5 Tips: How to Choose the Right Music School
So you’ve decided to attend a music school. Choosing the right one is overwhelming for many, but we hope this post will help you narrow down your choices so you make a smart and informed decision. Don’t forget to ask the right questions and be completely informed before making such an important decision. It’s your future! Here are 5 tips for choosing the RIGHT music school for you!
1) Consider the Location
Choose the school in an area that works best for your lifestyle – consider weather, safety and proximity to housing, public transportation and nightlife:
Weather: Do you want mild temperatures and lots of sunshine year round? Then you might want to look at schools in Southern California. If you aren’t bothered by trudging with your gear in snow and cold weather conditions, than attending a school like Berklee on the East Coast might be for you.
Safety: Often overlooked is campus safety, which is a top concern for parents of teens about to leave the nest; and paranoid musicians with gear that means more to them than any other possession. So be aware of whether the school is right in the heart of a busy, urban city. LA Music Academy is in a Los Angeles suburb called Pasadena—a smaller, friendly and safer community than say Hollywood. And Pasadena is just a few minutes North of downtown Los Angeles, but still close enough to all the nightlife and entertainment that the city has to offer.
Proximity: Do you have/want to drive to get where you need to go? Is there public transportation available? Do you have access to restaurants/markets and nightlife?
2) Factor in all Costs
Cost should be a key factor in your search for the right music school. Some music schools can be double or triple the cost of others and most often don’t mean a better education. Remember…is it the RIGHT education? You should be fully informed of the financial aid options and scholarship awards at each school before you make any decision to enroll (a good indicator is if they have a financial aid director on staff). Besides just looking at the price tag of tuition, make sure you think about other factors such as: Are there rehearsal rooms and labs on the premises? How expensive is it to live in the city where the school is based? Smaller cities like Pasadena will be cheaper to live in than say the heart of Los Angeles or Boston.
3) Class Size
Class size is also overlooked. That’s a surprise…because what’s more important than anything at a music school? Hands-on teaching/interactions and personal attention. It is important to ask about the student-teacher ratio at the school. If class size is important to a school, you will find that emphasized in a mission statement or throughout a school website. Does the school put restrictions on class size? Does the school provide an intimate, friendly atmosphere that ensures personal attention?
4) The Faculty
As a student you are going to be spending a lot of your time with the faculty so it is smart to make sure they are top notch and active players in the industry. Most schools’ websites should list (link to LAMA Faculty page) the different department chairs; you might have reason to be suspicious if they don’t. Make sure to read all the department chairs’ credentials and do some Internet research. You should be able to know right away whether your school has solid faculty. A simple google search for LA Music Academy’s Guitar Department Chair Tariqh Akoni, for instance, shows he has played with everyone from Josh Groban to Aretha Franklin.
Very important: make sure you identify who is a “Visiting Artist” as opposed to someone who teaches regularly at the school.
5) The Alumni
The best test of a school is to see what graduates go on to do after graduation. Most schools will be very proud of their alumni and have them featured prominently on their website. If a school doesn’t brag about their alumni it should probably raise red flags. Look for a special section dedicated to alumni updates and news. Company the school keeps can mean the difference between say landing gigs with Macy Gray, Herbie Hancock or Tegan and Sara; or landing your butt on the couch in your garage.
What other tips would you provide to prospective music school students?