In two weeks, it will be graduation day. And what a ride it's been.
It’s been four and a half years of everything college has to offer. From dorms and cafeterias to apartments and roommates. From late-night study sessions to Halloween craziness. From tears and broken hearts to joys and wild successes. You’ve seen it all, and come through on the other side, not just intact, but better.
Over these years you have grown, and you’ve learned how to navigate university red tape, apartment leases, and dealing with roommates, colleagues and professors. Although there is no formal class, you have earned a great many credits in adulting. And yes, although it’s not a real word, it is a way of living that, as unglamorous as it sometimes is, you do with more skill, less hesitation, and definitely less fear. Be aware that this is a life-long course. There will always be things you don’t know, but there are others who do. Never be afraid to seek them out and ask.
Your graduation regalia includes the pink tassel, representing the academic discipline, music. I know it’s not your favorite color, but wear it proudly. It represents the hard work, fierce dedication, and well-deserved accomplishments you've gained in the field you love absolutely and unconditionally. Hold onto that love and remember how far you've come, because, as you well know, this isn't an easy road.
You will find yourself explaining your choices and defending your career path. There will be inane professional questions: Why that dress? Why those shoes? Why is your hair up instead of down? Why is your hair down instead of up? Why that aria? Why that teacher? Why that school? There will be dismissive questions along the lines of, "but WHAT can you do with a music degree?" People will tease you and make little jokes and then say they're just kidding. But those little jabs hurt, and quickly become tiresome. Be prepared for punchline where you ask people if they'd like fries. It's as unfunny as the trope those who can, do, and those who cannot, teach and the extraordinarily wearisome it's not over until the fat lady sings. The temptation will be to counterattack, but don't bother.
Instead, live the life you know you are meant to live. For many people, music is a hobby. For you, music is an integral part of who you are. Never apologize for that and never feel that this thing that brings you so much happiness is any less worthy of a degree than business or medicine or science.
We live in a world that is insistent on measuring things and calculating their worth. We itemize, prioritize, and make action plans based on the bottom line of a ledger sheet. Dollar signs are the universal language of the world, and money not only speaks, it also makes decisions for us. But music doesn't work that way. Yes, musicians like to make a living like everyone else, but it isn't the primary reason we are called to this field. You've been told by some very important people, "we don't pick music, music picks us," and it's true. We are musicians because for us, it is as important as food, air, and water. It's how we express ourselves and how we communicate with others. It's our tool for bringing people together. In music, we share an experience, tell a story, encourage imagination, memory, and empathy, bring hope, joy and comfort, and ultimately, through this shared experience, strengthen our sense of community.
So, don't be bound by the ledger lines. Listen to that still small voice. It has served you well for all these years, and I have every faith that you will continue to make decisions and follow a path that speaks to you and what you value the most. Everyone knows the saying, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." But as you look ahead to what comes next, maybe you should flip the script and remember: Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.