Monday, August 2, 2010

Brand Name Schools

As I’ve gotten further along in my music degree, I’ve noticed that there seems to be an obsession with “brand name” music schools, and this has led me to wonder if going to a name brand music conservatory really gives you a better musical education than going to a public university or music school within a bigger college.

In high school, I was involved in the New England Conservatory preparatory school, which gave me a really good idea of how smaller conservatories function. I absolutely loved it! Everyone at NEC lives, breathes, and loves much! However, by the time senior year rolled around, I realized that although no other subject was as important to me as music, the other subjects still mattered. For that reason, I ended up applying to and accepting my admittance into a public university with a very strong music school.

Based on the various music programs I have been involved in, it is apparent that success has to do with much more than the school you go to and whether or not it is a brand name (like Juilliard). In my studio now, there are some people who practice all day and live, breathe, and love everything about music. They run exercises and work on audition lists until 2 am and sound fantastic come recital time! On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who aren’t fully dedicated to music and sort of squeeze by with the lowest passing standards allowed by conductors and faculty. I saw the same exact thing when I was at NEC – some people were fantastic and worked extremely hard, while others sat on the bare minimum.

It’s pretty obvious that the music faculty and potential musical connections are going to be great a brand name schools, but the faculty at public universities has the potential to be just as strong. I currently study with some of the best conductors, teachers, and performers in the area, and I have made so many wonderful musical connections through my school.

Music facilities aren’t necessarily better at conservatories either. Below, I’ll give you a few examples of music buildings and concert halls from different schools. You decide what you like better, and I’ll put the school names at the very bottom. The point I'm trying to make is that you can't judge a book by it's cover.
Concert Hall #1

Concert Hall #2

Hallway #1

Hallway #2
Practice Room #1

Practice Room #2
All in all, I’ve learned that a lot of what determines a musician’s success is his or her own perseverance and willingness to work. I don’t think that going to a top notch music conservatory puts you at a level way above those who go to public universities. Conservatories and universities have very different musical environments, and it’s important to consider both the faculty members you want to study with, as well as the environment you work best in, when choosing a music school. Showing off your brand name spirit wear and bumper stickers will only get you so far.

Concert Hall #1 - Emerson Hall, Emory University
Concert Hall #2 - Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory
Hallway #1 - Ithaca College
Hallway #2 - Cleveland Institute of Music
Practice Room #1 - New England Conservatory
Practice Room #2 - Olin College

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