If you put a list of the traits employers seek from their employees next to a list of the qualities that musicians develop as part of their training, you will see that the two lists match.
What do employers want? Team players, persistence, problem-solving, ability to take feedback, collaboration, emotional strength, and the ability to learn from mistakes.
University of North Carolina music professor Jennifer S. Walter recently summarized these traits in an article for the National Association for Music Education’s monthly magazine, Teaching Music.
Musicians learn to work in a structured environment that requires responsibility and dependability. If music classrooms are to achieve the objectives of a large group, they must be highly structured. Each student learns to function as a part of a larger whole. The teacher guides the students, acting as a quiet and responsive authority whose leadership comes from deep knowledge of the material under study.
Musicians learn how to persist in the face of setbacks. Musicians set the bar very high: public performance. Along the this rigorous way, there are many difficulties to overcome.
Musicians learn how to solve large problems by breaking them down into smaller pieces. Musicians decipher pages of printed symbols and turn them into art, a process that can only be done slowly and patiently.
Musicians learn how to take feedback, both positive and negative, without losing their poise. The term “diva” is a pejorative name for a self-important person who can’t take criticism. In reality, there are very few actual divas in instrumental music.
Musicians learn how to collaborate on a large scale. Many individual parts must come together to create the whole experience of a band or orchestra, and musicians must both develop as individuals and have a sense of how to achieve the goals of the group.
Musicians learn how to stay on an even keel. Music accompanies all the moods and phases of life, from high to low. Name a mood or feeling and you will find music that goes with it.
Musicians learn how to deal with failure. Handling failure is part of learning how to perform on a musical instrument. Every musician, including the virtuosos, has stories of embarrassing moments played out in public. And yet they bounce back for the next performance.