Guest post by Daniel Harding, Deputy Director of Music: You can’t take it with you. Wait: yes, you can! Musicians and their transferable skills.

Think being a musician means you are suited only to a career in the music industry ?

Think again! At Kent, we run a vibrant extra-curricular music department and a Music Scholarship scheme designed to recognise and encourage excellence. The thinking behind both is that ‘good musicians make good students;’ training as an instrumentalist or singer instils in us an array of transferable skills that are applicable to careers not limited solely to those in music, and which add extra employability-enhancing assets to a job application.


Training as a musician takes many years of dedicated practice and application, and you usually find that students involved in music come equipped with skills they probably don’t realise they possess, garnered through all the years spent combining school life with learning an instrument.

For instance: mathematical thinking (grappling with metric divisions and note-values); experience of a foreign language (singing Schubert Lieder or Debussy chansons);good time-management and organisation (juggling music rehearsals and performance with degree commitments); good social skills (participating in ensemble music-making develops excellent collaborative abilities); the ability to focus on the task in hand (if you’re a principal woodwind player in the Symphony Orchestra, those tricky and excitingly-exposed melodic solo passages won’t play themselves!). Planning; if there’s a coursework submission deadline looming around the same time as the annual Cathedral Concert, you need to make sure you organise both your writing and your rehearsing to take this into consideration. Managing several projects at the same time; working with others; organising your commitments and having the ability to prioritise particular necessities. Developing the ability to take responsibility; looking after your voice or instrument, making sure you’ve brought your music and spare reeds or a set of new strings.

Students who hold a Music Scholarship are expected to make a major contribution to the musical life at the University, becoming core members of the various ensembles in which they participate and making a commitment to leading their section. They also often act as ambassadors at public concerts and Open Days, where they may mingle with the audience and be expected to talk about their musical activities and life at the University. They need to be articulate, good at relating to others, presentable.

We’re often called upon to write references for students applying for jobs after their degree, and employers like to see rounded, developed individuals with a range of personal skills alongside their academic achievement. Those who are involved in music, from the large-scale Chorus and Orchestra through the Concert and Big Bands to the Chamber Choir and small ensembles, can demonstrate a host of transferrable skills that will enhance their application and which can be readily deployed across myriad vocations. We can refer to their role as a member of the Music Society Executive team, everything from Society President to Choral Librarian. And as Hugh de Bonneville’s character utters often in TwentyTwelve: ‘’So that’s all good…’’


We’re about to bid farewell to our crop of musical third-years, some of whom are graduating with First class degrees, and we’re now sharpening our pencils to write their employment application references, to mention the range of skills and experiences they can now demonstrate through having participated in the musical life at Kent. And as we find each year – good musicians really do make good students.

Dan Harding is Deputy Director of Music at the University of Kent. He blogs about music on Music Matters. Follow the department on Twitter.


One thought on “Guest post by Daniel Harding, Deputy Director of Music: You can’t take it with you. Wait: yes, you can! Musicians and their transferable skills.

  1. Excellent thoughts Dan. So many people look past the concepts of teamwork, group responsibility, the pursuit of excellence and the development of social skills that music fosters and yet these skills are number one on the checklist of employability.


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