Friday, November 4, 2011

Music Recording Schools

Quite regularly I get emails from young people asking me what recording schools I recommend.  When I was in the same position in the mid nineties there wasn't a lot of options in Ontario; you had Fanshawe college as the "public" option and a bunch of private schools with varying degrees of reputations.  Currently there's a lot more choice as a few more public colleges have started programs and the list of private schools offering programs is getting pretty long.  I often joke that there's more recording schools out there than there are actual recording jobs!

As with anything in life you always have to be focused on your goal first and destination second.  That is to say, figure out what you want to do and then devise a plan on how to achieve it.  In this situation it's always best to talk to people doing what you want to do and find out how they got there.  If you decide you're going to take a post secondary program do extensive research.  The cost of going to one is most likely going to saddle you with a lot of debt so you want to make sure that the place you're going to is respected in the industry.  I won't be getting specific here but there are definitely some very good and very bad options out there so do lots of research.

Here's some things you can do to make sure you go to the right school:

1)  Ask a bunch of people established in the industry what schools they prefer to see when hiring.
2)  Talk to past and current students of the program and ask them what they think of the program.
3)  Find out the curriculum and what the ratio of lesson to lab time is.  Make sure that this fits your learning style and goals.
4)  Find out the names of the people teaching the courses in the program and make sure they have the credentials and experience that you feel will benefit you on your career path.

For what it's worth I went to Fanshawe College's MIA program and I would definitely put it at the top of the list education wise.  The interns I've gotten from there have always been top notch.

Some of the better schools you apply to may be difficult to get into and will require some work for applications.  It will improve your chances dramatically if you can get some experience before going to school.  Having experience will also help you get more out of the program as well.  A year or two isn't a lot of time to teach all that has to be learned so the more you know going in, the easier you'll be able to grasp some of the more complicated concepts you'll be taught.  It's unlikely that you'll be getting any great internships without experience or post secondary education so you'll have to get out there and create your own opportunities.

When I was growing up I lived in North Bay Ontario, so there really wasn't a lot of opportunities in the music industry.  I tried to create as many as possible to gain experience with whatever limited resources I had.  This usually involved recording people for free on my 4-track cassette recorder as much as I could. I even developed and produced a charitable compilation cassette for an environmental organization which involved me recording 14 different artists in the community.  Was this something that was going to make me a big success?  Not really but it was a good cause and was a good, albeit small stepping stone for me.  My point is that this is a very difficult business and you have to create your own opportunities.  You can't just wait for things to happen.  The reference letters and experience that I gained from that project and many more assisted me to getting to Fanshawe and from there to here.

Going along with that theme I should mention how important it is in general to create your own opportunities if you expect to make a living in the music industry.  It's never been an easy business but now a days it's very difficult.  I get a few emails a week from people wanting to intern with me for free and because of the work I do I generally don't have much for them to do as I prefer doing it myself.  Imagine an industry where you can't even get a job working for free!  Not exactly promising but not impossible.  Just work hard and don't expect things to fall in your lap.  Seek out and create the opportunities that are out there with an industry in transition and create your own success.

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