It was in the midst of the college application process when I realized I wanted to study music education. Early on in my senior year, essay after essay asked me what I was passionate about, and I could not help but find myself constantly returning to disparities within the American education system and how that translated within music programs across the country.

I've spent my life moving around the United States, so I have seen the best and the worst of American education. It's inconsistencies have forced me to be drastically ahead of or behind school curriculums and made transferring a chaotic process wherever I was. As I tore through my conscience questioning what I wanted to do with a college education, I realized I wanted to take a proactive role to build up music programs in rural schools.

My parents were not surprised when I told them my final decision. I've been playing music avidly since elementary school, and it has been an extremely important factor in my life for years.

It was the people who were more distant from me, however, that were let down. I told a family friend my plans for the future and was immediately met with pursed eyebrows and a dropped jaw solemnly responding with, "...but you're so smart. You could be doing so much more." In which she meant that because I'm smart, an artistic career was below me.

Ever since then I have heard murmurs throughout our family, questioning my decision on the path I have chosen. Some think it a waste of intelligence, others disappointed that I wouldn't collect the abundant salary they anticipated I would, and thankfully, some who are ecstatic that I'm passionate about what I'm studying.

The truth of the matter is that there are plenty of extremely intelligent people who are artistically inclined. Intelligence does not come in the single mold of a mathematically or scientifically excelling student. It includes writers, dancers, musicians, and artists of all kinds. Our society has a tendency to favor STEM subjects as superior to the fine arts or assume all academic people are scientifically or mathematically inclined, when in reality these are all extremely niche skill sets that require dedication and hard work to master.

I'm a good student, but like many other creatives I am not a future doctor, an astrophysicist, or an engineer. I thrive on poetry, melodies, and artistic analysis, and I want to share the wonders of these genres with the next generation.

Let's start to expand our definition of intelligence and success. As a society we are discouraging students from pursuing their passions, we are creating divisiveness within academia where there should be collaboration, and we are forcing people into boxes in which they do not fit.

So to the parents of those creatively driven kids: when your child expresses their passions and their desire to pursue them, be happy. Be encouraging. Be supportive. They are taking a leap many are afraid of. They are risk-takers, world-changers, peace-makers. And frankly, we will always need more of those.