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Music degrees = worthless?

author: destiny kaus | production manager

Strummin’ away on her music degree. / Jaecy Bells
Strummin’ away on her music degree. / Jaecy Bells

No! Apparently you can do something with a music degree

When I first pondered the question, “What can you do with a music degree?” I thought, “Well…probably the same as you can do with a Kinesiology degree. Nothing.” I had pictures in my mind of poor little music graduates working at McDonald’s during the day and then playing their sad little violins in their basements all by themselves during the evening.

But, after interviewing some stellar music students and a music prof, I found out that *gasp* my thoughts were completely wrong. Shocking, I know. Not only did I find that music students are super hardworking champs, but I also found that you can actually do something cool and worthwhile with your life if you have a music degree!

Kimberly Schmirler is a second year Music Ed. major with her main instrument of study being the clarinet, although she also plays piano and saxophone.

“My dream job is to be a music teacher in a high school,” states Schmirler.

Sounds pretty simple and easy, but nope. If you want to be a music teacher, you need to know how to play everything from bass instruments, to woodwinds, to persucussion. Knowing how to sing is also a bonus, so add that to the list.

My goodness gracious, how Music Ed. students can learn all these instruments and stay slightly sane is far beyond me. Clearly, they have some balls and a killer work ethic to be able do that.

Although Schmirler says, “It’s not great how busy I can get with classes, ensembles, and work,” she has had a great experience thus far in the University of Regina’s music program, which I find hard to believe because it sounds like so much work…maybe I’m just lazy…hmmm.

“Everyone in the program is so friendly and encouraging, and we are all rooting for each other,” Schmirler says. “The profs are super supportive as well. Because we are a smaller faculty, we are quite close knit, [and] for the most part, everybody knows everybody.”

Awww, it all just sounds so happy. Like one big musical Von Trapp family. So special. As far as jobs go, Schmirler is, well, shall we say, not very well versed in knowledge.

“I honestly don’t know that much about other jobs, but I believe currently in Saskatchewan there is a need for music teachers, so [that’s] not too bad for those in Music Ed., I suppose.”

Huzzah! Hope for the Music Ed. students! But, what about other music students focusing on performance? Can you even get jobs? Surprisingly, yes.

Brent Ghiglione, an associate professor for the U of R’s music department, trumpet player, and graduate of the U of R, states, “The most significant orchestra in Canada is the National Arts Orchestra in Ottawa. We have a principle trumpet there. We have students in the orchestras all over Canada, United States, [and] Europe. There’s a lot of really successful students. We have a lot of students who are going on to teach at universities.”

Let me just scrape my astounded jaw off the floor for one second. I legit had no idea you could actually do something with a music degree. Mind = blown. But, wait, there’s more. You can also get paid to play in an orchestra just like you can get paid to play professional sports. How cool is that?!

“You go to Montreal, Vancouver, or Toronto. I mean, those are all full time orchestras, so guys actually make real money,” says Ghiglione.

So sick. It’s always nice when you can get paid doing something you actually enjoy; that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about the money. However, doing something you love is not always easy, especially in the case of music grads looking for work.

“Whenever you’re auditioning for a symphonic orchestral audition, you’re under the gun,” states Ghiglione. “There was a 2nd trumpet job several years ago now in Hamilton that paid not much money, and 182 trumpet players showed up. You gotta be good…Your B game’s not going to work.”

To me, that whole situation sounds like numerous nervous pukes, pees, and poops. To think musicians have to go through high-pressure auditions like this quite frequently if they want to get a job in performance makes me realize that these champs have to go through a lot to get a job doing what they love. Respect bro.

Anyway, even though the music program at the U of R is small with around 90 students in total – Uh oh! I hope you don’t get cut! – both the Music Ed. students and the performance students have done really well after graduation.

And, I mean, if the music program does get the snips, which I hope is unlikely, Regina can kiss goodbye a huge part of their music community.

As Ghiglione states, “I think we play a vital role in the school. I think we certainly play a vital role in the community, and I would not want to think about what it’s like to not have a real music department.”

I concur. A university without music is like a world without cats: very, very sad. One less music program in the province = less chances for music students to accomplish their dreams. Cheesy, but true.

Mikyla Jensen, a fourth-year flute performance student here at the U of R, has big dreams for her future.

“My dream job would be playing flute in a symphony and then having my own private studio to teach in,” says Jensen.

How the heck will she accomplish this dream? Well, she has just been accepted at the University of Manitoba for a Master’s, so she will do that for the next two years. Then, Jensen plans at doing either theory or flute for a doctoral.

Yeahhhh, I don’t have the guts, drive, or work ethic to do all that, so I’ll just stick to English.

Now, although Jensen has a plan of attack to attain her future life goals, she’s got her work cut out for her. Evidently, performance jobs are hard to come by, because you gotta wait for positions to become available in orchestras.

Jensen states, “Performing is obviously the harder side to get on, because there’s not as much opportunity.”

Well, that’s unfortunate.

Ah yes, and as I did before, many people seem to enjoy making fun of music students because of this little lack of career opportunities.

“You always get the joke, ‘Oh so you don’t wanna be rich when you grow up?’” says Jensen. “We say it all the time to each other in the music department, because we’re quite aware of how hard it can be, especially if you do the performance side.”

Nevertheless, Jensen wouldn’t trade her experience in the U of R’s music program for anything even though she, as a fourth-year performance major, has to do a 60-minute (yes, I said 60 minute) recital/program thingy as her final project. If I had to do this, I would die. Literally die. Props again to all the music students who do long-ass recitals and don’t die.

Ironically enough, with a whole host of end-of-the-year concerts coming up at the end of March and at the beginning of April, the Music Students’ Association is brining in Edmond Agopian from Calgary on Mar. 17 to do a master class on conducting and to talk about what you can do with your music career.

Ha! Great minds think alike. See? I’m not the only one who wonders if music degrees are useless or not. Thankfully, I have peeled back the fluffy wool from my eyes to see that a) music students are champs with a work ethic I can only dream of and b) yep, you can actually do things with a music degree. Surprise!

About Destiny Kaus

Former carillon production manager/arts editor/arts writer.

2 comments

  1. You should probably quit your day job (writing).

  2. “A piece of “journalistic” tripe penned by some incompetent sack from the newspaper of my esteemed alma mater. The writer, who proclaims that “I am that deeply sarcastic human being who lives to write articles that sir up sincere controversy”, manages to, with utter precision, completely side-step integrity and objectivity, in favor of writing like a 14-year-old trying to desperately be sarcastic and edgy.”

    Sincerely,
    Many angry musicians