Schools for a rock musician?

<p>I have been reading these threads for a while, but this is my first post. I apologize if I haven't read far back enough, and if my question has already been answered.</p>

<p>My son is a rock musician. He plays the electric bass (and can also muddle through on guitar, keyboards and drums). He has played with professionals, who have been impressed. He just started private lessons w/ one of the top session players around, and is also now studying the upright bass. If he does the work, he should be ready for auditions in a year.</p>

<p>He's a junior in an extremely competitive, highly-ranked high school. His unweighted GPA is only about 3.5, but his SATs should be excellent, and he stands a good chance at being a National Merit Finalist, based on his PSAT prep scores.</p>

<p>His first choice is the Popular Music program at USC, which gives him exactly what he wants. He'll also apply to the Recorded Music Institute at NYU.</p>

<p>And then what? Where else can a budding rock musician go for a college education?
(We've visited Berklee, but will not apply. It's just not the right place for him.) He's not interested enough in jazz to major in it, which crosses a lot of schools off the list. And most of the traditional music majors don't even recognize the electric bass as an instrument.</p>

<p>What are we missing? There must be other schools out there, but I've bounced all over the internet and haven't found them. Any suggestions are most welcome! Thank you!</p>

<p>Your son is very limited if jazz is out of the question. USC's popular music major is a possibility. Belmont has a commercial music major but spends the first two years working in a classical format. Berklee's bass department is very good, too bad it is off the list.</p>

<p>If he will consider jazz in addition to other contemporary styles, U. Denver Lamont has a commercial/jazz electric bass major as does Duquenes. That is about it. Rollins does recognize E bass but it is not a rock program. </p>

<p>The other way to use electric bass is to major in recording arts of some sort where the program requires an audition. More schools open up in that area.
I have really researched as I have a contemporary electric bass player but she will play jazz and she also plays double bass jazz and classical. Berklee is her top choice. </p>

<p>Good luck in your searching. Search this forum for bass, there are lots of threads!</p>

<p>This may not be the answer you're looking for, but sometimes I think that musicians who work in popular genres (i.e., not classical and probably not jazz) have a stronger sense of purpose as "outsider artists" and are going to have a richer life experience and therefore richer range of expression if they get a liberal arts (or perhaps a BFA arts) experience rather than being formally schooled in their art. I understand why classical musicians need conservatory training, but does rock really belong inside the academy? (This is a rhetorical question, not to step on anyone's toes.) From what you write, your son came a long way on his own and recently started a fruitful mentorship with a session artist. Could it be that his best bet is to develop his passion as an extracurricular? I don't mean to say that music would not remain his first love and career choice, but rather that his musical development would be freer and positively informed if it is not fettered by formal studies. My kids went to middle school with some boys whose band is so popular (EMI contract, touring, etc.) that I think they may have taken a leave of absence from college. But they are not music majors. I've had a number of students over the years who were very serious rock, pop, or alternative musicians, but simultaneously pursuing BAs in English. (I remember one guy who spent our class break every week simultaneously on two cell phone calls, a phone in each ear, talking to his mom and his manager...</p>

<p>We were in a similar place a couple of years ago with my S. Difference is that he has studied jazz from age 8 privately and been heavily involved in jazz in high school but also involved in a rock band which he loves. </p>

<p>Here is my take: Don't cross anything off the list just yet. As he is just beginning his private studies, he may find he loves the upright and wants to dive in more deeply which jazz studies allows (this actually happened to a friend of my S). The other thing is that jazz is the basis for popular music and most programs will incorporate that study into their curriculum in some way (although I am not familiar with how USC handles the pop music program). By only looking for non-jazz based programs he will extremely limit his possibilities at this time when he should be looking to expand his list as a Junior.</p>

<p>What ended up happening with my S is that when he analyzed what it was that he really wanted out of music study which was a combination of being able to network in a city that had a strong music culture as well as connecting to a teacher/program that could take him to another level as a musician - he actually dropped the popular music concept and decided to concentrate on jazz studies - especially after having a few lessons with teachers in certain programs.</p>

<p>We think they really know what they want at 16 and 17 but it is a journey for them at this point. Just make sure he fully explores it. Also, we found exactly what musictwins suggested for non-jazz, pop/rock programs. If you can afford it at all, have him take a few lessons at some of the schools you are looking at. This helped immensely.</p>

<p>PS: His grades are fine just encourage to maintain/or upward trend gpa if possible and SAT's will help with NYU/USC for sure as they will with any University based program.</p>

<p>I have to admit, from what I know about music and rock music, I wonder how much a conservatory would help in that world (and I am not knocking rock musicians, far from it). I have to agree with someone else, maybe a more broad based education would be better. I kind of wonder if things like studying music in terms of musicology, learning about different styles of music, learning about world music, getting that exposure, and maybe training in theory and ear training wouldn't give a great grounding in terms of finding a rock musicians own voice....or simply going to school in a place where there is the ability to be exposed to a lot of music, maybe not even majoring in music, and using that as a springboard. Take this as it is offered, it is a suggestion simply based on what I see:)</p>

<p>mtandbassmom.</p>

<p>My son is a popular music performance major at USC. I'm not that familiar with other programs but feel somewhat qualified to respond to some of the other comments about pursuing a popular music performance degree because we considered some of the issues other posters have raised.</p>

<p>First remember that most music schools didn't institute jazz programs until jazz popularity was in decline. USC is a little out front, but I suspect a popular music definition would encompass jazz if that were the popular form at the time. The idea of a popular music degree is to advance the music knowledge of talented musicians who are interested in a popular music career, not one in classical or jazz. It is obviously not required because many people who are popular musicians have not pursued music degrees or maybe even pursued classical or jazz degrees. The million dollar question is will having the curriculum at USC help aspiring popular musicians more than say touring or other forms of development.</p>

<p>The popular music program at USC has a core of basic music training at least a little similar to classical or jazz. Aural skills and music theory, instrument instruction in both the students primary instrument as well as at least one other and probably two since everyone takes drumming and I think piano to ground them in the rhythm of popular music. Songwriting class is taken by most although I don't remember if it is required or not. Most students also take private lessons in their instrument. There is also a performance class every week where you are assigned songs to perform with an assigned set of band members. Instructors for this class are often working musicians. Every Friday afternoon someone from the music industry comes to the Popular Music Forum class and provides insight into popular music as a career. Performers like John Fogarty, agents, record company execs, members of "late-night tv bands", you name it. The few times we have visited usually includes a Friday and we enjoy this exposure very much. </p>

<p>Primary advantages to the program are the quality of the instruction, the quality of the other popular music students who you collaborate with and develop your artistic self with, the contacts and exposure to industry personnel and the exposure to the film school and other USC arts students some of whom are exceptional at their craft. My son's exposure to exceptional musicians and industry people, famous and not has been exceptional. Some of this has been and is 1-1. Also I would be remiss if I did not state that the person in charge of the program is an exceptionally wonderful human who I find to have great integrity.</p>

<p>I will admit that for the first year or so, I still questioned if this was a smart thing for us to be funding. USC is not an inexpensive school and son is smart kid who could do a lot of things. At this point the quality of the experiences he is having and how he feels about his program and his passion for music have me convinced that for him it is the right choice. He has formed a band of very talented people. He will make a living as a musician although it may or many not be with this band. May or may not be a lot of money, but he will be happy and he will be good at it. </p>

<p>I am not an artistic type and more of an analytical, so if you are considering this program I would suggest the following logic. </p>

<p>If a student wants to play rock music but isn't really interested in a broader music education I would not recommend it. Someone like this may be better served forming a band wherever they are or want to be and performing a lot to develop their skills.</p>

<p>If a student has a great voice but isn't really interested in a broader music education I would not recommend it. There are a lot of great voices in the world. USC has great vocal instruction, but if that is all you want you can get exceptional vocal instruction in LA or other big cities a lot cheaper than USC tuition. If someone wants to rely on voice alone, maybe should try idol, record youtube covers, etc. because you need to end up at the top of that heap if you are going to rely primarily on your voice.</p>

<p>If a student wants to develop a deeper music understanding and have top instruction with a popular music bend then I think USC does that better than anyone.</p>

<p>From an electric bass specific perspective, my son lives with and is friends with the bass player in his band who last I knew was majoring in electric bass and stand-up and in both the popular music and jazz programs and speaks very highly of his instructors. He wanted to do both programs, but most electric bass players in the program do not. </p>

<p>The audition process is very competitive but my view is I think people should apply and see. No sense ruling yourself out, let them be the ones to do it.</p>

<p>The other posters raise valid perspectives and I am not intending to argue with those perspectives. I just wanted to provide a little perspective from someone with experience in the program.</p>

<p>Best Wishes</p>

<p>I forgot about Columbia College in Chicago and their urban popular music major. Worth a look and also at Roosevelt U in Chicago</p>

<p>Another route to consider pursuing might be that of recording arts if you son is interested in the production end of it and can get a portfolio together. Ie Jacobs/indianna u has a bs in recorded music where about half of the students lack traditional/western training. My son's school, university of Michigan, also has a hybrid type of degree called performing arts tech with emphasis in music production/composition/performance but I cannot say for certain whether your son would be a viable candidate without traditional exp under his belt. I do know that pretty much all of his peers have various rock/alternative bands, but I also know that just this week he had to write a haydn-ish string quartet composition to be performed ;) -- a little out of his comfort zone since his classical and jazz background were on trumpet!</p>

<p>Another option might be the Humber college contemporary music program in Toronto, not -- very grat program with excellent price tag.</p>

<p>One last suggestion would be the consideration of music industry programs coupled with private instruction.</p>

<p>Best wishes in your search, and if he pursues any of these routes, make sure he picks up/has exposure to theory before hitting college. It will make life much easier.</p>

<p>How about Berklee School of Music?</p>

<p>Thank you all for your thoughts and suggestions! I've added a few more schools to the list to look at, thanks to your generous postings!</p>

<p>My son is absolutely going to a university, not a conservatory (my insistence plus his desire for a real college experience), so that does help narrow things down just a tiny bit. </p>

<p>Mspennylane -- Thank you for the suggestion of Berklee -- we did visit there this summer, and don't feel it's the right school for him.</p>

<p>Raddad -- USC Popular Music is my son's first choice, so I very much appreciate everything you posted about the program! But of course we can't apply to just one school, no matter how much he likes it!.... I appreciate what you said about who the program is and isn't right for -- very perceptive and helpful.</p>

<p>I'm still working on that list of schools to apply to, so will continue to be grateful for any thoughts!</p>

<p>mtandbassmom, I want to second everything raddad said. My son entered USC Thornton as a studio/jazz guitar major and switched to popular music spring of his freshman year. He had 10+ years of jazz training (indeed, jazz and classical were really the only ways to be a "serious" musician in high school), but has always played rock music in his extra curricular life/band. He loves and appreciates jazz, but his heart and any possible future are in more popular genres.</p>

<p>Still when he was applying, he felt jazz was the "more serious" major and more likely to test him and improve his musicianship. He no longer feels that way at all, and believes the major switch was the best decision he ever made.</p>

<p>My son also did not feel Berklee was right for him. "Too many musicians there" was how he put it. He also got a bad taste in his mouth walking past some kind of guitar skills clinic where 25+ guitarists were all playing the exact same riff in unison. It may have been an excellent course with a superb teacher, but to him it felt like a "mill." But to be clear, Berklee is a wonderful program - it just wasn't for him.</p>

<p>All that said, it's very possible my son will at some point put his degree on hold, perhaps permanently. Although if he does, it will be for a music opportunity he simply can't turn down. </p>

<p>One of the "star" bassists in Thornton's popular music program is also jazz-trained and chose it over many great jazz programs. (Just re-read raddad, and we are talking about the same person.) I also happen to know that the program is a bit short on bassists, at least right now. </p>

<p>If you have any questions, feel free to PM me.</p>

<p>Below is a link to an article that discusses what a popular music major involves and has a list of some schools that have some sort of popular music focus. Something that addresses part of the original question.</p>

<p>Thinking</a> of Majoring in Popular Music? (Part 1) ‹ ‹ Majoring In MusicMajoring In Music</p>