Music Performance Major: The Essentials For a Future Career

A Helpful Overview To Start Preparing Today

Is a modern music or music performance major worth it for all the money and time?  

 

First, it’s a wise and necessary question to consider. Next, what if you find yourself in this predicament?

 

    1. Aren’t in a very musically steeped family, 
    2. Or you aren’t having a whole lot of gigging experience 

Well, then you might want to learn the skills and techniques and everything else that’s covered with a music performance degree. 

 

This article covers all those major topics and provides a helpful overview of why or why not music performance degrees could be a great way to take your skills and techniques even further. 

Overview of a Music Performance Major

A music performance major is a degree that helps a performer become proficient enough to go into the music industry.

 

A music performance major graduate should be able to perform in a wide variety of settings and to do so at a professional level that is going to lead to the ultimate success of the group he or she performs in.

 

 

What Is Music Performance?

girl-recording-studio-sings-song

 

Music performance is of course, performance of music. 

 

It could mean a host of different types of performances:

  • Performing in classical ensembles 
  • Performing in jazz bands
  • Touring with a band once you get out of school
  • Performing as a Christian Music Artist
  • Playing on a worship team
  • Leading as a worship director.

 

These are all appropriate settings for music performance.

 

What goes into music performance is knowing the techniques behind your instrument. It involves thinking about the music theory behind what we’re playing, whether it be a solo excerpt, concierto, big band arrangements or playing covers of tunes.

Types of Colleges with a Music Performance Major

visible music college exterior

In order to pursue a music career and do it well, music performance degrees at most institutions will give you all of the different tools you need in order to be a successful musician. 

 

Some of the goals might be:

  1. Being proficient in music theory
  2. Mastering your own instrument to play at a professional level
  3. Knowing your instrument’s history

 

Large College or University

First, you’ll have a big university type college that has a music school. 

 

Think about Texas and programs such as the University of Texas. 

 

These are colleges where you’re going to be at a university that has a lot of different smaller colleges for program emphasis, but have a music college where you can pursue your different types of specialization. 



Music Colleges

You can also have just a music specific college. 

 

Think like Berkeley College of Music, which is also a contemporary music school, where all the degree offerings are very musically focused

 

What we mean by contemporary is that you’re going to be studying in the aspect of modern day times, meaning you’re not going to have as heavy of just focusing on antique music, but you’re actually going to be studying music so that you can go into the world knowing how to use dyes, and play modern styles and techniques.



Conservatory School

Conservatory Schools are more classically based, meaning they’re going to be preparing you more for being a member in an orchestra. 

 

These school are usually more educational and cover what it means to teach music to the professional.

 

Music Business

Other music performance colleges can be more on the business side.

 

If you attend schools that have music business offerings, you will learn what it means to help and manage music. For example you’ll learn what it means to be an owner of a record label company. 

Music Performance Classes

 

 

Required Classes

As mentioned before you will have to take music theory classes. You will need to know about key signatures, chords, progressions, and how all of that functions in modern harmony. 



History of Music

Next you will need to know about the history of music, so you’ll have music history classes that look at the baroque era or before your music, the romantic period, classical music, and going into more modern day forms of it. 



Music Appreciation

You will also have to take music appreciation classes where you look at just how music has affected humanity, not just the history of music, but just how it also affects us now.

 

Specializations

With your professor, you’ll have your individual lesson classes and your specialization will be with your instrument of focus or your voice

 

You will have lessons that push you through a series of benchmarks or levels of which the techniques that you’re covering are appropriate for a professional level.



Genre Collaborations

 

Visible encourages group specialization classes within your instrument. 

 

These are outside of the one-on-one and you’re going to be more in group settings with people where you are collaboratively, studying your instrument. For example, sometimes if you go to a jazz school, you’ll not only have basic music theory, you’ll have jazz theory as well to learn about.



Playing In A Band

Sometimes you may have classes for a band context. 

 

These are where you’re going to go into an ensemble setting, and you learn what it takes to play with a band under the guidance of a professor.

 

The band setting allows students you to collaboratively apply the techniques that you’ve been learning in your theory classes and applied lessons, all for the stage setting.

Types of Careers With A Music Performance Major

 

The most obvious career option to try to become a full time musician.

 

It could sound vague but it’s actually easier and more attainable than most people might imagine.

 

Musicians are fortunate enough to find work in some of the following areas: 



  • Recording studios
  • Churches
  • Festivals
  • Musical theatre
  • Film
  • Wedding bands
  • Blues bands
  • Orchestra
  • Marching bands



Even miming tv work has come up over the years. There are SO many avenues for a musician and statistically there are more performance & composition opportunities than there has ever been. 

 

Teaching Music

The second most obvious career route is in education. 

 

As a music major you learn everything from how to conduct a choir to complex jazz harmony. 

 

This not only gives one the versatility as a performer but also as an educator because an undergrad degree in music performance allows you to teach in most schools.

 

So if you are trying to pursue a performance path by teaching in higher education, then pursuing a music performance degree is worth it for all the money and time. 

 

Salary

 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $31.40 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.17, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87.47. 


Lennon P. Bone gives a good honest look at the issue of college debt and how creatives like Musicians can navigate and plan for the future.

Preparation & College Checklist

student-playing-guitar-wearing-headphones-medium-shot

 

Go out there and get the performing experience.

 

Whether you’re in a band that can play at local coffee shops, or if you are having the opportunity to serve on the worship team at your church. 

 

Just get out there and play.



Practice Sight Reading

Practice your sight reading. 

 

Obtain a basic knowledge of how to read music, knowing your basic key signatures, your basic note values. Get used to being able to do this on the spot. 

 

It is recommended to practice about 10 minutes a day to get to a very appropriate level before entering school.

 

Expand Knowledge of Your Instrument

Study your instrument outside of your own current private lessons. 

 

Get a good concept of the history of your instrument. You’re certainly going to learn more while you’re in the school setting, but it’s just good to have a baseline knowledge since that’s only going to benefit you more.



Expand Your Playing Styles and Genres

 

Prepare to play many types of styles and genres for a college audition.  

 

Visible asks applicants to demonstrate certain styles such as:

 

  • R&B
  • Hip-Hop
  • Jazz
  • Afro- Cuban music
  • Contemproary Christina Music Worship
  • Bluegrass
  • Country



These are all styles that you should start to become more familiar with. If you haven’t already, go online and just check out the top playlist for each of these genres. Start listening to what each genre sounds like and try diving into it.

Conclusion

As you can see, a music performance major is a great degree for a variety of career paths you may have not considered before.  

 

It could give you the flexibility to do what you love while being able to have a stable job in higher education. 

 

It’s not going to be an easy path, but nothing worth doing ever is. So if you’re passionate about performing and want a degree that you can actually use, you should pursue a music performance major. It’ll just take some wise and realistic planning.

 

Start today by reaching out to and learn more about our Modern Music program that features numerous music performance majors.

Earn your degree in the field of Music Performance from Visible Music College

Music Performance tracks in guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, vocal, songwriting commercial strings, brass and woodwinds. Request more information about Modern Music and Performance at Visible.

Author Mich Polan

About The Author

Michael (Mich) Polan Jr. is theDrum Division Head and DAL Campus Student Life Coordinator

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