RE: Is There a Doctor In the House?

I’ve had a long and tedious relationship with education and it’s relationship to work and music.

I graduated high school and went to community college right away because, well, Dad was paying for it and at that point it was sufficiently cheap to not really be an issue. And as the oldest child I actually gunned through an Associates and a Bachelors in 7 years, then a record for anyone in my family including good, old Dad. My record stood until my daughter killed her BAin an actual 4 years.

So I started looking to be a Civil Engineer but the lack of females in engineering caused me to change my focus to Education. Then, 6 years in I gave up and decided to quit. My Dad sat me down at Wendy’s for lunch one afternoon and told me not to make that mistake, just choose something and get the damn degree. You’ll have a credential that can never be taken away. Ever.

So I sat down with the college catalog and chose English Literature as my major and math and physics as my minors. Not having any English credits up until that point, the last year consisted of 8 English classes, one math class, and one physics class that I barely survived (funny story for another rant). At one point I briefly entertained including music in the degree but it quickly became apparent that the only thing that a music degree is good for is teaching music in elementary and high school. Period.

So then I took my English degree an started writing automotive service manuals. Which led to programming engine controls (as an engineer coincidentally). And then in the mid-90’s I took advantage of Ford Motor Company’s largesse and got an MBA which it turns out is functionally useless to the point that I rarely cop to it except as a line on a resume (from Michigan no less).

At one point when I was between gigs as an engineer I looked at what I would need to do to teach high school. Seemed like a good idea. Certainly easier than flying to Europe for weeks at a time or pulling the night shift in a dynamometr lab. And some of the districts out here paid pretty close to what I was making anyways and I was qualified in Math, Physics, English, and Business which is probably 75% of any ciriculum. And I’ve taught in college and substituted in my kid’s schools. What could go wrong?

Well, since I’d never taught in high school as an actual teacher, just a sub, I had to start at the beginning. Zero seniority. Zero credited experience. Wet behind the ears. Roughly 40% of the salary that a teacher with my years in the system would be paid.

And I’d have to take about 6 months of classes on my own ($5000) dime.

And then I’d have to student teach for a year before I got paid.


But back to music, one of the reasons I was going to quit in year 6 was I’d fallen in with a bunch of studio guys and was working in the burgeoning commercial music and recording scene around Detroit, studying with the top session player in the city at the time and apprenticing under one of the best recording engineers (last I heard he’s still working- in Nashville) in the city at one of the many sucessful commercial studios at the time. It was pre digital revolution. Digital 2-track tape machines cost $100,000 and Synclavier synths took up a literal wall of hard drives, and the studio I worked at had both. A commercial or an industrial film sound track involved between 5 and 30 union paid professional musicians and arrangers, etc. The guy I studied with pulled down $65K yearly- pretty good for 1984.

And none of them had music degrees. More than a few didn’t have high school degrees. They got there by playing, often making thier professional debut at 14 or 15.

Ultimately I came to realize that I was just never going to be that motivated. Or that good. And besides, eating and being able to feed a family has its advantages too so I quit.

Coincidentally I’ve had a blast with my little amatuer career. And played Carnegie Hall. And the Birchmere. And opened for Don Mclean, Dave Mason, the Seldom Scene, and others. And shaken George Bush’s hand on the White House lawn (no, it has nothing to do with music, it’s just cooler than shit).

With nary a music degree. Or a student loan to pay for that worthless piece of crap.

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