To me (and most other people I know) the biggest factor in looking at a college or grad school is the teacher. The person you'll be studying your instrument with individually over the course of the next 2-4 years. However when discussing schools with my current teacher, he brought up a factor I had never considered before: the culture of the town the school is located at. For instance, some very good schools are located nowhere near a professional symphony orchestra, and some are located near semi-amateur orchestras. This is something that I never imagined while obsessing over who's teaching where.

Can anyone supply a list of musical* factors that every student should consider, whether picking his first college or her first grad school? Please remember I'm looking for a complete answer: every musical factor you think should be considered. Explanations for any qualities that are not self explanatory would be appreciated!

*To clarify, when I say "musical," I am looking for things which can be relatively directly attributed to developing musicianship. If a school has visiting artists, masterclasses, and several opportunities to perform, these pretty clearly affect the development of a musician. And whereas someone could make a humorous case for "good grub" revitalizing and motivating a hungry musician, this is not a musical factor. When in doubt, "Is your answer about music practice, performance, composition, technique, theory, or history?"

  • I think an addition to every answer if it's not included already should be how good the people (students and teachers) are. What "good" constitutes might be up to you, of course, but I think the importance of peers and teachers is on par with the educational content itself. Commented May 9, 2011 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


Here are some thoughts, posted as CW with hopes that others can improve.

  • Performance opportunities for students, including:
    • Quality, quantity, and diversity of faculty in areas that interest you.
    • Quality, quantity, and diversity of guest artists; will you have opportunities to participate in master classes?
    • What position will you be in the group that you expect to play with?
  • Teaching opportunities and requirements
  • Career opportunities - what jobs do graduates get?
  • Is the education focused solely on performance, or is there training in other aspects of music as well (production, pedagogy, management)? The breadth of your education will influence your career opportunities.
  • What classes are offered and who teaches them? Are you particularly excited about the courses that you will take?
  • What courses are required and how many electives can you take?
  • Are there opportunities for independent study?
  • I think that several of these are really thoughtful suggestions. I'd be interested in hearing how some of these (such as "opportunities for independent study"-individual practice aside) can be applied to music. Career opportunities seems like a bit of a stretch to me though. Are you trying to say that what kinds of jobs I can get indicates what kind of training I've had and therefor what ways I've developed as a musician? I also don't understand what you mean by "teaching opportunities." Do you believe teaching privately enhances your own musicianship? Great start, David!
    – SRiss
    Commented May 9, 2011 at 6:07
  • @SRiss regarding teaching, I was referring to being a teaching assistant, but both teaching privately and in the classroom will certainly enhance your musicianship. You will learn a subject or technique much more as a teacher than as a student. regarding independent study, I was referring to directed study with a faculty mentor - not only in performance but in other aspects of music. The types of jobs that graduates get, and the proportions of teachers:performers:producers:other:unrelated jobs among graduates could be a good indicator of the program's success at developing musicians. Commented May 15, 2011 at 19:40

To me, the most important is being able look at it with all the factors around it. The last thing I would look closer is that the one you are asking actually. The reason is that nowadays there are so many great schools are offering a sort of high-end education with all the educational opportunities. But to me, the music life is not about school; the greatest musicians didn't learn music at school nor they didn't want a "norm" to follow through their entire life. Instead of that, they focused on just learning, sharing, creating, practicing and the most importantly influencers around them.

That's where the critical thinking starts about your life, your expectation and goals. Since none of them is actually about a school all the answers would be within you.

Once you are done with understanding yourself then you can begin to look for the country, the city, the area of musical places around the location you will move, people would be influencing you and anything-everything might be inspiring you to be the one will inspire and change next generations.

That's how I moved NY from Turkey 5 years ago, wrote 5 books, received awards, then went back Turkey to open an auditioning from a NY jazz school. I came back from that incredibly mission and I'm in NY with the passion of making things would change people' life.

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