The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

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ttf_anonymous
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_anonymous » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:46 pm

     I am a trombonist. Obviously. But I'm also a trombonist with a huge problem. I have been thinking about where I want to go to college for a long time (since freshman year) and I feel like I am about as lost as I was then. I have definitely put in the time researching colleges I like, getting my GPA (4.0) and ACT scores (27 and waiting on results from a recent test) up for scholarships, and improving my playing abilities. But I still can't seem to have a clear answer for myself. So as a call for advice from the trombone community: Can anyone give me some advice?

     Let me start my giving some background information about myself. I am a junior in high school in Huntsville, Alabama. I've been playing trombone since the 6th grade and it has become my passion along with music. I've been playing in the band since then as well and have been very successful. I've been making the Alabama All-State Band since eighth grade and have been in several local honor bands (UAH, UNA, All-District), scored superior ratings in state level solo competitions, and made two national honor bands: The National Honors Performance Band at Carnegie Hall and the Honor Band of America. So it could be said that I've established myself as a competent player. Through band and music I've been able to meet many people and experience feelings not found anywhere else and that is why I want to make a career surrounded by music. It has become my passion much like thousands on other teenagers across the country.
 
     I know it isn't practical making a career out of playing the trombone so I also plan to study Sound Engineering in college as my major or at least a minor and then pursue a master's degree in trombone performance. Then I would be able to have a reliable source of income from a field I am still interested in since it involves music. My main focus however, will still be trombone performance.

Given that I have two goals I have in the next couple of years I would like to achieve:

1) Participate in a top 8 drum corps (I've already been accepted in a few open class and lower level world class I just can't afford to join one)
2) Attend a university that is of high quality for teaching trombone performance, offers a quality sound engineering program, and will not put me into crippling debt due to student loans (even with scholarships and grants)

     The first goal is pretty straightforward and I won't be discussing it much. I just really enjoy DCI and love the hard work and effort that goes into a top corps show and would like to be a part of that. Most of that just comes from me saving enough money and fundraising.

     The second goal however, is much more complex but I've managed to narrow it down to a simple question: Should I attend a larger, more prestigious school that might cost me more money and I might get lost in the crowd but I could make more connections(Florida State, Indiana, Texas State, Alabama), should I attend a smaller, less costly school with a similar level of quality and more ability to stand out as an individual but not be able to make as many connections(Middle Tennessee State, Troy, Alabama at Birmingham), or should I just say "why not" and attempt to go to a huge music school that costs lots of money but would carry lots of name recognition and amazing alumni networks along with some of the best musical instruction in the country (Berklee, John Hopkins, Julliard).

All of these names are just examples I've observed but the premise stays the same. Can anyone give me some input on my debacle?
ttf_Doug Elliott
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Doug Elliott » Sun Dec 17, 2017 10:52 pm

I am the wrong person to be giving advice on that, but here's my order of priorities:

Since you're interested in sound engineering, base your decision largely on that department.  Go somewhere that has a trombone teacher you connect with.  Choose a size of school (and city) you're comfortable with.  Spending a ton of money is not a good idea unless you can afford it.
ttf_bigbassbone1
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_bigbassbone1 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:06 pm

You will of course know what is best for yourself, but personally I think it is insane to split your focus into different areas of study if your main goal is to eventually specialise in trombone performance. You will be competing against people who ONLY ever spend their time practicing their instrument.... its totally possible to become competitive splitting your focus but it seems like that would make it harder for you.

If I were you, I would either;
Go 100% into your sound engineering and explore performance opportunities outside uni.... meet people and make connections, take lessons etc... but do it in your own time in a way that doesnt distract from your main focus. There are plenty of performance and ensemble opportunities outside uni and it wouldn't be too hard to find a quality teacher.

Or, go all in for trombone performance. Apply to schools that have the best programs and teachers. If cost is a major factor, (it was for me!) Make it a goal to go to a school that covers tuition. As far as I am aware, Colburn, Rice, Curtis and Yale all have tuition wavers for study and all have extremely high level programs. Apply for all those. If you get into one and at the end decide trombone performance is not for you, go back and do sound engineering. You wont be in a terrible place financially after, because none of those schools will send you tens of thousands of dollars into debt.

As i mentioned, you know what is best, but those are the options i would be considering.
ttf_bassboneman
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_bassboneman » Mon Dec 18, 2017 6:44 am

Both Elijah and Doug are correct...
College study is time consuming! It is best to find the path that will give you a MARKET-able skill!
In other words a way to earn a living. If it is trombone - go all in as Elijah said. If it is engineering - do that.

Sam
ttf_Dan Hine
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Dan Hine » Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:12 am

If you're interested in sound engineering, performing on the trombone, and don't want to go in to debt for school I would suggest you take a long look at joining the military as a musician.  You can do both of the things you want and can leave after 3-4years with the absolute best scholarship program in the United States - the Post 9/11 GI Bill.  And you can easily knock out prerequisite math/english/etc. courses (for free!) while you are serving.

You get to make money, find out more about what you want, grow personally and professionally, not accumulate student loan debt, and be able to easily afford college at the "old age" of 22.  It's not for everyone, but don't write it off without looking into it.

- Dan
ttf_BGuttman
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_BGuttman » Mon Dec 18, 2017 7:14 am

Another option to consider is to get the BM in music performance and then join a service band (if they still exist).  You can learn the sound engineering "on the job" and then see if you want to study it as a vocation.  Note that sound engineering has a lot of electrical engineering and acoustics as well as the aesthetic side.

You should talk to your local people as well.  Your private teacher knows your playing better than any of us and if he says you have it to be a pro, by all means go pro.  But it's still a tough row to hoe.

Good luck.

<Note: Dan posted as I was posting>
ttf_MikeBMiller
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_MikeBMiller » Mon Dec 18, 2017 9:20 am

Columbus State has a fabulous trombone studio and Brad Palmer is actually a sound engineer by training. Many top level trombonists go to him to get their recordings done. And it's just over the line from Alabama.
ttf_vegasbound
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_vegasbound » Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:11 am

Become a lawyer, engineer doctor or similar and keep music as a hobby!
ttf_Bimmerman
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Bimmerman » Mon Dec 18, 2017 10:24 am

Kudos for thinking realistically about this!

If you don't go the military + GI bill front-- take a serious look a salaries / wages / etc for sound engineers, and use that to construct a realistic budget for how much school you can afford, factoring in things like supplies, housing, food, gas, car. For any of the out of state options, figure out how to get in-state tuition before you start-- you may be tire kicking for a couple years (so, go to a CC / JC and get the core math/writing classes done with) but it will save you tens of thousands of dollars.

You don't want to be leaving school with $120k in debt and be stuck in a $30k/year 50hr+ job. I know a lot of friends who are still struggling with their debt from undergrad from a mid-tier state school and it's been nearly 10 years.

Lastly, how much is DCI to where you need to fundraise? Would it make more sense to save that money and funnel it into school instead?

ttf_Trombocholik
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Trombocholik » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:03 am

Quote from: vegasbound on Dec 18, 2017, 10:11AMBecome a lawyer, engineer doctor or similar and keep music as a hobby!

+1

Good advice.
ttf_anonymous
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_anonymous » Mon Dec 18, 2017 11:22 am

Check out MTSU (which was on your list). One of the top Recording Industry programs in the US. Great access to the Nashville recording scene and internships. One of the graduates is Justin Cortleyou--who studied Recording Industry and trombone at MTSU, lucked in to an amazing internship, and is now at the top of the recording field.

David Loucky is the trombone teacher at MTSU. He is a top pro who spent time in the St. Louis Symphony. He could prepare you for entry in to a major graduate program. (Classical)

If you are taking free advice from random people on the internet, I'd say avoid going into much debt to learn how to play trombone. If you are already rich, then it isn't as big a deal if you want to spend the kind of money it takes to attend Northwestern or similar top conservatory. That being said, you pretty much need to go 100% while you are young if you hope to make it as a trombonist. Coming back after you are 30 and saying "what if" puts you too far behind.

One path is to do an inexpensive undergraduate degree. This could include University of Alabama, where you would be in state and pay cheaper tuition. It is a good program with Jonathan Whitaker at the helm. Out-of-state tuition can be double or triple at some schools.

If you are looking at jazz, you'll be looking at a different set of top schools. There are tons of people coming out of schools like NEC looking for the same few jobs in academia.

+1 to pursuing a degree in computer programming, with enough training in recording tech/trombone playing, so that you can carve out your own niche while being able to buy a house. On the other hand, do something that you enjoy.  I love my job playing and teaching trombone. The constant variety and ability to turn down any gigs that don't interest me is what keeps me going. A mundane desk job would be death in my case.

+1 to contacting Brad Palmer at Columbus State. He built his position from a part-time trombone gig that was 1 or 2 days a week, along with recording for the department. He was able to grow this into a solid tenure-track position.

One thing Brad has that most people lack, is initiative. As an undergrad at Millikin University, he recorded a multi-track CD of trombone choir music. This was before there was any software that made the process easy. Self starters have an advantage in any field.
ttf_trombonejb
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_trombonejb » Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:17 am

Whatever you decide, Always remember to have a broad perspective on things in general. There are lots of really good players in this world who devoted every breathing second to practicing their instrument. When someone is that devoted, you can very easily only be interested in brass music and nothing else.

What is good about having a broad perspective on things in general is it allows you to think from many different angles.

You can be the next jo Alessi and not know how to teach an Eskimo to cut ice.

You Can be the next jay cutler and have a crap attitude.

You can be be the greatest educator in the world and would maybe rather die than perform in front of an audience.

Or

You can sacrifice being the absolute very best at one thing for being relatively  good at severa other things at once.

But only you can decide for yourself. Ask yourself, “what am I good at? What am I not good at that would make me an employable person? Which opportunify will develop those weaknesses in me that I feel need to be improved upon.

And most of all, no choice you make will be 100 percent perfect. One or two things will make you regret one thing or the other. It is most important to understand, “I see how this isn’t getting me where I’d like to. But I know for certain that it doesn’t mean I can’t do it.” Some day in the future, it will”.

Hope this helps, have a good day.

~Jack


ttf_Matt K
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Matt K » Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:00 am

I believe Shenandoah also had a decent sound engineering program when I was there.  One of the graduates I went to school with immediately got hired by one of the DC military bands as a sound engineer.  They had lots of opportunities for assistantships, especially if you were willing to double as of a few years ago.



ttf_jimkinkella
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_jimkinkella » Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:50 am

On the audio side: something you're going to want to think about what is kind of "audio engineering" you want to do.

It can definitely help guide what kind of school you want to look at (musical / artistic / technical / engineering).

It's my day job, and I know guys on the road, in theatres, in studios, working for manufacturers, you name it.
You don't have to get super-specific, but there can be a big difference between the different artistic vs. technical jobs.
If you want to be able to play, you'll also need to think about schedule.
Studio guys will working all night, mastering or manufacturing engineering can be regular day jobs.

Check out AES.org - there's a student section, with a blog and a Facebook page.
A big list of different schools, as well.

Don't be afraid to send an email to anyone you have a question for, most of those guys love to talk.

ttf_Le.Tromboniste
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Le.Tromboniste » Thu Dec 28, 2017 1:11 pm

Quote from: jimkinkella on Yesterday at 10:50 AMOn the audio side: something you're going to want to think about what is kind of "audio engineering" you want to do.

It can definitely help guide what kind of school you want to look at (musical / artistic / technical / engineering).

It's my day job, and I know guys on the road, in theatres, in studios, working for manufacturers, you name it.
You don't have to get super-specific, but there can be a big difference between the different artistic vs. technical jobs.
If you want to be able to play, you'll also need to think about schedule.
Studio guys will working all night, mastering or manufacturing engineering can be regular day jobs.

Check out AES.org - there's a student section, with a blog and a Facebook page.
A big list of different schools, as well.

Don't be afraid to send an email to anyone you have a question for, most of those guys love to talk.


McGill University has a world class sound engineering program (their Master program is considered by some to be the best in North America. Extremely hard to get into though, about 6 people of 150-250 applicants get in - but it might be easier to get in if you're already involved with the department during your undergrad). It is also a very strong music school, they have extremely competent trombone teachers, great conductors both for symphony and band. Cost of living can be as low as half that of major North American cities, tuition is cheaper than most US universities and they have tons of scholarship money. State of the art facility, lots of research in theory, performance, acoustics, psychoacoustics. City has a very busy music scene, and lots of really good brass players to play with an learn from.
ttf_Pre59
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Pre59 » Fri Dec 29, 2017 2:05 am

Re engineering, check out Rick Beato on YouTube. Apart from masses of info on jazz there's a lot of info about being a sound engineer, not encouraging. The studios are full of well qualified interns not making a living after years of service.

At least there are still areas of trombone playing left where you can pursue your interests and make some money, if that's on your radar.
ttf_Andrew Meronek
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_Andrew Meronek » Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:57 am

Quote from: Pre59 on Today at 02:05 AMRe engineering, check out Rick Beato on YouTube.

Agreed. That guy does pretty great music educational video content, which includes some good stuff on studio work.

Also on the sound engineering videos, the Spectre Sound Studios Youtube channel is pretty good and entertaining. Glenn focuses on metal, but most of much he talks about is universal, genre-wise.

One other degree suggestion I have is one in mathematics. A math degree, evaluated dollar spent on the degree per dollar earned after, is one of the best financial decisions to do, because it's a degree that can apply to an absolutely huge swath of fields that are growing and pay well, and a math degree certainly will help sound engineering and music theory.
ttf_patrickosmith
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_patrickosmith » Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:07 am

I can look at your choices objectively given that I've been down the roads you are considering.

This is really a very simple choice.

Having an income that supports your interests in life is the best way forward. If you have that going for you, then you can afford to study privately with the best teachers in the world (if that is what you'd like to do 5 to 10 years from now).

Not having an income and hoping you can make it playing trombone against the best in the world (100s of people who have already been doing trombone as their profession for many years as you are coming up) is a ... huge risk. You might be lucky but the chances are very slim.

And by the way, sound engineering isn't that marketable / lucrative either. Software engineering, electrical engineering, computer science are the fastest path to a decent income to support your interests (trombone or whatever). Doctor/lawyer is another way forward bit will take more time and money to get there (and there is some risk ... you may not make it there either).


ttf_sowilson
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_sowilson » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:46 am

OP, in my youth (HS, college) I played bass in a number of bands, had numerous studio gigs and networked a lot with the best studio talent in my area (they turned me on to a lot of gigs they didn't want), was a broadcast DJ, and was a broadcast engineer for a lot of live shows (New Years Eve Jazz Alive on NPR one year).  At times, the entertainment industry would be my prime source of income but I learned that other pursuits would pay so much more and afford me the opportunity to use music as an avocation instead of my primary vocation.  Which is why I majored in Geology and minored in Math.  Fast forward many years during a time of unemployment and I decided to look at high level IT positions in professional sports (basically the entertainment industry).  What I found was an industry that paid 40-60% less than other industries even doing the same job.  It was a choice of being in sports or supporting my wife, kids, housing, and future retirement.  Any job in the entertainment industry pays poorly when compared with non-entertainment businesses.  I admire your desire to major in music performance (or audio engineering) but financially it wouldn't make sense to do it and accumulate college debt because you will likely never be in a position to pay your college debt back with entertainment industry earnings.  So study something that will pay the bills and study music on your own time.  If you are motivated enough you can do both and get the performance degree you seek but you'll have also set yourself up for a day job that can fund your passion.

I ended up working in Saudi Arabia for a decade which really helped me fund having a couple of custom instruments made that I use in my music avocation on the weekends from my day job.  My son is getting ready for a tour of Europe this winter playing trombone with his college Wind Orchestra even though he is majoring in Economics, minoring in Math, and plays football and track.
ttf_sowilson
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The Search for Higher Education as a Trombonist

Post by ttf_sowilson » Fri Dec 29, 2017 10:46 am

OP, in my youth (HS, college) I played bass in a number of bands, had numerous studio gigs and networked a lot with the best studio talent in my area (they turned me on to a lot of gigs they didn't want), was a broadcast DJ, and was a broadcast engineer for a lot of live shows (New Years Eve Jazz Alive on NPR one year).  At times, the entertainment industry would be my prime source of income but I learned that other pursuits would pay so much more and afford me the opportunity to use music as an avocation instead of my primary vocation.  Which is why I majored in Geology and minored in Math.  Fast forward many years during a time of unemployment and I decided to look at high level IT positions in professional sports (basically the entertainment industry).  What I found was an industry that paid 40-60% less than other industries even doing the same job.  It was a choice of being in sports or supporting my wife, kids, housing, and future retirement.  Any job in the entertainment industry pays poorly when compared with non-entertainment businesses.  I admire your desire to major in music performance (or audio engineering) but financially it wouldn't make sense to do it and accumulate college debt because you will likely never be in a position to pay your college debt back with entertainment industry earnings.  So study something that will pay the bills and study music on your own time.  If you are motivated enough you can do both and get the performance degree you seek but you'll have also set yourself up for a day job that can fund your passion.

I ended up working in Saudi Arabia for a decade which really helped me fund having a couple of custom instruments made that I use in my music avocation on the weekends from my day job.  My son is getting ready for a tour of Europe this winter playing trombone with his college Wind Orchestra even though he is majoring in Economics, minoring in Math, and plays football and track.
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