Professor Rosen's Advice
I entered the PhD economics program at the University of Chicago in 1990. It was in Chicago in 1993 that I bought a portable four-track mixer to record the songs I had written. For almost a year I spent days locking myself in the bathroom in my apartment, as it was the quietest place to make the recordings. Things were not going well for my PhD program, but still I was obsessed with making my music. Many of the songs I had written were about my past struggles with relationships. There were frequent wishful thinking ("Let Love Show You the Way "), resignation ("It Wouldn't Be You Anymore"), and occasional reminiscing ("Memories of Summer Time"). Other songs were about generally feeling lost at the critical stage of my life, including "Thank Heavens It Was Only a Dream," "I Am Really Tired,"and "I'm 24."
One day I emerged from my makeshift recording studio in the bathroom, put myself together and went to the Department. I gave a sample of my music, two cassettes with twenty-seven songs that I wrote and recorded, to Sherwin Rosen. I have heard he was a good piano player and wanted to hear his opinion about my music. A day or two later, he called me to his office and told me this: "Li, you may think you are struggling in your program here, but doing economics is still your comparative advantage." That was the end of my budding music career.