I often get e-mails or people contacting me HERE asking questions about a career in music. Around this time of year I'm usually asked my thoughts on college, either by a high-school senior or a parent of a student.
I got one this morning from an awesome Mom asking for her son who's a drummer. (Mom's freakin rule by the way, don't they? I owe almost everything I've done in life to the support of my Mom encouraging me to pursue my dreams)
As I was replying this afternoon, I thought I would share my response on here in the hopes it may help someone. Feel free to SHARE this if you know someone this time of year making this decision or maybe you yourself are a high-school senior.
Note: This isn't a polished essay of my thoughts on the subject. Think of it as my personal email to you.
"I do have thoughts on the subject (more on the life path of a musician or artist) but the college decision fits into that for sure. Here's what I would say:
First, I believe two things very strongly:
1. The career path of a musician (or anyone who's career you aspire to follow) is like lightning. It's physically impossible to strike the same place twice the same way. There are things you can do to make those chances higher to being similar to them, but embracing your own journey and originality is one of the most important daily CHOICES you can make.
2. I know you feel a ton of pressure to make the right decision with college right now but here's the secret nobody tells you: There is no right or wrong answer. Weigh out all the info you have in front of you and go with your gut. As long as you know this: Life expands and contracts with your willingness to take on risk, you can fail doing something you hate so you might as well take a chance and pursue something you love like drumming.
Here's why I believe there's no right or wrong answer:
I was on a flight out of Shanghai China, right in the middle of our last Asia tour. We were running on little to no sleep that morning and I was sitting next to two of my crossest buddies who play in the band. I had this thought about life paths when it comes to school that I found interesting: Gabe (drums) Went to university with me and He graduated top of his class, highest honors with some other sort of honor saying he was top performance musician grad of the year... who knows... it was impressive. I was a college drop out after a few years studying my undergrad in music and Jasper (electric) never went to college... All three of us got the same gig... No perfect path other than your own to take you where you want to go.
That said, here are just a couple thoughts on college.
- Relationships and friendships are the most valuable thing you'll gain from going to college (or wherever you go) Those that you make are going to be the ones you're making music with down the road. What kind of music do you want to be making? Surround yourself with people doing that.
- Move away from home! (you don't need college for this, but living on your own hugely important)
- If someone doesn't know what they want to do with their life, college could help them figure that out.
- Helps with education if teaching is something you want to do in the future.
- An external force helping give you a focused study of drums if someone doesn't have the drive on their own to practice.
- It gives some people the false sense of future security. Your degree in music is not going to open any doors AT ALL besides teaching. This is a fact that I know even from my friends who graduated from Berklee College of Music. Only the relationships you make will open opportunities.
- Debt! Student loans have kept people from doing what they love after college because they had to take the job that pays more so they could pay off loans.
- The false sense of 'this is just what you're supposed to do next'. If it's the right thing for you, AWESOME! However, outside of relationships, you can get all the lessons on drums and music on youtube nowadays.
Again, just do what feels like the best NEXT step for YOU alone. The only real thing standing between you and your dreams is WORK. Do the work, play your butt off, play with as many people as possible, listen to as much music as possible and be as kind & generous of a person as possible. I'll bet you already know in your gut what you feel like the the best next step is for this next year.
Two books I would recommend you devour as soon as possible:
- "The Big Gig" by Zoro the drummer (DO IT!!!! READ IT THIS WEEK IF YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON IT!!! He talks about college too.)
- "How to win friends and influence people." by Dale Carnegie (music is amazing but how you interact with people is the greatest journey in life. This book is a game changer)