Should I go to graduate school?
I am posting this here because there may be some student, somewhere in the world who will stumble across our forum with this very question: "Should I go to graduate school in music?"
My answer: No.
Well, maybe. Probably not would be the best answer. There was a time that I considered graduate school in music. I studied music as an undergrad and had high hopes of "making it" in the classical music world. After auditioning for the "big-name" schools like Rice, Colburn, etc, I was not accepted by any and only wait-listed by one, very expensive East Coast school which I shall not name. I then considered a couple of small, state schools for graduate school, but I could see the path those lead to and I jumped ship. At this moment in time, I look back at the wisdom and strength it took me to say no to an idea fixed in my mind for so long.
Why do we focus so much on the negatives of obtaining an MA and/or DMA? It's simple: there are a lot of negatives, or, shall I say, simple realities of life. One does not focus much on reality in the sheltered womb of undergraduate studies, but it would be wise for any student (who has never had to be fully independent or financially support a family) to consider the sometimes harsh realities of life that cannot be ignored for any dream.
This blog shares 100 very well-written and powerful reasons not to attend graduate school.
This just reflects the situation in the US. Elsewhere, the situation is vastly different.
Even so, without a degree, you won’t even get an Army Band job.
The problem is not the degree, it is the attitude that someone can get. Once you think that you are something special, the bar for acceptance goes way up. If you have the degree and are humble, you simply have prepared well!
I say YES, if you can, you should. Everything that we learn can’t be taken away - even learning to be an ass.
Prepare, stay humble, work hard and thoughtfully, be generous. It pays off in ways no bean counter can quantify!
Even so, without a degree, you won’t even get an Army Band job.
Not true, though you may not get some of the higher promotions without one. The percentage of musicians with degrees rose in the military band programs because of incentives like college loan payoffs, not requirements. Those with degrees just usually (not always) tend to be both more qualified for the positions, and better at auditions.
Just to give an alternate view, I have worked as a full-time musician all my adult life. Schooling was a definite advantage. Sorry it didn't work out for you but it's hardly universal. If the expected outcome is narrow, it's possible that one's cause and effect can be disappointing. If you are versatile and flexible the outcome of your schooling can be different.
It's not a matter of what you can't do, but what you can do. Outlook on life.
Apply yourself, be creative, be flexible and, very important, be ready.
I learned to not let yourself say no but to let them say no.
Just for the record, I have never used my degrees, as is, as a requirement for work. It helped but it was not a requirement. It is what I learned, how I can use that and what contacts I made.
But the largest thing is that I did my Graduate work for me, not for anyone else. And since it was for me, my rewards were internal and I was wiling to live with whatever standards of living and income came as a result of it. That's just how I'm wired.
Well written! If I may add just a little. If we go back in history a little (before WWII) colleges were predominantly males of wealthy parents and (dig this) Colleges were a place to network with similar wealthy classmates. Networking was of paramount importance to a young man's future after college. With the G.I. Bill, a great influx of vets came into the classrooms. Now the wealthy had to rub shoulders with the average joe and this influx marked the beginnings of the end of colleges being known as places where the rich kids would hobnob with other rich kids. Let's look at current time. In today's academia, my Rottweiler gets mail offering him to apply. Of course for him to apply, every college has an "registration fee" which generates millions of dollars for the institutions. As for college music, there are at least two roads. Four year performance or education degrees. The first gets you ready to make money performing and the other gets you ready to teach in the k-12 system. With that said, if you want to be a band director or a choir director, then a music education degree is your route in fact, for the most part, its required to teach in the public k-12 system. As for a performance degree, one needs to go back to when "networking" was the main thrust. Yes, school work needs to be done but serious attention needs to be focused on meeting the right people and always be rehearsed and ready. If you're already a great player and preferably a great sight reader, only take the classe(s) you feel you are deficient in (example; music theory), focus on networking both virtually and in person. You're job is to first and always to market yourself. All in all, I'd skip the performance degree because if I thought I could get in, I'd already be good enough to be making money at it.
Just one extra thing, and it may just be a matter of semantics, but for me, networking was never sucking up to someone or meeting the right people. It was a consequence of how and what I produced.
I have excellent contacts but they are just based on knowing what kind of a job I, and my friends, can do. It hit me, and this was later in my career, that networking doesn't necessarily have to be about sucking up, rather a simple matter of common sense. People can't hire you if they don't know who you are.
Kehaulani, your entry is pure nonsense. A person can't have a "consequence" if they're not networked or doing the right thing in front of the right people. Its our responsibility to always be ready. "If someone tells you networking (working to meet the right people and being introduced to the right people) isn't necessary, tell them their full of horse patties, period.
When you're out there promoting yourself with your sound, networking is of paramount importance. Doing the right thing in front of the right people at the right time is the trifecta (or good luck) you're looking for (unless Duke Ellington's advice about making it in the music business was also nonsense).
Here are five tips for networking in the music industry.
Networking on Social Media. The most accessible way to network in the music industry is with social media. .
Get Out There. ...
Every Conversation is a Networking Opportunity. ...
Follow up! ...
Give and Receive.
In addition, school location is important for the performance major. Optimally, you want a college that's well located like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, I think you get the idea. Your chances of being heard or seen in person is greatly diminished if you go for a performance major at a school in a sparsely populated area (for example Montana, Hawaii, North Dakota, Iowa). These are fine schools but lack the venues and opportunities of the big cities I mentioned. But like I said, if you're a performance major and you see networking as stupid, chances are your first real job will be speaking to people through a microphone attached to your head saying from an Arby's window "do you want that burger as a meal or supersized?"
Remember folks, its a highly competitive business so treat it like a business or seriously think about working at a profession outside of music. That's why I strongly suggest that students double major if they can (major in both performance & education). That way if performing doesn't work, they can fall back on teaching. In closing, a person with a graduate degree in music education usually has a greater starting salary in the public school system.
Is it possible for you, when confronted with an opinion other than your own, to at least be civil? Is that asking too much?
Jeez, I would never open a response with calling someone's post, which is based on personal experience, as "sheer nonsense". What presumption. If you tell me that something was your experience, who am I to say it wasn't unless, of course, I am arrogant enough to think I know more than you about your own experience.
I said, in my post, that that was my personal experience. I never networked as such, and that is true. I did a good job, got along with my associates and the consequence of that was that I was able to get work. And it's been constant since about 1966.
Your stating that networking is "doing the right thing in front of the right people. Its our responsibility to always be ready." Isn't that exactly what I said? The difference I was pointing out was just a case of how that's done, and I said that I got it done, not by overtly promoting myself or sucking up to anyone, but by doing a good job that people heard about. There's a difference in manner but not end results.
It would be nice if you could read someone's post thoroughly and, if it's not clear, begin by asking for clarification, rather than immediately pounncing like an attack dog.
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Man, not even an attempt to do this peaceably and with good intentions. How sad. I'm out of here.
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@Kehaulani Please don't go. I've already flagged Dr. Mark twice, and will deal with his unacceptable language.
Unfortunately, this thread has developed into an unnecessarily offensive and personal argument.
To avoid further calumny, I am locking this thread.