Part 1: Let’s talk about picking out schools
So you know that you’re interested in music as a career! Thank goodness! The world needs more people like you. ☺ But where do you start? How do you figure out what school is right for you? Don’t just google music schools in the US. Sure, that top ten list of best music schools could be helpful. But what if those programs are not the right one for you? What if you’d be most successful at the tiny liberal arts college two towns over? What if you can’t stand the thought of staying close to home but, oh by the way, a really awesome school with a kick ass music program is in your back yard? EEK! This blog series is designed to help you make a good choice about where you'll spend 4 years of your life becoming the musician/performer/human of your dreams!
I wish someone had told me when I was a junior or senior in high school "Just because something is the best, doesn’t mean it’s the best for you." Wait what!? Really, seriously! What’s best for someone else, isn’t necessarily what’s best for me. (Keep repeating that). When I was looking at the college audition process I wanted to go to the best school, but I wouldn’t have been successful in a super competitive program. I was the kind of student who needed someone to hold me hand and tell me I’m pretty. My tip for you, gentle reader, is to identify your strengths, opportunities for improvement, and your goals. Use your trusted teacher whether a voice teacher, choir teacher, or musical theater director to aid in this. Then use that information to determine the kinds of opportunities you’re hoping to experience in college. Now, I want you to think about why you want to go into this crazy career?! How does music/theater/performing make you feel? Are there specific people who have inspired you? What do you hope to accomplish? Write that down on a piece of paper and put it someplace safe. Under your pillow. In a shoe. On your desk. We’ll come back to that list in a minute.
Now here it comes! What you've all been waiting for! An Obvious-not-so-obvious list of stuff to keep in mind when thinking about your future. Part 1 (this blog) dives into some things to think about when deciding on that list of schools.
A $$. Sit down and have the talk early. No, not that talk. The money talk. Does your savings plan only work in state? Do you have the flexibility to look elsewhere for your higher education? Answering that question will help you figure out the geographic locale of your ideal school. Otherwise you have too many choices! Narrowing down your list can be hard if you haven’t had ‘the talk.’ Like that other talk, the financial talk is awkward. Here are some ice breakers to help get it started:
"Hey adult human in my life- do we have a savings plan for my college education?" "Hey parent- I'm thinking about college and I want to talk to you about what the plan is to pay for it." Hopefully those are some nice ice breakers that set the scene for an important discussion that has to happen sooner or later.
Remember, just because the out of state private school advertises a price of $65,000 a year doesn't mean that will be the price they offer you. Many times if you are the type of student the school wants, they will sweeten the deal for you. Private schools often have lots of scholarships available that bring down that price to something a bit more affordable.
Dream big. Where do you want to live? Do you want to get as far away from home and never look back? Do you want stay in state but just far enough away from home you won't be tempted to go back every weekend? Guess what! You can do that. Woot! Now depending on what your financial talk was like, you have options. Make a list of places that intrigue you. If you live in the Upper Midwest and have had quite enough of the polar vortex, maybe don't put any cities in this region on your list. If you live in Florida and hate humidity, look to cities in Arizona, California, or Nevada. If you're limited to in state options, that's ok too. (And remember that factoid about that out-of-state-private-school-with-the-super-high-tuition above) don't be discouraged. Chose 5 or 6 schools in your desired (or required) locations, and then 1 or 2 schools that are out of that area but intrigue you for other reasons.
C Teacher. So, I’m in a dozen or so online forums for singers or teachers of singers. Weekly, I see posts asking about who is the best teacher at XYZ school. (See above point about ‘the best’). I’m a type A minus kind of person- main stream stuff is fine, but I prefer my music training like I like my coffee- Bespoke, with a side of hipster service. I want my lessons (and coffee) 100% customized for me. I know that it’s going to be both a time and financial investment, and the end result will be so worth it. When it comes to finding a teacher to work with, don’t settle for the best- invest your time and resources for finding your ideal teacher. Your teacher will be your guru for 4 years and you better love them, and they better love you. Visit schools. Set up sample lessons, or if they are too busy (which is often the case) see if you can sit in on a lesson. (More on this step in a future blog).
Google is your friend! I love the internet. How did we survive before it existed? How did we know what schools in our state had music programs? It was unknowable... Ok maybe not, but I’ve forgotten everything pre-Y2K. Anyway! That list of opportunities you want in college can help you! Do you want to study abroad? What about Greek life? Do you want to perform in 4 shows a semester? Do you not want to take math class ever, ever, ever again? I bet you can find dozens of schools that fit those criteria. But, like, if I just google “Music schools where I don’t have to take math” I don’t think that google search will be very helpful (hint: I tried it, it wasn’t helpful... womp womp). You’ll have to be a little more methodical than that. Starting with a desired geographic region is helpful. Searching “Music Schools in Florida” might be a good start. Then start using the search bar on a school’s website will help you find what you’re looking for.
What else... Oh right... Degrees....
Non-Traditional is cool! – these days a Bachelor of Music or a Bachelor of Fine Arts are fairly standard degrees for musicians. BUT there are other degrees that you can pursue in music. Though they are not all “created equal,” depending on your goals getting a Bachelor of Communication in Musical Theater could be a way better fit than a BFA from a top tier music school. (More on this in a future blog too)
Final thoughts. Hey, did you forget about that list you made and hid in your shoe? Go find that. This process can be stressful. Keep in mind why you want to pursue this crazy dream of yours. You're going to hear a lot of "no's." But just because something is challenging doesn't mean it's not worth doing. Go forth and be awesome! And if you need someone in your corner, we're here for you. Drop us a line or comment on this post. We offer counseling services to help make your dreams possible.
Lots of love,