those classes is completely on us. The professor lays the information out for us to do with what we please, not spoon feed us (which happens more often than it should). When we aren’t spoon fed, we can find ourselves frustrated or anxious. Recognizing that we are the only guide for our lives is the greatest takeaway from these classes.

When we’re anxious or frustrated with a class we’ve labeled unimportant, we can give up and say something like, “This just isn’t what I want to do. I came here to play music and practice my instrument.” If this was true then we wouldn’t have enrolled. Artists who earned the privilege to be selective of their work have already faced the work they didn’t want to do. While we’re in school, we need to keep an open mind and discover what information we want to keep and disregard. All of our classes are intentional. If we choose to abandon any new information, it should be understood first. Otherwise, why are we abandoning it?

Music school can be the perfect place to hone our craft and network with other artists but it’s an enduring process. We can’t let any distractions or work load discourage us and spoil our experience. We’re here to better ourselves musically and ultimately as people. If you haven’t enrolled yet, know what you’re signing up for!

About Jake Varrone

Jake Varrone is a writer, music producer, and guitar player based out of Philadelphia, PA. He attends the University of the Arts('16) and studies Music Business Entrepreneurship and Technology.

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