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What is the difference between a Music Degree and a Music Performance Degree?

I am in my high school band and I play bassoon. I want to work in music but I am unsure what degree I should go for in college.

Thank you comment icon Music degree is more geared toward music education;teaching, school, written instruction. Music performance degree is rather self explanatory.Performance. Studio stuff like that. Austin Bradley
Thank you comment icon Don't forget that in art careers you can develop several skills in parallel. Along the way you could realize your best ability in music and focus, in the same way everything comes from your instrument and the way you translate the world through your instrument Choose what you like the most, whether it's playing your instrument or being more theoretical, writing and notational (or both). 😁 -Esteban C Esteban Colmenares

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Thomas’s Answer

Both are music degrees, but there are many many different focuses in music school. Depending on the school you go you can get music degrees in education (to be a music teacher), composition (to write new music for different medias and areas or for personal projects), music industry (to learn to be a session musician, A&R, Music Manager, or any other music job that isn't being the main performer), audio production (to learn how to produce a song, mix a song, work with an artist and make something new with them, and stuff as simple as mic placement and what kind of mics to use) and then there's even a broad "music major" degree which is an open ended degree that doesn't have a focus. Some of my friends choose to go that route and have something else they are majoring in as well to either combine with music or so they can just say they also have a degree in music. There's probably even more you can study in a music school but these are the main ones I can think of.

At my school, I'm finishing a degree in audio production and music business and a certificate in music composition. That puts me on a different path than, say, my friends going into choral music education or solo piano education, or even performance. However, we all still have to play an instrument, perform on that instrument, practice every day, and perform in large ensembles. We also all get the opportunities to perform in other areas (like with a different ensemble) occasionally. Personally, even though I'm not a music performance major, I perform 6-10 times a semester in different public formats. However, this doesn't include the private type events like masterclasses, seminars (with are just masterclasses with your main instrument professors), and juries (the test at the end of the year on your main instrument). Even though I perform a lot in school, I am not getting a performance DEGREE. However, I'm able to put those performances under "experiences" on my portfolio and resume.

Do you have any other interests in music besides playing the bassoon? Just from the information you gave, you could be a performance major focusing on the bassoon, an instrumental music education major, an audio production major, a music industry major, or get a broader "music degree" and not have an expressed focus. The last option however sets you up for failure because you aren't focusing on a specific thing but still need lessons and other music focused classes.
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Mary Ann’s Answer

Hi Brody !

The bassoon is a wonderful instrument ! Not many people play that anymore so I highly encourage you to apply for scholarships. There are a million piano players, myself being one of them, but hardly any bassoon, trombone, baritone horn, or viola players. Those scholarships are more easily had with your instrument.
Oboe as well, now that I think about it.


That said, a performance degree I wouldnt recommend. It’s a piece of paper that states you can play your instrument well. In my opinion you can play, or you can’t, so why spend that college money. A performance degree doesn’t guarantee you a job. On the other hand, a degree in music education or music therapy, which is what I have, can help enable you to get a job teaching music in schools, or using music as a therapeutic tool in hospitals, rehab centers, child development, nursing homes, and community centers.

Long story short question: what do you want to do with your life. How do you see music helping you through it.

Hope that gives you some ideas.

Most of all , enjoy !

Mary Ann
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Alex’s Answer

Thomas had a pretty full and accurate answer. I wanted to point out a couple things not mentioned there though. There is also a music business degree to learn the front office management practices unique to orchestra, recording studios, publishing houses, etc. A performance degree (I have two of them) will not do anything for you at the bachelor's level. You don't need the degree if you are just going to perform, you need lessons and practice time. But, if you desire to teach at the collegiate level, you definitely need two and often three performance degrees (BM, MM, DMA). Another degree depending on your religion could be a Bachelor of Church Music, Music Ministry, or Spiritual Music. Different schools call it different things. It's not required to work at a church, but it hones the skills for singing/keyboard and leading a thriving music ministry.

Also note that your career interests may change in college, but for in the back of your head know that at the masters level there are still joint programs. You have MA/MBA to combine music and business at a very high level and you also have a MA/JD if you decide to become a lawyer focused on the music industry.

I agree with what Thomas said though in that we don't know your other interests. I was a professional musician for 10yrs and couldn't live the lifestyle that I wanted to create for myself and my family. I changed careers and now work full time outside of music, but still lead a very busy music life that is part time. The catch is, where is your passion? Do you love teaching, performing, being the one others count on to succeed? There are many ways to be involved in music. I would advise you to think about what you're passionate about, what you really want your role to be in terms of the music industry and the lifestyle you want, then talk to people doing those jobs. It's easy to find people to do an "informational interview" with to help yourself learn more about a career before committing yourself too deeply into it.
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James’s Answer

A Music Performance Degree is a degree in performing music and outs you on a path steered towards performance on bassoon (concert, studio, etc.). A Music Degree is more general in scope, but geared towards education and instruction. I took a Music Composition Degree, which focused on composing music.
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