Pursuing a career in music can seem like an impossible task. The bad job market, the inconsistency of many ‘musical’ jobs, the insane competitiveness that comes along with any career in the arts: it can all seem daunting and terrifying. But the fact that people continue to pursue it, and even make great careers, speaks to the importance of music in so many people’s lives.
Katie Cloys, a musician in New Jersey, has been a music lover all her life. Exposed to music at an early age, Katie decided to follow her passion. Like many students, she had some great and some not-so-great teachers in her life, but she found music teachers to be the most influential in her career. From this, she decided teaching was her calling; she wanted to inspire others just like she had been inspired. For her, “it was always music.”
Katie came to Westminster Choir College for a degree in music education. She felt that in order to be the best teacher she could be, she should have a good understanding of vocal pedagogy. So after finishing her bachelors degree, she decided to stay at Westminster to pursue a double Pedagogy and Performance degree. During her master’s work, she became the assistant for Dr. Joe Miller. It was during her time with Dr. Miller that Katie discovered her interest in arts administration. This was the path that she had been looking for all along.
But she had just spent six years obtaining degrees that did not necessarily add to her administrative credentials.
She also graduated in 2008, just in time for economic troubles. So though her interest was in arts administration, she began to look for any administrative work. She worked temp jobs including assisting, which ended up landing her a job at Princeton University as an assistant administrator in the office of the Provost. Music has always been her passion, so in order to keep that in her life, she currently also works as a section leader at Lamington Presbyterian Church; she also sings the occasional choral concert and solo work. But still, she hopes to combine her passions in the near future.
Katie seems to have an exciting career ahead of her. She seeks to continue administrative work at the higher education level, but is looking for the next step that will eventually lead her to a directorship or dean position at a conservatory or music school. She believes that some people are more inclined to doing administrative work, and that every experience you have just helps build to the next thing, so she is glad for her experiences now. But Katie is most looking forward to the unique challenges that deans of music schools face. She sees that difficult and overwhelming position as never having to face the same day or the same challenges twice. She also wants to work at a music school because she understands the passion for music in a way others may not. Having obtained an education, pedagogy, and performance degree, she truly understands the need of the students. And that what she’s all about: caring for the students.
Katie didn’t always know what she was going to do with her life. She found her passion in music, and so pursued a musical career in a variety of ways. Of the unknowns in life, Katie simply said that you should “allow yourself to just be open to the possibilities–know that it’s going to be okay… Every step you take is going to lead you to where you need to be.” And that’s true for anyone pursuing a musical career. There are so many more options than you can plainly see. For Katie, it ended up being arts administration. And to those of you who may be feeling that you don’t know what choosing a ‘different’ kind of musical career means, take a lesson from Katie. No matter what you pursue, “it doesn’t mean that you’re any less passionate about music. I am still as passionate as all of those who are out there teaching or performing or conducting. I’m just doing it in a different way.”