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 most 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 only saw music as a hobby rather than something she could develop as a career. However, when attending university she felt something was missing from her undergraduate major. While listening to her internal compass, an idea came to her about studying the business side of the music industry, leading her to minor in performing arts management. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Alex continued her studies at Berklee College of Music’s campus in Valencia, Spain, for her master’s degree in Global Entertainment and Music Business!
Music is an interdisciplinary field that’s applicable to many areas of study. If being a musician doesn’t spark the fire in you, find another field that interests you and try to navigate it through music. There’s music business finance, therapeutic music (psychology), sound engineering and many more music-related paths you can traverse!
“Music is an interfunctional field that’s applicable in many areas of study.”
To find a music-related degree that best suits you, explore different interests — bring yourself closer to music-related areas or the music industry itself and find what makes your eyes twinkle. You can participate in your school’s music festivals (ie. perform a song, organize an event, scout experienced figures to be the judges and so on), or even do internships at a recording company.
In Corey’s high school experience, music never appealed to him. It was only after participating in a festival that he fell in love with music and knew he wanted to pursue performance in his future. However, he didn’t want to study music alone, but combine it with his other interests. By the time he applied for a double-degree undergraduate program, Corey decided to major both in Viola Performance and Psychology to have the responsibility of a full-time psychology student and musician at the same time.
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 to Berklee College of Music had a sight-reading portion (performing a sheet music that she had not read prior to the audition), an improvisation, a Q&A of music theory, as well as 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-minute and maximum an hour, that was open to the public! The accepted applicants would then be ranked, and the final ranking list would be hung in the conservatory’s lobby for the entire school year.
Your choice of institution determines what kind of audition and/or interview process you will go through, so do your research beforehand and choose what works best for you!
What happens when I study a music-related program?
As surprising as it gets, there’s no standard path to study music since it’s a multi-faceted area of study. The concept of studying music is much more nuanced than would be expected as all courses are tailored towards your major.
In Abby’s case, her classes focus on liberal arts and music. As a way of encouraging students to find their musical backgrounds, one of her art history courseworks involved writing a song to the style of a specific century. However, Corey’s course involved very few classes, those he did take mostly focusing on studying French language. Once a month he’d have lectures as well as chamber music rehearsals during the weekend, which Abby does not experience. Meanwhile, Brendan attended Clive Davis’ classes at NYU, showing how diverse music education can be! The three panelists didn’t have any STEM-related classes, but Alex took maths for Music Business Finance since her studies leaned more on the industry’s technical side.
Despite the diversity in all majors, a music-related program allows you to focus on your passion while still exploring other topics. Whether it’s rehearsing for recitals, consulting projects with publicists for your thesis, or organizing budgets for music festivals, this multifaceted area of study will have your schedule packed! Since all panelists are passionate about music and making a career out of it, their busy discipline is invaluable.
The beauty of being in an arts field is to be abstract and impromptu — you can find inspiration for artistic exploration everywhere! Ultimately, you can always apply your skills to anywhere in the industry when you know what you want and what you’re best at.
“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!