Jonathan Allsop

Major: Music
Class of 2016
Classical singer, Jonathan Allsop, will be singing a solo at the University Choir’s concert version of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas this Saturday (Facebook event here). He’ll also be performing the role of Bobby in 4A’s production of the musical Memphis. Hear what Jonathan had to say about his experience pursuing music and business at Penn as a minority:

“Being a low-income minority in the music major has been an interesting experience. The major itself is small and has a good amount of diversity, but the biggest difference between me and other students is privilege. Many of these students have been able to pay for lessons for their entire lives, afford to buy their own instruments, and attend certain programs. Even owning certain equipment sets them apart from students like me. I have never had the privilege to do any of these things because it was not present in my community. For me, integration in this aspect was difficult. Despite this issue, I still found people in the major to be very welcoming and open, which made those uncomfortable interactions more bearable.

Music is not the only major that has negative connotations associated with it. Being an arts-related major in college (whether it be music or fine arts) is not easy. I cannot begin to tell you how many times people gave me funny looks in my Wharton classes when I said I was a music major. Don’t get me wrong; not all of them were bad. Some students will have more genuine reactions like, “Wow that’s awesome!” or “Cool! What brings you to this class?” But there are always others with looks that scream, “Oh man I got this dumb kid in my group,” as if my major choice has any bearing on my academic abilities or as if I was somehow dumber than others because of my major. Let’s not forget my favorite verbal response, “Good luck finding a job.”

While going into the arts is a very difficult thing to do, there are still a great number of options. Some people studying music at Penn want to be on the business end of companies like Universal Music Group, some want to attend grad school to study music and how it relates to culture and society, some want to write for orchestra groups in New York, some want to pursue the life of a performer, and others want to go into fields such as medicine or consulting. Being a music major is not the dead end people assume it is. While I am going into business working for Kraft Heinz after graduation I do expect to end up back in the music industry, whether it be the back-end logistics or in the front performing.

One of the things I always talked about in my OCR interviews was how blessed I was to be a music major, how I thought differently than everyone else, and how I saw things other students didn’t. Last summer, I worked for Lawrence Merchandising and had Target as my client. The way in which I approached market research, gathering and interpreting data and creating project ideas was unlike those who had worked there before me. I realized that a lot of what I did as a music major, whether it be addressing big crowds because I am used to performing, thinking of ways to rebrand items, or even just being more knowledgeable about the world around me, was never a hindrance from what I learned. The only way it hurt me was when people belittled me for it, which was their problem and not mine.

I am also working on a senior thesis titled “The Paradigms of Black Men in Music.” I talk about how difficult it is for black, male performers to be successful. In black-dominated genres, it is by breaking convention, and for white-dominated genres like theater and opera it is by being type-casted. The latter is definitely more resonant with me as I am both an active participant of opera and theater and have been for years. I have often felt that I have been type-casted for a lot of the roles I have received in my life and having the ability to write a whole thesis about this with the guidance of Dr. Guy Ramsey is truly a blessing.”

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