Selection of the correct music course is crucial. For some, the aim is to get into the music industry as a recording artist at a label or other connected role, others to play in a band or orchestra or become music teachers. The choices are wide and it can be daunting, knowing you will invest a good chunk of your life and money in something where you're not certain of the outcome. It can feel like a gamble.
Apart from talent (this is a must) getting a job in the music industry requires skill and experience (if you are lucky enough to get a work placement or internship) in addition to a qualification. Budget is also an important factor while choosing a music course. If you play an instrument, some (like brass and wind) can be very expensive. There may well be continuous investment in your instrument as well as the private lessons while studying. If you intent to apply to a top institution which has links to the industry, be aware of the high fees charged.
Generally, most institutions look for a certain standard of performance of vocal and instrumental skills and sometimes composition ability.
Below are some ideas for how to proceed with choosing the best music course:
1. Decide which area of the music industry you are interested in and passionate about.
Is it teaching / education, performance, production / technology or business related? Look at educational and industry directories that provide an overview of different sectors, job specifications etc. Also, view at any advice and guidance pages. If you plan to do a degree, the 2 main ones are a Music BA and BMus. You might find that some universities offer both a BA and a BMus course. While both of them are general music courses, the BA course normally follows a broader range of subjects, including more academic subjects like music history or analysis.
BMus courses, on the other hand, are more practical-oriented. They usually contain more performance and composition elements. You should compare the course details at individual universities for an exact comparison.
2. If applying to a university or college, understand that they want the best candidates as much as you want to study there.
Therefore, do your research. When considering a University / college, consider:
– if you want to stay near your family or move as far away as possible
– big city or small town? What's the social life like?
– look at how long the course have been established
– what are the entry requirement needed to be accepted?
– do they get visits by people working in the industry?
– are the current students happy with their courses there?
– what was the feedback from previous graduates to the course? How many of them got good jobs when they left?
3. You can help yourself by applying to as many relevant ones as possible.
Be aware that competition for places means many music courses are over-subscribed. Also, there are a large number of different music courses available at universities. If you've already decided your career path, it is worth considering a specialized music course. If you want to keep your options open, choose a general music course.
4. Visit the institution offering the course and meet the staff and see the facilities.
Understand the nature of the courses you are considering by asking questions, particularly when applying for a specific course. Make sure you ask the following questions:
– How connected to the music industry is the course (eg industry guest lectures, work placement opportunities, etc)?
– Do lecturers and staff have industry backgrounds?
– What are the course facilities like (eg studios, rehearsal rooms, concert hall, teaching areas, libraries, research and development center)?
– Are there performing opportunities eg bands, chamber and full orchestras at special events etc
– What are the opportunities for progression to higher level courses on completion of the qualification / training?
– Do students have freedom to specialize in within the course, eg take performance / composition / business as major parts of it? Can students work on their own extended projects under staff direction?
– Does the course teach business skills? anyone entering the music industry must understand the business side. Sales, marketing, people and project management, finance and promotional skills are particularly valuable.
– What is the teaching like? Are the classes small and intimate where everybody has a personal tutor in case something goes wrong?
– What careers have past students gone on to have after completing the course? Is the qualification held in high regard when seen by prospective employers in the music industry?
If possible, it is also worth speaking with a professional musician or music teacher you know because they will be able to identify the possibilities available. Not only this, they will also be able to give you some insight into what to expect when you complete your course and start job hunting.