I am sure that many of us, when growing up with music and considering music as a career, have considered whether or not to go to school for music and what to study. We wonder if it’s worth the time, effort, and money. Is the music industry already oversaturated with talented musicians with the same dreams that I have? The answer to these questions, believe it or not, is both yes and no. Let’s take a look at some examples. I will also include some links to some other people talking about their experience in music school at the bottom of this blog.
When deciding to go to school for music, it’s important to keep in mind what instrument you play, what your goals are, who you would be studying with, and the music community around the school you would be attending. For instance, if you play clarinet, want to be an orchestra player, are studying with the principal clarinetist of an orchestra, and are surrounded by a community that has instrumental music groups you can immerse yourself in and learn from; you’ve made a good choice for yourself and your career. Yes, there have been successful clarinet players that did not go to school for music, but the university aspect gives you a safe environment to network with others in your community.
On the other hand, if you like the idea of songwriting, touring, and recording albums; continuing music education past high school might not be for you. Yes, you could go to school for composition, but depending on the school and the teacher, you may not be learning to write popular music. In this case, if you desire help with your songwriting, take a songwriting course or see if the composition professor offers private lessons. School doesn’t have to mean a degree. It can be as simple as getting help from the experts in your field.
The only area in music that REQUIRES a college degree is music education. This especially applies to those who want to teach K-12 music in the public school setting. The type of rigorous training needed and the licensure requirements make this one an absolute necessity. However, starting your own private lesson studio does not require a degree. Even so, I do recommend reading some music education materials or taking a teaching class or two to help refine your skills and determine how you want to structure your studio.
If you delve in and get to know the musicians Wisconsin Music Ventures has as Green Room Members or Back Stage Pass Members, you will find that many went to school for music that have been successful, but also just as many that didn’t go to school for music that are just as successful.
Educating yourself can be helpful and it is always good to look to your peers for help with things you don’t know, but the lesson I learn here that goes hand in hand with this statement is the importance of networking. Networking, no matter what path you take, can help you get to where you want to go. When trying to become an orchestral musician, it can help you get a position by knowing some of the players or directors. When looking for places to perform for your tour, having friends that book events for venues can help you get your foot in the door. If you’re starting up your own studio, knowing band directors can really help you fill up your studio quickly.
To continue your music education or to not continue your music education. Ultimately, the choice is up to you, but always effectively network and don’t be afraid to find opportunities to educate yourself in the things you don’t know to allow for growth and improvement.