Applicant has a Music Degree? Automatic First-round Interview.


My friend is a trained classical musician. Her brother, on the other hand, was never a musician. Over the years, he saw what it took for his sister to earn her music degrees.

  • The diligence to self-sufficiently develop her skills in the practice room.
  • Successful collaboration with her peers.
  • The ability to perform in front of an audience.
  • A thorough understanding of technique on her instrument, music history, world cultures, music theory, performance psychology…
  • …and, oh yes, decision-making and expression and creativity.

The brother is now involved with the hiring process of a non-arts-related company in the private sector. And after observing his sister’s very powerful skills, he has decided that any applicant who submits a resume including a music degree will automatically be granted a first-round interview.

And most often, that person does well enough to advance to the second round of interviews.

Many people intensively pursue an art-form early in life. Some make careers in that field. And others don’t. Either way, it’s no secret that some of the most accomplished people attribute so much to the efforts they put into the arts.

Man with blonde hair wearing a light blue collared shirt is facing leftward. He is painting something on his laptop with his right hand. The silver laptop is on the left side of the photo. The painting covers the area of the screen, and it is of a red-roofed, white-walled singe-story house surrounded by yellow, pink, and green plants, tall green trees, and mountains with a blue sky in the background.

Albert Einstein

Physicist and all-around person of wonder Albert Einstein started playing the violin at age 5, and it remained a significant part of his life from then on.

If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.

Gabrielle Giffords

U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords from Arizona studied horn as a teenager, and she also sang. She forged a career in business and regional planning before going into politics. After an assassination attempt in 2011 that left her with terrible head injuries, she used her musical skills to help recover, both physiologically and psychologically.

Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan was Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve between 1987 and 2006. Before that, he was a financial analyst and served for Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign for President of the United States. He earned degrees in economics, but his first year of college was spent at The Juilliard School studying clarinet.

Orrin Hatch

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah is also a composer. Most of his work has been for the Mormon Church, but he also writes pieces as gifts for friends. One of his compositions is used as background music in the movie Ocean’s 12. 

Robert J. Lang

Another physicist to add to the list is Robert J. Lang. Origami first came into Lang’s life as a solution from a grade school teacher to keep him engaged during math lessons. What started as a fascination became a way to relieve stress in college, and then eventually a source of inspiration. Through origami, Lang has created new designs for airbags in cars, telescope lenses, and equipment in space. His ceaseless passion for origami has also led him to advance the art-form with using lasers to cut paper.

Andrea Mitchell

NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell played the violin is a child. A self-proclaimed “Failed Violinist”, she is one of the most brilliant minds in her field.

Condoleezza Rice

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been an active pianist since she was a teenager. She plays for benefit concerts, cameos in TV shows, and diplomatic events such as this one:

Robert F. Smith

Billionaire software businessman Robert F. Smith grew up in a household that valued music. Many in his family played the piano and the organ, and they all listened to recordings together. As a philanthropist, Smith has donated $20 Million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture earmarked to digitize photographs, videos and music of African Americans across the nation. He also wants to help bring live symphonic music to children who don’t have music programs in their schools.

Thomas Südhof

In 2013, biochemist Thomas Südhof won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Who was his most influential teacher? His bassoon teacher Herbert Tauscher, who taught him that “the only way to do something right is to practice and listen and practice and listen, hours, and hours, and hours.”

Leigh Thomas

Leigh Thomas is a ballerina-turned-CEO. She began her professional life in dance but after a while decided she wanted to pursue something completely different. Using the same skill-set that helped her land a career in ballet, she became CEO of the advertising agency Dare.

Harry S Truman

Many former U.S. Presidents are known for having an affinity for one art-form or another. George W. Bush paints. Bill Clinton plays the saxophone. Ronald Reagan was an actor. Richard Nixon played the piano. I chose to highlight Harry S Truman because, according to the Truman Presidential Library, music was his first passion after politics. (In fact, if he had become a successful concert pianist, he claimed he never would have become President.) Once he reached the White House, he would grab his scores, walk across the lawn to Constitution Hall, and attend National Symphony Orchestra concerts.

My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.

Einat Wilf

Einat Wilf is an Israeli politician and businesswoman. She’s been a member of Knesset (Israel’s legislature) and has held positions in foreign affairs and strategic consulting. Her undergraduate degree? A Bachelor of Arts in Government and Fine Arts from Harvard University.

About Doug Rosenthal

No one told Douglas Rosenthal to give up playing music. Not even his patient siblings, who endured many early-morning practice sessions; even they encouraged their brother to follow his passion. As the years passed, that passion evolved from simply playing music to advocating for music, musicians, and music-lovers. Douglas is based in Washington, DC. He is the Assistant Principal Trombonist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra/Washington National Opera Orchestra. He currently makes his home on Capitol Hill in DC with a pug named Jake, who serves as a constant reminder to relax, eat well, and sleep plentifully.

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3 thoughts on “Applicant has a Music Degree? Automatic First-round Interview.”

  1. That is a slightly different response from the one my brother for when he did his ‘O’ levels at 16 and was told by the Insurance a company he was applying to that music was not an academic subject- so he was not given a job!

  2. What a pleasure to hear that someone in HR actually gives such heavy weight to a music degree! I just went through the interview process (and landed the job, thank god!), and because I worked part-time for the MN Orchestra, music was a big topic in my interviews. I remember also having a conversation with an entertainment lawyer who’d studied cello for years. How had music helped us in life? It was surprising how similarly we thought about this. I find music sparks creativity, challenges me to think on different levels, and has had an effect on my hand-eye coordination (but not on my feet, unfortunately). The lawyer also added enhanced listening, and empathy. When I played the French horn and sang in choirs, I enjoyed the added benefit of working with others for a common goal. And frankly, there’s nothing that relaxes me better than J. S. Bach’s music.

  3. The power of global thinking is a dying concept. Real application of an art form by someone of talent truly requires “outside the box” thinking. I was once asked, “Do you have a degree in history?” I responded, “No, my art form requires I know it.”


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