My friend is counseling his daughter who wants to pursue a career as a classical musician to double major. My daughter also is a music major and we have discussed this with her quite often. She is a freshman oboist in Chicago. You basically have to be a superstar in classical music, or close to it, to earn a good living and not be hugely dependent on income from teaching. If you love teaching, then its not so bad, but the competition for the larger orchestras is very intense. Plus, several symphony orchestras are cutting back, so the strained economics are more true now than ever. My daughter is on a double major track and it will be a year-by-year assessment process to determine what she does after graduation. Continue on with the oboe in a masters program, if the signs are reasonably positive that she can make it long term, or look for work (and probably a masters too) in her other field. Likely to be accounting or economics.

Laurel Kenner writes:

Studying music confers a multitude of qualities useful in business: discipline, an appreciation for timing, devotion to perfection, the ability to comprehend different voices, a readiness to "hear" change, competence in meeting deadlines, comfort in communicating with an audience. (And music can bring great personal joy.)

Not so long ago, classical musicians were mere servants in the households of the nobility or employees of the church. Even professional musicians today usually experience significant downward mobility from their parents' lifestyle. The pressure to be mobile — to accept jobs far and wide –makes it very difficult for them to maintain stable marriages and establish families. I recommend "Mozart in the Jungle" as a cautionary tale. The oboist in the story ended up becoming a journalist and wrote extensively about the economics of classic music today, as well as the pitfalls of the musician's personal life.)

I applaud the double major as a way to avoid starting at the bottom in an alternate career. But those kids are going to have to work twice as hard as anybody else.

Yishen Kuik writes: 

Certain doubles can be pulled off quite easily - many classes can be applied to several majors. Statistics, for example, is a common requirement for many fields. Skilful negotiation can obtain cross credit approval for a class not yet listed as such.

The most unusual double/triple majors however will be the left brain right brain ones, which tend to have very little overlap. I have yet to meet someone else with my combination : math, economics, history of art.

I have noticed also that just as many Asians of my generation who went to good schools started their careers in the West to obtain better opportunities and experience, post the 1997 recession in Asia, I bump into many young Europeans and Americans starting fresh from school out here in Asia.

These economic migrants as it were have little to lose, no family to hold them back and can be found in all parts of China and Asia in junior jobs. I would not be surprised if in ten years, these intrepid job seekers return to Europe and the US as the next important community of business people who can move seamlessly between Wichita and Wuhan.



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