“Well what are you gonna do with THAT degree?”
I’ve heard this question or some variation of it more times than I can count on my fingers (and toes). And every time I hear it, I just think of Benjamin trying to answer questions about his future. Because when someone asks me a question like that, they’re not just curious – they want an explanation, dammit! Explain yourself! And the truth is that I can’t really explain it. My goals in life aren’t confined to a paycheck. A few weeks ago, an older fella (and by older, I mean forty-something) was asking me about my major. And, word for word, this is what he said:
“Well yeah I know you’re studying music, but, are you actually gonna DO something? I mean, you can’t make a living by playing music.”
In his mind, playing music isn’t actually doing something. It’s not a contribution to society. And he’s not alone. There are a whole lot of people who think the same thing. If I don’t have a business model or some smarty-pants math equation to back it up, I might as well just be a bum. I shook it off because I’ve heard that reaction countless times, but it actually is pretty insulting to me. You wanna know what I’m gonna do with my degree? Here, I’ll tell you:
I’m going to be happy for the rest of my life.
Music isn’t just something that I’m interested in. It’s not just something that I’m really good at. It’s not just something that makes me happy. It’s not even just something that I care deeply about. Simply put, music is a calling. Believe me, there have been times when I wanted to do anything but music. There have been times when I’ve flubbed rehearsals or auditions. My audition at Indiana University was a colossal flub. If music was something I was only interested in, I would’ve quit back in high school. I’ve never been able to get away from music because I’ve always been called back. Music is a calling.
I was in the Hawkeye Marching Band my sophomore year. The Hawkeye Drumline (HDL is what the cool people call it) does a 10-15 minute show of its own before the game. One time after an HDL show, some lady who was probably like 105 years old came up to me and said, “I just love watching the drums. It makes me so happy!” And that’s why this all makes sense to me.
I don’t just play music for myself. As much as I truly enjoy playing for myself, that’s not what I’ve been called to do. I play music because it makes people happy. I do what I do because this world would be a sad, sad place without music. I play music because my parents told me that I have a gift I can share. I play music because I would be tremendously miserable doing anything else. As Paul Simon puts it, “Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.” I love music with all my heart and soul. So the next time someone sarcastically asks me, “What are you gonna do with THAT degree?” I’ll just say, “I’m gonna be happy for the rest of my life.”