Millie’s Guide to Music Degrees for High School Students
Want to take after The Beatles, Beyoncé or BTS? Read on to learn more about the music degrees to get you there!
In our Millie’s Guide to Music Degrees panel, four figures who share the same passion in music shared their undergraduate and graduate study experiences.
Before we take a step further, here’s what you need to know about our panelists:
- Abby Kenna: Studying Songwriting, Recording and Production (BA) at Berklee College of Music
- Corey Worley: Studied Viola Performance and Psychology (BM + BA) at Oberlin College and Music Performance – Viola at Conservatoire de Paris (Master’s level)
- Alexjandria “Alex” Edwards: Studied Political Science and Government (BA) at University of Michigan and Global Entertainment and Music Business (MA) at Berklee College of Music
- Brendan Donovan: Studied Film and Television Production (MFA) at New York University and Music Supervision, Film Scoring, Game Audio Production, Keyboard Performance (Professional Certificate) at Berklee College of Music
Scroll on to read their tips and tricks to pursuing a degree in music!
What should I consider before pursuing a music-related degree?
Just like any other subject, pursuing a music-related degree is based on an individual's interests and preferences. Even so, not everyone enters university knowing exactly what to expect from their courses, and certainly not all students have set ideas about their future careers!
Let’s take Alex’s experience as an example:
Alex grew up in a large performing environment, even auditioning for American Idol when she was 15 years old. Yet, she viewed music more as a hobby than a potential career. However, during university, she felt something was missing from her undergraduate major. Guided by her intuition, she decided to explore the business side of the music industry, leading her to minor in performing arts management. After obtaining her bachelor's degree, Alex pursued her studies at Berklee College of Music's campus in Valencia, Spain, earning her master’s degree in Global Entertainment and Music Business!
Music is an interdisciplinary field that's applicable to many areas of study. If becoming a musician doesn’t ignite your passion, identify another field that interests you and explore it through the lens of music. There are avenues like music business finance, therapeutic music (in psychology), sound engineering, and numerous other music-related paths to venture into!
“Music is an interfunctional field that’s applicable in many areas of study.”
To find a music-related degree that best suits you, explore various interests — immerse yourself in music-related areas or the music industry itself and discover what truly captivates you. You can participate in your school's music festivals (e.g., perform a song, organize an event, scout experienced figures to be the judges, and so on) or even intern at a recording company.
In Corey’s high school years, music never appealed to him. It was only after participating in a festival that he developed a passion for music and realized he wanted to pursue performance in the future. However, he didn’t want to study music alone, but rather, combine it with his other interests. When he applied for a double-degree undergraduate program, Corey chose to major in both Viola Performance and Psychology, embracing the responsibilities of being a full-time psychology student and musician simultaneously.
The audition / interview process of entering music school
The music school admissions process varies depending on each institution, but usually you can expect an audition, an interview session, or even both!
“The general admission consists of an audition, an interview, or even both!”
In Abby’s case, her audition for Berklee College of Music included a sight-reading portion (performing a piece of sheet music that she had not seen before the audition), an improvisation, a Q&A on music theory, and a live performance of two songs
However, Corey's experience applying to the Conservatoire de Paris in Paris, France, was entirely different. Corey was put on stage and had to perform a recital, lasting at least 45 minutes but no more than an hour, that was open to the public! The accepted applicants were then ranked, and the final ranking list was displayed in the conservatory’s lobby for the entire school year.
Your choice of institution determines the kind of audition and/or interview process you'll face, so conduct your research beforehand and select what's most suitable for you!
What happens when I study a music-related program?
Surprisingly, there's no standard path to study music as it's a multifaceted area of study. The concept of studying music is much more nuanced than one might expect since all courses are tailored to your major.
In Abby’s case, her classes focus on liberal arts and music. To encourage students to explore their musical backgrounds, one of her art history course assignments involved writing a song in the style of a specific century. However, Corey’s program had fewer classes, most of which were centered on studying the French language. Once a month, he attended lectures and participated in chamber music rehearsals during the weekends, which Abby didn't experience. Meanwhile, Brendan attended Clive Davis’ classes at NYU, illustrating the diversity of music education. None of the three panelists had STEM-related classes, but Alex took math for Music Business Finance since her studies leaned more toward the technical side of the industry.
Despite the diversity in all majors, a music-related program allows you to concentrate on your passion while still delving into other subjects. Whether you're rehearsing for recitals, collaborating on projects with publicists for your thesis, or organizing budgets for music festivals, this multifaceted area of study will keep you busy! Since all panelists are passionate about music and are dedicated to making a career out of it, their rigorous discipline is invaluable.
The beauty of being in an arts field is the ability to be abstract and impromptu — inspiration for artistic exploration can be found everywhere! Ultimately, when you know what you want and what you're best at, you can apply your skills anywhere in the industry.
“It’s going to be a difficult journey, but you can make it easy for yourself.” – Alexjandria Edwards
To know more about each panelist’s journey, from building communities to aspirations as an artist, check out the panel discussion on Millie’s Guide to Music Degrees!