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Author Topic: Importance of Grad School  (Read 533 times)
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Joined: Nov 13, 2015
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« on: Dec 29, 2017, 01:26PM »

Hello! I'm an undergrad student with a couple years before I really need to worry about this, but professionally my goals are something like: session musician for video game and movie soundtracks, and private teacher in LA, and I am curious what people working in that area would say about graduate schooling. Is it a good idea? Bad idea? Depends? I'm just trying to think a few years ahead so I have time to do research about schools if I decide I do want to get a graduate degree. Thank you all!

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« Reply #1 on: Dec 29, 2017, 01:47PM »

It really depends... it is a discussion best had with your current teacher I imagine. It will be reliant on how your playing standard is at the end of your current degree, whether you have the mental resolve to see out several more years of study, and whether or not you have an opportunity outside study to start making money.

In my opinion, it would absolutely be worth doing, but not worth sending yourself tens of thousands of dollars into debt for. I would be looking now into schools that have fee waivers or schools that are able to offer generous financial assistance scholarships based on something you can competitively apply for. The good thing about being in L.A. is that is seems most of the major music schools have the ability to offer financial help to good students.
Finance aside, grad school depending on where you are and who you study with can really do wonders for your playing.

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« Reply #2 on: Dec 29, 2017, 02:17PM »

but professionally my goals are something like: session musician for video game and movie soundtracks,

These jobs are so rare that they are not realistic as a profession.

Several reasons...

-Runaway production. Musicians in other countries hired instead
-Electronic production. Synths and samplers instead of real musicians.
-Limited need.  It probably takes just a few well-connected players to satisfy all the calls for trombones.

Robert Holmén

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« Reply #3 on: Dec 29, 2017, 09:09PM »

If anything, having a Master's degree can make a big difference when competing for permanent teaching gigs (and be required for teaching in universities - although I don't know how much it is the case in the US (yet))

Maximilien Brisson
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« Reply #4 on: Dec 29, 2017, 09:33PM »

While it's true that that movie studios are outsourcing some recording, movie soundtracks are played by synth, etc. the names-you-know will someday retire. Alex Illes, Alan Kaplan, Bob McChesney, Bill Booth,  Bill Reichenbach, etc. will retire at some point. Also, I'm sure any of them would tell you there's always room for a really great player in the scene.

They would also tell you that you're not going to make your living playing solely on soundtracks, that you need to be proficient in any style imaginable (from bop to Bruckner), versatile (play bass too? Alto? Euph? etc), personable, be able to write/arrange, and if you can do ALL of that,  that you'll need to live in LA for about ten years before you're paying your bills as a performer.

That said, graduate school will afford you the opportunity to be learning the scene in LA. If you want to live and work in the LA freelance scene, you need to get out there for graduate school. Graduate school will soften the entrance and ideally introduce you some individuals who can throw you a bone at some point in your career.

Josh Bledsoe
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« Reply #5 on: Dec 29, 2017, 10:19PM »

So I'm not sure how this will help you (or won't) but I want to weigh in regardless.

I got my Masters at school that I am happy to have on my resume about 1.5 years ago. I do not pay my rent playing trombone but I also don't live at home. I do practice every day (mostly). I live in a city (although not one nearly as big as L.A.). I play non-paying gigs here and there. This is just to give you a picture of my life after grad school.

I am in considerable debt from grad school. I feel that I learned almost exactly what I wanted to from grad school and am putting that knowledge to use every day when I practice and as I plan for my musical future, even though I currently make my living outside of music. I do not regret going to grad school and am happy for what I learned and what it did for my musicianship and trombone playing.

Here's the question I asked myself my senior year of undergrad: can I live with not knowing what I would assume I would learn at grad school? Can I just stop right now and be happy with the knowledge I've accumulated thus far? Or do I need more: more playing and more school to make me feel complete as I go forward with trombone and life?

For me, the answer was absolutely no, and that's why I did it. Start with these questions. The good news is you being not at your senior year just yet, don't need them answered right away. But consider them and keep them in the back of your mind as you move through your degree..

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« Reply #6 on: Dec 29, 2017, 10:34PM »

If anything, having a Master's degree can make a big difference when competing for permanent teaching gigs (and be required for teaching in universities - although I don't know how much it is the case in the US (yet))

Most teaching jobs, even at tiny colleges,  require a Doctorate these days.

As to the OP, grad school is where I learned the most and got the most improvement. I also did it for free, so I had no qualms about going ahead with that direction. If you can do it for free or nearly so, go for it. Otherwise, evaluate if you are worth the multiple 0s of loan debt.

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« Reply #7 on: Dec 30, 2017, 06:19AM »

I went to grad school for a different subject: political science. Besides gaining specific, more detailed knowledge of my discipline, I gained: networking, experience, and references. Invaluable. Most people I’ve talked with who went to grad school in any discipline say pretty much the same thing.

Kenneth Biggs
Bass & tenor trombone
“I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”
  -- Mark Twain
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