As a senior in high school, you always hear the dreaded question: “what are you going to do with your life?” When I was there over four years ago, I didn’t have a clue. I had always loved music, but I never saw that as anything more than a hobby. After all, people didn’t make money being musicians, right?
As I prepared to choose my university, I looked into possible scholarship opportunities. When my mom told me my college had a music scholarship, I was hesitant to believe her. A scholarship… for MUSIC? I thought. Why in the world would they have that? Is music a sport now? Despite my hesitation, I decided to give it a shot.
Arriving on campus to audition for the music scholarship, I felt a mixture of excitement, nerves, and disbelief. I prepared the required three songs, including an aria, a classical piece, and a contemporary song. The faculty warned me I would be doing a bit of sight reading during the audition, something I wasn’t too excited for. I walked into the brightly lit classroom and met a panel of four professors, who would later become my beloved mentors. I sang each song almost on autopilot, and fumbled my way through the sight reading portion of the audition. Afterwards, the faculty asked about my experience as a singer, and my goals for college and beyond.
I left the audition room completely dazed. I didn’t anticipate much would come out of that audition, so I congratulated myself for getting through it and resigned myself to focus my efforts on other possible paths in college. After all, you don’t hear very much about opportunities within the music field beyond the rare rise of a rock star or pop sensation.
A few weeks later, I received a call from the music department; they congratulated me, the recipient of a $13,000 music scholarship. I could barely contain my joy and, if I’m honest, my shock. Only months before, I had had no idea there was such a thing as “music scholarship.” Now I was the recipient of that scholarship! I never imagined that I would receive anything in return for my arts, but this experience changed my perspective.
As part of my scholarship, I studied music theory and learned the theory behind the music that had always been a part of my life. I became a member of a choir which granted me endless opportunities to travel to beautiful countries like Austria and Hungary. I got the chance to perform on countless stages, and even win money in a professional singing competition! The professors that had previously been panel members at my audition were now confidants, with whom I would share my college experiences and learn more about myself.
I always imagined music as a time-consuming hobby, not an actual career choice. I am forever grateful that I allowed myself the opportunity to grow as a musician, and as an individual, by pursuing something that seemed impossible.
There is a cultural narrative within the US that tells young artists their passions are not viable in the long-term. Many artists give up their passions because they’re not “practical” and they fear they’ll never make a living. For all you soon-to-be college students out there, pursue your passions! You never know what opportunities life will present you with, and you don’t want to miss out on them.