As the highly skilled specialists that we are, we need to focus not only on what we do, but on why we do it and who we want to be, not only in our careers, but in our lives.
Everything but a straight line
I did my bachelor degree in music education with classical guitar as my main instrument. On my master’s degree I changed from music education to the pop/jazz department, my main instrument still being classical guitar, and luckily my institution allowed this. Now, on the final year of my master I have changed my main instrument to pop/jazz guitar with song writing as my second subject. Besides my studies I have published a ukulele method book, started my own company and released my debut-EP, a combination between classical music and folk, collaborating with an actor, two architects and musicians from different fields.
As I said, everything but a straight line.
Holding on to what is meaningful
I have never felt that I fully identified with any of my subjects, not even classical guitar, and for that reason I have felt very misplaced. At the same time, I have never doubted that being a musician was what I wanted to do. I just didn’t feel at home in any of the categories available. For a long time, I struggled to do what was expected of me in class, while stubbornly doing as many projects on the side as possible and found joy in those. I used the knowledge, I gained from my classes in these projects – just in a different way.
This struggle between what was expected of me and my own curiosity and desire to create had a huge benefit. It made me very aware of what was really meaningful to me, because my identity was constantly challenged and I had to hold on to it. This is what I am grateful for.
Who do we want to be?
It was also how I began to think about what it means to be successful. To me the definition of success is something personal since it depends on identity, values in life and most importantly happiness. It’s about succeeding on your own terms, not on someone else’s!
In my opinion this is something we need to talk about in higher music education. As the highly skilled specialists that we are, we need to focus not only on what we do, but on why we do it and who we want to be, not only in our careers, but in our lives.
A need to challenge the dominating narratives
I gave a talk about this topic to a group of students in Iceland as part of the annual ANMA (Association of Nordic Music Academies) meeting and found that it resonated with all of them. Since then, I have had many conversations with students from different countries about this topic, and this has only made it clearer to me, that the existing and very strong narratives about what it means to be successful need to be challenged. Getting the narratives out of the way leaves more space for dreams.