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Topic: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

  1. #1

    Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

    Hi guys,

    I seem to be stuck in a dilemma right now and was wondering if any of you'd be willing to shed some advice. I've been in college for five years, first as a computer science major and then as a vocal performance major at a different school. After two years in my new program, I find that I hate it. The professors are narrow minded. The curriculum demands every waking moment of one's life. The department head promises graduation at a certain date, but then pulls out some esoteric requirement in order to lengthen one's stay. I do not like what I'm hearing with the performance students, especially the voice students. The vocal instruction is garbage. There is one phenomenal voice instructor at this school who really taught me to sing from the ground up and inspired me in so many other ways, but due to department politics, music majors are not allowed to take lessons from her anymore--and as a result, they sound like crap! And worst of all, I don't have any time to pursue my real talent--composition.

    Because of these things, and many more that I'm not listing here, I have lost almost all motivation and am considering leaving. So, my questions are as follows.

    1. How important is having a degree in our field of work (electronic music production)?

    2. Is having at least some college better than none at all? Or is college education considered worthless unless one also has graduated?

    3. Should I leave and forget about college? Should I leave but find a new school? Should I just tough it out (and risk losing my remaining sanity)?

    Sorry for the rant; this is a tough time right now. Thanks a bunch.


  2. #2

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

    Man, sorry to here that you aren't having such a good time at your current school. Heres my opinions on your questions.

    1. While having a degree is nice, I don't think it's necessary at all. If you're a good composer/musician then I think your talents will speak for themselves and you won't have to wave a college diploma in front or people's faces to get their attention.

    2. College education definitely isn't considered worthless just because you didn't graduate. I don't think any situation can be considered worthless as long as you come away with something important from it.

    3. Can't really answer that one for you. If you really hate college that much, maybe you should take a break for a semester or two, evaluate things and then decide what to do from there. Or if you think it's just teh school you're at, transfer. But if you really hate you current situation, there's no point in making yourself miserable. Hopefully you'll figure out the right thing for you to do.

    I feel as if I should say more, but it's just not coming too me right now. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

  3. #3

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

    Sounds like a terrible school. Most schools aren't that bad.

    Try checking into other schools. Usually I say don't study with anybody who isn't making a living doing what they teach. If it's a vocal coach then is that person able to make a living singing.

    Think of education as a step in the direction of becoming a pro. If you feel that the singers in your school suck. Then it's time to change schools. Singers that suck don't make it.



  4. #4

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

    Depending upon the field, college degrees are frequently an extreme waste of time and money in terms of their value to your career.

    For instance, I spent 15 years in tech as a programmer and exited the field at the top of the game in terms of money and opportunity for what I did. I have no college. I am, however, adept at self education and understand both marketing and people skills. The irrelevance of a computer science degree in the world of working class techies is staggering. It's only value is when people hire based on "good old boy network" considerations, i.e. "I have a degree, so you have to have one, too." Otherwise, CS majors should take 10% of their tuition money to a bookstore and spend the rest on wine and wild women.

    In many ways, music is similar. The majority of career opportunities in music don't give a rat's rear end about your college diploma. Like programming, what people care about is the Big 3: Do you know your stuff, can you meet deadlines in the real world, and are you a cool guy who's fun to work with. Unless you plan a career in teaching, a college diploma is of little value in the music business. And by the way, everyone in the real world (in every field) knows that a fresh college graduate doesn't know the first thing about their business. The graduate is usually the last to recognize this.

    So should all colleges be shut down and their buildings used for brothels and taverns? Absolutely not (although a tempting proposition). There are many fields where you can't get a job without a degree. But even in things like tech and music, colleges provide an excellent value if your priority for being there is not about the degree, but about learning.

    These days, I write books, speak and consult, and my field of expertise is how to improve careers and businesses in the real world, where nothing ever goes according to plan and people are the most notorious sources of trouble. One of the things I see all the time is people who go to college and pursue a particular degree without any clear or accurate thought about how that time and sheepskin will translate to a value in their future career. They just get a degree because "it's the thing to do", so it often ends up being wasted time or at least an experience of diminished value. Ask yourself these fundamental questions.
    1. What, specificially, do you want to do for a living?
    2. Do you know how much it pays and what the competition is for jobs?
    3. Are you warm and fuzzy with that? (If not, pick another career and start at 1.)
    4. Is a degree required for your desired job?
    5. If it's optional, how much dollars and cents value does it add to your salary?
    6. How fast does the market change (will your skills be obsolete by the time you get out of college)?
    7. Can you excel in this field being self taught?
    8. What's the cost / benefit analysis of your current degree program? (time, tuition and expenses / how much extra the degree adds to your starting salary)
    I could go on, but then, I've been going on long enough. If you're in college to get a degree, know what you want to do for a living first and how that degree will help you. If it won't, get out of college, hit the bookstores, and get a job. Or, if you can afford the luxury, stay in school just for the fun of learning, and take only the courses that interest you.

    And one other thing. You're paying for this education. That makes you the customer. If you don't like the way a particular school treats you, keep that in mind.
    Christopher Duncan
    Author of
    Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer

  5. #5
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    West Seneca, NY

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

    I spent five years between two colleges for music, theatre and music education. I can tell you that probably the only music degree that is worth working for is in music education. At least if you can't make anything else out of your talents you can still work in you craft! I've found teaching quite rewarding plus a continuing leaning process.
    Regardless, Christopher Duncan makes sense, "And one other thing. You're paying for this education. That makes you the customer. If you don't like the way a particular school treats you, keep that in mind."
    Take charge of your future. Most councilors in colleges tend to grow impartial to students because of their workload! I remember my councilor apologizing at the end of a semester for not taking more time in handling my course prerequisites! I wound up taking three courses unrelated to my degree and paying for them on top of it all!
    Take charge of your course outline and try keeping your workload to a tolerable level for you!
    Sometimes half the battle is in our study habbits. Check out my post in the GPO Academy education department.

  6. #6

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)


    What they all said. And one other thing. "You're paying for this education. That makes you the customer. If you don't like the way a particular school treats you, keep that in mind." Remember also that regardless of how pompous the school administration seems, in most cases that school needs your money more than you need their education.

    It usually doesn’t hurt to take a little time off to step back and evaluate your situation. Just don't waste that time. If you want to write music, use that time to write and write and write. Perhaps you can study privately a little. My son spent 5 years getting a degree that at this point in his life is doing him no good what so ever. I’m not going to say that we all wasted our money, but…

    What ever you decide, I wish you the best,


  7. #7

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)


    Maybe my 2 cents could be interesting for you:

    I made a degree in education (music and physics, for the schools that I believe more or less equal your high schools). While studying, I already knew that I didn´t want to work in the job, and after my degree, I started working as a freelance musician, and have been doing that for almost ten years now. But, I am now about to change my mind and quit my life as a musician, because of low and, before all, irregular and unreliable payment, something that used to never bother me. But my point of view is beginning to change, and large snowfields in my agenda (does that proverb work in english? ) increasingly make me feel uncomfortable. Being a teacher in germany means having a very secure job with adequate payment (and very low social regard ), and today I am glad that I finished my studies at University, so I have a choice today!
    I don´t know about the situation in the US, but in Europe (and especially in Germany), you´ll most certainly run into problems one day without some sort of complete professional training...

    Whatever you decide: I wish you good luck!

  8. #8

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

    Quote Originally Posted by lontas
    1. How important is having a degree in our field of work (electronic music production)?
    2. Is having at least some college better than none at all? Or is college education considered worthless unless one also has graduated?
    3. Should I leave and forget about college? Should I leave but find a new school? Should I just tough it out (and risk losing my remaining sanity)?
    What I think you're asking is: will college give me the power to create music good/great enough to support myself? And if not, where do I get said power?

    I could give you the full, most useful answer, but not many people want that...so I'll give you the quick, down and dirty answer:

    Power is based on Love; Love is defined as acceptance, forgiveness and committment. Committment is a function of passion: the greater our passion the greater our motivation to stay committed. Passion is defined as: a critical mass of 'interest-as-meaning'...that is, the more interested we are in something, the more meaningful it is.

    Music is virtual structure. The more powerful, more beautiful the structure, the more powerful the music.

    Therefore: if you want to create powerful music (and the consumer demand for powerful forms tends toward maximum elasticity...that is, great structure tends to have a relatively elastic consumer demand...see John Williams, John Barry, etc.) you need to be:

    1. Passionately committed.

    2. You need to find ways to create powerful forms (which may or may not imply a teacher...in or out of college).

    3. You need to build a life that will afford you the time/energy/space to create these passionate, powerful forms.

    Good luck!

  9. #9

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)


    Sorry to hear your situation. I guess I agree with what others say. You may want to search out CPtexas's posts and he recently asked this very question and a few of us chimed in a lot. I was surpised by how many people on the forum DID have music degrees.

    Just, my perception, but I would not quit the degree program out of frustration. I transferred between two music degrees AND two Universities and I am very aware of politics, favoritism, and costs. I would say continue your education. But if you feel the quality of your program is an issue then perhaps it's time to hear what other vocal majors are doing at other universities and consider transferring.

    Now when I transferred, I think I had to redo a couple of aural/ear training classes, but that was it.(yeah my ears are still something I have to work on) I played my principal ok, and my theory was fine, BUT there was stupid stuff like: I had to take extra credit hours of english because my previous university simply required LESS credits in it. So remember leaving and going into a new university might require some extra credits which means extra $$.

    I say stick out school because your already there and I tell you after working in the business, some debt, marriage, houses; I think of going back for a masters and the question is how and when? I like Chris Duncan's advice, but I don't do well teaching myself which is different, IMO, than practicing your art or meeting a deadline for a client. When I learn new things: I like training, accountiblity, and then my real world application.

    I think I a degree will give you options.



  10. #10

    Re: Is college really that important? (Somewhat OT)

    I believe that college is not just important, but essential. I am not talking about the degree, either. How could someone not want all of the knowledge they can acquire to be better at what they do?

    If your college experience is bad, I suggest you transfer as soon as possible. And start looking at pursuing your Masters at least because Styxx is right when he says that any Music undergrad degree is worthless except Music Ed. If you don't want to teach at High School level, pursue your Masters. If the school is getting a bad rep with performance ability, best to leave it because the Grad schools will know.

    Also, Grad school is different. You only take music classes. Finish undergraduate work. Get your Masters. Get your DMA at least. If you have to transfer, do it. There are a ton of great schools with great professors that you will love.

    Music Composition cannot be self taught. No known composer is self taught. All of the Masters studied with various teachers for several years. Composition is not easy and no one is born with the ability, just the intense desire and a good ear.

    So, please, please, don't give up on school or you will likely find yourself like me in a dead end job, about to sell your house and finally get back in school. Don't do it for the degree, do it for what you will learn. All of the best composers of modern times are teachers in Universities. You just have to find them.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

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