I bet you started playing when you were knee-high to a grasshopper. In fact, you can’t really even remember much about your pre-music childhood. Now you’re 17, and you’re choosing whether to major in music, or another one of your passions. Or you’re 27 and a few years into your chosen (non-music) life and you finally feel like you’ve got a handle on this whole Adulting thing. Or you’re 47, your kids are more self-sufficient, and you find yourself with a bit more free time.
In any of these situations, you might be looking back on your years of music study–at least a decade of weekly lessons, chamber music groups, youth orchestra, not to mention the hours of practicing. You did very well for yourself. Won spots In the top groups, made it into the Senior District or All-State orchestras. You went to summer music camps and basically spent your entire pre-college life dedicated to your instrument.
So? Was it worth it? What was it all for if you weren’t going to become a professional musician? You might catch yourself glancing over at your instrument collecting dust in the corner (or worried that that is its fate), and feel a mix of emotions; the guilt of the unused talent, the enormous amount of money that was spent on your training, mixed with a yearning to play just one more Brahms string quartet or to be surrounded by the sound and vibrations of 100 other musicians on stage with you.
You can’t bear the thought of selling your instrument, and yet you can’t think of how or where you might play. You gave up that right by choosing a different major, didn’t you? Was it all just a giant waste of time?
First of all, even if you never touched your instrument again, the skills you were developing as a musician will transfer to every part of your life. You may not realize it now, but because of that intense training you endured as a kid you are:
- Better equipped to give a presentation or talk
- Have more knowledge of different languages and cultures
- Have a higher level of self-discipline than your average adult
- Have a longer attention span than most
- Have an increased ability to focus intensely and for longer periods of time.
As you can see. That musical training was really life-training in disguise, you just ALSO have bragging rights for the fact that you have performed in some of the major concert halls in the world. That alone will make a fascinating bit of trivia for your future co-workers and dates!
So, let’s go back to those situations above. The High Schooler deciding NOT to major in music, the 27-year old settling into their groove as an adult, or the 47-year old who suddenly finds herself with a bit more time on her hands. Here are 10 things you can do to keep music in your life (or bring it back!) Some of these ideas are for while you’re still in college, and some are for after you’ve graduated, but any one of them will allow you to take advantage of the skills you have honed over those many years, and will allow you to remain connected forever to your musical passions.
1.Look for a college or university that has playing opportunities for non-music majors.
Find one with an “All-School Orchestra”– instead of, or in addition to one that is solely for the school’s music majors. For some schools, that’s all they have. They don’t have a performance major, so auditions are open to all students. Some schools allow any student to audition for the school of music’s orchestra. If you’re good enough to keep up with the music majors, you’re in. Other schools offer chamber music, or have groups that organize themselves to play (not for credit). Ask a lot of questions, and make sure that they know that you are interested in contributing your talents to the school. If they are allocating funds to HAVE an all-school orchestra, then they need to make sure they accept enough non-music majors who play instruments to keep that orchestra going. It will only help your chances of getting in!
2. Start a non-music major chamber music club.
Get together once a month (or as often as you all want) and read string quartets. You can likely check out chamber music from the school’s collection, or pool together what you all have individually. I like to give my graduating students a complete set of chamber music parts. It’s often the first set they’ve ever owned, and I always hope that they’ll get together with some new-found college friends and break them in.
3. Find an amateur orchestra to play in.
There are groups in every community all over the world. Some of them, like the Longwood Symphony in Boston, are field-based (in this case, the medical field). In addition to performing around Boston, they go on international tours and give concerts/medical lectures!
4. Sign up for an adult amateur chamber music listing.
You can rank yourself according to your abilities/age/sight-reading level/experience, and like-minded people will email you when they are getting a group together to read for fun, or to put a little concert together.
5. Join the “young professionals” group at your local symphony.
They all have them. You’ll be invited to cocktail parties and post-concert get togethers and you’ll get to know other non-music professionals who are as in love with Brahms as you are!
6. Join a continuing education’s chamber music program.
Most music schools (both at the community level and the college level) offer adult chamber music groups. You’d have the benefit of a coach and performance opportunities
7. Be an active member of your music school’s or youth orchestra’s alumni group.
Donate a few dollars a year, go to the alumni events and stay in touch with your teachers and mentors. Go to their concerts when you’re in town. You’ll be reminded of the high level of music-making you achieved when you were that age.
8. Attend an adult chamber music summer camp.
There are programs at Interlochen, New England Music Camp, Summer Trios, and there are others as well–a simple google search will pull up several listings. No kids allowed, just adults like you who love to play a nice Brahms Piano trio once in a while. Also, there’s usually wine involved.
9. Join the board of a performing arts organization.
They need people like you! People who have first-hand experience as a performer, but also bring needed (non-musical) professional skills and perspective.
10. Find an amateur pianist friend and put a little program together.
You can perform it as a house concert for friends and family, take it to hospitals and retirement homes as a form of community outreach, or just for the sake of playing pieces you both love, and challenging yourselves to learn new pieces once in a while.