Should I give up music dreams?

I want to be a music major but my parents say I should choose security over my dreams.

Analyze those dreams, says our elder – and form a backup plan.


Dear EWC

I’m an overachieved senior who excels in anything life plants me in. I’m crying as I write this. I want to be a music major but my parents won’t stop clowning and discouraging it for me. They say they want me to choose a more ‘secure’ and ‘stable’ career in order for me to escape the circle of poverty they’re in. Please tell me there’s no such thing as ‘too smart’ to major in music. Please convince me once and for all that my heart and passions should be above my intellectual abilities. Please help me learn how to grow and stop pleasing and wanting my parents’ approval and happiness before my own. I don’t want to go to med school. I don’t want to do anything I’m ‘smart enough’ to do. I want to tell myself once and for all that I’m doing what makes me happiest.


Jay replies

No doubt your parents love you very much and only want what is best for you, but they may have bought into the stereotype of the starving musician. This is a real concern, there are many musicians who are starving or at least finding it very difficult to make ends meet; but that does not have to be the case.

I think perhaps you are asking the wrong question. The question is not whether you are too smart to study music, but whether you are talented enough to pursue a career in music. From what you have written, I honestly have no idea about your music background. Do you play an instrument, or are you a singer? In high school did you play in a band or orchestra, or perform in musicals?

Also, keep in mind that in most universities with strong music programs, typically you need to audition in order to obtain a spot in that program.

Assuming that you have real talent, the next question is how you go about studying music. If you are good enough to get into a fine program such as Juilliard or Berklee School of Music, you would have a very strong focus in music, but even in those schools, you would be taking other courses which could prove invaluable if your music career is not working out. Getting into one of these schools does not guarantee success, but they have very good records in developing talent.

Other 4-year universities have excellent music programs, but may afford you the opportunity to study music while majoring in another area. That could be a possible compromise, between the practical considerations of your parents and your desires.

Your goal, especially if you cannot expect financial support from your parents following your college graduation, should be to have a broad enough education to be able to provide for yourself financially while you are pursuing a music career. For example, if you were interested in musical theater, you definitely would want to be able to supplement your income, perhaps with giving music lessons. You might also need to teach full time during the day and pursue your career at night. Also, you need to consider what your choice would be for a fallback career, if your music career did not pan out. Certainly, such a career could have some connection with music, such as working for a talent agency or music producer.

There is a saying about following your dreams, but you need to analyze those dreams during the light of day, and decide whether they are realistic.   

Feel free to follow-up with more information, particularly about your music background. You might also wish to have a discussion with your career counselor in your high school. 

I wish you nothing but the best.

Article #: 463655

Category: School

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