I have what could be a damaging confession to make…
I never went to graduate school for music.
I have what may be even more of a damaging admission to tell you today…
I was accepted in 2012 to one of my top choice graduate schools in New York City with scholarship AND STILL chose not to attend graduate school for music.
And what could be the most damaging admission to the entire intention & business of this website is this…
I’m really, really glad I made the decision I made.
At the time, it was the best decision I could have made.
Keep in mind that it was simply the best decision for me personally at that time.
Image by Sigfrid Lundberg Via Flickr Creative Commons
Some musicians don’t even begin to truly blossom and begin accomplishing excellent things for their future careers until they are in graduate school.
I have seen some musicians do great things while in graduate school, either as a Master’s or as a Doctoral student.
I have also seen some musicians appear a little jaded, tired, and wishing they were doing something else with their young lives.
All of these factors bring to light an incredibly valuable and thoughtful question most educated musicians have to ask themselves at some point in their young lives: Is graduate school actually worth my valuable time?
The Dark Side of Pursuing Graduate Study for Music
Like any choice you make in life, there will be ramifications with both positive and negative connotations.
To start, graduate school at the Master’s degree level is usually not free, although assistantships and scholarships are frequently more readily available for graduate students in music. That said, many Master’s students do get full rides, and most Doctoral programs are free of tuition and sometimes include stipends.
Graduate school for music also can add to the debt load you have already accumulated in your undergraduate degree. It can be quite difficult to pay off this debt if you already acquired a significant amount from your Bachelor’s degree.
Also, graduate school may or may not be in line with your future career goals. What if you dream to act and perform on Broadway and received a top-notch Musical Theatre education at an undergraduate institution? The older you are, the more difficult it can be to land a position in a theatre company, so postponing your musical theatre career for a few years can actually impede your ability considerably to find work later on.
Like being a Broadway or other musical theatre performer, there are some majors and career paths in which you have to ask yourself if graduate school is the best idea for you. If you are a music education major who aspires to teach in a public school, is a Master’s in Music Education going to be the best degree for you?
A degree such as this can be of benefit to some, especially those who wish to study the concept of Music Education at a research institution level, rather than strictly be working music educators.
That said, you can usually find a job as a music teacher right out of undergrad with a standard Music Education degree.
Finally, we get to the topic of living in the real world.
I’ve been living in the real world outside of school for about 4 years now. I can tell you it has been, at various times throughout the four years, brutal, blissful, fun, difficult, accomplished, impoverished, profitable, tragic, comedic, etc.
These emotions are all without the supervision of a professor, or a body of like-minded students and friends. They can be difficult to deal with alone and in the real world.
In fact, so difficult, that sometimes simply the pain of being outside of school drives people to apply for graduate school.
In my opinion, living in the “real world” outside of school has been the best education for me for my particular goals. I’ve been able in acquire insight into what it really takes to be a musician as well as how to become entrepreneurial & make money with my musical knowledge myself. I am not sure if I would have arrived at these same conclusions if I chose to go to an graduate school for music.
That being said, some musicians DO BENEFIT TREMENDOUSLY from attending graduate school for music.
We talk more about this on the next page…