So, you’re about to go to college, or you’re in college, or something else somehow involving you and college, and you want to make sure that you don’t stop playing musical instruments while you’re there and forget these skills. Well, stop worrying, because I’m here to help.

Why does this problem exist?

Quite simply, because college is different from high school. In middle and high school, it was made easy for you to play music. Maybe your school had a music program of its own; maybe this program was pushed on you and your peers; maybe you just had enough spare time to pursue private lessons or join groups outside of school. In my school system, we were encouraged to take up an instrument while in the fourth grade. I chose trumpet, and within the same year, started playing the piano.

However, your college schedule will be radically different. It’s basically guaranteed that for much of your college career, you won’t be able to take music classes without forgoing other classes that you want or need. In addition, unless you have a great schedule and plenty of time to do homework, the time that you’ll have left for taking classes or lessons might not overlap with the times when they’re actually offered.

So what do I need to know?

Basically, it’s this: music is important. Why? It’s a skill that you’ll be glad to have later in life. This is not necessarily because you’ll be able to make a career or even money out of it — most people don’t. It’s because you’ll want to be a musician when you’re older.

Everybody likes music, and you can be the life of parties if you want to. Or you can form a jazz combo with friends and have a great way to relax. Or you can pursue music simply in order to enrich yourself — not all that infrequently do magazines and newspaper sections reference studies (both reputable and not) showing that there is most likely a correlation between musicianship and low rates of Alzheimer's Disease and similar conditions.

But if my schedule will/does suck, what can I do?

Plenty. If you’re at a school (as I am, luckily) with a developed music program, you might be able to get yourself private lessons or join some sort of formal group. You need to keep in practice, and I cannot overstress the importance of playing music with other people. Many times in my life, it’s been the jazz combos or whatnot that I look forward to, and not the private lessons.

If you can’t find lessons, you can always be self-taught. I assume that you’re coming into this with a moderate amount of experience under your belt — if you have a reasonable degree of self-control, you’ll be able to buy some sort of instructional book (or even simply a lot of exercises, or a book of sonatas) and work out of that. As for finding a group to join if none exists, why not start it yourself? Find a bunch of other people who’ve read this node and convince them to join you. Or put up flyers. Or start the first all-kazoo-and-flute wind ensemble.

But I’m still frustrated. Why should I keep at this?

Because chicks dig a musician.

A depressing little update: I've all but given up the trumpet, although admittedly not by any real conscious decision. It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I'm pushing myself so hard that I can't find time for it any more. I wish I could find the time, but I'm happy in my rut. Makes me quite sad to admit it.