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Pursuing a side interest during grad school?



Hello lovely people,

I have seen a lot of really good discussion in these boards about how it's a good idea and doable to have a hobby during a demanding full-time grad school program (in my case, the program I am hoping to go into is Occupational Therapy). My question is - is it doable to pursue something that's not-a-career-but-more-than-a-hobby?

Context: I’m a soprano who's been training vocally for over ten years (been performing my whole life, piano from 7-14, started voice lessons at 14, and am now 25) and I take it very seriously. My initial goal was to get my degree in vocal performance but that wasn't possible due to financial and family reasons. I got my bachelor’s is in psychology (and I found it very interesting and fun) and then had to go out and get an honest job ^^ and now I must turn my sights toward grad school.

Singing is still a significant part of my life and very much more than a hobby. I'm too old now to reasonably expect to pursue a full-time career in vocal music (25 is absolutely ancient for a female in the performing arts, unfortunatey), and thus I'm in that awkward place where I'm not a professional or full-time music student but calling myself a hobbyist doesn't quite fit either. I guess I'd say "serious amateur" for lack of a better word. I would like to pursue singing and performing semi-professionally (which is very much a thing - I know many outstanding performers who sing and act professionally whilst also having a career in another field; indeed, my home city, DC, seems tailor-made for this kind of lifestyle as it has a number of outstanding theatre and opera groups that straddle the line between community and professional) whilst also having a “normal people job” that hopefully also makes a more concrete contribution to society. :)

I'm in the early stages of applying for master's programs in Occupational Therapy and a couple in speech-language pathology because of my passion for the human voice (I would be applying to all SLP programs were it not for the fact that ASHA requires a course in chemistry or physics to become a certified SLP, and I have dyscalculia, so I’m hesitant to put all my eggs in one basket when it’s by no means a guarantee that I could pass a chem or physics class without hiring a lot of expensive tutors.) For the record, I’m not defaulting to this out of disappointment or as a last resort; I'm excited and enthusiastic about both of these fields and looking forward to the possibilities. They both suit my personality in a number of ways (active, extraverted, creative, social, compassionate, a good listener, flexible, patient, resourceful, resilient, blahblahblah), I love learning about health, medicine, and the human body, and I like working with seniors. Altogether the rehab professions are a great fit. I 100% see myself doing one of these two careers (I’d be thrilled and honored to do either of them) for the rest of my professional life.

The trouble is getting through grad school...  :)

In your opinion, is it possible to still pursue music seriously on the side (e.g. practice every day, lessons once a week, involvement in serious chorales, possible community theatre participation and/or recording some tracks, etc) during grad school, esp in a demanding program like OT or SLP? It would break my heart to lose the progress I've made from all my hard work. I want to be the best musician it is possible for me to be, and that takes dedication. I do have good time management skills, but each of us is only given 24 hours in the day. :) Fortunately I do have some GI bill benefits from my dad's army service, which will cover a significant part of my grad-school expenses (such an amazing blessing and I'm so grateful!) so I don't have to work while taking classes (plan to take on a side job in the summers though).

(I am looking at Ohio State’s singing health program because that would represent a perfect juxtaposition of my two interests, but again, I have to decide whether it’s worth the money and time it would take me to pass a physical-science class in order to do SLP. Also, that program is very competitive, so I don’t want to stake all my hopes on getting in there if I do decide to apply :) ).

Any input is appreciated. Please be respectful/positive/blahblahblah, thanks! :) I realize that the above probably makes my career trajectory sound like a bit of a s***show (and it is! It absolutely is! ^^ ) but it's not due to a lack of direction- I had a number of major, major life crises (family members dying, medical problems, blahblahblahdepressingyoudontwanttohearaboutthat) that prevented me from following a typical career template and I'm sincerely trying to do the best I can with the circumstances that were given to me to work with. :)

*I did read an article about one guy who secretly completed two wholly-unrelated master's program's at the same time - LOLOL! - but all I can say is, he must be made of stronger stuff than I am! ^^

Thank you so much in advance! Any help is greatly appreciated! :)




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