Can you afford to be a musician?

Ellen McSweeney & the Chicago Q Ensemble, which she founded(Photo: Danielle Aquiline)
Ellen McSweeney & the Chicago Q Ensemble, which she founded(Photo: Danielle Aquiline)

At various points in our childhood, most of us had some type of career aspirations…some pretty straightforward, others rather a stretch.  I knew aspiring cowboys, astronauts, doctors, lawyers, a puppeteer, and a couple of radio announcers.  I have lost track of most of them, but I do know the puppeteer realized his goal for many years.  You probably have figured out who the radio announcer is.  Oftentimes, reality displaces our dreams, forcing us to change career, or even life paths.

Student debt has been a high-profile topic, of late.   If multiple degrees are required for a particular career, debt load can easily hit six-figures.  A four-year degree program can become much longer, depending upon how much someone has to work while attending school.

What if your goal is a music career?  What is the likelihood you can pay your bills AND your student loan payment?

Ellen McSweeney is a Chicago-based musician and writer. She is the founding violinist of Chicago Q Ensemble, a string quartet dedicated to new music, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovative programming.  Ms. McSweeney recently addressed the topic on the website New Music Box

“Several top music schools–including Eastman, the Manhattan School, Yale, and the New England Conservatory–now have Centers for Music Entrepreneurship. Students receive guidance on forging careers outside academia and the orchestra. They are warned about the difficulty of the formal job market. They are encouraged to develop multiple income streams, create their own opportunities, found ensembles, and create a strong online presence. In my own experience, this approach can absolutely bear fruit. We can create interesting and rewarding musical careers, even without the auspices of a “real job.”

Her article is informative and thought-provoking, no matter what career path you may choose.  It should be required reading for high school students and their parents.

Read Buyer Beware: Education Debt (New Music Box)

Watch Chicago Q Ensemble play Thy Wondering Eyes, by Shawn Jaeger

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99O6aQhmtyo

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