… on a quiet word to music parents (shhh, don’t tell!)


Number One Son Sam, Jazz Student, on the Big Bass

Okay. Firstly….


It looks like little Johnny’s or Susie’s interest in the drums, or sax, or bass…

Or guitar, or piano, or clarinet, or flute, or didgeridoo…

Or that cute little triangle thingie they used to give you if you couldn’t play anything else, has lasted through elementary and middle school.

And now it looks like that cute little hobby that was supposed to stay a hobby has grown up and maniacally land-war’d itself into Potential Vocation territory, crushing the once-safe provinces of Medicine, Engineering, Nursing, Plumbing, Law, Accounting, and/or Fashion Merchandising along the way.

Particle Physics is still hanging on, but it doesn’t look good.

And you know this has happened because your perfect cherub just walked into the room and told you that they want to be… wait for it…

A musician.

Yes, they did tell you that.

Yes, they did.

They did.

Oh, I know you think you heard them say they wanted to move into your basement and sponge off of you, playing video games and strumming or plucking or blowing or plinking or tapping their instruments along with other greasy basement dwellers… forever.

But that’s not what they said.

Pause to allow it to sink in.


You with me?

Well, now some tough love.

This is all your fault.

Little Johnny or Susie had an interest in music. Maybe they sang, maybe they played, maybe they wrote cute songs.  They were little, and so cute.  It felt very cool to encourage them.

So you did.

And your whole family did.

When your little cherub sang or danced or played for them at family gatherings, they went all crazy and applauded and celebrated.  They dreamed out loud of Carnegie Hall in New York City because music was your cherub’s dream and everyone should follow their dream!

The years went by and your shining star headed to high school with dreams of Honors Band, Chamber Chorus, Marching Band, and any or all other music related activities.

You attended every event.

You scrimped and saved for band trips.

You supported the frack out of your cherub’s dream because that’s what you do.

And then, during holiday time of little Johnny’s or Susie’s junior year of high school, a family member asked about college.

And your now not-so-little cherub proudly stated, “I think I’m going to go for music!”

And there was much excitement and enthusiasm. Lots of comments on his drive and passion and talent!

And then they got you alone.

Eyebrows were raised.

That knowing bump of the shoulder or hand on the arm happened.

And then, you heard it.  In that sickening, conspiratorial tone.

“So…… music, huh?”

Which you heard as, “Apparently you are going to need an equity loan to redo the basement.”

And in your brain the word “apparently” sounded especially snotty.

You know that saying, “It’s all fun, until someone loses and eye”?

Well, if you are a music parent, “it’s all fun, until they want to be musicians… for real.”

Well, I’m feeling truth-y, and plus I really care about you, so here we go…

Your family and friends may have been secretly harboring the opinion that music is not a ‘real major’ even as they shoved dreams of Carnegie Hall into little Johnny’s or Susie’s head.


And I am telling you that, if your cherub goes to school for music, you will most likely get a call from him or her, as a frantic second semester freshman or sophomore, telling you that his or her major isn’t a ‘real major’.

Trust me, you will be way more prepared than you were for the ‘Is Santa Claus real?’ question. Mainly because you can tell the truth with this one.

Also, because you have read this post, you will know to ask your cherub to define what a ‘real major’ is.  You will be told something like, “Something you can use to get a job!”.  You will calmly tell your cherub that they are actually studying something that they can use to get a job… in music… and the kid you birthed, pre-prepped by peer pressure, will self-correct into, “Something in a field where there are jobs.”

And (you’re welcome in advance) you will now be able to tell the young light of your life that he or she is living at a pretty amazing time for musicians (and creatives in general actually).

Because between the explosion in the movie and television industries (think about the bazillion cable channels (and how many shows and movies and series there are), Netflix and all the other streaming services and all their original programming), video gaming, computer gaming, on-line entertainment, apps, YouTube and other direct-to-listener channels, and all the other more traditionally thought of music jobs including orchestras, bands, k-12 education, college-level and graduate education, studio work, and private lessons… today there are more possibilities for a sustainable music career than ever.

And if that doesn’t make you feel better, try this:

I have an acquaintance whose daughter will graduate with a double major in Philosophy and Canadian Studies.

My friend does not think music is a ‘real major’.

I know. What’s that all aboot?

Because how many philosophers could they possibly need at the Canadian Consulate?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging.

I’m just making the point that the gift of a college education after high school is about more than exactly what is studied. It allows time to figure out who you are.  It exposes you to more potentialities than you could imagine in your teens, and gives you the time and resources to help you figure out if the educational path you are on translates into the ability to make a living…

And, more importantly, the ability to create a life you’re excited about living.

If your cherub has a passion for music, and is committed to exploring music as a career in college (and if they are fairly stable-minded and have sort-of good judgment), they will figure out if it is right for them as they travel through those four years.

A music degree is not easy.

Often, the music majors have the heaviest course load at a college or university.  They have all their classes, plus required (and graded) ensemble work and band work (for which they need to prep and audition for every single semester). On top of that, and all the studying for their music and non-music required courses, there’s practice.  Add to that the networking and promotion work (read here, major business experience) they need to do if they want to gig during that time.

If they really want to have a career in music, they will begin asking themselves (and their professors, and instructors, and any and every musician they can find (mark my typewritten words)) the right questions about what it takes.  They will weigh all that with your talks about whatever loans they have and other lifestyle and financial stuff and then – and here’s the scary part for parents:

They alone can decide whether the work it will take to build a music career is worth it.  

And they might decide to do it, or they might decide to go in a different direction.

That’s called making a decision based on experience.

I googled it. It’s a thing.

Also, according to my googling, somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of college kids switch majors at least once.  That means music students decide to do this all the time.

As do many pre-med students.

And, I imagine, many double-majored Philosophy and Canadian Studies students.

Not so much the Particle Physics students though. Those people are committed.

But you get it right?

Most kids switch, and they switch based on what they learn about themselves.

So breathe, I beseech you my fellow music parents.

It will all work itself out.

Granted, I am a big fan of passion, and of creativity. And I believe that true passion has the power to ignite all sorts of opportunities in whatever we choose to pursue.

So, if your kid goes on to college as a music major, and faith leaves you (and fear joins you) for a second or a minute or a semester, remember these two things:

1. You have encountered exactly zero starving musicians – literally, writhing in hunger musicians – in your lifetime. Why? Because a musician who is about to starve will find another way to feed himself if or when he needs to (and, statistically, it will most likely not be by shouting from the basement for you to make him a sandwich (seriously. I know you think otherwise, but your kids really don’t want to live with you forever)).


2. There are way, way more jobs out there for good musicians than there are for Canadian philosophers.

Thanks for readin.

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