Thinking Out Loud – College and the Music Lover

I’ve been to many colleges – for my actual undergrad, study abroad, visiting, continuation into grad – and I’ve seen many patterns when it comes to the mentality of people who enjoy music going for a degree in one.

The first main division are the entering mindsets. More often than not, most seem enter into the belief that “music is easy and I like music, so therefore this will be an easy degree despite spending thousands of dollars for a piece of paper to prove I enjoy music.” And as they begin their first week, they realize that the academics are much tougher than what they thought they were to be. Some will drop out at that point, change studies, or become discouraged in pursuing music in general.

Then, there is the opposite end of the spectrum where the people that enter college are aware that this will be a tough endeavor, but are willing to invest the time an money that comes with college to improve skills.

But regardless, going to college for an arts degree – especially in music – is a risk. If you are doing it for anything besides music education, music therapy, conducting, business, law, and (maybe) music composition – it is a waste… unfortunately.

For one, this paper you get on graduation day that says you know how to play an instrument does not guarantee a job – and no degree in any other field will. What is more tough on the performing artist is that their job look is dependent on their output quality; such as in the fields of: performing, networking, releasing of recordings, gigs, etc. And unfortunately, like any school system, teachers will gladly pass a student by grade-wise without correcting the problem to develop their skill.

College does have some benefits; like assisting in getting performing opportunities, student teaching, developing music theory/composition knowledge… but this is minimal to the kid striving to be a performing artist.

Basically, I believe the stigma mentality that “EVERYONE must go to college after high school graduation” must be dismantled and considered on a case-by-case basis. If you understand the risks of investing into a college education, but are going for a degree in teaching music, therapy, conducting, business, law, or theory – it is wise to do so. Otherwise, take the money that you would invest for college and do this instead:

  • Seek out professional players for lessons (which will be at a discounted rate than what you would pay at college)
  • Use time that would have been used writing papers to watch videos online on how improving skills, to network, to start a band, etc.
  • Invest in good equipment
  • Record yourself and distribute it
  • Play at small venues
  • Audition
  • Enter in performance/composition contests

And much, much more with the money saved.

Just thinking out loud.

Bryan Waring

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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