I contacted a hometown friend, Rick Cohen, because every so often I hear questions from parents that go like this:
“My son really loves (insert art here), but he can’t get a job with that. Can you tell him to study (insert business or STEM field here)?”
It’s also common to hear students say:
“My parents want me to major in (insert business or STEM field here) but I really like (insert art here).”
I’ve also run into people who miss their passions, but choose to major in something that will lead to a job after they graduate. Then they have a job they don’t like in an industry that doesn’t interest them. Sometimes they go to grad school. But the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to make a dramatic career change after you earn a new degree.
If you have to work, you should work at something you enjoy and continue to learn with people you like.
He got this message at a very young age, and has followed it since.
I have known Rick Cohen since grade school. He’s always been a very talented pianist and guitarist. He is also a true music historian. I have not met anyone who could tell you more about the Beatles. But Rick has also maintained a passion for electronics. I remember him helping his father assemble pianos from kits before we got to high school. Rick took his passions to MIT where he earned a degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, still performing when he had time. He used MIT’s resources to write his thesis on digital music.
Currently senior software engineer at Antares Audio Technologies, Rick is part of the team that developed Auto Tune Slice, a electronic tool that enables artists to create their own music by slicing up sample sounds and playing them on the keyboard to discover new sounds. Rick has over three decades of experience in software coding and management for many music production tools as well as PowerGig: Rise of the SixString, a music video game.
After graduating from MIT in 1982, Rick worked for Digital Equipment Corporation as a software engineer focused on work stations. Four years later, he was hired at Kuzweil Music Systems, the company that made the first electronic keyboard that could emulate the sounds of a grand piano. He spent near two decades there, becoming Associate Director of R&D after some job changes, then worked for several other music technology companies. Rick also performs in live-and more recently virtual–bands in the New England area. He has also performed as a keyboardist with the Beach Boys, most recently at a concert this fall. He’s in the back row on the keyboard in the photo up top.
My hope, as you listen to this conversation, is that you learn that you should never abandon your passions, but at the same time you should develop other strengths. Computer programming was still a relatively new field when Rick graduated from MIT, and even later when he earned a master’s degree at Boston University. However, he never stopped learning and never stopped performing. When you get to work around your passions your education never ends.
Need help on the journey to college? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
Want to know more about me? Check out these podcasts!
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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