4 Lies They Taught You in Music School

Posted by Christine Occhino on Jul 21, 2015 11:00 AM
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If you're fortunate enough to have been able to go to an accredited music school, then you know that not everything you're told during your time there is true. And moreover, you know how annoying it is to get those donation request letters after only a few short months of internalizing the years of crippling financial debt you will be inundated with in order to pay for that music school experience! But I digress. Here are four of the biggest lies they taught you in music school – and what the reality is.

1. Ear Training 3 is essential to your music career

Okay, so maybe this helps your playing and musical development, but let's get real, people. In the spectrum of all things making a living, it's obvious that doing well in Ear Training class is not going to make or break your life anytime soon. But I'll tell you what does matter: business courses. I'm a firm believer that some basic music business classes should be an absolute requirement of all music college students. After all, we're all truly our own businesses with what we do, and unless we've been properly educated on how to make a living from the various opportunities that exist within our respective industries, we're all just a bunch of talented people with a really expensive piece of paper, now aren't we?

2. You can count on our alumni network for career opportunities after you graduate

While that may be true, the alumni network in itself isn't enough to create long-lasting success after school is over. What you do with that network is what will make all the difference. And after you've graduated really isn't the time to start thinking about those things. It's imperative to network and make a lot of cool and important contacts while you're at school to ensure that you can maintain and nurture those relationships for mutual competitive gain long after those dorm hallways clear.

3. Grades are important

Grades might be important to graduate or to maintain a scholarship, but in the real world? They don't mean doink! As a music school grad, what you've learned and absorbed from all of your classes is what really counts more than what's on the paper. Can you execute well when push comes to shove? Can you perform under pressure? Do you have the necessary skills to be competitive in your market? A 4.0 might be nice for your parents to celebrate while you're home during spring break, but do you know what's even better? A solid understanding of your subject matter that will translate into you getting the job after school over the next guy! Whether that means you get the gig in the pit on Broadway, snag the dream product manager position at your favorite record label, or get picked up for a national tour, it's time to throw away the textbooks and prove what you're worth in smarts, experience, and sweat equity after all of those years of specialized education.

4. After school is over, all of your hard work will pay off

And the most laughable point of all – it's most certainly not a cakewalk once you leave those crowded, music-filled hallways. I think we all know a ton of peers who went through the motions and have absolutely nothing to show for it post-grad. Unfortunately, just following the coursework and accepting your diploma at the end of your four years is most certainly not enough to guarantee success. Once you leave school (if you choose to graduate), the games have only begun. There's more pressure than ever to apply the things you've learned, find a way to make money doing music, and show your friends and family why it was all worth it!

So make the most out of all of your classes, get to know your professors, make friends and even more quality acquaintances, challenge yourself to be the best, and most of all, prove that those lies they taught you in music school won't hold you back from anything. (Hey, maybe you could even end up writing for Sonicbids too someday! #berkleealum)


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Christine Occhino is the founder and artistic director of The Pop Music Academy and has experience working at Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment, in addition to working as a performing artist for over a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in music business & management with a concentration in entrepreneurship and vocal performance from Berklee College of Music, where she was a vocal scholarship recipient and former editor-in-chief of The Berklee Groove. She is also the proud founder and CEO of Hope In Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that brings music to those in need.

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Topics: Musician Success Guide, Strategies for Success


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