Not a Music Major? 7 Ways to Work on Your Music Career in College

Not a music major.
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Sometimes your passion isn’t your major.  And if you’re not a music major, Here are some tips on how to keep your music career going when you have to spend time on classes.

I am a biology major in college as well as a performing musician.  I’m not a music major.  Most of the time I love what I do in school, but sometimes it’s a grind to not be doing something creative 24/7.  For whatever reason, if you end up being in a position where your major in college isn’t your passion, here are 7 tips to help you keep your music career alive in school.

1. Daydream

I know authority figures tell you not to do it, but sometimes it’s okay.  When you do find yourself in a lecture or meeting that is excruciatingly boring, it’s okay to think about your performance later.  Or what your t-shirt design will look like.  Even though you can’t be actively booking shows during your classes, you can doodle logo designs on your paper, think of new lyrics, and decide how you’re going to spend the rest of your day.

Daydreaming and planning for later is beneficial, and spending this time will get you excited to carry out your plans later.  Just don’t do it all the time and flunk your classes.

2. Become “musician guy/girl”

We all know that one guy or girl on campus who always has their guitar with them (not that you have to carry your instrument with you at all times).  If you don’t know that one guy/girl, hopefully that’s because it’s you!  Becoming the one person who everyone knows is into performing music can get you the most gigs, and will help you create a long-term fan base of people your age who can help support you.

A small, dedicated group of college students can easily pack a nearby bar, and bring an exciting atmosphere with them.  Don’t be someone who tries to hide their talent or waits to perform because they “aren’t good enough yet.” Get out there, and get known. People want to know what you do in your free time, and most will be supportive.

3. Find musician friends

Even though you might be majoring in something else, you can still network with other musicians.  You don’t need to be a music major to have musician friends.  They’re everywhere.

Going to open mics or concerts on campus are great ways to meet other musicians.  Having a community of people around you for support, advice, and encouragement helps a lot, and it can also be more fun to play with other people than performing by yourself.

4. Get your teachers involved.

Teachers are often the most supportive people.  They deal with lazy students all day long, and it’s encouraging to them when they see someone who is ambitious and doing something that they love.  Even if it’s not in their field. A decent amount of my teachers are on my email list, and none of them have ever been discouraging.

If you go to an extremely large institution, this may be more difficult, but it is still worth a try.  And you definitely don’t need to be pursuing a music major to make it happen.

5. Combine your interests if possible

When you can, bring your passion into your classes.  If there is a creative assignment for one of your classes, write that song about “macroinvertebrates” or “calculus”.  Not only can you practice your craft, but it can help you get an “A”.  Most people will love your creative ability, and can get to know you better as a classmate and student.

6. Isolate yourself and write

Sometimes being around people all the time can be simply exhausting. For me, it has a tendency to make me feel unoriginal and complacent. Find a calm place, bring your instrument of choice, and write a song. It will rejuvenate you and remind you how unique you are.

7. RELAX but don’t get lazy

Stealing this one from Aaron Rodgers, but it’s early in your career.  It’s easy to feel trapped when you’re doing homework and other local musicians are performing four days a week.  Enjoy your time as a college student where you aren’t performing to put food on the table. There’s always room at the top, and even though it may feel like people are stealing your success, there is always a place for you.

Although you should relax, don’t get lazy. Most college students become used to the routine of having everything they need right in front of them. Keep your creative drive alive by associating with other driven people and keeping a list of what you want/need to get done. People can be swayed by emotions; a list will keep you on task.

Keep working hard, get your school work done, and turn to your creativity when you can. It’s not easy to pursue a career in music and be in school for something else, and I give you major credit for doing both. Know that there are other people out there working hard like you, and we’re here to have your back and support you when we can.

Derek Sallmann is an actively performing singer-songwriter, recording artist, and full-time biology major at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee.

One Response

  1. Ali T

    Great advice! For me, music is a great source of fun and creativity. But, I also do it on the side as a job/trying to establish myself as a unique, local musician, so I really appreciate your advice about keeping dreams and goals in mind at all times. 🙂 It’s definitely important to set aside time for yourself in general, but critical in musical success.