University of Utah music majors plan for mainstream careers

Story and photo by HELEN COX

To ensure employment after college, many University of Utah music majors are investing in additional studies in order to focus on more realistic, contemporary career paths including accounting, medicine and business.

Music major Clark Newell enjoys playing piano and writing music at home, but is planning for a more business-oriented career.

The University of Utah School of Music offers both undergraduate and graduate levels of music study, and its mission statement places much emphasis on education, composition, conducting, performance and theory.

It does not, however, mention career preparedness.

Many students, still passionate about receiving a music education, are thinking of new ways to become financially successful. In modern times and in a down economy, traditional art and music degrees are not typically suited for most careers.

Freshman Richard Contreras, a pianist since age 7, has decided to boost his chances by applying for a double major in piano performance and accounting. While his status at the university allows him to teach piano lessons around Salt Lake City, he only sees this as a way to make some extra cash while in school.

Contreras agrees there is not much of a future in the current job market for anyone who is only majoring in music – there simply aren’t enough jobs out there. He hopes to find a career as an accountant after graduation, and continue playing music on the side.

Ryan Ingle, a junior in the school of music, has a similar story. He is double majoring in music and chemistry. Although he has been singing his entire life and is working toward his Bachelor of Arts in music, Ingle has different career plans – he is going to attend medical school.

“I study music entirely for personal fulfillment,” he said.

Utah’s school of music is well known for its choral, classical and jazz training and has been an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music since 1952. But some students suggest the school is not what it could be because the curriculum does not seem to have changed much since 1952, either.

“The program is old-fashioned and inefficient,” said senior Clark Newell, who will receive his Bachelor of Arts in music next year. “I think the degree should still exist and be preserved in its tradition, but they really need to modernize the program and start having some classes that help students to be marketable.”

Newell came to the U with a passion for pop music. A pianist and composer, he joined his first band in junior high school and is concerned that the school of music is ignoring the needs of students who want to write pop or rock and want a more practical major.

“As much as I love music, if I were to do it again I would have chosen a different degree,” Newell said.

Newell decided to add a business minor to his major to gain some business and marketing skills, which he feels are not taught in the music program. With plans to get his Master of Business Administration, Newell hopes to go into arts administration or work in the record industry ­– but realizes that, too, is in danger due to technological advances and a down economy.

Things seem to be up in the air for the school of music, as well. When the acclaimed director of choral studies, Dr. Brady Allred, resigned unexpectedly during fall semester 2010 for “personal and family circumstances,” the school of music started a national search to replace him.

Some students are concerned the U School of Music’s credibility has gone down since he left, canceling the fall concert and leaving many choir students without a permanent professor. Allred has been temporarily replaced by Barlow Bradford, co-founder of the Utah Chamber Artists. The school is still suffering from Allred’s resignation.

“I know a lot of students left when he did,” said Megan McFarland, an a cappella student.

It is certain the music program is exceptional, and is bringing many new faces to the university who may not have enrolled otherwise. The school of music will unquestionably continue to move forward, but with some obvious changes in store for them and their students.

“Music got me into school, but business is gonna get me out,” Newell said.

%d bloggers like this: