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The Weekend Vote Weekend Vote: What class would you add first to music school curriculum?

September 9, 2012 at 10:34 PM

This week member Michelle Jones made some great suggestions for how universities can help their music students adapt to a changing world, where symphony jobs may be more rare and less likely to offer a full employment or salary.

I thought it would be interesting to poll readers about which of those kinds of classes would be the most important to implement first.

Some of her ideas included classes in business that encompass marketing, law, accounting and more. I've tried to boil them down into possible subjects for a university class. Let's say a music school or conservatory agreed to start by offering one of the following classes. Which would you like to see the most?

I agree that business classes for musicians are very important. When I was an undergraduate at Northwestern University, the percussion teacher there (alas, what was his name?) offered a class in the business of music performance. I had the impression that this class was his idea and the university went along with it, not the other way around. He was a fountain of business advice to his students, encouraging them to start right away, marketing themselves. He encourage students to think about all kinds of ways to set themselves up to succeed not just as an artist, but also in the business in music. Having that class as part of the music school curriculum benefited not just the students who took it, but also students throughout the music school, who caught on to those ideas from their colleagues. People marketed their college recitals, talked up their performances, wrote out their resumes, debated the merits of non-profit status over dinner -- they already started practicing certain business techniques while in school. I'm most grateful for the fact that so many aspects of the music business were already familiar to me when I graduated from music school!

From Corwin Slack
Posted on September 9, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Computer programming--it doesn't require the full discipline of an undergraduate degree but not everyone can do it and one can frequently work from home doing it.
From elise stanley
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 6:11 AM
Seems they are all great ideas - shame your software does not permit multiple selections. The preference (currently) is from the top down I wonder if the outcome would be different if they were listed in a different order?
From Peter Charles
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 6:26 AM
How to keep a poker face when playing for conductors ...
From Simon Streuff
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 8:35 AM
The answer to this question may depend also on the country you live in. We in germany have a very complicated financial system and if you cannot or don't want to employ a professional for the tax declaration the job of managing finances as an musician with all the different means of income can be quite confusing.
Marketing is still important and so is health. But on my music school both were talked about. We have some quite good musician-doctors who teach in the music university of hanover musicians-physiology. Also we have courses of recording and working with Midi and arranging software such as Sibelius or Finale.
From Asher Wade
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 9:21 AM
Yep! "Survival Tactics-101" has to be number#one; thus, I would think a professional musician should 'also' learn something like plumbing, or heating-&-air-conditioning; ya`know, services which we 'all' take for granted, but can't live without. {Sorta like the story of the plumber who, after working for 6hrs, presented his bill to the owner of the house (who 'happened' to be a neurosurgeon), the owner screamed, "Yikes, I don't make this kinda money, & I'm a neurosurgeon!!!" ~ To which the plumber replied, "Yeah well, when I was a neurosurgeon, I didn't make this kind of money 'either'!"}
From Paul Deck
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 12:07 PM
I said health just because without that, how will any of the rest of it matter?

Corwin said computer classes. Maybe the idea of having to do web programming or data entry in your PJs to make ends meet does not appeal much to aspiring musicians, but the more you can do on your own in terms of developing a web site, programming an SQL database, etc., the less you have to pay others to do that kind of thing for you.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Yearly cost of a white-shoe firm CPA: $300

Yearly cost of a daily coffee at Starbucks: $700

Paying someone else to do your taxes: Priceless AND Cheap.

Snark aside, there is something to be said for outsourcing. Time vs. money, the second oldest story in the book.

I pay my CPA to keep up with the never-ending, ever-changing tax laws, let alone accuracy. If y'all want to spend your lives wading through IRS "literature", well, you do that.

"Real" businesses use professional accountants. Why shouldn't musicians?

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 2:58 PM
I said health also. But I've noticed that Curtis already has classes in AT. So next, I'd say business. Even young students are aready using computer technology and figuring out marketing, even before music school.
From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 4:27 PM
I voted health/body knowledge because that is my personal "soapbox" and specialty that I still feel a lot of teachers ignore. But business is right up there as a second!
From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 4:37 PM
And Anne, I agree!!
From Christian Lesniak
Posted on September 10, 2012 at 9:02 PM
I think it would be invaluable to include anatomy/physiology in curricula with a close look at ergonomics in string pedagogy. The earlier that ease of playing can be established, the better for kids. There is no reason for people to have to wait until college to start undoing habits of tension and pain. I think there is still quite a bit of room for science research into ergonomics in general, but if teachers were armed with ongoing, indepth looks into positioning and setup of instruments and accessories for different body types, it would help many people.
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on September 11, 2012 at 4:03 AM
Anne, maybe my view about business is different than yours. My husband and I have our own business. We pay a CPA for tax advice but when it comes to how much should you charge, how many students should you take on, how much are your expenses, etc. then you have to be able to make a budget. I'll bet most professional musicians don't do that. Some have more business sense than others.

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