Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based businessman Don Gayhardt is a fintech executive who also dedicates his time to philanthropy and other business ventures. For example, as the chairman of Music Training Center Holdings, Don Gayhardt provides oversight to a group that allows children to train in subjects related to music and the performing arts at multiple locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
When children are exposed to music from a young age through classes like those provided by Music Training Center Holdings, it can inspire a love of music that stays with them throughout life. Some young music students may even be influenced to pursue music in a professional capacity and seek admission to a music school after graduation from high school.
If you are among the many students who wish to study music at an institution of higher education, here are four questions to ask yourself before you choose which school to attend.
1. Which suits my needs best: a university or a conservatory?
Higher education in music can be pursued in a traditional university setting or at a conservatory exclusively dedicated to the study of music. The type of school that’s right for you will depend on your professional goals and the kind of experience you want to have as you earn your degree. A conservatory will require students to take some general education courses, but the primary focus of study will be on music. Coursework is often more intense at a conservatory, as the main purpose is to teach students to become professional performers. The level of competition for admission into a conservatory also may be much higher than at a university.
On the other hand, the benefit of attending a university or college to major in music means that your experience is likely to be more balanced. For instance, you’ll have the opportunity to take classes in a much wider range of subjects within and outside of music. Students who choose to attend a university can still train to become performers, but they’ll also be able to prepare for other career paths in music, such as business, therapy, and education.
2. What are the faculty and curriculum like at the school I’m interested in?
The faculty and curriculum at the music school you choose to attend play a significant role in your development as a music student. Learning about and meeting the faculty you would be learning from is an important part of choosing a school. The majority of music programs at the university level require students to take a certain number of hours of private lessons with different instructors every semester. If you feel like you wouldn’t get along with the instructors at a school, or simply don’t enjoy their style of playing or teaching, it’s going to be much more difficult to enjoy your lessons and, by extension, to learn. If you like the faculty members at a particular school, it’s important to ascertain how accessible they are outside of class for questions and help with assignments.
The same consideration should be given to the curriculum of the school that you are considering. Look into the types of classes that are offered, as well as which courses are required and what your elective options are. Additionally, make sure to do some cross-referencing when it comes to claims. If a school says that its curriculum prepares students for a certain type of work in music, check out the accomplishments of its alumni to see if you can find evidence for this claim.
3. How can my financial situation impact my decision?
Cost may play a significant role in which music school you choose to attend. Larger, more prestigious schools located far from your hometown may not be in your budget, and it’s important to remember that you can still get an excellent music education from a smaller, lesser-known school close to home. As with anything in music, the value you get out of your music education will ultimately come down to how much work you’re willing to put into it. If you have your heart set on a more expensive school, you can look into financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants, and student loans, or you may choose to build up a savings account by working a job before you enroll in school. There really isn’t a “wrong option” when it comes to getting a music education—there is only the option that is right for your personal situation.
4. Would I be more comfortable in a rural or a city setting?
Though not as critical as factors such as faculty, curriculum, and affordability, it’s important to consider how the location of the school you select will affect you as a student. Schools in major cities like New York, San Francisco, or Boston tend to be part of thriving local arts scenes with many opportunities for music students to connect and collaborate with likeminded individuals. However, the busy nature of a big city may not appeal to some students. A smaller, slower-paced town may provide you with a platform to relax and truly focus on your music education through dedicated study and practice, away from the higher costs and many distractions that often accompany big city life.
Ultimately, it’s important to visit the schools you’re seriously considering before committing to enrollment. Taking a trip to the campus will help you get a feel for how comfortable you will be with the faculty, at the school, and living in the town. Remember to take notes about your experiences at each school and ask questions of music students who already attend. This will help you become as well-informed as possible when you make a decision.