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Ponderings About Collegiate Trumpet Programs


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trickg
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2021 9:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crazy Finn wrote:
HaveTrumpetWillTravel wrote:
My guess is the program this person was in was not super competitive and that the music program was happy to have majors even if they won't be competitive for competitive music jobs.

That's a good point. Some departments are just happy for students just to remain relevant. Professors with no students are generally in trouble.

I recently talked to another student who went to that college and was part of the trumpet studio. Apparently this college is known for its music ed program, not so much for performance, and marching band is held in high regard. The guy I know refused to be in the marching band, and the director, also a trumpet player, refused to put him in any of the top ensembles regardless of the fact that my friend was the best trumpet player there.

Take that with a grain of salt - I don't specifically know and I'm only getting one side of the story.
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mafields627
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2021 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would guess that in many schools there is pressure to keep students in the studio and not have them change majors. A studio teacher that fails too many students or has too many drop probably won't be around long.
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JayV
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2021 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
1. Is this normal? Are there a lot of music students in college who just sort of get by, getting the grades they need and checking the boxes, but who never really become proficient as a player?


Yes, the overwhelming majority even at elite schools. Of the students who become pro-quality players, only a tiny fraction are able to make a living.

Quote:
2. Where is the accountability of the institution?


There is none, they already got paid.

Quote:
Does there not come a point in time where the professors and instructors should pull these kids aside, give them a heart-to-heart, and suggest they either get it together, or possibly pick up underwater basket weaving as major instead?


No, because the professors need students to make a living by teaching. They would have zero students. It doesn't even matter if the students "get it together," there are usually less than a dozen living-wage trumpet job openings in the world per year at best. There is no work, wages for musicians have collapsed.

Quote:
3. (related to 2) Where does the blame lie? There is now a degreed "musician" in the world who isn't ready at all for any kind of real work as a musician. Is it the fault of the student, or is it the fault of the professors who simply kicked the can down the road?


The student, school, and society all share the blame. What "real work?" Getting paid $50/night to play covers of pop songs in a wedding band? Making $100/service to play a symphony? It's all sub-minimum wage out here unless you're in an ICSOM full-time orchestra or making recordings for the big studios. The professors churning out these students make more to teach than they ever could playing, in most cases.

Quote:
I feel like at some point someone should have pulled this kid aside for a reality check and suggested that they possibly pursue a different course of study.


That should be done for every music student of every instrument regardless of talent or accomplishment level. In the pre-war period, even highly accomplished and somewhat famous musicians had day jobs if they weren't independently wealthy. We're returning to that situation, and covid has accelerated those trends.

There's a general misconception here that can cause a lot of pain for folks: it's not true that being a good or even great player entitles anyone to success, just like it's not true that having a degree entitles anyone to success. There are mediocre players in major orchestras and geniuses with day jobs.
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Shaft
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2021 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There have been some interesting replies here.

I have always marveled over the years about how many college degreed musicians I worked with who were barely up to par musically. I first experienced this at the Armed Forces School of Music.

When I got there, as a kid fresh out of high school I fully expected to be playing catchup to everyone else all the time. That's not what happened. Not only was I not near the end of the pack, I was one of the stronger players in the basic course. There were a few college educated guys who were really good, but by and large, there was a lot of hackery going on, and I watched a number of my fellow students fail out because they couldn't pass the minimum playing audition requirements.

There were some exceptions though. One guy I knew, Jim Smisek, was a fantastic jazz player with freakish lead chops. He's now Dr. Jim Smisek at Seminole State College.

Another guy was Paul Lindsay. Paul went to Juilliard, and joined the Navy after the orchestra gig he'd had in South America (Argentina, maybe?) ended when the orchestra folded. Simply put, he needed a job. Paul was off the scale - he simply never missed a note. That's not an exaggeration. I'd sit next to him in concert band rehearsals every chance I got to pick his brain. The first time we'd run something, he'd play it perfectly. The second and third times he'd start getting bored with it. By the 4th time through he was improvising counter-melodies on what we were playing that fit perfectly with what we were playing.

I've never been the guy to take a lot of lessons. I've gotten a lot of lessons by working with some really strong players over the years, always paying attention to what they were doing, asking questions about what and how they were doing things, but most of the time I always figured it was up to me to work things out in the practice room when it came to chops and technique.

College would have pushed me - there's no doubt about that - but I don't know if it would have pushed me beyond where I currently am. Not after witnessing so many other college educated players who don't play as well as I do.
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Croquethed
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In his book of essays, Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut had a great piece about teaching graduate-level creative writing at one of the leading MFA programs in the country. I think what he observed holds true for just about any creative endeavor, including music:

He observed that you could without too much dispute literally run triage on any given class. That is, the top third of the class had the chops to really shine and really didn't need the degree program. They had the chops AND the drive to figure out how to make it. The degree was gravy.

The bottom third may have gotten out with their degree but simply did not have the chops to make a living writing. They might end up teaching in a mediocre program or writing copy somewhere, but they were essentially not able to improve beyond a certain level.

The middle group, he said, was the group that got the most out of the program. They had some chops, but could maximize the formal instruction and the networking opportunities that came from being enrolled.

One of the best editors I ever worked with had a master's in journalism and said it was the biggest waste of money she ever spent. We bonded over our familiarity with an obscure writer from Poland who was killed in the Holocaust. At the same paper, I worked with a reporter who wasn't very good, yet said her master's program was worth every penny. She was out of the business within a year.

I think we can draw parallels.
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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tend to agree with that - over the years, especially since I got involved learning to be a drummer, I've come to the conclusion that some people just "get it," some people are capable of getting it, but some people just never will.

It may be arrogant of me to think that I'm one of those who just "gets it," but I don't think I'd be too far off the mark. I once had an organist for a wedding ask me where I'd studied, and he was quite surprised when he found out that not only did I not attend a music conservatory, but I had absolutely no music degree or collegiate music training at all. I told him I went to "The Gigging School of Hard Knocks."

I think that a lot of the time, young players get caught up thinking that there's a lot of mystery to being able to play. I've never felt that way about it - you have the technical aspect of playing, and the musical aspect. The technical aspect, provided there aren't fundamental chops problems, is improved and honed through regular drills and practice.

The musical aspect is what separates so many players. A person with poor time is always going to struggle. A person with a poor, unsupported sound is always going to struggle. A person with no sense of style or phrasing is going to struggle. A person with poor intonation is always going to struggle.
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kehaulani
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just want to point out that all instruction in an academic setting doesn't only come from Ivory-Tower academics with little experience in, what we used to call, “the real world”. Here are some of the instructors I studied with in an academic setting.

Samuel Adler, Composer, Eastman School of Music
Sadao Watanabe, Int'l. Performer, God Father of Japanese Jazz
Dick Grove, Film Composer
Richard Lum. First trpt. Honolulu Sym. (Schilke student)
Luigi Zanineli, multi-faceted composer, film composer
Masahiko Sato, Film, TV composer
John Haynie, Trpt.
Dino Giovani, Saxophone

The list goes on. You get the point. Some of this discussion has hidden agendas or naively lacks perspective. Please don't throw the baby out with the wash.


.
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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think I've suggested that good instruction can't be had, depending on the institution. Clearly that's not the case - I personally know two people who went to Oberlin who were exceptional. I know a couple of people who went to Northwestern. Likewise with Peabody, Eastman, North Texas, and a myriad of other notable schools and music programs.

I'm not sure that the student/school that inspired my original post is known for their music program. I mean, they have a robust music program, but I don't know that they have a reputation for producing top-tier players, such as places like Juilliard, Berkley, Eastman, Oberlin, North Texas, etc.

I want to be careful about what I say because my intent is not to step on anyone's toes, so I've been careful not to name names because I don't know who reads this, and I don't want it to come across like the failings of one student is a reflection on the whole institution or that particular instructor.

I remember back around 2007 I was going to chuck my IT career, jump back into a music education program, and get my degree and certification to teach music. I was SUPER nervous when it came time to audition for the program. I was so worried that I wouldn't be up to par or that I wouldn't make the grade. I chose to play through the Balay "Prelude et Ballade" - it was something I already knew, and it was listed as an example of what would be appropriate to play.

I remember a look of curious puzzlement on the faces of the gentlemen doing the auditions. At the time I was 37 and had been steadily gigging and getting paid for it for 20 years, so I was just a bit different than their normal music program candidate. Oddly enough, they had me play through the entire work. Looking back, I think maybe they wanted to hear just how prepared I was. I pretty much nailed it too - I wasn't displeased with it. Compared to the recording of the senior recital that inspired this thread, to say that I was a "just a touch" better isn't a stretch.

Clearly, in hindsight, I needn't have worried - I got my acceptance letter.

In the end I decided to continue with my IT career. I had just gotten into a contract job that paid really well, and I found that I enjoyed most aspects of it - particularly my coworkers and the people I was working for - so I stayed. It seemed to make more sense than spending a bunch of money on a degree to get a job that wouldn't even pay half of what I was currently making.
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JayKosta
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 9:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In many situations, having a college degree is taken to indicate other things than a level of knowledge (or ability) of a subject.

For example -
1) The self-motivation to complete a long duration task that doesn't have constant outside management or supervision.
2) An ability to function with other people who you might not otherwise encounter.
3) Some amount of education outside the main area of study.

Whether any of that is 'true' is debatable, but that is (or at least was) a frequent belief.
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aaron
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To paraphrase an old saying about teaching (maybe this is a Cichowicz quote?): you don't take credit for the good ones, and you don't deserve blame for the bad ones. You seem to be indicting the entire field of collegiate music studies based on this student, but isn't the student the most important factor in this equation (by a long shot)? College isn't a magic box that transforms bad musicians into good ones.

Quote:
Are there a lot of music students in college who just sort of get by, getting the grades they need and checking the boxes, but who never really become proficient as a player?


Sure. This is true of many - most? - college majors. I don't think music is particularly special in this way, except the standards are so high and the job prospects are so dismal that performers need to be exceptional to make a living in their field. This is not unique to music, it's a problem for more respected fields like law.

This is a systemic problem with many causes. I think there's a general acknowledgment that there are too many music students, and that students often enter university music programs without the base skill set to reach proficiency by graduation. I don't think the solution to a systemic problem is college professors berating or failing their students, and professors who tried this approach would likely suffer for it.

I wish students were better informed (and generally better educated) before signing up for music degrees. I wish there were fewer music performance programs, and that they were more intense with higher entrance standards. I'd prefer broken hearts at 18 to broken futures at 25. And I hope that teachers everywhere try to give their students a realistic sense of what it will take to succeed in music.

But ultimately I think a music degree is a valuable experience, even for students who move on to a new field after the fact. And while there are many successful musicians who didn't go to college, in today's world college is absolutely the best place for future musicians to study.
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Jaw04
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lots of things to consider:

There is a lot of BS in higher education, unfortunately. Schools need funding, it's a business. They need warm bodies. Some schools will take just about anybody. Professors are not as concerned about their students future as they are keeping their program alive and keeping their job. A lot of these jobs are stepping stones. They do some good. They provide music for the community, and sometimes good musicians or good music educators do come out of these programs.

There is also BS in decent state school music programs. Professors pad their resumes. The university will pay to have their faculty teach at a music festival in Italy so that all of their faculty are "internationally in demand as an educator" etc. They turn out some good musicians and educators, but many people come out of the program either switching to something else, dropping out, or doing something else entirely with their life. They care how many of their students land jobs, and do some good educating. But a lot of people slip through the cracks.

Then you have the elite conservatories. If you are paying for tuition there, you are basically paying to launch the career of a talented player who is on a scholarship. You might end up with a decent career but the odds are not in your favor.

There's one other point. A recital is very difficult! I have performed some bad recitals in my college days. There are a lot of great musicians that play professionally that would struggle to play a really excellent recital of difficult repertoire. Recitals are grueling, nerve-wracking, and the repertoire is hard, even for undergrad stuff.
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trickg
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 22, 2021 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

aaron wrote:
To paraphrase an old saying about teaching (maybe this is a Cichowicz quote?): you don't take credit for the good ones, and you don't deserve blame for the bad ones. You seem to be indicting the entire field of collegiate music studies based on this student, but isn't the student the most important factor in this equation (by a long shot)? College isn't a magic box that transforms bad musicians into good ones.

So...you know I'm a guy in my 50s who has lived and worked as both a full-time musician in the military band program and as a part-time freelance musician in the Baltimore/Washington area, right? I'm not some guy who just fell off of the turnip truck, and I'm not completely ignorant here of who does and doesn't learn in a college music program.

The main reason I chose to start this thread isn't that I don't have an understanding that not all college music majors are going to wind up as awesome players, but rather the fact that this kid, after 4 years of college music, was (IMO) a fair bit worse than any solid high school level player. This prompted the question about how in the world they got through 4 years of collegiate trumpet without any kind of marked improvement.

There was a serious failing there by all involved - not only the student, who apparently doesn't have the self-awareness to know that playing trumpet is clearly not their bag, but also on the instructor who failed to reach this student in any kind of meaningful way, and the institution as a whole for not having the oversight to keep that kind of failure from occurring.

Then again, maybe this kid was awesome in all of their other music-ed classes. It's my understanding that Music Ed was this student's major. I guess that if you are going to be a music teacher, being a great player is secondary to a person's knowledge of music, but at the same time, if a person is trying to teach others how to play and perform, you'd think they'd be able to perform decently themselves.

Quote:
Sure. This is true of many - most? - college majors. I don't think music is particularly special in this way, except the standards are so high and the job prospects are so dismal that performers need to be exceptional to make a living in their field. This is not unique to music, it's a problem for more respected fields like law.

This is a systemic problem with many causes. I think there's a general acknowledgment that there are too many music students, and that students often enter university music programs without the base skill set to reach proficiency by graduation. I don't think the solution to a systemic problem is college professors berating or failing their students, and professors who tried this approach would likely suffer for it.

I wish students were better informed (and generally better educated) before signing up for music degrees. I wish there were fewer music performance programs, and that they were more intense with higher entrance standards. I'd prefer broken hearts at 18 to broken futures at 25. And I hope that teachers everywhere try to give their students a realistic sense of what it will take to succeed in music.

But ultimately I think a music degree is a valuable experience, even for students who move on to a new field after the fact. And while there are many successful musicians who didn't go to college, in today's world college is absolutely the best place for future musicians to study.

I can tell you that when I left high school in the late 1980s, you didn't get through a college music program and not be able to play at least as well as a good high school kid. NO ONE failed at that level, regardless of how much accepted mediocrity may have been built into the system.
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Shaft
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kehaulani wrote:
I just want to point out that all instruction in an academic setting doesn't only come from Ivory-Tower academics with little experience in, what we used to call, “the real world”. Here are some of the instructors I studied with in an academic setting.

Samuel Adler, Composer, Eastman School of Music
Sadao Watanabe, Int'l. Performer, God Father of Japanese Jazz
Dick Grove, Film Composer
Richard Lum. First trpt. Honolulu Sym. (Schilke student)
Luigi Zanineli, multi-faceted composer, film composer
Masahiko Sato, Film, TV composer
John Haynie, Trpt.
Dino Giovani, Saxophone

The list goes on. You get the point. Some of this discussion has hidden agendas or naively lacks perspective. Please don't throw the baby out with the wash.


.



Just opinion. (No hidden agendas or trumpet conspiracies.)

For cases like the person the original post was discussing,
My opinion is….

There is little return on investment to spend 4 + years in college and still suck.

To what make 40k teaching but maybe still sucking as a player?

Blunt yes but he is the one who has to deal with his choices.

Once again. Just opinion
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kehaulani
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know how it can be clearer - all music degrees are not Musical Performance degrees. Just because someone has a BM degree doesn't mean that s/he is a Performer (i.e. Theory Major, Musicologist, etc.). Do you really want to say that someone has wasted their time and money because they studied with Riccardo Muti but is a mediocre clarinet player?
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Shaft
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 12:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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trickg
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 12:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kehaulani wrote:
I don't know how it can be clearer - all music degrees are not Musical Performance degrees. Just because someone has a BM degree doesn't mean that s/he is a Performer (i.e. Theory Major, Musicologist, etc.). Do you really want to say that someone has wasted their time and money because they studied with Riccardo Muti but is a mediocre clarinet player?

Regardless of what the music degree is, there's an understanding that a certain level of proficiency on an instrument should be expected of the music student.

I would post the video to show you exactly what I'm talking about, but that would be mean-spirited for a number of reasons. It would identify this student by name, and it would also identify where this student went to school - I'm pretty sure their instructor is here on the board. It would also highlight to everyone here just how rough this recital was with no viable means to defend themselves.

When I tell you it's bad, it's stunningly bad. I was quite likely a stronger, more polished player by age 16 in a small-town public school band program with no formal lessons at all. This is a college senior music major. That's 4 years of concert band, at least 1 year of marching band - maybe more - years of private instruction, juries, etc. Even music ed majors have a performance component of their degrees.

I've heard some hackery over the years from degreed music majors, some of them even performance majors, but nothing on the scale of how bad this student was on their senior recital.
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Shaft
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That’s what I’m talking about. For this type of student it’s a complete waste.

Everyone here that has done anything with music in school has seen it firsthand where a person spends tens of thousands of dollars does two or three years and then transfers majors or dropped out of school altogether.


In my opinion. No hidden agenda. That’s a huge waste of money and time. Then there are others who somehow get through the juries and passed everything else with musicianship as if they didn’t even attend school.

That is the topic of this thread and that is what my posts were referring to. I know sometimes when people mention the value of college degree an army of keyboard warriors rises up to keep the status quo.

Even if that is not the case here. I don’t mind the debate. But no one will change my opinion that this guy wasted his money and still sucks.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

trickg wrote:
...
I've heard some hackery over the years from degreed music majors, some of them even performance majors, but nothing on the scale of how bad this student was on their senior recital.

-----------------------------------
Do you think that easier recital pieces could have been done better?

And are you confident that the video was an actual 'serious' recital - from your description I'm entertaining the idea that the whole thing was done as a joke.
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trickg
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2021 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

JayKosta wrote:
trickg wrote:
...
I've heard some hackery over the years from degreed music majors, some of them even performance majors, but nothing on the scale of how bad this student was on their senior recital.

-----------------------------------
Do you think that easier recital pieces could have been done better?

And are you confident that the video was an actual 'serious' recital - from your description I'm entertaining the idea that the whole thing was done as a joke.

It's posted from the University's Youtube account. It was livestreamed, and this person told everyone about it with the provided link on their Facebook page. It's absolutely real.

And most of the pieces were easy - I did most of them before I got out of high school.

I may selectively give the link to a few people in PMs, but I won't post it in the thread.
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