What I Wish I Knew in Music School

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Music school is an exciting place to be—if you’ve dreamed of being a professional musician, it’s feels like you’re finally beginning your journey. While there’s no better place than music school to hone your skills, there is also a lot of temptation to put your focus in the wrong place. Music schools are typically competitive, and most have an old-school approach that focuses on developing your technique but not truly setting you up for professional success. Here are some things I wish someone told me when I first entered music school.

Invest in what interests you
Music schools want to make well-rounded musicians, which means music majors end up having to take a wide variety of music classes. Music theory, ear training, piano skills, and music history are all classes you’ll likely have to take on top of your performing responsibilities like private lessons and ensembles. While these skills are all useful, many music majors get overwhelmed trying to balance all of their responsibilities and excel in every area. If you decide which skills you think will be the most practical for your career goals, you can make sure you’re always giving those classes your best effort. While we want to do well at everything, it is essential to prioritize so that you know what to do when you can’t do everything.

Think big picture
When I was in music school, I saw nearly all students in tunnel-vision on their latest assignment. It’s great to be a dedicated to your work, but remember that once you finish school and start your career, you won’t have anyone assigning you anything. If you get too focused on doing exactly as your told, you’ll have a harder time making your own decisions and creating your own opportunities. Many students would also get anxious trying to keep up with every assignment and lose sight on their big-picture growth as a musician. Grades are not as important as your musical and professional development as a whole, so remember what you’re trying to achieve at music school and don’t get too weighed down by smaller details.

Begin your online presence
Even if you’re not comfortable sharing full performances of yourself while you’re studying, there are many other ways to connect with your audience through online platforms. As a music student, you constantly have new performances and interesting activities, all of which make great content for social media like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you start to build a following while you’re in school, it will only benefit you once you’re a professional.

Pay attention to the people you like
Good colleagues can be hard to find. If you meet other musicians in school that inspire you and that you love to collaborate with, work on deepening those relationships. Once you’re both out of school you’ll be looking for people to play with and people to recommend you for gigs.

Take advantage of your opportunities
There are tons of scholarships, competitions, resources, and discounts specifically created for students. While it might feel like you’ll be in school forever, it’s only a few years before you won’t be eligible for student-exclusive opportunities.

I hope these tips were helpful! If you’re a former or current music student, feel free to share your tips or leave your comments. If you enjoyed the post, you can help by sharing it (or the corresponding YouTube video) with your friends.

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3 responses to “What I Wish I Knew in Music School

  1. Hi Emily, great writing on important topics. There’s a new blog for MOUNT DELA – an alternative platform for classical music (www.mountdela.com). Maybe you’d like to take a look and maybe we can collaborate sometime. Cheers! blog.moutndela.com

  2. I love all of these points you made!! I have reflected on almost all of these statements over the course of the past 4 months since graduating. Found you on social media today and followed your sites! Thanks for the tips!

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