- Published Aug 15, 2013 in Music 101
- Read time: about 2 minutes
A classic music education isn’t for everyone. Music school can be great, but only if you’re the kind of person who thrives in that environment. If not, there are other paths to greatness.
Higher education is only a privilege if you pursue it for the right reasons. It’s not for everyone and, contrary to what your parents say, isn’t always the best way to get from point A to point B, especially when it comes to your music career.
There are a lot of good reasons to go to music school. But, before you commit to something that lofty, expensive and life-altering, it’s worthing considering a few reasons not to go. A few reasons like:
1 It ain’t cheap.
There’s a saying in the music biz: Go big or go home. If you’re going to pull the trigger on that kind of money—and the student loans that come with—you may as well go all in and get yourself one hell of an education.
But make no mistake, academia is a business. And those people know how to make a dollar. A good education can end up costing more than a nicely equipped Aston Martin. And, though it is the gift that keeps on giving, there are other ways to spend yourself into the music scene.
That same kind of cash could get you private lessons with the best in the business, time in a recording studio, a budget to go on the road and an apartment in a city with a great scene and available gigs.
2 It takes time.
Money isn’t the only commitment you’ll be asked to make once you sign on the dotted line. A good program can take anywhere from two to five years to complete. For me it was an experience I’d never give up. But for every happy customer there’s a Miles Davis who dropped out of Juilliard to go hang out with Charlie Parker. There’s no right or wrong answer, just a whole bunch of tough choices.
If you think your time is better spent out in the world, getting gigs, going on tour, learning by throwing yourself into the thick of things, don’t waste time with someone else’s idea of a good education. The right path is the one that works for you, even if its one no one else is walking down.
3 You don’t get to make the rules.
Some of history’s best musicians are notoriously anti-establishment. Committing to a regimented program, like in a conservatory setting, may not be your particular brand of vodka. Like a musical boot camp, the staff at your future alma mater are trained to break all your bad habits, put pressure on you to better yourself and push you to your limits, making sure that, when they’re done with you, you’re able to hang in any situation with the best of the best.
What you need to do is figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Sid Vicious never went to Oberlin. John Lennon was self taught. And Jimmy Page can’t read music. Doesn’t seem to have adversely affected their careers very much.
There’s a certain kind of personality that thrives in a music school setting, and another whose creative drive can be crushed by it. The trick is figuring out which one you are and making a solid, smart and objective decision about how to get where you’re going.