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TheMaskedTrumpeter

Best Schools for composing?

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I've a senior in high school, and I've finally decided to major in Music Composition. The problem is, I'm not sure where to go. When looking at people in the composition field, does the school attended really matter all that much? Thanks.

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Depending on what the school has to offer, it does matter. For a composition major, you should really look into whichever schools interest you and find out which resources are readily available to composition students. The best way is to check each school's website for more information about their program. Who your composition prof(s) may be is also important, so you should also do some background checks (ie. Google) on those profs to see the type of music that they write, and go from there.

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Mid size, lesser known schools are better (I think) for composing. But like Matthew said, it depends on what the school offers and who is teaching.

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Mid size, lesser known schools are better (I think) for composing. But like Matthew said, it depends on what the school offers and who is teaching.

That just seems like a rationalization for low standards and poor achievement.

If you have the chops, go to a top 20 school. Also look at the faculty for various schools. Of course, don't count out schools in your state (I didn't look at your profile, so I'm just going to assume that you're American). If you live in Florida, Indiana or California, STAY IN STATE, you've got great colleges at your disposal.

I would stay away from conservatories, unless one of their profs really interests you and you you think you have the chops for it. The better conservatories are Manhattan and Curtis.

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That just seems like a rationalization for low standards and poor achievement.

If you have the chops, go to a top 20 school. Also look at the faculty for various schools. Of course, don't count out schools in your state (I didn't look at your profile, so I'm just going to assume that you're American). If you live in Florida, Indiana or California, STAY IN STATE, you've got great colleges at your disposal.

I would stay away from conservatories, unless one of their profs really interests you and you you think you have the chops for it. The better conservatories are Manhattan and Curtis.

I live in Georgia, and I've been looking into Florida State, Troy and Georgia Southern, because it's about an hour down the road. I don't really want to go far from home, (Florida State's probably about 2-3 hours away), but my friend from my school who I often collaborate with is attending Georgia Southern, and we want to stick together. So many things to consider, and time's running out.

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That just seems like a rationalization for low standards and poor achievement.

Not really, top 20 schools dont always have the best composition programs. I go to a mid size school and we have are one of the few, if not the only, school that teaches film scoring and activily scores a full length feature film every year.

Plus mid size schools the individual attention you get it greater and you don't have to sacrifice quality for it.

But like I said before it depends on the school you go to and who teaches composition there.

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Look at the benefits and limitations of smaller and larger programs...

Smaller programs often offer more individual attention from professors. A good program offers a variety of mediums and might be more loose in what focal points of composition to pursue. Some of these programs might give you more control of material you want to learn and allow you to pick and choose to some degree what you can include in your portfolio instead of limiting you to 'higher-level' or 'more modern' styles. I put these in '' because there really is no way to definitively call any style 'higher-level' or 'more modern', but some schools do it rather arbitrarily by decision of the composition faculty. But this can just as easily be a limitation of a smaller program as well depending on the composition faculty.

Another limitation of smaller programs is simply fewer opportunities to network in and out of your field. This can be a biggie if you want to compose professionally. This is what tends to attract some to attend larger programs because of the exposure to professionals within the field. But this can often prove misleading, especially when faculty members only invite their 'buddies' they attended college with instead of professionals who have proven themselves successful in the field. You have to gauge your exposure to networking opportunities with some of the things you wish to accomplish as a composer and as a professional. You really should approach this with a goal-setting, professional mindset. If you don't have a desire to learn as a professional, then a larger composition program will hardly benefit you.

Most professors can get you where you want to be no matter what kind of school you go to so long as you have or develop a professional approach to learning composition. Otherwise, you'll find yourself lost in the clutter and grow increasingly frustrated or apathetic depending on your personality. First, think about what you want to accomplish. Do some research into it, talk to some professors, look into finding some professionals in your area you can speak with, and get some perspective if you don't have any idea what you want to accomplish as a composer. So, that's my two-cents.

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First of all, I'm in Australia, but I'm assuming a lot of what I'm saying will be relevant to the States. I'm going to study next year, and I did a fair amount of research of different places around the country to decide where would be best for me. If you're wanting to study composition next year, you probably have a decent idea where you want to go with it, so look into the places you're willing to go and check which place seems most sympathetic to the direction you want to take. Different schools have different specialities. Some have a leaning towards electro-acoustic music, audio-visual projects, tonal music, computer-generated music, etc. while others offer very broad courses. Another decent idea is to read up on the composers working at the schools. Composers are generally open-minded people (here in Australia, at least), but being taught by someone with similar musical goals and ideals is always a bonus. The final thing you should consider is the direction the course could lead you career-wise (this is the part I'm not sure applies to the states). Some schools have a very practical, industry-focused approach (ie. making you work with film scores, computer programs, etc) that are intended to lead you towards being able to make a living from composition. Others have more academic sensibilities that are likely to lead to research, pedagogy and concert compositions.

Anyway, I've written a long post that may or may not help at all, but hopefully it'll do you some good to read! And finally, don't necessarily aim for the most prestigious schools for their reputation alone, while it looks good on your resume, I think it's more important to look at which place suits you as a composer, and where you want to go with your composing.

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I live in Georgia, and I've been looking into Florida State, Troy and Georgia Southern, because it's about an hour down the road. I don't really want to go far from home, (Florida State's probably about 2-3 hours away), but my friend from my school who I often collaborate with is attending Georgia Southern, and we want to stick together. So many things to consider, and time's running out.

Let me tell you something kid, friends are not important at all. Do not under any circumstances choose a school so you can hang with your buddies. You go to school to learn, learn, and learn some more. If you're cool and do what any normal person in college does you'll make plenty of friends when you get there. Making new friends is healthy anyway, high school relationships aren't supposed to last.

Anyway, schools...

Florida State - Top 10 music school, and I believe the 3rd largest student enrollment in the U.S. (the others being UNT and Indiana). This means you'll have access to a lot of performers, most of which are very good (the performance program is very robust there). The faculty is pretty open there, and you'll learn a lot. If you're up to the challenge and really want to work and have a rigorous musical and academic experience, then go to Florida State. The university is also in the top 100 public schools, at least top 120, so that's another thing to consider. Oh yeah, they're also great if you want to work with electronics/computers etc. That isn't my bag, so I can't really comment further on that, but you can contact the professors about that.

Some other things to consider though, what are your interests? I would actually recommend getting a second degree, it doesn't have to be music-related, it could be anything. I'm saying this because assuming you're not getting some sort of out of state tuition waiver, then you WILL be paying out of state credit fees, so that'll eat up a lot of aid/scholarship money. Again, I don't know your credentials, but I'm just assuming worst case scenario. If FSU winds up being too expensive, I would suggest going to University of Georgia, they have a very solid music school and university, not to mention in-state tuition. I really don't recommend going to Georgia Southern or Troy. Neither are very prominent as far as the academy is concerned and to be perfectly honest I've never heard anything about their music schools, which is a bad thing as far as prestige and PR are concerned. So yeah, I definitely recommend Florida State if you get into the school and pay for it, or University of Georgia as a 2nd option.

If you want a good safety, I recommend Georgia State.

Again, if you can reply and tell me your academic interests and how you are as a student that would help a lot.

Not really, top 20 schools dont always have the best composition programs. I go to a mid size school and we have are one of the few, if not the only, school that teaches film scoring and activily scores a full length feature film every year.

Plus mid size schools the individual attention you get it greater and you don't have to sacrifice quality for it.

But like I said before it depends on the school you go to and who teaches composition there.

See my response to MaskedTrumpeter's post above for some of what I would say.

Anyway, I kind of hear this wimpy argument sometimes, but I'm not buying it. I mean if a program is large, and it also graduates good people and carries a certain amount of prestige, where does the poor education come in? Of course it depends on your level, but people colleges determine that in admissions anyway. So if you're good enough to get into an Indiana or a North Texas or a Florida State, then why wouldn't you go?

ALSO, as I mentioned above, part of studying composition is access to players and hopefully being a player yourself. Obviously you're going to be around better players and ensembles and directors at a top 20 school, not a mid-tier school.

Look at the benefits and limitations of smaller and larger programs...

Smaller programs often offer more individual attention from professors. A good program offers a variety of mediums and might be more loose in what focal points of composition to pursue. Some of these programs might give you more control of material you want to learn and allow you to pick and choose to some degree what you can include in your portfolio instead of limiting you to 'higher-level' or 'more modern' styles. I put these in '' because there really is no way to definitively call any style 'higher-level' or 'more modern', but some schools do it rather arbitrarily by decision of the composition faculty. But this can just as easily be a limitation of a smaller program as well depending on the composition faculty.

Another limitation of smaller programs is simply fewer opportunities to network in and out of your field. This can be a biggie if you want to compose professionally. This is what tends to attract some to attend larger programs because of the exposure to professionals within the field. But this can often prove misleading, especially when faculty members only invite their 'buddies' they attended college with instead of professionals who have proven themselves successful in the field. You have to gauge your exposure to networking opportunities with some of the things you wish to accomplish as a composer and as a professional. You really should approach this with a goal-setting, professional mindset. If you don't have a desire to learn as a professional, then a larger composition program will hardly benefit you.

Most professors can get you where you want to be no matter what kind of school you go to so long as you have or develop a professional approach to learning composition. Otherwise, you'll find yourself lost in the clutter and grow increasingly frustrated or apathetic depending on your personality. First, think about what you want to accomplish. Do some research into it, talk to some professors, look into finding some professionals in your area you can speak with, and get some perspective if you don't have any idea what you want to accomplish as a composer. So, that's my two-cents.

I think you misunderstood the definition of "small and large" colleges. However, I'd rather not debate with you since you tend to be pretty long winded, like in this post for instance.

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Let me tell you something kid, friends are not important at all. Do not under any circumstances choose a school so you can hang with your buddies. You go to school to learn, learn, and learn some more. If you're cool and do what any normal person in college does you'll make plenty of friends when you get there. Making new friends is healthy anyway, high school relationships aren't supposed to last.

Anyway, schools...

Florida State - Top 10 music school, and I believe the 3rd largest student enrollment in the U.S. (the others being UNT and Indiana). This means you'll have access to a lot of performers, most of which are very good (the performance program is very robust there). The faculty is pretty open there, and you'll learn a lot. If you're up to the challenge and really want to work and have a rigorous musical and academic experience, then go to Florida State. The university is also in the top 100 public schools, at least top 120, so that's another thing to consider. Oh yeah, they're also great if you want to work with electronics/computers etc. That isn't my bag, so I can't really comment further on that, but you can contact the professors about that.

Some other things to consider though, what are your interests? I would actually recommend getting a second degree, it doesn't have to be music-related, it could be anything. I'm saying this because assuming you're not getting some sort of out of state tuition waiver, then you WILL be paying out of state credit fees, so that'll eat up a lot of aid/scholarship money. Again, I don't know your credentials, but I'm just assuming worst case scenario. If FSU winds up being too expensive, I would suggest going to University of Georgia, they have a very solid music school and university, not to mention in-state tuition. I really don't recommend going to Georgia Southern or Troy. Neither are very prominent as far as the academy is concerned and to be perfectly honest I've never heard anything about their music schools, which is a bad thing as far as prestige and PR are concerned. So yeah, I definitely recommend Florida State if you get into the school and pay for it, or University of Georgia as a 2nd option.

If you want a good safety, I recommend Georgia State.

Again, if you can reply and tell me your academic interests and how you are as a student that would help a lot.

The school is only as good as its faculty, so if you're investigating your options, talk to the composition faculty. Tell them what your interests are, what you want to accomplish, and don't buy into this tier-based reasoning quoted above. All this tier-based reasoning does is provides more frequent networking opportunities. That's ALL. You can do the same kind of networking by attending any of a thousand festivals in the next four years.

See my response to MaskedTrumpeter's post above for some of what I would say.

Anyway, I kind of hear this wimpy argument sometimes, but I'm not buying it. I mean if a program is large, and it also graduates good people and carries a certain amount of prestige, where does the poor education come in? Of course it depends on your level, but people colleges determine that in admissions anyway. So if you're good enough to get into an Indiana or a North Texas or a Florida State, then why wouldn't you go?

ALSO, as I mentioned above, part of studying composition is access to players and hopefully being a player yourself. Obviously you're going to be around better players and ensembles and directors at a top 20 school, not a mid-tier school.

Categorically wrong. This is hardly universal, and you're speaking in absolutes you have no basis for...

I think you misunderstood the definition of "small and large" colleges. However, I'd rather not debate with you since you tend to be pretty long winded, like in this post for instance.

Programs, not colleges. A small program offers some benefits that larger programs don't, but often not the networking opportunities that larger programs often have by default of being considered "a higher-tiered" program. But these tiers are meaningless outside of academia. Your music is going to earn you money, not the school you attend. Hova, you're being disingenuous and merely generalizing this whole scenario.

-------------------------------------------------

To the OP poster: You absolutely MUST talk to the composition faculty at these schools and tell them what you want to accomplish. They should tell you whether they can help you, and if they dance around your questions or try to misdirect you away from what YOU are trying to achieve with your education, run like hell.

And for God's sakes, if you're going to go to a school because it has a 'good' reputation, do so with the intent of going onto the doctoral level and becoming a professor of music. That's the ONLY reason to consider 'prestige' of the school, because prestige only exists within the circle of academia. Outside of the academic environment, it's absolutely meaningless, and more often a waste of money if your expectations aren't met. Don't assume they will be just because the school boasts an impressive reputation. Academia is a closed system. The world outside of academia couldn't give a damn.

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Thanks for all the replies; they've all helped me a lot.

hova -

I've been planning to double major in Music Composition and Music Education. The only other field that interests me is weather, and interestingly enough, Florida State offers a degree in meteorology. I'm an all A student in the top 10 of my high school class with an SAT score of 1910 (1280 verbal/math). Performance wise, I'm very solid on both trumpet and euphonium. Have been just a few points shy every year of making Georgia's All-State. My band director and AP Music Theory seems to think I can get in anywhere with my composition and playing abilities. His suggestions have been North Texas, Florida State, Troy (he attended Troy), etc. Others, however, seem to thing Georgia Southern would fit me just fine. I don't want to go too far from home, and I'm trying to weigh which option would benefit me more - staying close to home - or moving on to something bigger and better.

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Thanks for all the replies; they've all helped me a lot.

hova -

I've been planning to double major in Music Composition and Music Education. The only other field that interests me is weather, and interestingly enough, Florida State offers a degree in meteorology. I'm an all A student in the top 10 of my high school class with an SAT score of 1910 (1280 verbal/math). Performance wise, I'm very solid on both trumpet and euphonium. Have been just a few points shy every year of making Georgia's All-State. My band director and AP Music Theory seems to think I can get in anywhere with my composition and playing abilities. His suggestions have been North Texas, Florida State, Troy (he attended Troy), etc. Others, however, seem to thing Georgia Southern would fit me just fine. I don't want to go too far from home, and I'm trying to weigh which option would benefit me more - staying close to home - or moving on to something bigger and better.

FSU is ranked no. 1 for music education, but I think if you wanted to go all out with Education and Composition you're better off going to North Texas. Definitely make them your top priority, they've got great faculty and Texas is GREAT for education in general. Great place to live, good schools, you have every reason to attend UNT. If your teacher went to Troy then you shouild look into them too. Who knows, maybe they'd be a fit? Keep George Southern as a safety.

As far as your credentials, you sound like you'd be a competitive candidate, so definitely push for the best schools than you can attend.

For the record, there's a reason people who go to Ivies and top 50 schools are successful. I'd hate to break it to some of you out there, but schools like Duke, Stanford, Yale and Berkeley are better than Arkansas State, Tennessee Yokel College or GameCock University for a reason, just sayin, just sayin.

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FSU is ranked no. 1 for music education, but I think if you wanted to go all out with Education and Composition you're better off going to North Texas. Definitely make them your top priority, they've got great faculty and Texas is GREAT for education in general. Great place to live, good schools, you have every reason to attend UNT. If your teacher went to Troy then you shouild look into them too. Who knows, maybe they'd be a fit? Keep George Southern as a safety.

As far as your credentials, you sound like you'd be a competitive candidate, so definitely push for the best schools than you can attend.

For the record, there's a reason people who go to Ivies and top 50 schools are successful. I'd hate to break it to some of you out there, but schools like Duke, Stanford, Yale and Berkeley are better than Arkansas State, Tennessee Yokel College or GameCock University for a reason, just sayin, just sayin.

Hova, I think the point other of us are trying to make is that, while some universities come with certain amount of prestige, that doesn't necessarily make them the best place to study music, or more specifically, composition, and even more specifically, certain types of composition. Every place has its pros and cons, and finding the place ideally suited to the individual is the best approach. If you feel its important to attend a university that has a very good reputation, that's completely understandable, but it might not be the best approach for everyone. The poster of the OP is weighing up where to study with how far he's willing to move away from home. Some people have other priorities and preferences when it comes to choosing where to study.

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For the record, there's a reason people who go to Ivies and top 50 schools are successful. I'd hate to break it to some of you out there, but schools like Duke, Stanford, Yale and Berkeley are better than Arkansas State, Tennessee Yokel College or GameCock University for a reason, just sayin, just sayin.

Just sayin'? I think the reasons have been thoroughly covered...

A) Going to an 'academically-ranked' school benefits you if you plan to stick to 'academia' as a career path.

B) Going to an 'academically-ranked' school offers an additional benefit of networking opportunities with prominent composers and musicians.

Neither A nor B may have anything to do with the music you want to write, your career ambitions, or your overall experience. Going to an Ivy School really doesn't mean anything OUTSIDE of university education. For THE RECORD, the reputation of the school could mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to your ambitions. And you'll never really know the answers to any of these matters if you don't speak with the faculty at these institutions.

---------------------------------------

I find this superiority complex of yours rather distasteful, Hova. Broadly generalizing institutions as superior and inferior simply because of some arbitrary ranking system thoroughly advocates ignorance. It's bad enough that you marginalize lower-tiered schools as though this 'ranking system' gleams ANY objective perspective, but that this is really the ONLY criteria you advocate is grotesquely idiotic.

The only thing you're "just sayin'" is that because a school arbitrarily ranks 'higher' than another, that's a better school to attend by default. I highly doubt you actually know 'why' these music programs rank higher... if you think you do, by all means, share your insight. Just sayin'.

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Let's see if you get into a decent law firm if you go to Tennessee State and not Duke Law

Welcome to real life

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Let's see if you get into a decent law firm if you go to Tennessee State and not Duke Law

Welcome to real life

That's not an appropriate parallel to a musical education.

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USC has a good program, and good professors (Morten Lauridsen :mellow: OMG <3 <3 <3)

But it's undergraduate program is COSTLY ($38k a year).

I'm planning on going somewhere else, then switching there for my Masters and Doctorates later on (for a grand total of $6k total at USC :D)

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USC has a good program, and good professors (Morten Lauridsen :mellow: OMG <3 <3 <3)

But it's undergraduate program is COSTLY ($38k a year).

I'm planning on going somewhere else, then switching there for my Masters and Doctorates later on (for a grand total of $6k total at USC :D)

I second the ethos/creds of Morten Lauridsen. He's godly.

Except... for some odd reason he uses the same chord progression in every song at least once. Talk about a signature. lol.

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How do you find the ranking of schools anyway? Does anyone know anything about Mannes: The New School for Music? Their brochure and website do not give very specific information. Does anyone have any personal experience with this school in either violin performance or composition?

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Let's see if you get into a decent law firm if you go to Tennessee State and not Duke Law

Yeah, if a job opening seeks a candidate with a law degree and one candidate went to a higher-ranked law school, you'd have a pretty valid point. Does this even apply to any job in composition (aside from teaching)?

Whoa! Look at all those jobs posted on Monster or Yahoo Jobs seeking composers! WOW! (Hint: There are none.) And getting 'a job' as a composer, as most of us know except maybe you, often involves -demonstrating- your talents as a composer. So, going to some elite school and paying 20k-40k or paying 10k to a local community college, it doesn't matter if you can produce quality work and promote yourself. NO ONE CARES where you went to school for music.

Welcome to real life.

Welcome to real life.

:headwall:

This whole diatribe of yours is more like the blind leading the blind, if you ask me.

I perceive you to be a college student at one of these prestigious institutions (or an instructor) who actually has no experience outside of academia. Maybe you're just looking for schools to attend and think you have all of it figured out. You don't. It's obvious.

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Yeah, if a job opening seeks a candidate with a law degree and one candidate went to a higher-ranked law school, you'd have a pretty valid point. Does this even apply to any job in composition (aside from teaching)?

Whoa! Look at all those jobs posted on Monster or Yahoo Jobs seeking composers! WOW! (Hint: There are none.) And getting 'a job' as a composer, as most of us know except maybe you, often involves -demonstrating- your talents as a composer. So, going to some elite school and paying 20k-40k or paying 10k to a local community college, if you can produce quality work and promote yourself, NO ONE CARES where you went to school.

Welcome to real life.

:headwall:

This whole diatribe of yours is more like the blind leading the blind, if you ask me.

I perceive you to be a college student at one of these prestigious institutions (or an instructor) who actually has no experience outside of academia. Maybe you're just looking for schools to attend and think you have all of it figured out. You don't. It's obvious.

Your stilted prose doesn't hide that red neck, boy

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Your stilted prose doesn't hide that red neck, boy

I find it quite odd that you presume to know where I live or that I'm a "red neck" at all. Where I live is not included in my profile, and I don't really bother offering that information whimsically. Being a new member, your personal knowledge of me is abnormally accurate... which really leads me to believe one of two things. Either you're miraculously knowledgeable of me and know me personally (I doubt this), or you're a previous member that was banned for practically stalking me online and created a new account to avoid the attention of moderators here at YC.

Of course, suspicion could be considered "the red neck in me," I suppose. Needless to say, I'm watching your conduct very closely, Hova. I promise that if my suspicions turn out to be founded beyond my current speculation, I will use due diligence to ensure you don't taint this forum with your crass conduct, whether targeted at me or others.

Good day.

-AA

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FSU is ranked no. 1 for music education, but I think if you wanted to go all out with Education and Composition you're better off going to North Texas...

For the record, there's a reason people who go to Ivies and top 50 schools are successful...

I would like to know, where can I find these public statistics and who collected them and how? How can who rank something definitively when it's subjective anyways?

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I'm going to politely ask everyone to think before you post, please.

Hova, your hostile attitude isn't helping. Keep this civil, all of you.

--------------------

That said,

... getting 'a job' as a composer, as most of us know except maybe you, often involves -demonstrating- your talents as a composer. So, going to some elite school and paying 20k-40k or paying 10k to a local community college, it doesn't matter if you can produce quality work and promote yourself. NO ONE CARES where you went to school for music.

Spot on.

Music, as with most arts, is a categorically different career angle, and requires different

approaches when developing said career. One can't draw parallels with Law, or Medicine, or bus-driving ...

...

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