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onelove

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Hey everyone,

What is your opinion on university degrees in music? I will be graduating from high school next year and need to start thinking about what I'm going to do once that happens. I plan to go get myself a degree in something, but I don't really know what that would be yet. I love music and would like to be involved in music professionally, whether playing, producing, engineering, etc. Is a degree in music really useful to those of you who have it, or from what you have seen? Or would I be better off going for a degree in another field to support my music when the gigs are slim?

If it were just me I had to worry about, I would go for the music degree in a heartbeat, because I love to learn about and play music. However, twenty years from now I could have a family to support, and I don't want to regret my decision to do music.

Thanks for your opinions,

Dave

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How much is the degree gonna cost? Do you need to study at a tertiary level to improve as a musician? Hmmm.

 

I did a degree in music and it left me with no real employment qualification ("do you want fries with that").

Add a teaching qualification on and POW, not a bad paying day job. I get to pass music on to kids, but that's another story.

 

I find every job I've ever had has had its bad points, it's how good the good points are.

 

I found my three years studying music were great. At 18 I was at a level where I learnt HEAPS. I also made a lot of good friends and contacts.

 

I'm now 31, married with a great little boy and a not so great mortgage. And I love my life.

 

Good luck Dave

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Originally posted by Whacked:

a friend once told me,

"better to be broke and work at a job you love, than to be rich and work at a job you hate".

Nice quote, but it begs the question,

 

What's a likeable job? I only ask because I've never had one.

 

Hell, I'm broke and I work at a job I hate.

 

Go figure.

 

(Actually, I've got plans in the works to stop the madness of a day job and pursue my musical career in earnest, and it looks like it may actually happen.)

**Standard Disclaimer** Ya gotta watch da Ouizel, as he often posts complete and utter BS. In this case however, He just might be right. Eagles may soar, but Ouizels don't get sucked into jet engines.
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No guarantees. I've got a Berklee friend whose just about the most in-demand guitar teacher and player around these parts. But even he might say it wasn't going to Berklee that made that happen. He does speak highly of the environment. I think it could be a pretty good experience, myself.
.
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there's this one guy that i know who has a masters in performance and education. he got his undergrad degree in music business. He currently works as a music teacher at a HS in brooklyn, plays keys/organ at my church back home and allows his talent to take him all over the country/world.

 

The around the country/world thing is especially true over the summer. He's an amazing musician, so there is always work for him and the majortiy of his income comes from his playing.

 

I guess this story wont be true for every musician, different circles offer different musicians varying levels of work, but this guy is really happy with his life.

 

It's also great to go home and play with this guy b/c he's always challenging me to reach new levels and to think differently.

 

I'm currently in engineering undergrad, but i can honestly say that i want my life to mirror this guys. I've barely reached 2 yrs on bass, but i enjoy it. I think that in the end, your happiness is worth more than any job can pay you.

 

jason

2cor5:21

Soli Deo Gloria

 

"it's the beauty of a community. it takes a village to raise a[n] [LLroomtempJ]." -robb

 

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Music degrees are great. If you plan on teaching music at a high school level.l.or community college or college level with a MA or PhD.

 

Granted, study can improve chops, but, in the chops department, you've either got 'em or you don't. Music schools don't adequately address that, IMO. A lot of music schools just want to grab the bucks, and push a bunch of people through who really don't have the potential chops. If you audition, say, for a local jazz quartet, and you can't play, but you have a list of letters after your name, you think the letters will get you the gig? Not only no, but hell no. Someone who can play will get the gig. And there are a lot of people who can play.

 

The idea is to get a degree that's broad enough to enable you to market yourself in many areas. You can always take classes on the side to improve your chops.

 

People often forget that important second word in the term "Music Business". Yup. It's a BUSINESS. So why not get a degree in something that you can take to the bank in several areas, like marketing? Then minor in music. Makes a heckuva lot more sense than pigeonholing yourself.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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To be so young, you sound like you have a really level head...kudos to you for even thinking about things like this at your age.

 

I think many of the professional musicians on this forum will probably tell you that doing music for a living is a difficult life. That said, I'm sure all of them love it and wouldn't even consider making a change. It's a life they love, and it doesn't matter how difficult it is.

 

I made a similar choice as I was about to graduate from college. I was seriously considering attempting music rather than engineering as a career. I decided to go the engineering route, and keep music as a "hobby". I think I made the right choice for me, although I do sometimes wonder where I'd be right now if I had made the opposite choice.

 

Anyway, think about what you really want out of life. If you get a non-music degree (business, engineering, whatever) then you could probably never go teach music at any educational establishment. However, if you have the instrument and music knowledge, you can certainly teach independent lessons.

 

If you get a degree in a non-music field, then you can rely on that for income, but there's nothing to prevent you from having a music career also, whether it's part-time or full-time. If you get a technical degree, who knows...you might design the next big bass effects unit or amp. If you go for a more business-oriented field, you might qualify yourself to work in the music business for a major record label or gear company...who knows. There's certainly no reason that you can't marry your love of music and leverage your ability to play an instrument in a non-performing role as your primary career, but still perform music as a secondary career or hobby.

 

In my career, I've always made choices that left me with flexibility in where I could go. So far, I feel like I have absolutely made the right choices. I can't tell you though if those are the right choices for you...you have to figure that out, but I hope this post is helping you think through it.

 

Now, let me remove a common misconception about non-music careers. One of the reasons I chose to build a career in engineering was because I thought it would have more stability than a career in music performance. Sometimes I'm not sure that's true! Just because you have an engineering degree or business degree does not guarantee you a job and a stable income. You have competition from folks with years of experience who have been laid off, you have competition from technologists in India, Korea, China, and other countries who will work for dimes on the dollar (although the quality of work is certainly questionable).

 

That said, if you do what you do well (and choose to do things that have a measureable business impact), then you'll generally stay gainfully employed in a technical or business career. Generally, you will have an income that will allow you to purchase expensive gear that working musicians may not be able to afford, in all honesty. I know that kind of sucks, but that's the way it is. The benefit here is that if your one of the top people in business or engineering, you'll generally be paid like a top person. That's not always true with career musicians...sometimes the best folks are the most obscure and over-looked...particularly if you look at music you hear on the radio, for instance.

 

One final thought...you probably won't do the same thing all your life. I started out as a technologist working with computer software (did that for about 10 years) and I've recently moved in a more business-oriented direction (roughly a software tech sales and consulting kind of role). Why? Two reasons: 1) I like working with people and solving problems, but I'm tired of actually implementing the solution. 2) It's awefully difficult to off-shore or outsource someone who is experienced and capable on both the technical and business sides of the world.

 

I have played music (either drums or bass guitar) ever since I was in junior high school. I still do it to this day. It's not always easy to do (especially now that I have a family...2 yr old daughter!), but I kind of think of it as not putting all my eggs (things that bring me happiness or a sense of self-worth) in one basket.

 

Best of luck and I hope this helps!

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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Good reply, Dave...

 

And also, from the engineering standpoint, where would all the goodies us musicians love to drool over be without engineers who love music?

 

A musician with a degree in, say, electrical engineering could work for any one of the companies that make recording equipment, amps, processing stuff. An acoustical or architectural engineer could design theaters, concert halls, etc. And someone with a degree in marketing might be able to ply their musical skills writing and recording jingles, or working in the marketing departments of any musical instrument company. But, the key is, if that dries up, they can take those skiils elsewhere, whereas someone with only a degree in music won't be able to.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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As I see it, the main point for many who seek a music degree is not to GET A DEGREE. It's to be in an environment where the learning is concenttrated, the opportunites are there to network with others with a similar intense interest, wher one has access to mentors of high quality, and finally, to learn what has captured the imagination, and apply deep knowledge.

 

All this career crap is almost beside the point if you want to learn a lot about music and get chances to apply it. Then the main concern is whether one feels they will do better in a college-type environment, will get an added benefit from courses and relegated studies and all the goalposts that come with the turf.

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forceman,

 

No, that's not what I was saying either. Options are good. But the person who is interested in whether they should do music study in a formal enviroment isn't necessarily comcerned at the time of that decision making, with CAREER. They might have that, or know they haver time for that. They might simply might feel a great need to learn more because their imagination has been captured and they are wondering which options for learning what they hunger for are the best.

 

Career, in other words, may not NEED to be their primary concern at that time. Thank god for that.

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Yes, as mentioned in the parallel post to this I also think one should "go balls to the wall" with their passion--whatever it may be.

 

It is this passion that will take them places, NOT the degree, as we both agree on.

 

But one should always think strategically (objective), understanding what direction they want to head and how to leverage and subsequently capitialize on their experience (tactics).

 

The music degree will help open doors--the experience will keep them in the room.

 

Just like any other degree..

 

My 2 cents.

Steve Force,

Durham, North Carolina

--------

My Professional Websites

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I sympathize with the struggle of such a decision. It took me a while to find something that was both personally and financially rewarding, and it wasn't some "plan" that got me here. I'm a computer consultant, but I didn't get my degree in that - it came later.

 

I like most aspects of my job. On the hard days (whether they are hard from a job or personal standpoint), I'm glad that I spend so much time at something I like to do.

 

If you love music, then Ted is right. Go for it all - not just the performance part. There is work as a teacher, music director, writer (the BP staff are players), etc. As greenboy said, your degree alone won't make you successful. You have to benefit from what you've learned inside, and make it work for you on the outside.

 

I have two kids in college, so I know it's not an easy decision.

speech>

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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A lot of people have told me "you don't choose music, music chooses you."

 

Music college isn't about "chops." It's about filling up holes in your playing, learning more generally about music style, interpretation, history and literature. Like all college, it opens your mind.

 

Virtually any degree leads directly toward a job, which you are likely to be a candidate for. A music degree is absolutely no guarantee of employment. In fact, you could get a MA in Cello Performance and lose the open cello seat in the Chicago symphony to a guy from Europe without any degree.

 

Music education is an incredibly valuable and rewarding activity. The study of music is brain food for young kids on many levels. However, teaching isn't for everyone.

 

If you are not a teacher, you can't force it. It is its own special skill.

 

If you are a bass player, you could get a teaching certificate but not find a job. You have to choose, in most districts, band, choir or orchestra. Jazz band teachers are generally wind players, who must understand marching and wind techniques.

 

You could combine a private teaching studio with a free lance bass playing job. You could make it, but there would be lean months.

 

Remember, you don't choose music. It chooses you.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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And as a lover of playing - more than I ever was back when I took it for granted and was nuts for composition and theory - I'd say higher education offers more benefits today as compared to the alternative. Because there just aren't as many opportunities to go jam in clubs today with hot players who know The Schtuff. There's not even as many opportunites to HEAR THAT, let alone become a player in that enviroment.

 

You might learn about being a third-level DJ or a karoake master, but god forbid you love music.

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Originally posted by davebrownbass:

Music college isn't about "chops." It's about filling up holes in your playing, learning more generally about music style, interpretation, history and literature. Like all college, it opens your mind.

True. And that may have varying degrees of importance to different individuals. Thanks for posting that, because, I think some enter believing that getting a degree in music (or anything) will work some sort of magic and make that person an unbelievably good player. Not necessarily.

 

Originally posted by davebrownbass:

In fact, you could get a MA in Cello Performance and lose the open cello seat in the Chicago symphony to a guy from Europe without any degree.

Precisely the point I was trying to make. It's what's important to you. Just trying to encourage students to learn all they can about their options.
"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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There's an incredible amount of players, however, who didn't go to school, who THINK they are great players, not only hot on technique, but imbued with the one true spirit of investing emotion in their every lick.

 

Damn drunks.

.
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I have a Bachelor of Music in Composition, Magna Cum Laud, from Berklee College of Music. I started as a guitar performance major, but switched to composition when I realized I didn't at the time want to sound like a Berklee guitar player, and I took all of the audio engineering courses they offered.

 

Before Berklee, I was playing guitar and bass, all kinds of music, and I saw so many local musicians who were good at what they did, much better than me, but had no depth to their knowlege. This shallowness left them unable to advance beyond their adolescent vision of the music they could express; I have kept in touch with a few of them and indeed they didn't progress and largely are not making music any more. I've also known many who never got better past their first few weeks on their instrument, yet have achieved great success in music...

 

One absolute fact I learned at Berklee is that the musicians who would go on to be successful probably did most of their learning outside Berklee. These people gigged constantly, networked, and created. These are the people I went to school with who are now names you know or whose music you have heard.

 

"If you have a job to fall back on, you probably will..." is another famous saying. Then again, John Lennon studied art, Mick Jagger studied business, etc. Every bit of learning whether it is business or law, or art and poetry, will inform your life and support your music.

 

None of us can know what our lives would be like if we had made different choices at any of our turning points. I don't earn my living from playing guitar or bass now, but I do work in a musical environment with some of the best musicians and engineers on the planet; my Berklee degree has opened doors to non-musical opportunites that someone who had simply gigged for four years probably wouldn't have accessed.

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Again, look at what passes for a club music scene these days. Even back when I was first playing there were a lot more opportunities to truly jam (and not just play bar band songs at an open mike).

 

So many great players did the Berklee (or other institution) thing. That's one thing I've certainly seen in a ton of interviews.

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Another great book which supports Doug's post is Joe Jackson's autobiography A Cure for Gravity.

 

Joe Jackson has a music degree from London's prestigious Royal Academy of Music, which he describes in the book.

 

His REAL education, however, was gigging, as he so clearly explains throughout this book.

 

Get the book--a very good read for all musicians, ESPECIALLY for our fellow musicians who are considering their musical education options.

Steve Force,

Durham, North Carolina

--------

My Professional Websites

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Different strokes for different folks...ya know...

 

I see an example in my daughter. She leans toward the artsy world...literature, music, drawing. She really wanted to attend an art academy in Illinois. As an artist, though, she's a very good writer, if you catch my drift. I had a talk with her art teacher, and he agreed. She's not a bad artist, but there are other facets at which she shines more brightly. Of course, her being 17 right now, she's more or less oblivious to that fact. While I'm sure going to the art academy would improve her skills etc. as an artist, it would perhaps keep her from doing what she is really meant to do.

 

I think that's it, really, the underlying issue that we all face. What is it that we're really meant to do? Those that discover it and pursue it, whether it's being a concert violinist or a CPA that fiddles in a local bluegrass band on the weekends...those are the lucky ones.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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IMO the answers to these issues depend upon how much you value your social stature.

 

If social stature is incredibly important to you, forget the music education and go learn to run a corporation or be a doctor or something.

 

But if you are OK with who you are, right now is the time in your life to take risks! Before you tie yourself down with family, and the need/obligation to support that family. Indulge your desire to get the music education, along with whatever artistic and/or professional path you see emanating from it. Do not succumb to the external pressures to conform, such as "get a business degree just in case the music thing doesn't work out". Because:

- People are quite predictable in many ways. When we create fallback positions, we tend to fall back to those positions! No one who has truly succeeded in creative endeavors has ever seriously prepared themselves to do anything else.

- Beginning your adult life as a conformist will inhibit your creativity. And in choosing a career in music that creativity is your single greatest asset, waaaay beyond mere technical ability.

- There's always time to do something else if you ultimately don't succeed at music. Getting a business degree at age 32 and starting a family at 35 is no problem, and you will have the satisfaction of having given your best to what you love - it's something most people never do. But be careful about using this thought, as it represents a fallback position which can interfere with giving it your best right now when it really counts.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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I have one of them music degree thingies.

UC Berkeley 1973

 

Working towards a degree in music is not a career path. No one will care if you have a degree if you can play (or if you can't play). In fact, in some circumstances you might be better off if you don't tell people you have a degree in music. For instance people in a blues band might think you were "puttin' on airs" if you told them.

 

You can major in performance, composition, history, or education.

 

The only one that is a career track is education.

 

As far as a music degree getting you a teaching job, that's not automatic either.

 

I was finishing up my teaching credential in elementary school music teaching when my wonderful state, California, decided to drop elementary school music from every school in the state.

 

However, I have taught at two different community music schools (Blue Bear School in San Francisco for 14 years and also the East Center for the Performing Arts) and having a degree in music definitely affected my hiring.

 

If you want to be a professional musician and you are 18 years old and have not started gigging, you are behind the curve.

 

I paid for most of my college expenses by gigging at night.

 

Music schools are there for people who want to learn for the sake of learning.

 

As far as having something to fall back on, if that is your concern than you shouldn't major in music.

 

Music is a calling, you don't choose it, it chooses you. You will study music because you can't imagine not doing it.

 

With my life of gigging and teaching, I have got married, bought a house, raised a child and helped put him through college. I've also been able to do a reasonable amount of traveling.

 

Much later in life, I added teaching computers to my career. I am self-taught at computers, but it comes relatively easy for me and with my music teaching background on my resume I have been able to get jobs teaching computers.

 

My wife is also a musician.

 

Other people our age who went to the same University but majored in something else are generally at the executive level in their fields and have way more money than we do.

 

But that has never been an issue for us, we are happy doing what we do.

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Originally posted by Tedster:

What is it that we're really meant to do? Those that discover it and pursue it, whether it's being a concert violinist or a CPA that fiddles in a local bluegrass band on the weekends...those are the lucky ones.

Actually, you bring up a good point that will probably get me started here! Everyone has certain pathways burned into your brain...these started when you were less than 3 years old, and between the ages of 3 and roughly 18, some of the small pathways disappeared and some of the other small ones became big ones.

 

Think of it like a forest. Small paths emerge early, then some of those paths become favored over others for whatever reason. When they become favored paths, they become bigger paths, and some of the other paths disappear altogether. Eventually, these paths in the woods become roads, then interstate highways.

 

These paths essentially determine what your default reaction to various stimuli are. For instance, when confronted by an angry person, how many of us instinctually try to calm that person, and how many of us have the opposite reaction of instinctually also becoming angry? In terms of "fit" for what you do (which is what you're talking about here), which person do you think is most fit for, say, a role where their job is to deal with angry customers? Obviously the person who has a tendency to become angry when confronted is probably not the best choice...he/she's not going to do well at it, not going to enjoy that role, etc. The person who has the natural tendency to calm people is probably a better potential fit.

 

This instinct of anger vs calm is just one of our several thousand characteristics we all have. There may be several hundred combinations that are the right combo for that customer service job, for instance, but each combination might accomplish the same thing in different ways.

 

Apply that to what you're talking about. It's certainly possible that the same qualities that might make someone a good engineer would also make them a good bassist. There's probably several hundred different combinations that would work, but in slightly different ways.

 

Anyway, even though I made a choice to take the fall back position, there's certainly some merit to what one poster noted: you're young now and have minimal commitments to deal with. If you're going to try to make music a career, now is indeed the best time to do it. If it doesn't work, there's indeed plenty of time to go back to school, get a business or engineering or whatever degree, and pickup from there.

 

Follow your heat on this one. There's very few decisions that you'll make in life that you can't undo. (In fact, the only one that comes to mind is having a kid...you simply can't undo that one, so make sure you're ready for a 20 year commitment before making that particular decision.)

 

Now, that's not to say you should go into a decision thinking "ah, I can just undo this if it doesn't work out". I agree with another poster, this is a guarantee that it won't work out! If you're going to do something that's going to be a big part of your life, then do it with conviction and dedication...that's the only way to even have a chance at being successful.

 

HTH,

Dave

Old bass players never die, they just buy lighter rigs.

- Tom Capasso, 11/9/2006

 

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Thank you so much everyone, this is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I obviously didn't expect anyone to tell me what to do, I probably wouldn't listen anyways. However, it really helps to hear the opinions of people who have more experience than me. I guess I have a lot of thinking to do... I don't really want a "fallback"; my passion is music. I just don't want to have regrets when I feel like starting a family or whatever. It is also difficult for my parents to understand my choice of a relatively low-paying career when I have such high marks. As far as me being behind the curve, I have gigged occasionally and I am also two years away from being 18. Still, it's not a steady thing for me and I would hope that it becomes one soon. It would be easier to justify a music degree if I was paying for it with music.

Thanks again, feel free to add if anyone has more to say, I'm still quite curious :)

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