Music training opens opportunities in the future
June 1, 2012
Does the music career of students who have played in the Park City school district end when they graduate if they choose not to pursue it in college?
Not likely, said Bret Hughes, assistant director of bands at Park City High School.
"We have an example a couple of years ago where we had 22 out of 23 graduating seniors who continued to play music in college, even though they weren’t going to be music majors," Hughes told The Park Record. "Music is truly one of those lifelong activities that they can play all their lives, even thought they’re not going to play professionally.
"If you look around at the churches in the community, there are plenty of people who have been singing well into their older ages, well past when they stopped playing athletics," he said. "At some point, athletics will stop for many people, but music doesn’t."
There are even amateur performing groups that put on concerts that a hobby-musician can join.
"For example, I play in the Utah Wind Symphony in Salt Lake and there are a lot of people who play in that group who are not music teachers or pro musicians," Hughes said. "The lead trumpet player is a dentist, and it’s cool to see no matter what you choose as a career, music can still be an integral part of your life."
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Students who took music in high school have learned lessons, such as self-discipline, that will help them throughout their futures, Hughes explained.
"They had to learn to focus and had to organize their time to get some quality practicing in," he said. "They’ve learned to be self-motivated because there was no one there to tell them what to do, and a lot of times they just had to figure things out on their own, like reading a score or figuring out what key a piece is in."
Hughes likes the fact that learning how to play music has helped him think creatively.
"I don’t see things the same way everyone else does," he said. "Music is it’s own language, so I really have to be in touch with what I can do with any situation and how I can solve problems by thinking outside the box."
One misconception Hughes faces each year when students graduate is that people believe those students will just become starving musicians.
"There are many music-related careers out there that don’t require a person to play music for a living," he said.
One student, Taylor Wolbach, is a prime example, Hughes said.
"His ambition is not to ever be a performing musician, but he wants to work on the production side of things and help other people record and produce their music," Hughes said. "Taylor has to have the musical understanding to be good at that. Without his classical and other music training, he wouldn’t know what to listen for when he would be in the studio with the musician. He wouldn’t know what tips to give when it would come to recording the music or using a microphone or getting some reverb on a track."
Realistically, Wolbach’s career choice is more of a business-related job, but requires the musical know-how to survive in it, Hughes said.
"In fact, he’s going to do his undergraduate in business at the Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah," he said. "He’s going to do that to make sure he’s going to be interested in that before spending a ton of money going to production school, and let me tell you, production school is expensive."
Also, teaching music in an academic or private setting is an option.
"I got my education degree because I knew I had to in order to become a teacher," Hughes said.
Still, the textbooks and classes didn’t teach him the lessons he learned while on the job.
"I walked into the job thinking I was prepared to teach and really didn’t know anything," he said with a laugh. "All my professors didn’t tell me how different each individual student would be. I found that out when I met them."
Hughes fell back on the problem solving he learned through his music training to come up with ways to reach each of his students.
"I’ve learned to adapt lessons to the students’ personalities," he said. "Some students will get the concepts right off the bat, and it takes others a ton of work to understand, so I had to be able to teach the same things six different ways, just in case the first way didn’t work.
"That was cool for me to see, because eventually everyone gets to the same point, even though they are taking different roads," he said.
In addition to the students’ various attributes, Hughes found that music programs were different everywhere.
"Things are done different here than in Wyoming and the East Coast," he said. "The programs are different between school district to school district and even school to school."
Still, there are those graduating students who will pursuer a music-performing career.
One of those is Kimberly Thuman, a violist who will attend the University of Puget Sound’s School of Music in Tacoma, Wash. (See story titled "Music has shaped Park City High School senior’s life").
"What’s really cool about Kim was she was she has great grades because she is a hard worker, but music is different, because it comes very naturally for her," Hughes said. "She was the school’s choice for Sterling Scholar this year and she was chosen to play in the Side-by-Side concerts with the Utah Symphony."
Another challenge facing graduates is actually getting accepted into the schools they want to attend.
"A lot of these music schools are located at prestigious universities," Hughes said. "So, you have kids who are great players, but that’s just a minute part of the battle. They still have to get accepted to the school, and accepted into the music school. So, they are, in a sense, applying to two colleges at the same time.
"A lot of the kids are going through the rigor of applying for music schools, but also have to keep up their grades and do well on standardized testing," he said. "The students have to not only be fantastic at music, but have to be good students."
Percussion student Parker Swenson applied to University of Southern California and to its music school, Hughes explained.
"USC is not an easy school to get into academically, in any case," he said. "Parker could have gotten accepted to USC and not to the music school or worse, accepted to the music school and not to USC, and that wouldn’t have helped.
"Luckily, he was accepted to both," Hughes said.
This year, Park City High School has 11 graduates planning on pursuing careers in music-related fields.
"Not all of them are going to be music majors, and we have those who will start as music majors, but may not continue as music majors, but that’s OK, because music has already touched their lives and will continue to until they are well and old," Hughes said.