Mitchell Owens was working as the music director for a number of Catholic churches near Milwaukee when he realized he just wouldn’t be able to earn a salary high enough to support his two toddler sons.
After getting a full scholarship to Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business’s full-time M.B.A. program, he bet that the degree would help him shift into a new, higher-paying role in business. Mr. Owens moved with his family to East Lansing, Mich., got a part-time job at a local church, and took out about $40,000 in federal loans to help cover his living expenses.
It was a sharp turn from his original career dream: Mr. Owens, 35 years old and a Detroit native, had fallen in love with music at an early age. After participating in activities like his school’s choir and drama club, he decided to pursue it professionally.
“I wanted to perform for a living,” he said. “I loved doing it, even starting in middle school when I started learning piano.”
He enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit to study theater but switched to music after a year. To earn money on the side, Mr. Owens took an assistant music director position at a local Catholic church. “It was better than waiting tables,” he said.