Churches provide many Voice majors a way to gain valuable work experience while still in school. (Emily Gonçalves)
Churches provide many Voice majors a way to gain valuable work experience while still in school.

Emily Gonçalves

Finding My Voice: How Blair students make extra cash

Jobs music majors have in college to gain experience in the industry

November 14, 2019

(Photo courtesy Sophie Heinz)

Going to school for a music degree isn’t exactly perceived as the most sure-fire way to make a living after college. And while many Blair students may face this income struggle after their undergrad and graduate years, I’ve found that making some cash while still in school isn’t as difficult as one might think. As my graduation gift money continues to dwindle out of my bank account, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting a job to fund my various activities (mostly shopping for clothes if I’m being honest).

I’ve been talking to a lot of my peers at Blair to see how they find work, and I’ve found that many of the voice majors at Blair make their pocket money through church employment. Many churches in the area dedicate relatively large sums of money to use towards paying their musicians. I’m from a suburb outside of Seattle where churches are far less common and have much less funding, so I was shocked to discover that some of my voice major friends who work as choir section leaders (ex: the soprano section leader leads the soprano section) at churches in Nashville make nearly $150 a week. 

For section leaders, each week usually consists of just one rehearsal during the week and the performance on Sunday morning. Section leaders make roughly $30 an hour, which is almost four times the minimum wage in Tennessee ($7.25). 

Getting these jobs isn’t necessarily easy, though. Selected applicants must be able to read music proficiently, lead the rest of the choir and being able to sing in more of a choral style as opposed to operatic (what we are trained at Blair to do) are all essential skills one must have if they expect to be selected for this kind of work. As students leave school and go out into the real world to pursue work, many of those will have a church job on the side (especially singers and pianists) so gaining experience in college is wise.

Other common forms of work for music majors include teaching lessons to younger kids. Many people use connections through their teachers to find students in the area. The payment for lessons varies. When I taught voice lessons over the summer, I was paid $20 an hour. As you become older and get more education and experience, you can charge more, but I rarely see undergrad students request more than $20 an hour. Despite the potential to make money giving lessons, many students in Blair volunteer their skills to W.O. Smith, which is a community music program for children, teaching lessons there free of charge. 

Beyond these standard side jobs, many music majors find work by gigging from time to time at venues, namely parties. While the money may not always be consistent, this kind of work helps prepare us for what is to come.  We will also face the same inconsistent paycheck which is characteristic of many professional musicians as they are starting their careers. Not only is it good exposure to our future lifestyle, but it also allows us to make money doing what we love and what we hope to do for a career. I’ve heard time and time again that being a professional musician means that you must learn versatility, hard work and persistence or else you will not make it in the industry. This is certainly something we cultivate inside Blair. Through side jobs, many students take this one step further, pushing themselves out into the world of real work so they can develop their professional musical skills and experience with the hopes of one day being able to say “I’ve made it.”

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Frances Ricke
3 years ago

Great article Sophie. I am sure it is a lot of help to students that need financial help. So proud of you Sophie.