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ccannon1
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#1
So it's come time for me to think about post-secondary education and I know that I want to earn a living with music, but I'm unsure of what type of degree I would be better off with, a Masters of Music in Performance (jazz guitar or voice) or a Masters of Music in Composition from McGill?

Would either degree actually be helpful in finding jobs? Would a Bachelor's suffice? (I don't really want to attend University for 5 years upwards from $20 000/year tuition)
jazz_rock_feel
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#2
There are more opportunities with a performance degree, especially with the connections you'll be able to make at a university like McGill. Composition degrees are... let's say not particularly useful (read: it's extraordinarily difficult to make a living as a purely freelance/commissioned/grant endowed art music composer today). Not to say that performance degrees are extremely useful, but if you work your ass off and your teachers like you they'll often connect with the people you need to know to make a living (in addition to the connections you make yourself through attending school).

I highly recommend if you want to go to school for something that will offer job security you don't pursue either avenue. Also, if you're a performer at heart I don't recommend you pursue Composition either, it's a very different path.

Also, where are you going for $20,000 a year in Canada? I don't even think McGill is that expensive, I would guess it's about half that and even less if you're a Quebec resident.
Artemis Entreri
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#3
It's more about connections than anything honestly. I have a BA (music theory focus) but I've been doing an internship at a studio near by as a studio guitarist and a session engineer. When I graduate I'm either going to get a job there or go to grad school. Or both. Make connections. Study what you love.
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Most_Triumphant
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#5
I've heard that getting a performance degree and some type of production degree really helps with getting work as a musician.
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AngelCityOutlaw
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#6
I just recently decided to audition for College music study. I passed the audition just fine, they accepted me into the program.

And I turned the offer down.

I love music, but I don't need to go school to continue my study of it and improve. With the school, I realized that I was about to spend 1000s of dollars to study the exact same theory, techniques, etc. that I have been studying since I was 12-13 years old. I got my first "gig" composing music, for money, for an independent video game when I was 18.

Instead, I'm spending that money I could've spent on school on instruments, better software and travelling to game developer meetings and such so that I can network with developers I can hopefully wind up composing for.

Would going to school have made me a better musician? Likely, but would it have made me a successful musician? No.

You really must think this whole "make a living" at music thing over. Then think it over again...and again. There has NEVER been a point in history where a healthy percentage of musicians, of any speciality, made a living at doing what they love doing. This isn't the result of piracy, consumer apathy, etc. It's just the way of the world. There is no changing it.

I'm not trying to discourage you from going to school for music, but I was very recently in a position to pursue academic study of music and I can't say that I would recommend it in this day and age. You really need to be sure that the school route with music is truly what you want. As most of the alumni I've talked to agree, you will likely just wind up spending a LOT of time and money on a degree that will provide you with no skills you couldn't have learned on your own or elsewhere, and promises you nothing.

There is no formula for success, if there was we would all be doing it. All you can do is improve your music, love what you do, and most importantly, network your ass off. All that you can do from there is hope that one day your efforts will turn into a full-time, good paying job. A very sad thing you have to accept, is that even with all your hard work and networking, that day may never come.
Hail
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#7
at the end of the day, what matters is the product you can put out. once you know the right people and can do the job, you can make a living off music

most people aren't in either position straight out of high school, so it's a gamble - do you think you'll be competent and have properly networked by the end of uni to justify the debt and significantly low likelihood for a stable position (compared to a degree like, economics or medicine), and, more importantly, do you think you'll feel the same way after 4+ years that you do now?
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AlanHB
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#8
Quote by Most_Triumphant
I've heard that getting a performance degree and some type of production degree really helps with getting work as a musician.


You heard incorrectly. How much work are you getting now? Are you currently getting some cash from your music?

Now imagine there's a piece of paper in a nice frame on the wall. How different would you expect your situation to be?

One of he curious oddities of music degrees is when you finish them, say around the age of 22, it's almost too late to be signed, and those people your age who will become session musicians are already session musos and have been for some time.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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AngelCityOutlaw
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#9
Quote by AlanHB
One of he curious oddities of music degrees is when you finish them, say around the age of 22, it's almost too late to be signed, and those people your age who will become session musicians are already session musos and have been for some time.


At the risk of starting an argument in an otherwise peaceful thread; bullshit.

Session musicians get hired if they are good and someone actually requires their abilities. Simple as that. A label signs you if it thinks you and/or your band's music is exploitable and will make them $, they don't give a damn how old you are.

I know a guy who's nearly sixty and people still hire him to play keys on their albums.

Age has nothing to do with it.
AlanHB
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#10
^^^^ So you would argue that age is irrelevant in getting signed. How do you explain the abundance of young artists on the top 40 then? Most of them were signed at the age of 16, and not on the basis of formal qualifications they had in the area. Young bands need session musos of a similar age.

One you're in you're in, but you gotta get in early. Instead of working at a music degree you could spend a couple of years making industry connections and gaining experience in the area instead.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Captaincranky
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#11
Plus, there's an ugly statistic that says something like, "only about 10% of people who study for degrees in an art, ever find work in that field".

Methinks one might study nursing, computer science, or hell, even plumbing, and carry the music courses as a heavy minor.
jkielq91
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#12
Some work places like staff with a degree and dont even care on the subject they studied.

But if you get those qualifications you wont have much problem.

Options for work are: Session musician (live or studio), full time rock star, record producer, Music teacher (private up to top level music schools), musical director, song writing, accompanist, deputy guitarist, gear demonstrator, theatre musician, music therapy, music shop staff, music journalist/lesson article writer.

But shop around for the best uni for you. The name of the uni you gained your qualification from makes a big difference. Take a look at Burkley if your in the states.

Quote by Captaincranky
Plus, there's an ugly statistic that says something like, "only about 10% of people who study for degrees in an art, ever find work in that field".


But a lot of these people will do the degree at some average, non music specialist educator, and will not go to the highest level. They may not have also put the effort in to get the work.

If you study music at that level you should go some where specialist to music with a big reputation.

If your a guitar player more than any thing, do a degree in the guitar. Master your instrument inside out.
Last edited by jkielq91 at Oct 7, 2012,
chronowarp
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#13
Getting music degree in order to enhance music skills - cool
Getting music degree in hopes of getting a job that pays well, because of said degree - good luck
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#15
Quote by AlanHB
^^^^ So you would argue that age is irrelevant in getting signed. How do you explain the abundance of young artists on the top 40 then? Most of them were signed at the age of 16, and not on the basis of formal qualifications they had in the area. Young bands need session musos of a similar age.

One you're in you're in, but you gotta get in early. Instead of working at a music degree you could spend a couple of years making industry connections and gaining experience in the area instead.


you can make a healthy living without being signed, much less being a top 40 musician. i agree that the time in uni could be better spent working your ass off for 4 years (although, theoretically, that's the point of uni anyway), but you're going about it the wrong way.

in this day and age it's easier than ever to get into the industry "past your prime". look at hopsin, he's 27 and has several videos with millions of views. he's signed, but it's a label he created himself with some friends.
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jazz_rock_feel
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#16
Quote by jkielq91
Again, go for a big name educator. The name of the place you studied means a lot.

Not really. The connections you make when you study there mean wayyy more.
Hail
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#17
btw JRF can i live with you up in canada so i can go to a proper college without paying $40k+ a year

this state public shit is unacceptable
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Hail
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#19
omw lemme call into work
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ValyrianSteel
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#21
I'm currently studying a performance degree (Bachelor of Musicianship in Guitar to be precise). I don't regret it - I've sure as hell improved at quite a pace, but will it get you work? ... Maybe?

My way of looking at it is that I've used the time I've spent studying to get as good as I can, upping practice, keeping busy with music etc. The worst thing you could do in my opinion, however, is assume that this will get you a job!

If you do it, then start thinking about your career post (and pre) graduation ASAP. I've only just started my third year but at the same time am focusing on specialising in teaching - getting work both privately and in schools and keeping an eye out for any cool sounding performance opportunities.

So my answer is... It helps! Sortof.
axemanchris
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#22
I did my honours degree in music. It got me into teachers' college, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

A degree is not a waste of time or money, depending on what you want to do with it.

What you haven't specified is what you want to make a living at music doing.

If you want to be a classical or jazz musician, a degree in performance will very likely open some doors. Canada Council arts grants and such have historically required that you have a degree in music, for instance.

Otherwise, not so much.

Lemme find a post a made a long while back about making a living in music....

Here it is....

Quote by axemanchris

Here's a response I gave a while back to a very similar thread....

this from a 42-year old who was in your same shoes back many moons ago....

About being a musician:

I think if you have hopes of making a career in music, you'd best make that your plan. If you get a big fat record deal and get famous, then awesome. If not, you're still following the course you've planned for - to be a professional musician.

First: You have no pretenses of being a rock star. That's fine. Do you know what it's like to be a full-time musician? I mean... *really* know?

There can be really decent money in playing gigs. It's a tough road, though, full of balancing business with pleasure. Weddings and corporate gigs pay really well. You'll walk out of there with a few hundred in your pocket for only a few hours work. Problem is.... how many hours do you work in a week? Solution = hustle, hustle, hustle.... you've got to be out there pounding away to get those gigs.

Of course, weddings are generally only on weekends. If you're really, really, really lucky you can round out your week with corporate events. Problem#2 is..... you want to play Disturbed, not Neil Diamond. Solution = suck it up. Don't bite the hand that feeds. You know what side your bread is buttered on. Some people call it selling out. Professional musicians call it making a living. Smile and sing along.... "Sweeee-eeet Car-o-liiiine.... ba DA-ba-ba...." Sure, don't laugh all the way to the bank, but at least all the way to the grocery store. Geez.... that's still only a few gigs a week. Sounds sweet as a teenager, but eventually you have to take on the real world. "when you're an adult, it's no cliche.... it's the truth..." (go ahead... identify that quote... )

So how do you round it out....well.... If you go to school for music and get a classical background, you can open yourself up for solo/duo gigs outside of your wedding band for other functions, corporate events, etc. People will hire a classical guitarist for whatever. Since there's nobody to share the money with, you do okay. Of course.... still no Disturbed. You're still sucking it up playing some version of Hotel California 'by request' (or even not....) right along side your Sor, Tarrega, Dowland, etc. That gives you a couple more shows.... but you still need a 'real job' as an adult - that is, one that pays for rent/mortgage, food, car, etc.

The poverty line for a family of four in the USA (I'm not American either, but they provide a handy bench mark) is $21, 200. For an individual, it is $10 400. That's about a thousand a month... just to live above the poverty line. Another point of comparison... take an average city.... Cleveland Ohio. Rent for an average apartment seems to be about $600. Then food, phone, insurance, gas, hydro, internet, spending, etc. Yikes.

So wadda ya do? Well... you can rent yourself out to bands as a hired guy. Need a guitarist? I'm your guy! I'll do it for $XXX. Artistic freedom? Nope. Now you're totally selling your soul. More Sweet Caroline. Maybe some Shania Twain or Dwight Yokum. Maybe some Bob Seger and Tom Petty. Who knows, really? Of course, you have to be able to sit down and learn these tunes on very short notice, and know them well enough to gig on them with one rehearsal if you're lucky.

Of course, you can't always count on those. Take on a few students (remember that hustle thing?) to help round things out. So, now you're above the poverty line. You've got sporadic hours that seem to pretty reliably fill up your evenings and weekends, and see you working quite late. At least you get to sleep in. Or not. Because tomorrow you have to learn some Green Day and Blink 182 and U2 for a cover band on Friday, and you don't have all day because some kid is coming over at 4:30 for his lesson and another at 5:30, and then you have to eat and start getting ready to head out for your gigs. And then at some point, you have your OWN kids and family to work into that crazy schedule!! (of course, with the screwed up hours you keep, you may wind up being single for the rest of your natural life... "Wanna go on a date? How's Tuesday afternoon for you?"..... another career hazard!)

Still sound like fun? If it does, you have what it takes to be a professional musician. If it sounds pretty crappy, then..... keep music as a hobby. Or incorporate it into some other career path. (that's what I did....)

One thing I'll add here is that, here is what happens with pursuing a career "to fall back on" via the college route:

You meet tons of girls. You meet a girl that you like best out of all of them. (for me, it was a couple years after university, but whatevs) You finish school. Inevitably, you find yourself with a girl, a job ticket into a career, and a girl who wants to get married.... and so do you. And you have the means to make money and start enjoying things. So you take that job that you've worked hard to get.

Music really does become something that you do in your spare time. You still have to make it a priority, or else you will have no spare time in which to justify making music, and then it gets forgotten. If you make it a priority (and make sure your partner is supportive of your music), then you can make it work. Because you're not always going to have very much spare time - especially when kids come... unless you make time to do it.

I know all this seems light-years away, but it comes a heck of a lot faster than you think it will. Trust me.... I spent a few years laughing about someone who said, when I was 23, that "30 is just around the corner." And after what seemed like only a couple of years, it became eerily UNfunny.


As far as getting signed, you probably have until you're 30. But that's a whole other discussion. Session guys can go on and on to a ripe old age.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
jkielq91
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#23
Quote by jazz_rock_feel
Not really. The connections you make when you study there mean wayyy more.


I;m not so sure. It is probably close to 50/50.

But if you plan to move a long distance to study and then either move back home or move on else where then the name of where you studied takes over.

Also, if you go to a big name music school, make sure every one you meet and know knows about it.


TS, this ciould be worth a read.

http://beta.musicradar.com/tuition/guitars/how-to-make-it-as-a-session-guitarist-552866
Last edited by jkielq91 at Oct 8, 2012,
AlanHB
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#24
^^^ And then you will be known as one of the 500 people who graduated from that awesome school in that half year and just watch the money come in.

I'm sorry if I'm coming off a bit pessimistic here, but in my personal experience I haven't seen any link between success and having a formal qualification as far as music goes. In your article the second session guy doesn't mention having qualifications, and just happened to be at a party where Tears for Fears were present, and knew who he was. He'd obviously been working on connections for a while.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Captaincranky
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#25
And then there's this just in:

In the United States, student loans are one of the few debts that survive bankruptcy proceedings.

So........
Hail
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#26
Quote by AlanHB
^^^ And then you will be known as one of the 500 people who graduated from that awesome school in that half year and just watch the money come in.

I'm sorry if I'm coming off a bit pessimistic here, but in my personal experience I haven't seen any link between success and having a formal qualification as far as music goes. In your article the second session guy doesn't mention having qualifications, and just happened to be at a party where Tears for Fears were present, and knew who he was. He'd obviously been working on connections for a while.


i wouldn't say that an education is worthless, though, even for a music degree. at the end of the day, connections are about luck and those interactions are easier to come about when you're out there playing shows regularly rather than being inhibited 40+ hours a week practicing and studying with a bunch of people looking for the same connections you are.

at the same time, however, most people going into music college, frankly, are probably not up-to-snuff to play session music, don't know what it entails, might fall out with music and become an astrophysicist, etc.

it's an expensive thing to take a chance on, but i'd say everyone should at least put aside a year to try uni before they plunge head-first into the "real world". even if you get through 4 years of college without a record deal or a badass band, you do have 4+ years of working your ass off that could define your habits and playing style for the rest of your life. i mean, at the end of the day, you don't go to school to get a job - you go to school to get an education, and if your focus is guitar, you'll learn the hell out of your instrument.

it's just hard to justify saying that it's worthless - it all depends on the person. you could probably use that degree and still have a one-up over most people when applying for a regular job to buy equipment and pay the bills just because you have a degree.
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CryogenicHusk
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#27
Quote by axemanchris
I did my honours degree in music. It got me into teachers' college, which is exactly where I wanted to be.


So you're a music teacher? Cool.

I don't mean to hijack, but I need some advice too. I'm trying to combine music with another field too, but I'm kind of failing to find a good way. I already have a BS in Computer Science, and closest thing that mixes healthy amounts of music and CS is this in an MS program is:

"Music Technology"

However, it is very unlikely I'd get in, which is why despite the fact that I'm applying, I'm searching for alternatives, but whenever I search for "music technology" I only find BM or AA in music production. I'd really be more interested in an MS or MM since I already went to school for over 4 years to get a BS. I don't really enjoy CS, but it provides more job security than I think any pure music degree could, which is why I'm trying to build up on it and steering it into a more musical direction (I can still have job security, but chances of going on a more musical direction improve).

Any suggestions?
axemanchris
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#28
Quote by CryogenicHusk
So you're a music teacher? Cool.


Ironically, no. I got my qualifications to teach music from grade 4-13 (we still had grade 13 back then), but wound up landing in the elementary panel and found that I love it.

So, I've been teaching grade five for 14 of the past 16 years. The two years were ones where I did music, and they were the two years where I did not enjoy teaching.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
CryogenicHusk
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#29
I see. I thought you said you combined music with another field and saw you said you were a teacher, so I thought you meant you were a music teacher.

Anyway, a more typical music technology program:

music technology

I'd consider getting an AA like that because I'm sure I'd learn tons of things there, and I learn better in a class-kind of setting than on my own (I struggle on my own. I'm super ADD and easily overwhelmed and lose sight of where to even begin). However, like I said, after nearly 5 years spent in that BS in CS coupled with my desire to get an MS, I have to be very careful about where/how to spend the money efficiently.
axemanchris
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#30
Quote by CryogenicHusk
I see. I thought you said you combined music with another field and saw you said you were a teacher, so I thought you meant you were a music teacher.


My qualifications are as such, and I taught music for a few years. I just didn't enjoy it. High school level was fine enough, but elementary and middle school music was not for me.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
Freepower
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#31
This is what happened to me -

Age 17, decided I want to teach electric guitar for a living.

Consider going to BIMM to get degree, do well in audition, etc.

Take gap year and work my ass off trying to get teaching work.

Around the end of the year I have enough work to barely live off, so I commit to growing my student roster and I turn down BIMM.

Now, around the start of last year I would have graduated with absolutely no work and very little experience. Instead I'm teaching full time and I'm seeing guys with degrees really struggling to get any work at all in these recessionary times - and guess what? Very few people in my business, employers or students, care if you've got a degree.
Hail
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#32
Quote by axemanchris
My qualifications are as such, and I taught music for a few years. I just didn't enjoy it. High school level was fine enough, but elementary and middle school music was not for me.

CT


i remember our band director in middle school being extremely overqualified as a player, but he was 28 and purposefully directed middle school so he had the benefits of teaching while being able to essentially gig full-time. his wife did the same thing until they had their kid a few years back

high school would be great if you want to invest all your time into teaching, but middle school has a lot less paperwork, saturday rehearsal, or intrascholastic activity. depends on the person completely, though.
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CryogenicHusk
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#33
Quote by axemanchris
My qualifications are as such, and I taught music for a few years. I just didn't enjoy it. High school level was fine enough, but elementary and middle school music was not for me.

CT


Oh cool. So what do you work on nowadays, if you don't mind me asking? Might give me some ideas.
guitluv1
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#34
Any position teaching music is incredibly hard to find. Most people just scratch by teaching privately. If you want to teach privately you will have a better chance having a degree in performance on either piano or guitar since those are the two most popular instruments in the world. But from my own personal experience getting a position in a school or university basically requires an older professor to die off or something and private music instruction has taken a serious beating the past decade due to all the free material available on the internet.
axemanchris
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#36
CryogenicHusk - I teach grade five.

Quote by Hail
i remember our band director in middle school being extremely overqualified as a player, but he was 28 and purposefully directed middle school so he had the benefits of teaching while being able to essentially gig full-time. his wife did the same thing until they had their kid a few years back

high school would be great if you want to invest all your time into teaching, but middle school has a lot less paperwork, saturday rehearsal, or intrascholastic activity. depends on the person completely, though.


Wow. What a load of sh!t. I say this as someone who has taught both middle school and high school music.

Virtually *any* teaching position is demanding for the person who wants to do a good job at it. There is no reason why a middle-school music teacher would have any less paperwork than a high-school teacher, unless he or she is cutting corners from their paperwork. There is no reason why a middle school music teacher can't run extra-curricular bands and other performing groups. (most districts don't give teachers the keys to schools - just their classrooms - so there would be nobody to let them into the school on a weekend unless prior arrangements are made with someone who can let them in.)

A music teacher has one of the busiest jobs in a school. Sure, most marking is done on the fly, but not all of it. The expectations for extra-curricular activities are greater than anyone else, except maybe the gym teacher. This applies to middle school and high school equally.

It sounds to me like this guy was taking every easy way out he could so that he could focus on his real priority, which was gigging. If teaching is not your priority, you should not be a teacher.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
Hail
i'm a mean bully
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#37
Quote by axemanchris
Wow. What a load of sh!t. I say this as someone who has taught both middle school and high school music.

Virtually *any* teaching position is demanding for the person who wants to do a good job at it. There is no reason why a middle-school music teacher would have any less paperwork than a high-school teacher, unless he or she is cutting corners from their paperwork. There is no reason why a middle school music teacher can't run extra-curricular bands and other performing groups. (most districts don't give teachers the keys to schools - just their classrooms - so there would be nobody to let them into the school on a weekend unless prior arrangements are made with someone who can let them in.)


marching band

A music teacher has one of the busiest jobs in a school. Sure, most marking is done on the fly, but not all of it. The expectations for extra-curricular activities are greater than anyone else, except maybe the gym teacher. This applies to middle school and high school equally.


other than the period for concerts and competitions, there was basically nothing to do outside of the classroom other than instrument rentals which were handled early and late in the school year because they were yearly

It sounds to me like this guy was taking every easy way out he could so that he could focus on his real priority, which was gigging. If teaching is not your priority, you should not be a teacher.

CT


as freshmen after 3 years with him all of his students in the 1st band were in wind ensemble or symphonic band in high school, and it was perfectly doable in addition to full-time gigging, teaching private lessons, and alongside a jazz band. he was offered the position to lead the nearest high school band (that the vast majority of us headed to) but he refused because he simply made more between gigging and middle school without having to do 8 hours of marching band rehearsal a week alongside late night friday football games.

he also only had to manage beginner (6th grade) classes, a 2nd band, and a 1st band, as well as a jazz band that met once every two weeks, as opposed to 5 bands. plus, we're talking 100-200 kids as opposed to 300 "young adults".

i don't see how you could compare high school and middle school education, but we're from completely different countries, and i'd imagine yours is far more thorough and exacting than ours in terms of educational standards.
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AlanHB
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#38
This whole thread is just people with no experience disagreeing with people who have experience.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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Hail
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#40
Quote by AlanHB
This whole thread is just people with no experience disagreeing with people who have experience.


i'm not gonna pretend i teach schools, but i did have experience as a student where a full-time musician taught capably and even at a middle school earning sweepstakes isn't something you can write off as "well he wasn't a real teacher if he gigged too and taught middle school so he'd have time for it"

again, though, different countries, different educational practices.

but really, marching band, i mean, that's like 15+ extra hours of week plus a month of school that middle school teachers don't have to do. it'd be hard to say they're the same workload.
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Last edited by Hail at Oct 10, 2012,