What do you want to be when you grow up?

I'm 26 and I had someone ask me this right after I graduated in May. It seems to be the inescapable question everyone is faced with at some point. The problem is, it's becoming increasingly difficult to answer. Having switched majors and careers more times than most people switch socks, I've had my fair share of answering this question. I also used to coach prospective freshmen on degree decisions in my last couple of years at BU.

Before I got my dream job as the Assistant Director of NCMS, my answer had been, "Whatever people will hire me for," which most people are less than pleased with. Here was my predicament: I have a degree in physics, was an engineer for 2 years, have a degree in music, and was working at a music school and have some decent playing credentials. So, should I have answered, "I want to be a musician and perform all day!" Well, no, that's not true. That lifestyle is too unpredictable for me. I need some stability, financially and with my schedule. Plus I don't really think I could gig full time as a clarinet player (it's possible but pianists and singers have it much easier). So, should I have answered, "I want to be an engineer, but do music as a hobby." Well, no. I've spent a significant amount of time and money studying music at a professional level. It's not fair for me to say it's just a hobby.

So how do I answer this question? "I want to be an engineer and a musician," is what I was trying out for a while. "What? Won't that be really difficult?" came the cries of the disbelievers. You probably have heard that we are becoming a freelance economy. Well what a better way to have security in your freelancing career than to diversify your income streams. Is 10 hours of gigging, 10 hours of teaching clarinet, and 20 hours of freelance programming really that music different than a 9-5 desk job?

My point is, don't be afraid to pursue everything that you love and take seriously, at a professional level. Especially with the modern job market, the only thing that's unreasonable is someone reacting negatively to someone else saying they want to do more than one thing. Want to be a comedian/actor/model? Go for it! Want to be an engineer/entrepreneur/musician? I tip my hat to you! Want to seriously pursue sousaphone and clarinet? I think that's great! Not for nothing, I actually got my first paid clarinet gig before I got my degree in music, but that's another post entirely.


Ashley Wright

Ashley has a breadth of experience in administration, music, and music management. She currently works as the Office Registrar at the Nashua Community Music School and manages the New England Chamber Players and Barbershop Ladies of Tallahassee (where she was a founding member). Ashley designed and implemented both the NECP and BLT websites, as well as designed the BLT logo. She was formerly an usher and stage crew member at the Florida State University Ruby Diamond Auditorium, and a resident assistant and office assistant at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute.

Ashley has played with the Nevers’ Second Regiment Band, the Southern New Hampshire University Wind Symphony, and she attended the Belgian Clarinet Academy last summer. She recently graduated with a BA in Music from Florida State University as a clarinet major, where she studied with Dr. Deborah Bish. For other musical accomplishments: last year, Ashley composed a film score that was recorded by the Florida State University Philharmonia Orchestra and played tenor saxophone and sung backup vocals in the FSU Ruby Diamond Auditorium for the FSU Blues Band with Charles Atkins.

She received her first bachelor's degree in physics (with a music minor) from Boston University. She worked as an engineer for two years in Quality Assurance and Software before returning to school for her music degree, and she spent last summer as a software intern. She has a lot of experience developing independent Python tools, especially for data processing.