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Music Schools, in Transition…

Over the past several months I have received a number of calls – for assistance from higher ed music school leaders, to help them with their admissions issues and challenges.  The repeating theme centers around declining undergraduate admissions numbers, and among applicants, declining preparedness (or quality, as it is referred to inside).

There are a number of factors at play: a demographic dip among graduating high school seniors (and juniors, etc. to come), declining numbers of students who choose to seriously study an instrument or voice, changing curricula in K-12 music programs, fewer K-12 music programs.  We know of these developments, and the challenges they present.  So with fewer number of qualified applicants for ‘classical’ music programs, competition to enroll students has clearly become fierce.

And, it’s that time of year when admissions directors and deans must answer the question from parents, “what will my son or daughter do with h/her bachelor of music degree in (fill in the instrument or voice) after I have paid $200,000 for it?”

The answer to this question is where the real work starts.  And forgive me for being crude (for arts talk), but schools need to have clear, realistic, believable and deliverable “sell points.”  I think, I know my recent work in entrepreneurship has affected my views, in that developing a clear value proposition is what customers are seeking.  Apple has proven that customers are willing to pay a lot more if the value (real and imagined) is clear and delivered.

So what are some factors that meet these criteria?book

More to follow.

Comments

  1. If we define the value of an education in classical music in terms of finding a job that can recoup a $200,000 investment in tuition, then there are no “selling points.” The vast majority of students will not get good jobs. The average income for a ROPA orchestra member is only $13,000 per year and with very little job security and virtually no benefits. ICSOM orchestras pay better, but wind and percussion positions only open a few times a decade and hundreds apply. In addition, very few “entrepreneurial” activities in chamber music are profitable, so that is also not a selling point.

    The philosophy of entrepreneurship in classical music has now been emphasized for at least two decades. Can you provide us with convincing evidence that it has produced concrete results such as a significant increase in the number of classical musicians making good livings? If you can’t, I think we have no choice but to accept that an education in classical music can only be an end in itself.

    Your question itself actually reveals the problem. We live in a time where most endeavor is defined in market terms. Hence the drop in students applying to music schools.

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