4 Lies They Taught You In Music School

LiesWhile a college education theoretically prepares one for life in the real world, the reality is often quite different. Here are a few misconceptions that recent college grads may have picked up during their academic tenure.


Guest Post by Christine Occhino on Sonicbids.com

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)

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 bachelors degree in music business and 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.


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  1. A fair point about ear training. Right now there are so many musical idiots making a living in the business that you should seriously consider joining them. Who said that a musician needs to be able to tell one note from another, or what an interval is, or a chord, or an octave. Join the musical illiterates and continue the inevitable march toward complete mediocrity.

  2. I went to Berklee and I was never told any of these things.
    Ear training is important to your music career if you’re going to be in a gigging cover band where you need to be able to pick up songs quickly. If you only need to listen two or three times to a song to get it right, that can put you ahead of everyone else auditioning for that slot in that band.
    Your hard work will pay off if you keep working hard. Berklee is what you make of it, and that should teach you to keep making the best of everything you can to get to where you want to be. If you’re under the impression that having Berklee on your resume will give you that automatic in for everything you do, you really should think about whether or not you even want to enter a field that is solely based on repeatedly paying dues.
    Grades are important. Think about it… if you’re trying to major in something, wouldn’t you want to retain most of the knowledge you learn so you can get a good job or a good gig and be successful? And if that’s true, wouldn’t that reflect in your grades?
    If you think you’re getting an easy way out in the music industry by going to music school, you’ve seriously got the wrong idea to begin with.

  3. I never comment on this stuff but this time I feel I have too. If you are in music at all you need to take ear training seriously. This would be like telling a future doctor they didn’t need to know the parts of the body. This comment is just ignorant and is one more example of why pop music and related styles have become so homogenized and repetitive. Of course ear training won’t guarantee anyone monetary success in the music industry, but shouldn’t we all be holding ourselves to a higher standard?

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