School to Work: Episode 6 Music Student


Interview with Steve Kim, Music Student

IMG_1013---Steve-on-Piano-Closeup-CompressedHave you ever wondered what it may be like to be a Music student in university?

Interested to know more about what a career in the field of Music may entail?

I had the pleasure of recently meeting with Steve Kim, a student at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music, who graciously allowed me to interview him about his experience as a student majoring in Music Theory, and his transition from moving from the predominantly rural city of Chilliwack, B.C. to the metropolitan city of Montreal. Steve also spoke to us about what his plans for life after graduation are and how he hopes to build a career as a professor specializing in Music Theory. 

Check out the podcast and read on to learn more about Steve’s experience as a Music student and how he is preparing for the school-to-work transition.

Listen here to the full interview podcast:

Don’t have time to listen to the full Podcast?

Here are a few excerpts from my interview with Steve:

L: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself in terms of your academic and work background?

IMG_1050---Color-Burst-CompressedS: I’m from Chilliwack, B.C. – it’s just a small town. I was totally not thinking about doing music as a career but you know, towards the end of my high school career, I wanted to go to university and music seemed to be one of my strong subjects and I didn’t know what specific thing I would do in music – but it turned out to be theory because I met some great professors and friends who are interested in it, and that got me interested in it as well.

“I was totally not thinking about doing music as a career.”

L: When you first started university, were you still deciding whether you wanted to study music in a theoretical sense or in a more practical sense?

S: When I first got into McGill, there’s this program called “Music Faculty Program” so it’s a program for students like me, who aren’t sure of what they’re going to be studying specifically in music, so I had the option to choose many elective courses to just figure out what I wanted to study, so then I met some good professors and friends, and that’s how I leaned more towards the theory side.

L: Do you have any insight for other students considering a path in music?

S: Coming into music school, I think it’s great to take the opportunity to explore other courses than music since you’re in a university, where other scholarly fields are discussed and taught, you should really focus too much on the music side only […] The courses I took, I really liked them all, I took film history, I’m taking German right now – those are all very interesting fields and especially they are all related to the art criticism side.

IMG_1029---Study-Mode-Steve-CompressedL: What skills and interests do you think a Music student should possess?

S: Not just in Music theory, but all Music students are going to be required to read historical treatises and documents that talk about music, and they’re going to be required to criticize their points, outline them, and write papers – lots of papers – you’re going to be reading a lot, writing a lot of papers – regardless of what you are majoring in specifically in Music, so I guess reading and writing skills are super important. I took choir, a university course – everyone has to take their ensembles, even if you’re a Composition major, Theory major, History major – you have to play, you have to take a practical exam.  It’s alright, it’s not too hard!

“Reading and writing skills are super important.”

Steve’s career advice to our viewers:

“I think the most useful career advice that I got is, I was told by many people to not just focus on one thing… I think that we should take advantage of all these different courses and different subjects that the university teaches and offers.” 

L: What are your expectations for your career options after graduation?

S: Well my plan after graduation is to go to graduate school.  I expect more or less the same thing than I did in the Bachelor’s studies, but more difficult and intense. To get any kind of a job that is related to Music Theory is to become a professor –because I know that if I do become a professor, I know that I’m going to enjoy teaching and I know that I’m just going to enjoy whatever the professors have to do – as a career option, it’s quite smart for me. […] At the same time, Music Theory is such a limited field, there isn’t much in terms of work opportunities. Of course, if you’re a music student and you know a little bit of how to play instruments, you can go teach, give lessons, and you can work for music academies – I’ve done that for a short period, it’s interesting.

“My plan after graduation is to go to graduate school [to become a professor].”

Interested in a program or career in Music?

Visit the Government of Canada Job Bank website for more information on what recent graduates across Canada are doing with their Bachelor of Music degrees.

Here are some quick stats (2011-2013) from their website:

  • 90.43% of recent Music graduates are employed
  • Earning range is between $20,051 – $46,454 with $$33,442 being the median
  • Lower Mainland – Southwest Region, British Columbia is the top-paying location in Canada
  • 33.16% of recent graduates are in jobs that are closely related to their field of study
  • 49.66% go on to pursue further education
  • 70.53% would choose this field again

Food for thought:

Have you ever thought about who or what has inspired your career goals? Perhaps it was hearing about what a family member does over Sunday night dinner, having that one special teacher in high school who fuelled your passion for a particular subject, or being drawn towards something that you found you were naturally good at.   As we learned from Steve, who travelled 4,893 kilometres from his hometown to pursue a Music program in Montreal, it is so important to surround yourself with people who inspire you and activities that motivate you.  Networking and connecting with people who share similar interests with you, whether this be professors or new friends at school, can really help you achieve a better understanding of what you are passionate about – all the while keeping you grounded and helping you reach your ultimate career goals.


A very big thank you to Steve for sharing his story with us!

Interested in getting involved in this project?

We’d love to hear from other students or graduates who have something to say about their education and career experiences.

Write to to get in touch.

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