Last week in our Path to Professionalism series, we explored how adopting Dorico as your music notation software of choice could help you to future-proof your career. Here, we’ll be exploring the best ways to develop your skills as a musician as you enter university, and offering our advice to music students on how to make the most of the forthcoming year.

Don’t stop practicing

As part of a university music department, you’ll have access to a wider array of equipment, studio space and spare time than ever before – and you’d be wise not to let this opportunity go to waste.

Putting in the time to practice your craft, either on your own or with other people, is the surest way to develop the discipline and skill required for a career in professional music. The best musicians aren’t necessarily the most prodigious – sometimes they’re the most dependable and rock-solid performers.

Learn from others, instead of trying to impress them

One of the most important thing for any student to remember is that their teacher has more experience than them. If they didn’t, there’d really be no point in you being there to learn from them.

But even engaging with your peers on an even footing, instead of trying to outperform them, will help you in your post-university musical career. As well as helping you to become a better musician, a broader overview of how each individual part fits into the musical process alongside your own will be useful, regardless of the career path you choose.

Develop your tech skills

Previously the music student would have been focused on age-old practicalities, but now they need a much more diverse skillset. In today’s world of professional music, there are more overlapping disciplines than ever before, and a working knowledge of the various tools, programs and software that exist across them will help broaden your options after graduating.

You can’t be an expert on everything, but a working knowledge of the most common tools, ranging from MIDI sequencing to the best scoring software, will help when working on large, complex projects comprising multiple parts.

Don’t be afraid to branch out

The course and module options available to you will, of course, vary from one music department to the next. However, most will allow you to explore a wide range of interest areas, covering everything from practical groundings in the music of various cultures to a theoretical approach to the business and philosophy of music. University isn’t about teaching you what to think, it’s about teaching you how to think – and following your intellectual curiosity wherever it takes you is crucial to this.

Stay engaged with music

It’s common to hear of English students who’ve let reading for fun fall by the wayside, or film students who can’t bear to set foot in a cinema. Time and money constraints, added to the amount of time you spend surrounded by music in an academic setting, can make it hard to stay engaged with what’s happening in the musical world beyond the classroom – but remaining engaged and passionate about your field will not only be useful for a professional career, it’s also important for finding new ideas and new inspiration.

Keep an open mind for life beyond university

When you’re just starting out as a music student, life beyond graduation can seem like an eternity away. While it’s not necessary to start setting any decisions in stone, it can be useful to keep an open mind about what you’ll be doing further down the line. There are more options for a career in music than you may realise – your knowledge and expertise could be applied to everything from music librarianship to music therapy.

Whether you’ve got a clear career path in mind or want to see where your musical growth takes you, studying music at university is an ideal opportunity for experimenting, exploring new avenues and – clichéd as the phrase may be – broadening your horizons. You may well find that it leads you down a path you’d never previously considered. Wherever the journey takes you, good luck with the year ahead.