Universities and Music *sigh*

(Future)DWdrummer

Senior Member
Senior year. Time for college apps.

Ugggggggh.

At this point I am fully committing myself to studying music and pursuing it as a career.

What are your guys' opinions on university for an aspiring musician?

I've been spending time looking for universities that have great RELEVANT (key word here) music programs.

Plenty of universities have great music programs, but I need something that (preferably) centers around Popular/Commercial music, or at least has some other music programs that are relevant. I'm not being picky about a degree per se (believe me I know, "a degree in music is worthless," I know this! haha, but i believe the classes, connections, relationships on the way to that degree are worth it), I just need a school that'll help further my career.

Honestly I'm clueless, right now USC and Belmont top my list, but I really have no idea what else is out there. There's Berklee of course, but i took a tour there and honestly just not interested.

So let me know of any stories or experiences you guys have. I'm open to any type of music program really, I just don;t know where a modern drum set player as myself can fit in apart from Pop/Commerical programs like at USC or Belmont.
 

STXBob

Gold Member
I think it's a waste of time. You're setting yourself up for a world of hurt with this scenario, if you or your parents are taking out any student loans. If they're not, if they've saved wisely and can write a check, you're still better off just going to where the music scene is and diving in. You're going to have to do that anyway, so why wait?

You're going to come out of college having spent tens of thousands of dollars for something that isn't worth very much at all. Your "connections" won't get you very far at all, because tenured professors aren't well connected. If they were, they'd be making a living gigging, not in academia.

If you're going to spend tens of thousands of dollars to build a music career, just move to where the musical opportunities are, take lessons, network, gig, get to know people because that's how you actually make a career, any career. The adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? There's a reason why it's an adage.

That said, formal training can be very useful, especially for a drummer. You'll learn to be a percussionist. Is it useful enough to drop >$50,000 on? Not in my book. You can get those skills from private lessons for far less cost, while living in LA or Nashville or New York, and playing/connecting with the people who will actually pay your costs of living. You're going to end up doing that anyway, so why start with a financial monkey on your back? From what you've written, that's what you're viewing college as: A networking opportunity with the bonus of picking up some extra musicianship.

I don't think that's worth all that money. But hey, it's not my life.

Look at it this way: You're starting a small business. You're an independent contractor (or consultant, if you prefer that moniker). A wise businessperson starts her business with a sizable chunk of money. That's called "capitalization." It's what you live on until the business takes off. If she does that, she has a greater than 70% chance of success.* If she starts her business with debt instead of capital, she has a less than 10% chance of success.

Let that sink in for a moment. Less than ten percent chance of success. No matter how good she is at whatever she does. Her debt will sink her.

In my opinion, this impulse of "IMUSTGOTOCOLLEGE" is a huge mistake. It's an industry selling a product. It's hype. It's not necessary - most jobs/careers don't need a university education. More troubling, university education is viewed as a career-training program, which is most decidedly not (sadly you appear to have fallen for this hype). Most troublesome, it sets up the most vulnerable - young people like you - with a huge amount of debt when they're just starting their lives.

If your parents have saved enough to stroke your institution of choice a periodic check, you're better off getting them to sign a lease on an apartment in your musical scene of choice and giving you a monthly allowance for the four years you'd otherwise spend in school. That way you won't have to slave at some bullsh!t job to make ends meet while you're building your business. That's an example of proper capitalization of your small business. ;-) Even if they haven't saved much (or anything), they're better off paying you to do what I describe. Work out a deal with them to pay off their investment. That's what a businessperson does.

All that said, provided you actually avail yourself of a high-quality liberal-arts university and apply yourself assiduously therein, you will emerge a better, more enlightened person. A liberal-arts education is a wonderful thing. But be aware that that takes application and energy on your part. You can't stay holed up in the School of Music building all day long. That might as well be 13-16th grade. You need to take eclectic elective classes, read Descartes, investigate the behavior of quarks, understand macroeconomics, figure out iambic hexameter.

A liberal-arts education means you dip into as many different disciplines as you can find, and learn enough to be conversant. Not an expert; leave that to those who major in those fields. But enough that you can talk to an expert at a cocktail party and not embarrass yourself.

When you add all that up, it means hard questions: How much is a liberal-arts education worth to you? Do you even care about any of what I've described?

Or are you looking for a career-training program? A liberal-arts education is about exploration, broadening your intellectual horizons, expanding your personal universe. If you're not into that, if you know what you want to do, then I cannot imagine why on earth you'd waste four years and the better part of a hundred grand on a liberal-arts university or indeed any institution of higher learning.

* The other ~30% is dependent on whether or not she's actually any good at what she does. ;-)
 
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SmoothOperator

Gold Member
Senior year. Time for college apps.

Ugggggggh.

At this point I am fully committing myself to studying music and pursuing it as a career.

What are your guys' opinions on university for an aspiring musician?

I've been spending time looking for universities that have great RELEVANT (key word here) music programs.

Plenty of universities have great music programs, but I need something that (preferably) centers around Popular/Commercial music, or at least has some other music programs that are relevant. I'm not being picky about a degree per se (believe me I know, "a degree in music is worthless," I know this! haha, but i believe the classes, connections, relationships on the way to that degree are worth it), I just need a school that'll help further my career.

Honestly I'm clueless, right now USC and Belmont top my list, but I really have no idea what else is out there. There's Berklee of course, but i took a tour there and honestly just not interested.

So let me know of any stories or experiences you guys have. I'm open to any type of music program really, I just don;t know where a modern drum set player as myself can fit in apart from Pop/Commerical programs like at USC or Belmont.
I'd have to say music would be way more fun than CS, and you don't have any garuntee of anything from either. Though, I suspect music degrees may appeal more to people who have a trust fund and relatives that make large contributions to the local philharmonic, that way they can get a job as concierge, if they can't tune a timpani.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
At this point I am fully committing myself to studying music and pursuing it as a career.

What are your guys' opinions on university for an aspiring musician?
So what is stopping you from getting a career in music? Do it now.

I don't think music school is of much value. Don't get me wrong - it's OK to take a college course if you think it will help you - but I'm not interested in that whole college degree program.

You might consider attending the same music college that Ringo attended. He seems to be doing well.

I am amused by a conversation I had with a keyboard player that graduated from music school. Music School Grad is telling me that an A minor scale has a G# in it. Me, Mr. street musician pointed out that there are no sharps of flats in the A minor scale and the fight was on. "That's what they taught us in music college" says Music School Grad. OK what do I know.

Ringo is so cool. You could also attend the same music school as Elvis, he seemed to do OK too.
 

mikel

Platinum Member
I agree with a lot of what has been said. College costs a lot of money and If, as you say, It's not the qualification but the musical experience, the learning and the contacts that matter, why not just pay for the best drum teacher you can get, and immerse yourself in the local music scene.

Only my two cents but it would cost way less and be much more specific to what you want. Also, If its not working out after a while you can get out much more easily, or tailor it more to what you need as you go.

Anyway, good luck. ( Future DW drummer? I am Not even going to touch on that.)
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Two points I would like to make.

1: Musicians often go for degrees that integrate with their music career (business, teaching, communications).
2: There's no need to go to an expensive >$20k/year college when a $3k/year community/state college will give you the same degree.
 

Notbob

Senior Member
I am amused by a conversation I had with a keyboard player that graduated from music school. Music School Grad is telling me that an A minor scale has a G# in it. Me, Mr. street musician pointed out that there are no sharps of flats in the A minor scale and the fight was on. "That's what they taught us in music college" says Music School Grad. OK what do I know.
Apparently, your music school buddy knows stuff you don't. There are three minor scales: natural (what you're thinking of), melodic and harmonic. They contain different notes. An A harmonic minor scale contains a G#. So does an ascending A melodic minor scale. No doubt your buddy studied harmony so a harmonic minor scale would be obvious for him. The so-called "natural minor scale" is properly referred to as Aeolian mode.

Formal education has its advantages.
 

GeoB

Gold Member
Hmmm,

If I were going to study music I would go heavy on theory, composition, and arrangement. How long are you prepared to commit yourself to this endeavor? Are you interested a masters program, a doctorate, or perhaps a bachelor? Lower level course work only? Or, taking it into the Upper level curriculum?

If you are thinking of a degree in percussion, be prepared to and ready to take lots of piano. You can't study theory without it and you will be studying theory, harmony, etc... not just drumming.

I have theory behind me and it is very helpful. My Uncle (who was a professional musician starting way back in the 20's up until he passed in 1982) told me that "music is a wonderful thing to have as an avocation, a wonderful way to relax and something to enjoy through life. But, it's a lousy way to make a living" and this is from an expert. He performed and educated his entire working life, I think he may have been on to something or at least understood where I was at during that decision point in my life and was giving me a dose of reality. I did go to school but ended up in construction and as a gigging musician. A sea change in popular music wiped that all out, technology brought about DJ performance as a cost cutting strategy for club owners in many urban areas and venues. POP! My dream became exponentially harder to realize. But I still gig, I still enjoy music, although I turned my career into Electrical Engineering by necessity. Some people are very fortunate and earn a living doing what they want to do and the rest of us (the vast majority of workers) make a living doing what we have to, or need to do in order to maintain those basic needs and responsibilities that occur in our lives.

I've worked with both formally educated, self-taught, and formally self-taught musicians over the years. I really think it's a mix of all three that works out for the best. Another thing I have noticed is that depending on the school, you can really network well and that counts.

I have to ask; Are you eligible for a scholarship? A colleague of mine has a daughter who got a scholarship for piccolo, to play in the Tennessee Vols marching band. Worked out great! She was also a dorm supervisor which paid for her room and board. She majored in business.

There are workarounds to many collegiate opportunities. Majoring in the meal ticket degree and minoring in the arts. English major, music minor or something of that nature are very workable solutions.

But right now, here and now, I have to say... if you do not play piano proficiently you should think about the community college level of instruction for General Studies along with theoretical course work and piano course work in order to ensure success in those larger college music programs.
 
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eclipseownzu

Gold Member
My advice, if you are dead set on college go get an engineering degree. Play in bands on the side and date girls in the music dept. When you graduate with a degree that is actually useful, then move to LA and make yourself part of the local music scene. In a few years when you have made it you can pay off your student loans and go lead the rockstar life we all wish we could. Or when you havent you still have an engineering degree, which is worth its weight in gold.

You say that you know a music degree is worthless, but the rest of your post demonstrates that you really have no idea just how much it will actually cost you. Fools gold is worthless, but when you paid $100,000 to mine the fools gold, you are the fool. My job requires a degree, so to get into my position you are stuck in the hamster wheel of the American university system. To be a professional musician requires nothing more than talent, dedication and a whole lot of luck.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
But right now, here and now, I have to say... if you do not play piano proficiently you should think about the community college level of instruction for General Studies along with theoretical course work and piano course work in order to ensure success and larger college music programs.
This is great advice for the poster. Get some instruction that suits your abilities, even if it means not enrolling in a proper university right away, to get some fundamentals under your belt. The kids enrolling in music programs have already been studying melody and harmony for a long time.

Studying theory and harmony is impossible to oversell. First, it will help you to learn new music more effectively and thoroughly, which is helpful, because very often, there just isn't time for practice, preparation, or even a rehearsal. Second, theory and harmony training will allow you to communicate with well-trained, theory-minded musicians. If you're a band leader or artist, don't you want to surround yourselves with players who can understand you? As a drummer, can you imagine the opportunities you'll forfeit if you're able to support only the most basic players? Finally, training will help you to play your instrument with more confidence, to interact intelligently with other players, to keep the form of the song, and to play more styles of music.

Yes, it's possible to land a good gig without this training, but it becomes less and less likely as time goes on; gigs that last forever are even rarer. Since physical copies of music are barely sold at all any more, most of a musician's value lies in his/her ability to perform live in a variety of styles, to teach others, and to accept instruction from bandleaders, rather than to be part of a label-supported hit song writing group with a lifetime of success.

You're in California, right? There's no shortage of programs and training for you within driving distance. By all means, jump in and explore music, but don't waste money on a university music class, when your needs are more suited to getting some basic piano training first. If and when you decide to study with the university ensembles, it will help your networking efforts tremendously if you already have good chops and knowledge. You will find that music students, for the most part, want to play with players who are already pretty good.

If you do decide to pursue a music degree, you can go the performance route, or get a teaching certificate. It's a lot easer to get a teaching gig with either of those, and you'll be in a position to pursue a Masters or Doctorate, should you desire to teach at the college level one day. Or, if you decide to get a career-oriented degree (engineering, CS, whatnot), you still can! Plenty of people have university music training, along with a "real job" supported by a "real degree". Those people are in the enviable position of picking and choosing which gigs to play (as opposed to taking any gig, in order to pay the bills).
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Unfortunately, I have to agree with what the others are saying. Making a living from music is something you don't want to bury yourself in debt for. Don't saddle yourself with massive debt. If you want to play, you don't need a degree. Skip all that and play as much as you can. You have to be a great player who is in demand. If you can teach yourself to sight read....you don't have to pay 50,000 to do that. You can learn what you need to learn without going into massive debt. Music college doesn't guarantee a thing. The potential to earn a decent living from music is not that great for the vast majority.

If it were common to earn 100,000 a year playing music, that's different. But that happens to what, 1 out of 50,000 people? Lousy odds. If you want to teach, then you need a degree. But playing? Don't hamstring yourself by digging a massive money pit hat you will spend a good portion of your life digging out of. It's just a bad deal.

Study with great teachers, play with the best people you can, get yourself out there in your local music scene and make a reputation for yourself. But don't sign your life away to a university. Other than the degree, everything they teach can be learned much cheaper than the deal they want you to take. Don't be a sucker!
 

MrPockets

Gold Member
Do not get a degree unless you want to teach or play in an orchestra.


I would highly suggest getting a college degree in something you can fall back on in the likely event music can not support you financially.
 

brentcn

Platinum Member
If you can teach yourself to sight read....you don't have to pay 50,000 to do that. You can learn what you need to learn without going into massive debt. Music college doesn't guarantee a thing. The potential to earn a decent living from music is not that great for the vast majority.
Small quibble: sight reading is best taught within the expectations of some sort of ensemble. It doesn't need to be a university ensemble, of course, but guided instruction is key. You learn the mechanics of sight-reading in private, of course, but you won't get good at sight-reading until you're forced to apply it with a band.

And that's really the value of a university music setting: the ensembles, and the experience of your educators. You want to be ready to take advantage of all of that, so it's prudent to have your fundamentals in order ahead of time.
 

Souljacker

Silver Member
I did a year of a music degree but dropped out due to illness. I could have gone back but decided it wasn't worth it.

Bear in mind this is in Ireland where it only costs about $3000 dollars a year to go to college. So not all that much in the grand scheme of things. Many students effectively get these fees completely covered by the government too depending on the students socio economic background.

One of the reasons why I didn't continue with the degree was that I was pretty aware of graduates from music degrees and the work they were engaged in following the completion of their degree. Many of them are now doing jobs unrelated to music and are not making a living from music itself. Some have followed that path and may for example give lessons, but I don't believe they necessarily needed a music degree in order to qualify themselves as such.

I'll echo what others have said before me, the US college system is a different ballgame to here and it is wildly more expensive so my advice will be similar to what has already been said. I'm not advocating against going to college by any means but you'll saddle yourself with a lot of debt to complete a degree in a field which is not the most stable financially. To me, being in that much debt would only seem worthwhile if I was studying a degree such as Medicine, Law, Computer Science etc where I would have the prospect of a reliable well paying professional career ahead, and paying off college debt in a reasonable amount of time is a realistic prospect.

Instead of heading to Berklee, UNT or whatever, why not find the best drum instructors working in those places and contact them for private lessons? You'll save yourself a tonne of money and get the knowledge you want the most for a fraction of the cost. You can work on your theory and ear training at home, on the internet or from books You really don't need music college to study these things.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
There are a bunch of schools in southern California, and in the bay area, that would be great-- UCLA, Northridge, Long Beach, San Jose State, Berkeley, and I think Fullerton and Riverside all have solid programs. I wasn't wild about SC when I was there in '88-'89, but that was a long time ago; much of the faculty are well connected, and a lot of pros go there for post-graduate work, and there are a lot of children of famous people going to school there, so it should be good for networking if you plan on living in LA.

A thing you can do is go to a less expensive (and still excellent) state school for 2-3 years, and really get your stuff together, then go to one of the more expensive schools at the end, when you're ready to make a big impression. It's very common to do that.

If no one is paying for your school, I would beware of taking on too much debt-- but that seems to be baked into the system these days. Fortunately there will be so many people in the same boat, they may demand some kind of debt relief, someday. I wouldn't want to count on it. Try not to throw too many needless tens of thousands of dollars on your debt burden.

Also, I'll say that doing music as a career is a very sketchy proposition right now-- if you're going to do it, be ready to really hit it hard. There's not a whole lot of room for people who are semi-committed. If there's something else you love that has a better outlook, you might seriously consider doing that instead. If you're going to do music, you need to be really hard core in your work ethic, and be ready to have a not-very-easy life financially for many years after school. Good luck.

PS- I'll also add that I don't think getting a degree in something else "to fall back on" works-- I think that's just deciding to be a hobbyist. How are you going to be a full time economics student for 4-6 years, and come out the other side ready to be a professional musician? I don't see how that's supposed to work. If there's something else you can do that you won't hate yourself (and your life) for pursuing instead of music, do it-- but you can't do both.
 
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KamaK

Platinum Member
PS- I'll also add that I don't think getting a degree in something else "to fall back on" works-- I think that's just deciding to be a hobbyist. How are you going to be a full time economics student for 4-6 years, and come out the other side ready to be a professional musician? I don't see how that's supposed to work. If there's something else you can do that you won't hate yourself (and your life) for pursuing instead of music, do it-- but you can't do both.
Do you think that getting a degree that compliments a pro-music career is beneficial (education, communications, business)?

@OP.. Are there other facets of the music industry that interest you?

Examples: Instrument construction/repair, loudspeaker design, teaching, dance, etc?

When I was going through my "I wanna be a professional guitarist" phase, I picked up guitar-amp repair and maintenance because I couldn't afford to keep paying someone. I now do it as a hobby for $50 an hour. I probably could have turned it into a career if the internet hadn't come along and been so damn lucrative for me as a technologist.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Do you think that getting a degree that compliments a pro-music career is beneficial (education, communications, business)
Personally, I would want to keep it within the music department-- music ed, recording arts, composing, or whatever. School is not just about information, or job credentials, it's about beginning to develop relationships within your field, and being part of a culture. It's hard to be taken seriously by the serious music people if you're just popping in from across campus a couple of days a week. And it's still just very difficult to learn to play while being a full-time student of non-playing, you know?

I think most of the people I know who are good players with non-performance degrees, got those degrees in their later 20s or 30s, or 40s, after they had been playing professionally for some years. People do often make lateral moves to related things, but I don't think it's a good idea to hedge your bets when you're starting out.
 

bigd

Silver Member
If you want to play in a rock band and play clubs trying to "get signed" no you don't need college.

If you want one of the other type of jobs in the music world then yes.

Broadway, theme park, cruise ships, teaching, drum corps, symphony, and even the military groups you will nothing but benefit from a degree.

I'd broaden myself beyond the drumset also. learn timpani, mallet instruments and hand drumming.

There are too many people out there who can do it all.

I'll rephrase what Todd B just said. The serious guys doing the hiring are schooled musicians and they won't waste there time with unschooled players.
 

(Future)DWdrummer

Senior Member
I think it's a waste of time. You're setting yourself up for a world of hurt with this scenario, if you or your parents are taking out any student loans. If they're not, if they've saved wisely and can write a check, you're still better off just going to where the music scene is and diving in. You're going to have to do that anyway, so why wait?

You're going to come out of college having spent tens of thousands of dollars for something that isn't worth very much at all. Your "connections" won't get you very far at all, because tenured professors aren't well connected. If they were, they'd be making a living gigging, not in academia.

If you're going to spend tens of thousands of dollars to build a music career, just move to where the musical opportunities are, take lessons, network, gig, get to know people because that's how you actually make a career, any career. The adage "It's not what you know, it's who you know"? There's a reason why it's an adage.

That said, formal training can be very useful, especially for a drummer. You'll learn to be a percussionist. Is it useful enough to drop >$50,000 on? Not in my book. You can get those skills from private lessons for far less cost, while living in LA or Nashville or New York, and playing/connecting with the people who will actually pay your costs of living. You're going to end up doing that anyway, so why start with a financial monkey on your back? From what you've written, that's what you're viewing college as: A networking opportunity with the bonus of picking up some extra musicianship.

I don't think that's worth all that money. But hey, it's not my life.

Look at it this way: You're starting a small business. You're an independent contractor (or consultant, if you prefer that moniker). A wise businessperson starts her business with a sizable chunk of money. That's called "capitalization." It's what you live on until the business takes off. If she does that, she has a greater than 70% chance of success.* If she starts her business with debt instead of capital, she has a less than 10% chance of success.

Let that sink in for a moment. Less than ten percent chance of success. No matter how good she is at whatever she does. Her debt will sink her.

In my opinion, this impulse of "IMUSTGOTOCOLLEGE" is a huge mistake. It's an industry selling a product. It's hype. It's not necessary - most jobs/careers don't need a university education. More troubling, university education is viewed as a career-training program, which is most decidedly not (sadly you appear to have fallen for this hype). Most troublesome, it sets up the most vulnerable - young people like you - with a huge amount of debt when they're just starting their lives.

If your parents have saved enough to stroke your institution of choice a periodic check, you're better off getting them to sign a lease on an apartment in your musical scene of choice and giving you a monthly allowance for the four years you'd otherwise spend in school. That way you won't have to slave at some bullsh!t job to make ends meet while you're building your business. That's an example of proper capitalization of your small business. ;-) Even if they haven't saved much (or anything), they're better off paying you to do what I describe. Work out a deal with them to pay off their investment. That's what a businessperson does.

All that said, provided you actually avail yourself of a high-quality liberal-arts university and apply yourself assiduously therein, you will emerge a better, more enlightened person. A liberal-arts education is a wonderful thing. But be aware that that takes application and energy on your part. You can't stay holed up in the School of Music building all day long. That might as well be 13-16th grade. You need to take eclectic elective classes, read Descartes, investigate the behavior of quarks, understand macroeconomics, figure out iambic hexameter.

A liberal-arts education means you dip into as many different disciplines as you can find, and learn enough to be conversant. Not an expert; leave that to those who major in those fields. But enough that you can talk to an expert at a cocktail party and not embarrass yourself.

When you add all that up, it means hard questions: How much is a liberal-arts education worth to you? Do you even care about any of what I've described?

Or are you looking for a career-training program? A liberal-arts education is about exploration, broadening your intellectual horizons, expanding your personal universe. If you're not into that, if you know what you want to do, then I cannot imagine why on earth you'd waste four years and the better part of a hundred grand on a liberal-arts university or indeed any institution of higher learning.

* The other ~30% is dependent on whether or not she's actually any good at what she does. ;-)
Definitely, makes complete sense. I've thought about simply going to some Community college in Nashville or New York to gig everywhere I possibly can as opposed to attending some huge university...

Don't have to worry about debt though, not gonna be taking out any student loans... My parent's income is low enough to where we could get a decent amount of financial aid, but high enough to where they can pay the difference (along with help from merit scholarships) quite easily.
 

STXBob

Gold Member
If you can teach yourself to sight read....you don't have to pay 50,000 to do that.
If you can't sight read, you don't want to go to any university music program that'd accept you. Sight reading is absolutely required for admission to any School of Music worth the name.
 
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