A career as a musician?

Hannah writes:

Hi! My name is Hannah and I really want to be a musician but, i’m nervous that I don’t understand enough about music or i’m not that great of a player (I play trumpet (8years) and saxophone (about 2 months)). I’m 17—a junior in high school—and college is right around the corner.

Is it too late for me to continue learning about music and trying to be the best musician I can be? Or should I find a new major and turn to a more realistic dream?

Hey Hannah,

It’s never too late to be a musician. I have people writing me all the time who are starting to play again well into adulthood. For example here’s one:

Hey, long time viewer, first time writing you. I picked up my first clarinet Jan 2018 and taught myself to play.

and another:

…i'm 42 and had the occasion to borrow a bass clarinet, so here I am, finally, and again i want to thank you, your videos and articles really help me getting back on the horse!

Being a musician doesn’t have an age limit. So follow that dream!

Now, if you want to be a musician for a living (and study music in college, etc.), then I will give you the advice I give everyone: Go for it! But, double-major in something other than performance. Choose your teacher and school carefully and look for a program that educates entrepreneurs, not just clarinet owner-operators.

What does that mean—entrepreneur? It means that if you are going to be a musician in the world today, you will need to build your own career. You will probably teach a lot, and you will play a little. You will work “side-hustles” a lot (I own an Airbnb cabin that I rent out, I make videos for YouTube, I sell stuff on my website here—I also have a full-time job working for Amazon as its Group Creative Director in New York).

Basically, almost every musician alive has a career that is patched together from a bunch of different things. Even orchestra musicians.

So, again, don’t let this discourage you at all. Just understand what’s out there, and what you’ll need to do to be happy, fulfilled, productive…and fed!

Thanks for writing,

Michael