Transferable Skills for Musicians
Uncertainties about the value of studying music continue to proliferate today. Over the last 20 years, Canadian universities have seen a significant decline in liberal arts enrolments (including music), with some figures suggesting a decrease of up to 20 percent.
In an age of economic downturn, it is understandable that students and parents have reservations about paths of study without a direct line to a specific job. And these anxieties are only compounded by the increase in attacks on the value of the arts in media commentary.
But what is the value of studying music? What skills could one reasonably be expected to take away from such an endeavour? And what transferrable skills could a trained musician bring to a position in another industry—say, engineering or marketing? Here is what the experts have to say:
WHAT SKILLS ARE MOST IN DEMAND TODAY?
University programs are not job training. While many programs have and continue to adapt to the demands of the job market, the reality is that the goal of universities is to impart graduates with a flexible set of skills that are adaptable and can be applied in a range of different employment contexts.
And these skills are not useless. In fact, a 2016 study by the Business Council of Canada found that the skills most in demand by Canada’s largest employers were those soft skills developed and refined through rigorous liberal arts study—communication and problem-solving skills, teamwork, relationship-building, and analytical and leadership abilities. 
Liberal arts graduates have also frequently demonstrated their superior ability to innovate and adapt to the conditions of a rapidly evolving world. As Kathy Wolfe, vice-president for integrative liberal learning and the global commons at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, observes:
“[With liberal arts graduates] you’re not just going to get narrow specialties. You’re going to get the ability to innovate and adapt in an economy in which the jobs most of you are going to have don’t even exist yet. In an economy where, on average, you will change jobs 15 times before you retire. If you’re too narrowly specialized, you’re not ready for that economy.” 
TRANSFERRABLE SKILLS (OR WHAT CAN MUSIC TEACH YOU?)
It is well-established that playing music can improve cognitive function, reduce stress and anxiety, and help children to feel more confident. Statistics also suggest that children who receive a musical education perform better academically, with music education significantly improving graduation and attendance rates. 
But what does this all mean in a practical sense? What does D Mixolydian have to do with effective management strategies? Here are a few ways to rethink the vital skills that you have acquired in your years of dedicated playing and learning:
How can you communicate to your future employer than you are extremely dedicated and hard working? Think about the considerable effort that it took to master your instrument. If you bring that commitment to your future position, you are a shoo-in!
Whether you are an oboist in a symphony orchestra, slay the axe in a rock and roll band, or work in a recording studio, you know that you are part of a well-oiled machine. You rely on other people to do your job well, and if someone doesn’t pull their weight, the whole thing falls apart. As such, you have learned to work well with others and understand the importance of putting the needs of others above your own sometimes (without neglecting your duties).
Relatedly, the experts at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media point out that music school graduates are reliable. They understand that their fellow musicians “depend on them to be equally ready” and that “learning your part and being thoroughly prepared for a group performance is essential to everyone’s success.”  Likewise, employers want someone that they can depend on, and that person could be you!
A musician must know how to manage their time effectively. This means spending time on the things that matter and less time fixated on insignificant tasks, according to blogger and flutist Hannah Haefele over at hannah b flute.  Think about the years that you have spent balancing school, work, and family life while still making time to practice your instrument. This is no small feat!
Social Media Marketing
A musician must also know how to sell themselves. Do you operate a Facebook or Instagram page to promote your music? Have you thought about the image of yourself that you want to present to the world, and the strategy that you will devise to get your message across? These are questions that social media marketers’ ask themselves every day!
Above all, musicians are creative! They are used to improvising, coming up with ideas on the fly, while also being thoughtful and reflective. And they know how to overcome the challenges that present themselves in the process!
There are innumerable benefits to studying music at a university or college level. For more than 30 years, the programs and services at the Niagara Conservatory of Music have equipped musicians with the theoretical foundations and essential skills necessary for their success at a post-secondary level. The standard prerequisite for entrance to most post-secondary music programs is a Grade 2 level of theory. For more information on the value of studying music theory, visit our website or contact us.