Once upon a time, back in the end days of high school, I faced a dilemma. To enrol in an education degree at university or to pursue a career on a cattle station somewhere in the wilds of regional Australia. This is 100% true. In the end I chose uni but to this day I wonder what would have happened if I'd gone in the other direction, and I still miss cows. You'll notice neither of these options have anything to do with music and throughout high school I never considered music to be a serious career option. I decided that a Bachelor of Education was a 'real' degree that would get me a 'real' job - with presumably 'real' money.
One semester into my real degree I dropped out. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do but teaching children English and History wasn't it. My sister and her husband spent a long time trying to convince me to enrol in a Bachelor of Music. My excuses were many and included: there's no point, I won't get a job and (my secret fear) I'm not good enough. In the end they registered me for an audition, I went to said audition and I got in, and to this day I have never, ever regretted doing my Bachelor, and later my Masters degree.
When it comes to music, it is my opinion that the general public are not very well informed on its various disciplines and industries. I wasn't either before I started my degree, and when people would scathingly ask me 'what are you going to do with a music degree, be in a band?' I could only shrug. Now, years later, I have experience in composition and performance, sound production and engineering, project and artist management, teaching at university and of course private tuition. I have loved performing and being a part of a band, I have loved working in studios, producing both my own music and other artists, and I have loved teaching - which is somewhat ironic seeing as I dropped out of an Education degree.
There are so so many different avenues to choose from when it comes to pursuing a musical career but unfortunately these aren't always very well advertised. What else isn't advertised is how sustainable a career in music can be. Some people assume that a musician puts a video up on YouTube and hopes for the best. There are certainly people who do this but they're also poorly informed on what it takes to be a part of the music industry. Essentially it comes down to the same principle that drives most occupations - hard work. It's not crazy to want to be in a band, to want to be in publishing or distribution, to want to live off making music but you have to be prepared to work for it. Since graduating from uni I have only ever worked in jobs in my field, which is more than I can say for some friends of mine who have finished Education, Engineering and Law degrees. It hasn't always been easy, but I have always enjoyed it.
Long story short, I never thought playing the piano could lead to a sustainable career. I was wrong. It's lead me to multiple career options, to developing skills in a variety of disciplines, to creating connections and networks with industry members all over Australia and now to running my own business. I have no idea what I'd be doing now if I hadn't enrolled in my music degree, but I doubt I'd be as happy. If music is something you love, but you're unsure if it's the right thing to do, I hope this has broadened your outlook. I met a man yesterday who told me he hadn't pursued a music degree because he couldn't read sheet music. I assured him it's not a prerequisite. If something makes you happy don't manufacture reasons for why you shouldn't do it. Just give it a go. Worst case scenario it's not for you but at least you'll know. As for me, if music for some reason doesn't work out I'll most likely end up judging cattle in Toowoomba, which as plan B's go isn't too shabby.