School or Private Teacher??? Advice please...

(16 posts)
  1. NAS
    Member

    Currently I have been working with a great private teacher in the Philadelphia area (I drive 2 hours every week to see him) and have taken some courses through BerkleeOnline. Just to keep some options open I have applied to a couple music programs (to study jazz) but also love working with my teacher. If I choose to move away for school I would not be around my teacher. Obviously school would be more expensive. My teacher has worked as a music educator at many colleges and I truly could and already have been obtaining an equal or better education with him than school. Music schools could provide me with new experiences, meeting people, starting groups that I cant achieve here in my hometown. So, anyways, for those of you have been in my situation or have gone to school or have only had private teachers could you please share advice on why you chose your musical paths. I have my own reasons already planned out but would really appreciate to hear everyones thoughts. Thank you everyone!!!

    Private
  2. Sandemose
    Member

    NAS: Hi, good and relevant post.

    To start with: you should be happy being in a situation were you have to decide between two good things :) But this is what I think. If you ask any musician (jazz) what changed their lives/careers and set them in a positive direction, some might mention important teachers, but even more would mention fellow musicians they met during important phases in their lives. I guess Kurt could/would say Gary Burton for taking him on tour with all what that means, but I would bet a penny that Mark Turner is THE most important person from reading and listening to interviews with Kurt. The "Next Step" group must and what they did at Smalls during the 90s must have been so important for Kurts development.
    So, I would say this: attend school. Meet people. Form a group. Get a sound going. Your private teacher might take you far, but he wont teach you how to form a group and how to act in one. As far as private lessons goes, Jonathan Kreisberg as well as Lage Lund offeres lessons via Skype nowdays (I got an invitation from Jonathans maneger I think it was). Maybe thats a good sollution for you and you current teacher?

    Either way, I wish you all the best, and I hope you find a decision that works out fine.

    Best and warmest regards,

    Sandemose

    Magical rainbow ponies
  3. hitdoggie
    Member

    I'll probably be the antithesis to most stories here but I wish someone laid it on me when I had these questions...so here goes nothing:

    - at 16 decided music was what I wanted to do after a very short time playing

    - 19 enrolled at Berklee: A few of the teachers were great and some of them were surrounded by the illusion of greatness due to their achieved prestige as jazz players. In reality I found very few people there who cared about pedagogy. You can seek out great opportunities at a school like Berklee, but you must take the initiative; otherwise, the machine will suck you in for 4 years and put you in a hell of a lot of debt. The students at Berklee were diverse, and I found that to be extremely liberating having come from a small town. At the same time it all felt like we had similar ambitions and were sitting in a 4 year waiting room. I found that quite depressing. I set a goal of trying to get "X" amount of scholarship money, and if I didn't get that I told myself I'd leave...and I ended up leaving. Disillusioned and mildly depressed with the heir of what music school "was" and what I was supposed to be doing I left to study music in state on the cheap.

    - Phase 2 state school: My private teacher was and is an amazing person. Most of the students were sub-par, but at these smaller schools a sense of community was established, and I made many great friends. However, I got bored of the music school routine. I was reading about other fields I had been interested in and as a consequence I stopped really caring about music school.

    I should mention that at this time I was pretty much doing what my ultimate goal had been when I told myself I wanted to go to music school. I started private teaching and it was taking off pretty fast, I was teaching large scale adult education classes for music and I was gigging. I didn't have a degree in music, and quite frankly, didn't know what the hell it was going to give me. I should add and addendum and say that I was ALWAYS content with being a big fish in small pond. I like small town and small city life and everything that goes along with it.

    So I left music school to study something else, but I continue to teach privately.

    Some things to think about:

    What do you want to do with music?

    If performing and writing is it, will a large scale city offer anything more or less than a University music degree?

    What do you think you will earn?

    Do you care if all your income comes from music or not...i.e., are you willing to work a day gig to sublet your creative endeavors in a city?

    What do you think the state of jazz is today?

    What does a working "jazz" musician do?

    Do you love anything else in life aside from music?

    Is university a safety net for your real goals?

    Be real with yourself. In my opinion music school is an excuse for middle class kids to run from their true goals under the guise of being provided with an "enriching" environment and networking opportunities. You can flame me for that, but I'd say it to any music majors face and I said it to myself. Sure, there are outliers, but when your in those programs I'd challenge you to look around at the people your are surrounded by. If you want to be a jazz musician and grow as much as possible move to a city where music flourishes and study with great teachers. The music will get you through all the other sh*t that goes along with surviving if you really think it is your passion. This takes a lot of courage because you are defining the pretty wrapped up package they give you on high school in how to become a productive member of the middle class.

    I just wasn't willing to do that, and I don't regret a moment of my decisions. If you think you can study something else do it. I realized my passion is teaching and breaking down how children develop the ability to think abstractly. I LOVE music, and it provides me with all my monetary resources, but I just don't think I was as passionate about being an artist. That was a tough one to swallow, although the idea of being an artist is still a romantic notion. Lastly, no one is going to ask you on a gig if you can provide a degree. I teach 30 people a week and no one ever asks me to produce a degree, and I am quite frank about my experiences. Sure, school can provide you with an opportunity to network, which may make it easier when you move to a city....but is that really something you can't do by moving to a city and attending jam sessions, and meeting like-minded people at music events you enjoy?

    Hope it wasn't too dark. I apologize in advance for the poor writing.

  4. Nas

    I hope I can offer you some things to think about if, you have to answer your own questions yourself. Much has been said, I'll say it from more experience then Hitdoggie because I remember his trials through our forum relationships on many forums and I think he did exactly what he should have done.

    Okay so I have been through school, Undergraduate and Masters in Jazz Studies and now I'm a Professor of Jazz Studies at a small Canadian University in my home town. So I know small town, big schools, little schools and the benifits of Music school as well as the things that aren't so great. Anyway here goes my advice.

    Studying privately 1v1 with a great teacher is a wonderful experience if you want to learn to master your instrument but will teach you a very limited amount about actually playing Jazz. You can learn the scales, learn tunes, transcribe and all those great things but the functional aspects of playing jazz will require more then 1v1 relationships unless you plan on being very specialized in guitar duets your entire life. Point here is you need to be exposed to more musicians, Music School does this.

    Music school also gives you courses in things your 1v1 teacher won't discuss. You'll learn about history of music, theory, ear training, piano skills, arranging, composition and functional playing in a quartet or whatever sized ensemble you are placed into plus on top of that all the other Jams and relationships to be foreged on your own initiative.

    Music School is stressful, competative and for the most part, while it happens is a see-saw of emotional responses to stress and the constant questioning of your intentions. You should go to Music school if you know that this is what you have to do. Do you want to be a musicians, a Musician (capitol M) or someone who works a gig during the day and plays his Guitar at night. Both are completely cool and valid. You'd be surprised how many world class Guitarists are out there who work day jobs 9 to 5 monday to friday who are easily on par with many people out there making records, playing tours and festivals.

    "Jazz" as a niche form of Music is even more difficult to deal with. It is highly specialized, a long and difficult route to take. I'm extremely lucky to have the Job that I have, and it comes with a price as well. I live in a small town and I do not get to play very many Gigs (1, 2 a month if I am lucky) but since my passion for Teaching rivals my passion for performing I feel sustained. Many people could not be so content in my position. But I found my niche and forever how long I decide to stay here to teach is my choice influenced by many things.

    The Negative thing about Music school is depending on where you are looking to go it is no doubt a dollar value of debt you might never pay off unless you 'make it' or marry rich (i'm exaggerating but anyway)...

    You might want to try moving to a City and starting a job there, get situated and continue with a teacher and hustle yourself some gigs and form a group and see what you can do in a year before you decide. Some people do not need to go to a big school to get their name out there. There's a lot we all have at our fingertips today with the internet etc.

    I hope you come to a clear decision. I offer you the best of luck

  5. NAS
    Member

    Thank you so much for your time and consideration to my question. Definitely gave me some more to think about. I appreciate it greatly!!!

  6. eSkills
    Member

    What guys like Sandemose mentions about environment is really important. The conservatory in Trondheim, Norway, (which I am attending) is pretty much based on the idea that jazz history has shown time and time again that nothing is as important as young talents meeting and playing with eachother. As one of my teachers says, the most important thing about the Trondheim conservatory is that it exists.

  7. pauldrake
    Member

    A good music school can be the key here. I might go on first with some good private teacher thing here, but somehow you would pay a lot and be pressured in all the ways that you possibly can have. I just think that things would have been good or well in the long run for this. I just hope that choosing the right one that would fit your needs can be the key here.

  8. Matt
    Member

    i preface this post by admitting that i know nothing.

    that being said, the director of the combo i'm in said 'no one is ever going to teach you anything'. to me, you can take all the lessons and all the classes you want, but the work you put into it is going to make the biggest difference. i say this only because no one else has seemed to emphasize it.

  9. ... i love the how people are really going to town with the defibrillators today ( in attempts to rescucitate some of these threads... this is from a year ago). love it!

  10. sweetdeat
    Member

    This is my first post in this forum...I actually really enjoy seeing an active message board from so many people around the world. It's pretty killer. So...glad this exists and I'm also glad someone asked this question. This is a tough one.

    Whatever it is you do...you need a plan for it...as in 25 years from now. Chances are it won't work out exactly how you thought of it now...but it will keep you realistic about your upcoming goals etc.

    So for me, a traditional 4 year school wasn't really in the cards. I'm interested in lots of things...but mostly music and my development so I stopped thinking about that and just started going for the music that I wanted to play. I play all sorts of random gigs..whatever I can get my hands on. Whatever can pay the bills and doesn't hurt my heart towards music (i.e. I turned down an 80s cover band gig)...but no offense to cats that do that. If that doesn't hurt your creative spirit then it's ok in my opinion. Anyway,

    Write like everyone's listening, Transcribe like a mad man, and do all the things YOU know you need to work on. There's a laundry list I'm sure just like with everyone...but just work at it. Be diligent and honest with your work ethic and don't ever loose the fun in music and I think generally things will work themselves out. I realize everyone hears this all the time, but it's funny how we as musicians are just unwilling to accept something this simple as truth...

    But don't drink the koolaid that school is the only way to go. It isn't. There are great things about that too...but it's not required to be a musician or an artist. Spending time with the music is ALL that's required.

  11. Gia5
    Member

    Nice post Sweetdeat, and most of all, welcome to the forum. Hope to hear more from you.

  12. guitarmo
    Member

    sweetdeat!!!

  13. sweetdeat
    Member

    Thanks folks....and I new Guitarmo would find me.... :)

  14. horg
    Member

    I agree 100% with Matt, or his teacher I believe it was, on the "no one is ever going to teach you anything" thing. I find this to be absolutely true, as, first and foremost, you MUST teach YOURSELF.
    The quote "there are no bad students, only bad teachers" is often misunderstood, or at least it is the way i see it...what I think it means, or should mean, is that if you can't learn something...it isn't because the school or teacher isn't doing a good job at it, or that you aren't good/smart enough to learn whatever it is, but instead that you aren't putting in the time and effort to teach it to yourself.

    You are your own teacher.

    I will be studying music in university in the fall, my first semester in university, but I can safely say that I KNOW it isn't the best idea, and that in fact I would probably be better off not going to school at all if I really want to make progress and get somewhere as a musician. Unfortunately, to my parents the paper is important.

    If you aren't in this situation, then I would encourage you to get a private teacher if you'd like, but mostly, put in the time and effort to becoming what you want to become.

    I will leave you with this video of Branford Marsalis talking about his students :

    [+] Embed the video | Video DownloadGet the Video Player

  15. i've seen these marsalis vids... there are a bunch. i like that he is honest with himself and others however i get the feeling that perhaps there is too much of a ( consenting ) export of vids capturing marsalis saying " controversial " shit: turning down miles; sting saying the rockstar thing is just an act and thats what the people want; how his students just want to hear how great they are and several others.he seems very willing to not only be captured but showcased in this light and it feels like its to distance himself from the
    familyjazzfactory(then)young lionindustryacademia-plex
    that he is generally associated with.
    Horg, that is great that you are in a supportive environment where you can go to school for something you dig and yes, you will have to do the work to internalize the material yourself.
    as someone who has not gone to school i will say ( aside from the times when i taught private lessons out of a store and was able to pay my rent that way) unless you are a pro, it is hard to get others ( work etc ) to honor your need to do something X number of hours per day or to show any limitation of scheduling.basically, i have a child and that has some responsibilty attached to that role, however i do have pockets of time and i really dont see the outside world honoring that when i have that time i want to play or record. i feel that if i was able to say that " oh i am in school for x or i have finals" or blahblah society recognizes this. i do not spend my days telling people " i am into really deep shit" " i am stretching my arm because i play guitar" " "i am taking my guitar to get set up. whats a set up? you wouldnt understand , i am really into guitar" it seems like such bullshit to be exporting this stuff so that i and others really get that this is my identity. perhaps i have done this to a fault- i have quit for months at a time ( sometimes over a year). i am simply a dude who works in a coffee shop and has a kid, other people work at a coffee shop...but are going to " columbia university" so back up - their time is spent doing heavy things and in their spare time they are busy holding up their potentiated future ( which is perhaps more tricky than it is expensive). so i cannot compete. and as a father ( who made the choice to have a child ) my things take a backseat to my child's progress and well being. it takes a tremendous amount of effort ( without making a huge deal of holding anyone hostage to my ideas about myself as a guitar player trying to make music and progress) to get and justify time do do stuff ( mainly availability for work ) that isnt at 2 in the morning when i shouldnt be up and is not the best quality of energy to be practicing.

  16. silverwater
    Member

    My 2 cents, from someone who went to a university for music, and got a BA in Music with a focus on Jazz Performance:

    Music school was great for these reasons:

    - Meeting other musicians, a few of who I still play with today
    - Learning things I otherwise wouldn't have learned from just private lessons (Bach-style 4 part harmony, analysis of classical music, history of Western music, etc.)
    - Being in playing situations I normally wouldn't have been in (Big band, Guitar Ensemble), where I was "forced" to learn many difficult parts
    - Having the time (and legitimate excuse) to woodshed like a madman
    - I learned probably the most valuable lesson from watching my private teacher: "Don't be a dick." Musicians in an area have a relatively small circle. If it gets out that you're an asshole, people are much less likely to call you for a gig. Personally speaking, when I've got a gig and I think about who I'm going to call to come out, I always pick from the list of people that I enjoy spending time with.

    Music school was bad for these reasons:

    - I learned a lot school, but it really didn't foster my creativity or develop a voice on my instrument. That's something you'll most likely still have to do on your own.

    - My BA is almost useless, other than proving to an employer that I have the capacity to complete a 4-year school (no one who plays gives a shit if you've a degree or not, many who have a degree can't play at all).

    - If your goal is to earn money through playing alone, understand that you're most likely committing yourself to a life of poverty and uncertain income (Unless you become a world-class musician). In hindsight, I should have gotten my degree in Music Technology or Education, or something else that more directly transfer to a job. My BA would look good if I wanted to teach private lessons, but I really don't like it. And don't think "Well 50$ an hour is pretty good pay!", because if you're someone who'd take being a teacher seriously, then you're probably going to have to put in an hour of prep work for every hour you teach, especially at first. And unless you teach at a store where they take a % right off the top, it might not prove to be a steady source of income. (Most students quit when they realize there is actual work involved, and you have to be constantly advertising for more students and competing with 1000 other cats just like you.)

    I have my doubts from time to time about whether or not I should have gone to school for music, and what I could have done if I focused so much of my mental energy into learning science or something else more lucrative. But music is my "raison d'ĂȘtre". There's always progress to be made as a player, and things to look forward to, and I know that things couldn't have gone any other way, and without it there'd always be a void left unfilled.

    So I guess my advice can be summed up as this: If music is your life's passion, and you can't picture yourself happy doing anything else, go to college for music. If it's not or you're unsure, you may be better off learning something else and keeping playing as a hobby.


Reply

You must log in to post.