Looking for college/career/life advice

PreppieNerd

Silver Member
If you don't want to read the whole post, but want to contribute, here's the cliff's notes:
1. Do I have to be in NY, LA, or Nashville to have the best chance at making a living in music?
2. What college programs/colleges would you recommend for an aspiring professional musician?

I just completed my sophomore year of college and am taking a semester off this coming fall because I don't know what academic program I want to pursue. In the interim, I was thinking about, and have done a lot of research on trying out for a cruise ship gig. Then I could make some cash and collect my thoughts for a year or so doing that.

In addition to drumming, I play several other instruments at varying levels of ability, and I do some singer/songwriter stuff (http://anotherwhitesuburbanite.bandcamp.com). I also have an interest and some ability in recording.

When I go back to college I think I would like to pursue the working musician career track. I don't want to just go to college to get the degree then start working on a music career, I want to start simultaneously. An ideal setup would be doing college in some city while renting a house where I could set up my drums and maybe a little recording studio and perform around town with a project in addition to my classes. Also, in order to make the necessary connections to get work do I need to locate myself to one of the major music centers like NY, LA, or Nashville? And do you have any recommendations as to a college track that would be most beneficial to me?

Thanks all.
 

chris4355

Member
you do not NEED a college education to be a professional musician. it could help, it could also hinder you in a sense that when you solely use teachers (as you would in a music school), it keeps you from developing your own unique style.

I suppose recording school would not be a bad idea though.

I live in LA and I think living in LA helps, but it also drowns you out. There are SO many bands in the area its a little ridiculous.
 

dairyairman

Platinum Member
one thing to keep in mind about a music degree is that if you have any interest at all in any type of teaching, a degree is going to help you. if a parent is considering you as a teacher for little johnny, they're probably going to want to know about your academic credentials. also, without a degree you'll have no chance of teaching in a high school, college, or university. there are definitely some musicians out there who manage to make a full time living performing without teaching, but there are a lot more who teach on the side to make ends meet. a degree can only help you with that.
 

TNA

Senior Member
I gotta agree with Chris, I don't think a degree in music is necessary to be successful. But if that's what you want to do then more power to you. I also agree with him saying that moving to a larger city can be both a good and a bad thing. There are a ton of musicians in LA, many musicians have the same thought line as you, moving to LA will be more beneficial because that's where all the action is. Also living costs in those big cities are a lot more than anywhere else in the country. The music business is all about who you know (or most businesses for that matter). Also what college are you going to that you can just move to another state halfway through? If you think moving would be best I would move to a semi large city and try to establish myself there. While the record companies and recording studios are mostly in LA, they are not hiring guys off the street. There are recording studios everywhere, and there are people with connections everywhere. So advertise yourself as a session musician, teach lessons, talk to people and eventually you'll find a guy that knows a guy that knows a guy. There's no "right" way to be a working musician, it's gotta sorta just happen and you gotta get a bit lucky. For example a band I found on craigslist last year and played with for only about 6 months. A guy who went to their church was a grammy nominated songwriter, and he hooked them up with produced and helped write their album. Sounded like they had some very good connections in the music industry, but unfortunately the band couldn't stay together long enough to make anything out of it. Dave Mustaine used to send his daughter to the school my mom was principal at, I never got to meet him though. My point is that there are people with music connections everywhere, you just gotta advertise yourself.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Yes - you need to be in a major area if your plan is to make it big as a musician. That's where all the work is, that's where all the other players are, that's where people looking for musicians on a regular basis are. You have to go where the work is, it will not come to find you especially if there's current musician contractors who can simply reach out and find good people just outside their offices.

How you prepare for this is a personal journey. Many people have 'made it' with no real academic education, while others have gone through colleges and collected degrees (Steve Gadd went to Eastman, whereas someone like Clyde Stubblefield just played with people). And there's everything in between. It depends on where you want to end up - do you want to teach? Just play?

Perhaps you should look at it the other way: how do you want to end up living? Nice house and cars? Health insurance? Family? OR - do you mind being on the road not knowing how you'll make a living when a particular tour is over? Don't mind sharing an apartment with like-minded individuals? Don't expect to ever get sick to see a doctor? Top Ramen OK to eat 7 days a week?

With luck and perseverance you can be successful. Be ready for alot of rejection and start building up your emotional armor, but if you remain positive and meet the right people, it can be done. Or not ;)
 

Big Foot

Silver Member
Let me just add to the good information you are getting here already...

What ever you decide to do; do it full on! Developing as a professional, no matter what you do, be it doctor, lawyer, plumber, carpenter or whatever, you need to put in the hours 12 -16 hr days and chase the the work! You need to bust-yer-balls in the beginning no matter what you do.
If you only want to play the bar gigs then put your feet up. If you want real success, not necessarily big bucks, but the good gigs, you know what I mean... Then you need to put in the hrs, the phone calls, the practice, the auditions, the multiple bands and so on.

School might or might not help but it will help you learn first hand from the pros, again it's up to you how much info YOU want to PULL OUT of your teachers. And, secondly school is a great way to network. At least in school you are w/like minded people, after the same thing.
 

Ian

Silver Member
I'd strongly suggest you stay in school, but that's because most people who leave never go back and finish. Of course, I don't know your situation. If I had to pay for college now I don't know what I'd do as I'd certainly emerge with loans. Is the debt worth the learning? I'd argue in most cases yes, but that's just me. Lots of schools have good music programs and if you don't do performance do instruction, theory, or composition instead! You'll learn a lot and meet like-minded people. I played in a cover band where I was the only non-music school grad and I learned so much from them. Just being a part of the conversation was a blast! Also, if you have a BA you can always go for a masters. Good grades and good scores will get you into just about any JD or MBA program you want, if that's something you want to do in the future.

The cruise ship thing sounds like a great idea. Travel a bit, see a few things, meet some cool people, and make a little money playing your drums: that's winning all around! This is definitely something I'd do if I did not have a mortgage and a child.

I'll also stress that you GET A GOOD TEACHER! Many of the pros still take lessons. A good teacher will improve your technical faculties and open your eyes to new styles and ideas you might not have otherwise seen. They will NEVER prevent you from developing your own style.

To address your questions:
1. Being in an industry center always helps, no matter what you aspire to do. Wanna be a working musician? Move to the work. If you want to be in a band? You can do that anywhere and with great internet marketing and packaging you can be successful internationally as an independent nowadays.
2. For public schools University of North Texas is probably the most renowned public university for drum set. I don't know if your state has tuition reciprocity with TX or what it would cost as an out of stater to go there (or what the in-state residency requirements are), but that place would be on my short list. If you wanna go to LA I suppose MI would be ok, but it's an expensive vocational school. There are many conservatories and colleges that are great, I just don't know 'em as I've never looked into 'em!

Berklee
New York School of Music
The New School
???
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
you do not NEED a college education to be a professional musician. it could help,
No, you sure don't. However, the experience you have in school, combined with the concentrated knowledge and the total immersion, is invaluable for ANY musician.

A degree is VERY helpful if you want to go the teaching route. Often times, a student's parents will ask you what your credentials are. Being able to drop, "I have my degree in this..." is usually more immediately satisfactory than, say, "Well, I'm in two bands right now, I've been playing for [X number of years], and..."

However, what most professional musicians I know say (and, I find myself saying it time and time again...) is "I should have majored in business. Or, at least minored in it."

it could also hinder you in a sense that when you solely use teachers (as you would in a music school), it keeps you from developing your own unique style.
There are often multiple teachers teaching in each department in a music school setting. There is usually a graduate student as well to glean knowledge from. Also, you're surrounded by teachers of other instruments who will give you insight from the other side of the kit. Plus, there's a little "competition" that naturally comes from being around several like-instrumented colleagues. You learn from your colleagues' mistakes, and from their incredible breakthroughs, etc.

Music school won't help you find your own "unique voice", so to speak, but it does teach you the "voice" that you need to be able to call upon in professional situations.


Learn a trade, like electric, plumbing, or being a contractor. That stuff never goes out of style.
Best advice ever. Seriously. Even if you don't do it full-time, it's great to be able to do side jobs to support your music lifestyle.

1. Do I have to be in NY, LA, or Nashville to have the best chance at making a living in music?
Nope. The real genius of being a succe$$ful musician is creating your own market where there is none, and not relenting, even when times are good.
 
M

mediocrefunkybeat

Guest
you do not NEED a college education to be a professional musician. it could help, it could also hinder you in a sense that when you solely use teachers (as you would in a music school), it keeps you from developing your own unique style.
I disagree.

Seeing a good teacher will only help improve your technique and perhaps open you to new things. If you're not creative enough to form your own style with all the tools at your disposal, then that is your problem - not the teacher's. What helps there is playing with other people, but a good teacher won't stop you from developing if you actually possess any creativity.
 

caddywumpus

Platinum Member
Seeing a good teacher will only help improve your technique and perhaps open you to new things. If you're not creative enough to form your own style with all the tools at your disposal, then that is your problem - not the teacher's. What helps there is playing with other people, but a good teacher won't stop you from developing if you actually possess any creativity.
Also, the longer you see the same teacher, the more they get to know you, your style, your weaknesses, your desires, your inspirations...all things that they can draw upon to help you where you're at, and also to know where you need to grow, and what the next step is for you. There's nothing wrong with taking lessons from a single teacher for years.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
, it could also hinder you in a sense that when you solely use teachers (as you would in a music school), it keeps you from developing your own unique style. .
That is the biggest crock I've ever heard.

If you have two drummers, and drummer A is really into metal and drummer B is really into jazz, but both take the same amount of lessons from the same teacher for the same number of years, they still won't have the same style or sound alike.

Before I went to PIT, people used to tell me "oh don't go there, every student who comes out of there sounds the same". But it was baloney. The metal guys may have learned how to play jazz, but they still were metal guys at heart. The fusion guys may have learned how to rock, but they were still fusion players at heart.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
I think playing on a cruise ship is a great idea! You will hopefully learn many different styles, read charts, hone your skills, and meet many different musicians with different degrees of skill. If you decide to enroll in a music college afterward, then you will be more prepared than most, just from having spent so much time actually playing music you would otherwise not encounter.

Bring an mp3 recorder with you, and evaluate your playing periodically. Learn as many styles as you can! Have fun and hang out with lots of people!

North Texas would indeed be setting your sights high (but go for it!). And if you got accepted, wouldn't you want to be the young student who was a "natural", and not the rookie with hardly any experience? At any renown music college, you will probably make friends who want to move to LA, New York, or Nashville. These people will probably want to befriend you if you have your musical $#*! together, and are a nice guy with a sense of humor! Remember, it's all about the hang...

The vast majority of musicians can't survive on gigs alone. This is especially true in larger cities, since there are so many musicians and bands, so few places to play, and even fewer clubs who will actually pay.

Although a skilled trade like the ones mentioned are stable and pay well, teaching music offers more networking opportunities.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I think playing on a cruise ship is a great idea! You will hopefully learn many different styles, read charts, hone your skills, and meet many different musicians with different degrees of skill. If you decide to enroll in a music college afterward, then you will be more prepared than most, just from having spent so much time actually playing music you would otherwise not encounter.

Bring an mp3 recorder with you, and evaluate your playing periodically. Learn as many styles as you can! Have fun and hang out with lots of people!

North Texas would indeed be setting your sights high (but go for it!). And if you got accepted, wouldn't you want to be the young student who was a "natural", and not the rookie with hardly any experience? At any renown music college, you will probably make friends who want to move to LA, New York, or Nashville. These people will probably want to befriend you if you have your musical $#*! together, and are a nice guy with a sense of humor! Remember, it's all about the hang...

The vast majority of musicians can't survive on gigs alone. This is especially true in larger cities, since there are so many musicians and bands, so few places to play, and even fewer clubs who will actually pay.

Although a skilled trade like the ones mentioned are stable and pay well, teaching music offers more networking opportunities.
Hey now, let's not insult the people who actually do work on cruise ships. When you work, that is not the time you should be learning how to play styles. You should already know that stuff or you won't get the gig in the first place. Playing any kind of steady paying gig is not the time to be learning. If I was hiring a band for a specific time frame, be it a wedding for four hours, or a steady club gig for a week, I'm not paying those guys to learn how to do their craft. I want it perfect from the downbeat to the end of the job. And, as an employer, why would I hire somebody who doesn't know how to do what I want when all I have to do is ask and people who already know how to play come out of the woodwork?

Playing for free is one thing. Things change quite a bit when there's money involved.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
Hey now, let's not insult the people who actually do work on cruise ships. When you work, that is not the time you should be learning how to play styles.
First gig.....last gig.....it's all learning Bo.

I'm not suggesting you walk into any situation without an understanding of the required skillset, but show me the guy (even the most experienced of players) who has nothing left to learn and I'll show you the guy who has either simply given up.....or is that good he doesn't warrant a query on a drum forum anyway. If all the available gigs were left to the most rounded of experts then only 2 living drummers would ever see any work. Woodshedding is well and good....but let's be honest, the business end of what we do comes from getting out and mixing it up with other muso's. THAT'S where we really start to learn. Where would any of us be if we sat in our woodshed until we were (or at least thought we were) "ready" to play with others?..........still in said woodshed, I'll wager. Sometimes, we've all gotta push the envelope.

I don't think it's insulting in the least to tell another player (even an experienced one)....."this is a great opportunity to learn a trick or two." If it's not what they do now, they'll learn something alright.

And this is in no way intended as a counter argument.........merely some thoughts. :)
 
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Bo Eder

Platinum Member
First gig.....last gig.....it's all learning Bo.

I'm not suggesting you walk into any situation without an understanding of the required skillset, but show me the guy (even the most experienced of players) who has nothing left to learn and I'll show you the guy who has either simply given up.....or is that good he doesn't warrant a query on a drum forum anyway. If all the available gigs were left to the most rounded of experts then only 2 living drummers would ever see any work. Woodshedding is well and good....but let's be honest, the business end of what we do comes from getting out and mixing it up with other muso's. THAT'S where we really start to learn. Where would any of us be if we sat in our woodshed until we were (or at least thought we were) "ready" to play with others?..........still in said woodshed, I'll wager. Sometimes, we've all gotta push the envelope.

I don't think it's insulting in the least to tell another player (even an experienced one)....."this is a great opportunity to learn a trick or two." If it's not what they do now, they'll learn something alright.

And this is in no way intended as a counter argument.........merely some thoughts. :)
I'm not suggesting that you continue to woodshed for the rest of your life and never take a gig. My statement is merely that you know what you're doing before you think you can actually take a job. It's one thing to not know anything yet be invited up to play with the band at a casual or a wedding as the party is winding down, but when you look at the majority of paying steady gigs that are out there, it is rare that someone is going to hire somebody who is not aware of styles looking for experience.

Besides, most gigs are gotten by recommendation from someone else, and if the players who do these gigs do not know who you are and are not aware that you can actually play, without some kind of divine act, you're forced to get your experience elsewhere - for either low pay or no pay, but you pay your dues like everybody else.

The way I took the original statement that "cruise ships are great..." made it sound like it's so low on everybody's radar that anybody can just break in there. When in fact, it isn't. Like I said, you introduce a good amount of money, then better players will be vying for the gig, effectively eliminating people "looking for experience".

But getting the experience to at least know what to play isn't that hard. All you have to do is actively listen to the music (all genres, not just what you like) and play along.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
Hey now, let's not insult the people who actually do work on cruise ships. When you work, that is not the time you should be learning how to play styles. You should already know that stuff or you won't get the gig in the first place. Playing any kind of steady paying gig is not the time to be learning. If I was hiring a band for a specific time frame, be it a wedding for four hours, or a steady club gig for a week, I'm not paying those guys to learn how to do their craft. I want it perfect from the downbeat to the end of the job. And, as an employer, why would I hire somebody who doesn't know how to do what I want when all I have to do is ask and people who already know how to play come out of the woodwork?

Playing for free is one thing. Things change quite a bit when there's money involved.
Whoa, I did not mean to insult! Far from it! Sincerest apologies! I have the utmost respect for any musician on a cruise ship, or any other "organized" gig! I feel I would have done the cruise ship thing myself, if the course of my life were to have been more focused. The professional experience I have myself has been my greatest training, and is often the thing that sets me apart from many other players.

I guess I meant to say that there would be lots of learning: in rehearsals, or learning from NOT getting the audition (i.e. what to work on so your chances are better next time), or learning over the course of the gig (adding nuance, developing better time, etc.). Overall, I just meant to say it would be great to get some experience where you have to fill a role designed by someone other than yourself, BEFORE you go to a rather competitive music college. Get your feet wet in the "real world", so to speak. Our poster seems like an intelligent enough guy, so I feel like he has a good chance at getting a cruise ship gig, if he's prepared, of course.

Also, I would think a typical cruise ship gig includes reading charts, playing along to pre-recorded tracks or sequences, and maybe even following a conductor/band leader/singer/actor. Experience like this is difficult to come by if you're not immersed in the music and pit orchestra world from day one.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Hey now, let's not insult the people who actually do work on cruise ships. When you work, that is not the time you should be learning how to play styles. You should already know that stuff or you won't get the gig in the first place. Playing any kind of steady paying gig is not the time to be learning.
God, I hope not. Most of the guys I encountered who were new to boat work did not have all the styles mastered when they first showed up- I sure didn't. I can't think of a single person who did, in fact. Most of them were decent to excellent jazz musicians and were able to pick them up quickly, but some struggled with them for a long time. We had three successive outstanding tenor players who were each on the gig for a year or more before they could play and solo on something like "Fascination" without sounding like an idiot. The guys who didn't get called back were the ones who thought they were better than the gig, and didn't make an effort to learn it. But there's really no reason for most drummers to spend a lot of time shedding their show 2 or train beat or 6/8 march,

And, as an employer, why would I hire somebody who doesn't know how to do what I want when all I have to do is ask and people who already know how to play come out of the woodwork?
When you pay <$500/week, you have to take what you can get- that's really an apprentice wage. There aren't that many veteran players who will accept the kind of pay offered by most cruise ship companies.
 

chris4355

Member
That is the biggest crock I've ever heard.

If you have two drummers, and drummer A is really into metal and drummer B is really into jazz, but both take the same amount of lessons from the same teacher for the same number of years, they still won't have the same style or sound alike.
well yes... but thats obviously because both these drummers play completely different types of music. you cant just pick an extreme example to prove your case

Before I went to PIT, people used to tell me "oh don't go there, every student who comes out of there sounds the same". But it was baloney.
lets be honest, its obviously baloney to you since you went there. your opinion on such a matter will always be biased.

The metal guys may have learned how to play jazz, but they still were metal guys at heart. The fusion guys may have learned how to rock, but they were still fusion players at heart.
I am not talking about what genres of music they play.

all I am saying is that teachers teach you how to play like them. just like if I take an math class, there's often times more than one way to teach something, and make the student understand it. the same goes with drums.

I am not saying that people should not take lessons, because there are basics things that all drummers should know, and lots of bad habits to be avoided.

I just do not believe that a drummer who went to school for it is necessarily better, assuming they both worked just as hard on their drumming.

a lot of great drummers are self taught.
 
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