Published: Feb. 9, 2018 By
Nora Barpal poses with euphonium at Grusin Music Hall

Since eighth grade, when undergraduate Nora Barpal began playing the euphonium, she anticipated making a career playing the baritone brass instrument. When she came to CU Boulder and saw the many music career possibilities available to her, Barpal changed her mind. And then changed it again.

She started as a performance major at the College of Music, became interested in vocal coaching, then becoming a music director, and is now focused on theater management. The twists and turns in her career path left her confused about how to proceed toward a new career during her final semester before graduating.

Barpal turned to the Entrepreneurship Center for Music (ECM) to help her chart a new course that did not focus on the euphonium.

My journey is changing again. Professor Nytch taught us that it’s OK to change our mind. He looked over every résumé I sent him and gave me feedback. He truly believes in us and helps us home in on our skillset to find what will make us successful.”

Her journey illustrates how the ECM helps students find their passion and can transform how they move forward in their careers. Now a senior, Barpal is learning skills for developing and managing her music career at the ECM, which offers academic courses and mentorship opportunities.

“The more I thought about it, I realized that music performance (with the euphonium) wasn’t the right path for me,” she said.

Barpal was taking an entrepreneurship class from Associate Professor Jeffrey Nytch, director of ECM. The center offers classes for credit, internships and a Certificate in Music Entrepreneurship, as well as evening career workshops and individual mentoring.

There are always some students who have a clear notion of where they want to go after graduating, but most face a degree of uncertainty and apprehension, Nytch said. Music students face a unique challenge if they no longer want to pursue a career as a professional musician.

“Many students have literally spent their entire lives preparing for a specific outcome, so discovering that’s not what they want brings up a lot of feelings: failure, loss, guilt,” he said. “I can work with students to help define goals and give them tools to achieve them.”

Nora Barpal in the Music Library on campus

When Barpal met with Nytch to talk about a career change, they discussed her interests and passions, and a new picture started to emerge. Nytch arranged an internship for her with the Boulder Dinner Theatre (BDT), where she is now a paid employee.

At BDT, Barpal experienced the many sides of keeping a dinner theater operating smoothly, from being a hostess and line cook to working the box office and running the spotlight.

“It gave me direction on becoming a music director,” she said. “I started taking voice lessons, because I believe in being as well-rounded as possible. But I don’t have the professional piano skills needed to be a music director. After two years of piano lessons, I realized I just don’t have the knack for piano, unfortunately.”

So, she pivoted again, this time toward another of her passions—theater. Over Thanksgiving break, Barpal evaluated her skillset in administration, production and arts management, and came up with a new plan.

“My journey is changing again,” she said. “Professor Nytch taught us that it’s OK to change our mind. He looked over every résumé I sent him and gave me feedback. He truly believes in us and helps us hone in on our skillset to find what will make us successful.”

In addition to working at BDT, Barpal is also working for the Eklund Opera as assistant stage manager for the production of Sweeney Todd and is production assistant for the New Play Festival in the theater and dance department.

Barpal will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in euphonium performance and a minor in theater. So far, she has been accepted to Drexel University and Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, for their master’s programs in arts, festival and cultural management. 

“Through this process I have learned that I could not possibly live without a career in the arts and that I can do anything with enough determination, passion, caffeine and support from mentors,” Barpal said.