I had a discussion the other day over Facebook (is there any other kind of discussion?) about an article that was posted on New Music Box. It was a seemingly pointless article in which the author laments the difficulties his students will face as they choose a college path. The article didn't interest me that much. What did interest me however was a comment by THE Jennifer Higdon, which I found more valuable than the article itself:
"In order to change the world, a certain inner strength is a likely presence. If these students have that strength, any bump or adjustments in an academic path will not deter them. Excellent learning at all levels is about learning how to learn (and how to problem solve). You sound like you’re worried about career success, as opposed to actual growth and learning. These students will do what every student has done throughout time…they will make a choice, follow a path, and continue their growth, according to their own inner strengths. I attended a state university, a conservatory and an IVY League…I learned different things from all three. It’s not really possible to say that one is better than the other…they’re just different."
I think it's so easy to get really hung up on decisions like this. I see myself and many people that are close to me treating professional decisions like they will dissolve into nothing the moment they make the "wrong" choice, which as Hidgon points out, usually doesn't even exist. While I do agree that finding an environment that suits oneself as a creative individual is not something to be taken lightly, it is also not the end of the world.
A motto I've developed recently is that what we do each moment shapes the next moment. If a young composer works hard to create opportunities for themselves, then they will find that more opportunities appear for them. This can happen at Juilliard, or at a liberal arts college in the corner of Iowa. I think life can be very karmic. There are things we can't control, but there is a lot we can, and most of that boils down to how we manage ourselves, and how we interact with others.
Good luck to all you creative people!