college and career resources for high school students...

Musician Tips:

We interviewed several professionals working in a variety of different areas of music. All have valuable tips to help you on your journey.

What are some questions I should ask myself when choosing a creative major?  Do you understand ALL the possible revenue streams for your chosen career path? Are you prepared to run your own business completely, including; bookkeeping, accounting, payroll, staff management, and cost control? Do you have a 5/10/15 year plan and are you willing to both reevaluate it every 12 months and also completely abandon it if it turns out you misjudged your career path? Are you willing to accept a "behind the scenes" position if it turns out your strengths actually lie there?

What are some questions I should ask myself when choosing a college? Will you be able to pay your student loans based on expected median salary in your field? Do you love the vine on campus? Can you see yourself being creative in this location (city, climate, distance from support system)? Is there a safe area of town where you can live cheaply if you need to move off campus?

What questions should I ask when visiting a college? Are the teachers actually experts in your field? Have they actually achieved a good level of success or are they purely academic? Can the faculty help you with job placement in your field after graduation? Are there local internship opportunities? Is the campus up to date/cutting edge in terms of technology in your field of choice? Can you speak to a graduate who's been in your field for 5+ years post graduation? Are there real business/accounting/ entrepreneurship classes?

What is your message to parents of high school seniors who are wanting to major in the arts?  This is perhaps one of the most frightening decisions you will have to watch your child make. Whether you believe they can succeed or not, your child DOES (maybe naïvely but still) and blindly supporting them is the best thing you can do. Understand they will likely make VERY LITTLE money for the first 5-7 years post grad and will need TONS of support. Emotional and perhaps financial. Make sure they take REAL business and accounting classes. Make sure they understand how to manage expenses.

What is your message to high school seniors who want to major in the arts?  A life in the creative arts can be one of the most soul filling and fulfilling thing a creative person can do. Understand thoough this road is full of hardship and failures along the way. Do not get discouraged. Art is worth fighting for. The first decade will be the hardest but then if you're still standing it will get MUCH easier after that. Accept setbacks as a test that will make your art better and you stronger. Art, writing and music live forever after we're long gone so leave your mark.

What are your tips, strategies, and actions for students to take while in college? Immerse yourself completely in your creative pursuit. There is plenty of time for sleeping, parties, dating and living your young life later on. You will likely never live in an arts supportive bubble that requires you to make no money ever again in your life. Have fun for sure, but ask as many questions as you can, learn all the good and bad things from anyone who is willing to teach you. Practice as much as you can. Collaboration with other students will make you stronger. Keep a journal.

Matt Hennessy is a Music Mixer and Producer in Chicago and on the National Board of Trustees for the Grammy Awards. I went to Berklee to study jazz and ended up realizing my real strength was behind the glass in the studio. I began my career working for years for free or close to free in studios in Boston before catching a job working for R. Kelly in Chicago. Form there I built my client base and have been on over 10 million albums sold. I now own my own 5 room major studio in chicago.
Matt's Top 5 Tips:
1) Practice, Practice and then Practice more. Then when your done with that you should practice some more.
2) Collaboration is the key to growth. 3) Learn to manage your finances. Keep a budget. Understand that 
EVERYTHING has a cost.
4) Failure in a creative life is a given. It's going to happen and it's 
devastating, but it helps you grow. You will feel like your career is over but it's not. Most of the time in the arts we fail upward.
5) Do not be afraid to forget everything and start over.
Name: Matt Hennessy
Company: VSOP Studios
Title: Owner/Chief Engineer/Head Producer
College: Berklee College of Music, Boston
Major: Jazz Performance
            & Production/Engineering
Website: Matthennessy.com
               
 

What are some questions I should ask myself when choosing a creative major?  Am I a disciplined self starter? Can I take criticism and turn it into positive energy for growth? Can I handle instability and a varied schedule? If you took a break from your creative passion, how badly would you miss it?

What are some questions I should ask myself when choosing a college? Does the school offer options for minor and dual major degrees to help broaden the education experience? Is there an active alumni association? Does the school have professors or adjunct faculty that are currently active in their field?

What questions should I ask when visiting a college? Does the school offer a job center or resource center? What are the facilities like and are they up to date? Do the students have access to the latest technology on campus?

What is your message to parents of high school seniors who are wanting to major in the arts?  Understand that your son or daughter may not have a traditional career path and they could potentially be starting a business after graduation. Is the family willing to provide encouragement and moral support while the business grows? Remind your son or daughter to socialize, network, and connect with other students. In my experience, it's the individual student and their drive to be successful, not the title of their degree/occupation that determines success in their professional career.

What is your message to high school seniors who want to major in the arts?  If you are majoring in the arts because, "you don't want to get a real job," YOU WILL FAIL. Working as an independent professional in any creative endeavor is highly rewarding but, it comes with a tremendous amount of hard work. Sorry, there's no way around that one!

What are your tips, strategies, and actions for students to take while in college? All art students who want their creative passion to be their income need a basic understanding of business, economics, tax policy, and basic accounting. Intro classes such as these should be available as electives or part of a minor/dual major. Keep up to date with technology and learn internet survival skills like blogging, SEO, html basics, content marketing, and advertising. Learn a variety of skills within your artistic discipline. You never know what skill will land you a job or gig.

Is there a resource that you suggest? Small Business Administration - https://www.sba.gov

Name: Craig Daniel Ferguson
Company: Island of Awesomeness LLC
Title: Owner / Independent Music
          Professional
College: Berklee College of Music
Major: Professional Music
               
I've been a music professional for over 10 years. My first jobs came from friends and alumni I met in school. Those relationships have helped me make 10 tv appearances, score over 50 tv/film placements, perform over 1,000 live gigs and record for commercial spots by Chevy, GMC, Kayak.com, John Deere. My work today is almost exactly what I did 10 years ago but, now with more experience and focus. I love the variety of my daily schedule and the different folks I get to meet when traveling.
Craig's Top 5 Tips:
1) Always be the first to arrive and the last to leave.
2) Be willing to work harder than those around you.
3) Never stop listening to your mentors, professors, and colleagues.
4) Never stop learning. There is always a new skill to give you an edge.
5) Remember to take a vacation at least once a year.