Author Topic: Music educational and career choices/opportunities  (Read 2885 times)

Offline MattGSX

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Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« on: February 22, 2008, 01:35:15 PM »
A question in the "Ask me something music related" forum inspired me to write this (I'm also installing Mandriva on my laptop, so I have some time to kill)
If you're considering going to school for or making a career out of music, you have many, many different choices and opportunities depending on your styles, tastes, skill, and educational background.

If you're considering going to school for music, there are several different things you must consider before you pick your school. The first big one is what kind of program or school you want to go to.
1) Music conservatory/professional academy:
If you go to a conservatory, you can get a BFA or "certificate" for your applied area (main instrument). In addition to your private lessons, you will take classes on music theory, aural skills, piano, instrumentation, music literature, and music history. If you want to make a career out of playing music (in an orchestra or as a solo performer), this may not be a bad choice. However, since several conservatories don't have traditional degree programs (and since you generally don't take many other classes), you may find it hard to use this educational experience to get you a job outside of music. The level of competition is extremely high, and unless you already have professional experience, a strong recommendation, or ties with a recruiter for the school (yes, the schools recruit), it's going to be very hard to get any kind of scholarship. Many people will go to a regular school, get their B.A., and then go to a conservatory for 1-2 years before continuing on to get their M.A/D.M.

If you're considering a conservatory, you need to seriously look at this school and find out what it's like before attending. Try to get a few lessons in with the teacher for your applied area. If you can't get along with them, or disagree strongly with their teaching style, don't go there, because you will spend more time with this person than anyone else in your life. The tuition will be outrageous, and studying with someone who has a bad professional reputation can ruin your chances of not only succeeding in the industry, but sometimes even getting accepted into grad school.

2) College of music (as part of a larger school).
This involves an actual degree program (B.A, B.F.A, or B.S) in the applied area of music (General study, Performance, Education, Composition, Theory, History, Recording/Production). In addition to taking your music courses to satisfy your music degree, you will also do the required coursework for your degree (so a B.S. in recording arts will also require a large amount of lab sciences [especially physics and acoustics]). For programs like Music Education, this is really the way to go. Tuition is generally much less, and the school will still go to great lengths to recruit and hire faculty members successful in the professional field. If you want to go on to grad school, this is a good stepping stone.
If you want to get a music education, this is my recommendation. Just like in a conservatory, the school will pride itself on its faculty, so you'll probably want to find out about the faculty and try to get a few lessons in before applying or attending. Like the conservatory, you will be taking a lot of courses dealing with musicianship, but they will generally be a bit easier and will be generalized towards all musicians, not just those in your applied area.

3) Liberal Arts college
Tuition will be very high (as most are private schools), and there aren't usually many people in your degree field. For large ensembles, most of the members will be ringers hired from other area universities or players in the community who aren't very active professionally. The only reason I'd recommend this route is if the school has a teacher with a very, very good reputation, and if you can get a good scholarship. As a rule, though, steer clear of this one.

-------------Career Choices---------------
One of the hardest things to do after getting a music education is finding a job. Once again, the big question is what you want to DO in music.
If you're interested in business, one of the best recommendations I can give is trying to get an internship with NAMM. This will put you in contact with artist management companies, recording studios, record labels, music lawyers, and many other musical professionals.
If you have an interest in academics and don't want to be a professional performer, consider music education.
If you have an interest in academics but DO want to stay active as a professional performer, get your M.A/D.M and try to get a job at a university. Many universities will either encourage or require active participation in the professional community. As a side note, you can actually make a living and go to school for free if you can get either a fellowship or a position as a Graduate Assistant while going to grad school. Most schools will do this for the fields of music theory, history, and pedagogy.

If you want to just make a living playing professionally, a good start can actually be in the US Military. Performers in military ensembles are recruited and hired as non-combative, so you won't be forced to put your trombone aside to grab a machine gun. They pay very well and, if you already have a degree, you can start out commissioned as an officer. If you have experience writing or arranging music, you can get it played, and it gives you the chance to lead ensembles. Also, if you stay in for 20 years, you can retire with a military pension and pursue other career opportunities. Many, many professional orchestral performers (and many jazz musicians) have gone this route with fairly good success. Of course, you do still have to go through basic training, and since you're active military, you do have to go through P.T. every morning.

---------------

This is not by any means a complete list, or all available options. I just wanted to post thoughts on things I have either learned a good deal about or have experience with. If you have any specific questions about music education or industry jobs (on the classical side), I'd be more than happy to answer. If you have questions about the "popular" side, ask Jammie. I'm sure her experiences are very different from my own, and I know our educational paths and goals are pretty different (considering I'm going to be applying for assistantships right away)

Offline Zazen

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2008, 05:16:17 PM »
I know a guy who did the military thing, he regarded it as a huge mistake. As nice as it sounds, it's still the army!

I also hear that it's not very helpful to get expensive performance degrees with the intention of performing (the audition matters much more than the credentials), and the degree ends up being worthless if you want to change fields. Just somethin' I hear..

Offline MattGSX

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2008, 07:57:22 AM »
True, in some cases.

In classical music, just getting an audition in many cases isn't as much about what school you're from, but who your teacher is. In most cases, the best teachers are at the conservatories, but it's not always the case.

For example, my viola teacher is from Budapest. Before coming to America, she was the concertmaster of the Hungarian national opera, the leading soloist on the national radio, an artist in residence at the Franz Lizst academy , and a student of Bela Bartok (when she was much younger). After leaving (re: fleeing) Hungary, she was an artist in residence at the Royal Arts Academy in Banff, Canada. She now teaches at a second-rate state school, and all of her students that continue music after their undergrad program have succeeded successfully.

But, if you suddenly decide that you're done performing for a living, or if you just can't get into an orchestra or into an artist/staff position at a university, your performance degrees don't mean anything. That's why most music teachers that have students going on to grad school recommend more "useful" fields like musicology or pedagogy, which employers outside of music will still see as strong academic fields.

As a side note, I was told in my freshman education seminar that many businesses look for education majors and former teachers because of their extensive education and the repeated "professional experience" tests and clinicals we need to go through. Also, more music majors get into med school and law school than pre-med and pre-law, respectively.

And yeah, I'm not AT ALL saying the military is a great option. But it is an option.

Offline Tachyon

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2008, 08:52:54 AM »
As nice as it sounds, it's still the army!


And...
Do you speak two languages?

"Detective Don Gombo: IM AFRAID THE ONLY ONE "F" IS "U" MY FRIEND. WELCOME TO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE WEB!"

Offline mr_doc

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2008, 04:57:23 PM »
You could be a street entertainer. Just perform for a crowd and then hold out an empty soda cup and beg for money. You can skip the first part if you don't play an instrument or did too much heroin.
PLAlotgd  -If you play, I will hate you a little less.
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Offline Zazen

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2008, 11:39:40 PM »
As nice as it sounds, it's still the army!


And...

...you get gassed in the face and have your life ruled by dimwitted losers. Maybe it's different in the canadian mounted army squad or whatever you call it up there.

Offline Tachyon

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2008, 08:06:25 AM »
But on the other hand if you somehow survive whatever hellhole they dump you in you can become the Punisher.
Do you speak two languages?

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Offline MattGSX

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2008, 08:16:00 AM »
In almost all cases, if you have an audition for a US Military band/orchestra/ensemble and they select you for this BEFORE you enlist, you will be enlisted as non-combative. If you enlisted, went through basic, and then decided you wanted to join the Army band, since you're listed originally as combative they can pull you whenever the hell they want. In addition, as I already said, anyone who is in a military band is ALWAYS on active duty, which means you can (and will) be sent wherever they want you, and you do have to report to base every morning for PT. You will be sent to Iraq or somewhere else in the sandbox at least once a year for USO shows, and you have to tour the country doing recruitment gigs. If you can accept that, this is one of the highest paying gigs you can get as an orchestral musician (other than being in an actual professional orchestra).

Offline jammie

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Re: Music educational and career choices/opportunities
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2008, 05:30:57 PM »
Sorry I'm so late on the reply.  I am a bad forum member. 

I thought I'd throw my 2 cents in... for performing arts, don't forget a career in theater!  I know a guy who took percussion at Syracuse and has been successful as a drummer for Ave Q for several years.  It can pay pretty well and put you in touch with a lot of people that could help further your career... studios, actors, tv, radio, etc.

As for the business side, my undergrad degree is in Music Business from NYU.  There are 2 programs there (the one I went to at Steinhardt and the Clive Davis sponsored one in Tisch).  I can't speak for the Clive one, but the program I went to I'd say at the time was probably the best in the country (or at least outside of LA, but I think NY is better for the music biz anyway).  I do remember applying to Music Business programs at Syracuse, Miami U and Northwestern, but those ones were definitely not very in-depth.  For NYU I actually had to audition to get into the program.  They made us take a year of music theory, sight reading and keyboard.  Can't pick out good music if you don't know anything about music, right?  Also good Music Tech program at NYU, but doubt it's the best.  Can't speak for Music Education.

As far as getting into the industry, best advice is to intern like crazy and (this is where I failed) KEEP IN TOUCH WITH EVERYONE.  I interned at 11 places in college and I just sucked at keeping in touch with my bosses.  LinkedIn is such a lifesaver.  Also, besides networking, interning really gives you a feel for companies and departments.  Interning really gives you a great all around sampler of the industry so you can see which parts you like.  For example, I thought forever that I wanted to go into artist management... then I interned at an artist management company and spent a summer willing myself not to quit because the whole thing was so horrible.  In college though is really the only time you'll have (with a little experience) your pick of where you want to work and in what department, so that is definitely the time to shop around.  I know a lot of colleges won't let you intern before your Junior Year and a lot of companies won't let you intern unless you can do it for college credit, but a lot of the smaller companies will let you intern for a regular minimum wage paycheck and you can start those your freshman or sophomore year.