There are so many decisions to make when you’re a senior.  It’s hard to know what to do.

College applications are heading my way, and auditions are drawing near.  You might think this wouldn’t be a problem for me since I already know that I want to produce and compose.  But I haven’t been worried about what I’m doing after college.  The question for me has been what to do in college.  I’ve felt really torn between classical composition vs. commercial composition vs. audio engineering.

It was once so clear to me that I would be a classical composition major, go onto grad school, and then start writing film scores.  But then life happened, and I started realizing that I might not be what I thought I was.

When I started writing out lead sheet symbols above my piano sonata music to help with memorization, I knew that I was unusual for a classical musician.

Sometime last year, I noticed that I was spending more time in the studio than practicing my classical piano, and most of the music I was writing was going straight to the recording–not to the score first.  I hardly even opened Finale for several months…

My friends would always seem surprised when I told them what I was majoring in.  “Really?” they’d say.  “I thought you were a producer.  And don’t you play in rock bands, too?”  But I didn’t listen.  I thought they didn’t know what they were talking about.  But sometimes, people close to us see things in us that we can’t.  If your friends/family are continually surprised about something like that, you should listen and think about why you’re getting that reaction.  They might be right.

When I found out back in April that I got into GRAMMY Camp for audio engineering, I realized even more that my time in the studio had become something more than just a means to an end–it was something I couldn’t imagine not doing.  And when the GRAMMY Foundation says that you have talent in an area, that makes you listen and think hard.  I realized that GRAMMY Camp would probably change my life and the course of my career, so I just prayed, “Okay, God.  You lead me.”  And He has…

The turning point came a few weeks ago when I was talking about classical vs. commercial music with my parents.  At one point, my mom said, “When you imagine yourself performing onstage, what are you playing?”  And I realized I wasn’t playing sonatas or concertos–I was playing my own compositions, or I was playing synthesizer or keyboard in a band.

I had to admit it; I couldn’t be satisfied with playing or writing nothing but classical music.  So after all of this, I have decided to major in commercial composition and music technology.  I started jazz improv lessons this week, too, and I’m really excited about all of it.  I’m not trying to fit somewhere I don’t belong anymore.

Don’t get me wrong–I will always be a classical musician.  I still enjoy listening to it, and it strongly influences my compositions no matter what genre I’m writing.  The point is just that I don’t want to only compose or to only play classical music.  I can’t possibly restrict myself to only one style.

You see, it was so easy for me to keep going down the classical path that I’d started on years ago, because I knew I was good at it.  I had no idea what it would be like for me to study commercial music in college and have to pick up jazz.  I was too afraid to make that leap into the unknown because it seemed so risky.  I tried to somehow fit into the academic mold of classical composition.  I tried to hide my non-classical activities when I was in that context.  But you know what?  You get to a certain point, and you can’t deceive yourself any longer.  The truth has to come out.

You should never try to fit into the mold of a particular school or a particular major or career.  If you have to try to fit into it, you’re being someone you’re not.  The school or career should fit you.  Be who you were made to be, and put yourself out there as you are.  If it doesn’t fit somewhere, at least you know that that school or major is not who you are.  Don’t be ashamed of who you are.  It won’t necessarily be the easiest path, but you wouldn’t be satisfied trying to be someone you’re not.

Well, that’s my two cents for today.  What a week!

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About Shelby Rawlings Blalock

I'm a 21-year-old composer, pianist, music producer, audio engineer, and GRAMMY Camp 2012 alum. My neoclassical, self-produced piano album "Airborne" is available now on iTunes.

2 responses »

  1. […] those of you who’ve been following my blog for awhile, you might know that I have felt so torn between majoring in Audio Engineering vs. Classical Composition vs. Contemporary (Commercial) […]

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  2. Lily says:

    Fabulous post my dear!

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