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Music Composers Unite!

Hi all,

I used to go to university for food science but had to stop going because. I was an out of state student and owed the university money. Currently, I owe the college $4000 to get back in and I've spent $36,000 on this degree so far. I am not passionate about food science (prior to entering I told myself I would only attend college if it was for math or science. I fell in love with the craft beer movement so I chose science). There are times when I feel excited about the beer industry and the fermentation side of things, but these days I am not sure. I am 33 years old and I have about 2 and a half years left to graduate with a food science bachelors degree. The interesting thing is that It will probably take me the same amount of time to graduate if I choose to switch my major to music.

I've been debating this over and over. The responsible route seems to finish my food sceince degree and get a job that pays $36,000, pay off my debts, and just make music on the side. There's another side of me that wants to go full force, change my major, and dive into the world of a music degree. I fear that when I graduate there will not be any jobs and I'll have to continue working retail as I am currently doing at 33 years of age. I remind myself that I am the master of my fate and this helps a little but ultimately, this decision is scary as hell. Do I really need a degree in music? After all, Philip Glasss was a plumber and a taxi driver while making music and didn't really start making money until he was 40 years old. Then again, Philip Glass went to Julliard - I did not.

I could ramble on about this, but I think you all get the point. Is it worth it? Should I switch my major? or should I continue with this degree and make music on the side when I have time? I would love to hear all points of view from those in the industry and those that are not. Thank you for taking the time to read my my post!

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I would suggest sticking it through your current degree and if you really want to, pursue a music degree afterwards. I say this as someone who is getting their third degree in music. Like is all degrees you have a lot more options in your degree than just the obvious. Remember your degree is not a license to a specific job, its a culmination of skills you gained in college that you can apply where its needed and as you see fit. 

There are SOOOOO many factors and variables that would make having at least a backup degree in something else beneficial. The Philip Glass and John Williams of the world are very rare and very lucky cases in the world of music overall. For ever Philip Glass there are 1000 equally or even more talented composers out there waiting table, working in a bank, working retail, or other underemployed positions.You can make a living in music, but it won't be in the exact field of what the music degree has printed on it. Most find work teaching college or secondary school, and by most I mean 98% of those who go on beyond a bachelors (which is pretty much what you will have to do with a music degree). 

Another thing to consider is the amount of time it takes to finish. I don't know how your university might do things in the music department, but I know for majority of schools music degrees can take a long time not because of number of classes you have to take but because many universities require that you take said classes in a very specific order and often time only offer certain classes are certain times of the year. For example, most universities require that you take two or more years of music theory and aural skills as well as a year of piano before you are allowed to take upper level classes. Additionally many universities require a certain number of private lesson hours. In the end you might end up adding another four years to your degree with the last few semesters only having one or two classes (which might be a problem if you use financial add). But again it depends on your university. 

These are all things to consider if you are considering switching. If you are dead set on music and plan on switching, research all the opportunities you have with a music degree, what you need to do to make the most out of it, and really absorb the reality of the situation. 

There are so many variables in a situation like this i think it's hard for anyone to really say what you should do.  I imagine it will be difficult to stick out two and a half more years of work for a degree in a field you're not really excited about.  Then again, what do i know, i couldn't even stand four years of high school.  

I'm 34 and i just started pursuing music professionally.  It's tough, the music industry is a mess and there's a lot of uncertainty.  Tyler's 100% rite though about what you end up doing versus what you thought you mite be doing.  I spent my afternoon editing voice over parts, clipping out breaths, taming sibilance, matching volume levels, real exciting stuff.  Not exactly what i expected when i opened my studio in June, but hey, it beats punching a clock for someone else's company.    There are a lot of ways to work in and around music without a music degree, and having a good fall back may not be a bad idea.      

I heard a story about a fellow who had studied food science, and who was fanatical about yogurt.  He managed to get a yogurt production facility started, and it seemed like a dream come true for him.  He had investors who were helping him along.  Gradually, however, the investors started taking over the process, and ruining his product.  What had started out as a "food science dream," had for him turned into a nightmare.  As time passed he began to hate the whole thing.


He eventually took explosives to the workplace and blew up the factory, and went to jail for it.  (You can hear his tale on an NPR podcast.  They did a detailed story on it, earlier this year).


I am not recommending this as a career path, of course. 


I am just mentioning this as an illustration of the corruption of our entire food system.   The university system is now very corrupt as well.  It's criminal that you should have to pay so much for your degree.  I wouldn't blame anyone who joined the student debt movement and defaulted on their loans.  Music will keep you sane, one way or another.


In Africa, huge multinational corporations are taking over vast tracks of land to grow "food" for the West (mostly coffee, tea, and cash crops, that Africans can't eat).  As a consequence, small African farmers are being thrown off their land; food is being grown for export even as Africans have less food for themselves that is edible, and they end up having to import staple food from the West, under the torturous trade deals that mostly benefit food distribution giants, like Cargill.  It's a kind of international economic insanity that is widespread across the globe.  You probably know about it already.


If I were you, I would join the Peace Corps, and travel to another country, learn something about what is happening in other nations.  It's not too late to change the world, and be a part of the project to feed, educate and house humanity, to fight against war and injustice.  Eventually, you should get that food degree, probably.  Maybe not just now.  Hopefully, if you leave the country, by the time you get back Bernie Sanders will have been elected President, and he will cancel all student debt and institute free university education for all (which many countries in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, already have).   Once you get a food degree, just watch out for companies like Cargill and Monsanto, that kill people by the thousands.  Many tens of thousands in India, mostly farmers, have been committing suicide, due to the hard losses of land, and distortion of the food markets caused by huge multinationals.   Food science is important, and must be pursued as a discipline for the good of the whole of mankind.   But as Shakespeare said, "If music be the food of love, play on ..."  You can find a way to make music and to work for the sake of food and food science.    





Don't swap. I had a similar dilemma when I was tossing up studying science, Music or "something else more practical again". The 3rd option won out after much deliberation and 2 years doing science. I chose dentistry and have never looked back. I'm not "passionate" about being a dentist but I like it a lot and certainly more than the vast majority of people like their jobs. I do music on the side and have no complaints...

My recommendation: stick with your current degree. Optionally go into music, if you want (and have the time/means). You should always keep your options open, in case a career in music doesn't work out, or doesn't go the way you want. Even if you change your mind later and decide to go full-force into music, having finished another degree does help your credentials somewhat. (It's better than people raising awkward questions of why you dropped out of your current degree, for one thing.)  Having a backup source of income may be just what you need to develop your own voice in music. You may not have that freedom if you're forced to write for the mass consumer just to pay the bills.

Thank you all for the responses. I do think it is wise to make music on the side. This way I can do it on my own time and have some stability regarding finances. Like I said before - even the famous composer, philip glass worked as a plumber and a taxi driver throughout his life and he didn't start making money to live off of his music until he was 40.

If music is in my heart and what I desire to create then it will be.

The fear of losing my own voice by creating souless music to pay the bills has been on my mind a lot and is definitely pushing me to finish my food science degree. Thank you for your input!


You said you are not passionate about food science, and that is worrisome because passion is necessary to make any degree work out for you in the real world.

My advice would be to identify a field of application of food science that you could get yourself passionate about.  Then use that to motivate you in your studies and to give yourself direction as you try to make it work for you professionally after you have your degree.

You probably are already doing that exploring, I hope.  Talking to people, developing your day dreams...

It will probably be essential to be very self-motivated and very creative to find a good professional niche, I think.

If you go into it on "auto-pilot", I suspect you will be wasting your money and time.


Thank you for the reply Maria.

I agree and there are parts of food science that I enjoy, but honestly all I think about is music. I think about making it, sharing it, having other people play it. This is where the majority of my thoughts go.
Thanks for the reply Frederick. May I ask, do you compose or perform music for a living?

I'm curious how you arrived at that 250k number Fredrick.  It seems a bit excessive to me, but maybe we just have very different ideas about living comfortably.  


Can you sing that in rhyme and upload the .mp3 ?


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