How Getting Rejected From Music School Was the Best Thing for My Music Career
Before I start this post, please note that this is not going to be a sour-grapes story. I’m going to give you a raw, honest look at how I failed really hard at my music school auditions. Then I’m going to tell you about how I truly feel it was the best thing to happen to me. I hope you’ll see that sometimes, failure is not the worst thing to happen to your music. Sometimes we only take a different path when we’re forced off of the one we’re on. Sometimes, the path we’re on isn’t the right one, so it’s okay to switch.
I’ve never been open about this story, so I’m nervous and excited (nervexcited) to tell you about it!
My Epic Music School Fails
If you want to skip past all the cringe, skip to Part Five or Six. However, if you want to see how bad my fails are, keep reading! If you have a music fail you’d like to share, tweet me and let me know!My biggest music fail: Click To Tweet
Part One: The Setup
I’ve been singing and songwriting since I was a little kid (I just wrote a post about how much I hate this sentence, which you can read here. Breaking my own rule, haha). I hated the idea of “Being Famous,” but I knew that “Getting Famous” was probably the easiest way to make money off of music and eventually turn that into a behind-the-scenes job of cashing checks and telling other people what to do.
High school was screeching to a close, and I had to start looking for my next step. I kept telling people I “didn’t know what I wanted to do,” but that was a lie because I was too embarrassed to admit that I really wanted to be a songwriter. My classmates were picking science, education, medicine and other brainy careers, and I felt mine paled in comparison.
I was a nerd, and graduated in the Top 10 of my class. My family was adamant that I would go to college. I accepted this, but had no idea what to study. The few colleges that had Songwriting as a major were not guarantees that I would be successful, and my family wanted a guarantee. I thought about it and settled on the one city where I thought my songwriting might have a shot: Nashville.
Part Two: The Location
I could have chosen Los Angeles or New York, but Nashville was driving distance from my family and I had (and still have) terrible social anxiety, so this felt like the best option. I chose Vanderbilt and Belmont as options, based on their track records with music.
Initially, I thought I wanted to be an opera singer. I trained throughout high school for it. I heard that Vanderbilt was one of the best schools overall, and Belmont was well known for its music. Over the course of several months, I prepared my audition pieces. I scheduled the auditions and headed down with my father for them.
Part Three: The Climax
So, obviously you know what’s coming, but let me walk you through it: I went to audition at Vanderbilt. I was terrified. The campus itself is very intimidating, and the man behind the audition desk was an absolute nightmare of a person. He sneered at me and asked, “do you really think you can compete with the best in the world? Do you think YOUR singing compares?” he hadn’t heard me sing yet, so I don’t know how he could tell I sucked, but his intimidation tactic worked. I was shaky, I couldn’t breathe, and I stumbled throughout the entire piece. I walked out dejected, knowing I was not going to be accepted.
Looking back, I realize he was trying to weed out the weaker students by intimidating them. It certainly worked on me. I was and have always been a very shy and fragile person. I moved on to my Belmont audition.
Things went better this time. I was still nervous, of course, but no one gave me a verbal shakedown beforehand. I left thinking I might have a shot, but I really wasn’t sure.
Part Four: The Letdown
Several weeks later, I received a letter informing me that I had not been accepted into Belmont’s music program. I cried. I spent the day in bed, holding my dog. To be honest, I wasn’t that sad about the rejection. I was more upset about the fact that I now had no idea what to do.
I was so upset from my two failures that I did not apply to any other colleges. This meant that I had to take courses at my local community college for general education while I figured the rest of my life out. I contemplated every career option available, settling on “being something during the day and writing songs at night.” That was as detailed as I could get about my future.
Over time, I started session singing to pay bills. I combined my love of writing with my love of music to form this blog, and the rest is history.
Part Five: The Happy Ending
So, here’s the thing about my life: It’s awesome. I work on music all day, every day. I released my own album and several books. I built my own business, and every day I use the skills I learned in my business degree to help me grow my company. I also teach and coach session musicians. I run this blog. I’m plenty busy in the music industry and I love what I do.
Had I gone to music school, I would have had a very narrow amount of experiences. I might be a songwriter, but I might not. Unlike most degrees, there is no guarantee of success upon getting a degree in music or art. Getting a bachelor’s degree in business has helped me tremendously, and I feel that it is a much better outcome than if I had gone after music as a sole degree.
Part Six: The Takeaway
If you failed an audition or bombed a show or got rejected from school, you’re not alone. You’re also not finished, unless you want to be. There are many ways to get from Point A to Point B. I just hope this post will inspire you to keep going if you’ve had a setback!
If you have a fail or success story you want to share, let me know in the comments! If you did go to a university for music, let me know how it went!