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Articles / Applying to College / Choice of Major for Aspiring Country Singer?

Feb. 1, 2010

Choice of Major for Aspiring Country Singer?

Question: If my child's aspiration is to sing country music, it is better to major in music business or in commercial music ... and why?

"The Dean" has no expertise in this area (but that's rarely stopped her before. ;-)) My first reaction to your question was that it doesn't really matter what the student majors in. More important is where this student is and with whom.


But, in order to give you better advice than my own conjecture, I contacted a country music insider, Grammy winning musician/composer Mike Reid. (The Dean doesn't always have friends in high places, but Mike just happens to be an old pal of my College Confidential colleague Dave Berry.)

Mike feels pretty strongly that an aspiring country singer should head to Nashville, the epicenter of the industry. His advice confirms a suggestion that I was going to make before I called him. Belmont University in Nashville is one of the top schools in the nation when it comes to its programs for students interested in the music field ...whether as performers or behind-the-scenes pros. Belmont's atypical majors include specific fields like "Songwriting," "Music Business," and "Entertainment Industry Studies." The "Commercial Music" major allows an emphasis in several areas, including both business and performance.

More critical than the academic road that your child chooses is the environment. He or she should seek out a place that provides plenty of opportunity to perform, along with the chance to network with (and be encouraged by) others who share common interests and goals. Belmont provides this winning combination. In our chat this morning, Mike offered as an example the story of famous country singer-songwriter Brad Paisley, a Belmont U. alum. While at Belmont, Paisley met two fellow students who later became his producer and songwriting partner. I'm not trying to turn this reply into a sales-pitch for Belmont, but I think that this is a good illustration of why the campus climate, even more than the curriculum, can play a starring role in a singer's success. Of course, there are many other ingredients that go into such success: talent, persistence, and--perhaps above all--luck.

So as you advise your child, I urge you to put the emphasis on the "where" even more than on the "what." I hope you feel that I'm not making an end run around your question. (Couldn't resist the football reference. Mike Reid is a former NFL stand-out, too.) Best wishes to you as you venture into the demanding and often capricious music world.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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