How I Went From Musician To MBA—And Why Other Music Professionals Should Too

Jody Salani’s journey to business school was an unorthodox affair. But combining the arts and business is paying off

Jody Salani lives in Philadelphia, composes music for short films and commercials, and covets an expansion of his career into television and new media.

He’s pursuing his goals with the help of an MBA, and is an exemplar to MBAs from non-traditional backgrounds considering the pursuit of business education.

The idea of a musician pursuing an MBA may strike some as an unusual jaunt. But, it's easy to forget that the music industry is exactly that: an industry.

More and more higher education institutions are combining art and business, equipping artists with the skills and professional networks they need to make their mark in two seemingly disparate fields.

Jody graduated from Drexel LeBow’s Accelerated MBA program in 2018. He took advantage of Drexel’s MBA pipeline by applying to both the LeBow Accelerated MBA and Drexel's well-regarded Music Industry undergraduate program at age 18.

“I only applied to LeBow because the undergraduate Music Industry program at Drexel is one of the few arts-centric programs that I’d heard of which offers the option to move directly into an accelerated MBA program,” he says.

Jody explains that the reasons he chose to apply to an MBA program as a musician were largely related to job security and the potential for a larger income.

“Being both artistic and business-oriented at the same time, especially if you want to be a freelancer or do contract work, there are things you really need to know that you can only learn in a business program or something similar. So, I took that opportunity and ran with it.”

“Since I want to be a freelance composer, it’s not so easy to jump into that business without contacts and a portfolio,” he adds.

Jody admits he is now better equipped to keep track of his finances and knows what he needs to do to move forward with his career.

He recognized that Drexel—and by extension LeBow—was a reputable school, and he wouldn’t have been able to pursue an MBA in the way he wanted under other circumstances.

Not unlike many other business school applicants, Jody says the most daunting challenge he faced during the application process was the GMAT.

"The GMAT is a really interesting way to judge how people will do in a business environment. It was definitely the most gruelling part of the process,” he recalls.

To tackle the GMAT, Jody opted for a prep course where the instructor helped applicants to understand the way the test is designed.

"They taught me outright things like, 'they ask this question as a trick’, and, ‘they ask this question to make you think one thing, but actually the answer is this.'

Having those types of things explained so transparently and realizing the mentality of the test—which was so [different] to the way I normally think—was really helpful.”

As Jody moved into the one-year MBA at LeBow, one of the main challenges he faced was in maintaining the accelerated course load in addition to a budding music career.

“Whereas most people in the graduate program were part-time, [only] taking two classes at a time while working, I was taking four classes in addition to working a full-time job. So, by the end of the year, I was really slogging through.”

Jody emphasizes his satisfaction with his chosen path but advises prospective business school students not to try to balance a full-time course schedule while they maintained a full-time job.

Reflecting on his distinctive journey to business school, Jody highlights the confidence and direction his MBA has given him in terms of his career.

“I think a lot of people get out of an arts program and wonder what’s next. I definitely feel like I’m taking more calculated steps,” he says.

So, what can musicians bring to an organization?

"Artists have the tendency to think outside the box and come up with some creative solutions to things which other may not,” concludes Jody.

“Being able to move in both directions with your thinking can be really beneficial to a workplace.”

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