Taking the next step in your career as a musician certainly involves practice, but if you are intent on seriously improving your skills, a formal music education program might be right for you.
Before you dive in, though, consider these five steps for finding the music education program that’s right for you:
- Set your goals. This is not a one-size-fits all exercise. What you want from a music education program depends largely on your current skill level and what’s a reasonable target. For instance, if you are a beginner and want to join your school marching band, you might be able to pass the audition by increasing your practice time, watching online videos and taking lessons. On the other hand, if you are a seasoned artist and aspire to a seat in a world-class orchestra, consider formal training. Either way, when thinking about where you are and where you want to be, the business world’s SMART goal setting model will be helpful.
From here, we’ll assume your goals are more advanced.
- Focus on what you want. Be specific about what you want to improve. If you are reasonably satisfied with your technique and want to deepen your understanding of composition, for instance, let that be a guide to choosing the right education program or coursework. Production and theory both fall under music education but cover very different topics and objectives.
- Weigh your options. There are online programs leading to certifications and on-site, curricula leading to degrees from accredited universities. Cost, accessibility, work-life balance, and professional commitments will factor into this decision point. In any case, be sure to check out reviews of the programs, contact alumni and ask colleagues about programs under consideration.
- Do your due diligence. Whether online or in-person, contact the program either through its website or by visiting. Find out more about its music education methodology and determine whether or not it falls in line with your learning approach and goals. Ask if you can sit in on classes to get an overall feel of the environment. Ask about support for students in terms of academic guidance, career assistance, and other help. The right program may not be in your backyard so relocating will be a consideration. All the more reason to visit the location and do your due diligence. The last thing you need is doubt or regret about your decision when you begin your studies.
- Ask about extracurricular opportunities. Classroom learning is fine, but applying what you learn is where the rubber meets the road. Remote programs and in-person institutions alike often offer clubs, recital opportunities, and sponsored performance events. Also, find out about alumni support and networking opportunities. Once you have the education and you’ve developed the advanced skills you desire, you’ll want to put them into action. While skill and personality will get you to the door, networking can unlock it. Remember that networking works both ways. Make an effort to connect with faculty, students, etc. Don’t hoard help! Be willing to help others and do your part in the networking structure.
Deciding to enroll in a music education program is a big decision, one that could impact the rest of your life and certainly your immediate future. With the right research, planning and self-assessment, you’ll be empowered to move forward with clarity, optimism, and excitement.