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Colleges for composing/audio production

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Hello my name is Trevor, My portfolio can be found at http://www.garageband.com/artist/trevorlentz . I'm 19 years old and I haven't attended any college yet. In my searches to find a school that I can possibly afford I've only found a few. What do you think would be the best school to just get into the industry for producing video game music?? I know full sail is apparently amazing, but the price tag and the cost of living is real hard to swallow (I dont have much $$ and I just want to move out of MI).

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If music composing is your interest, I could not recommend Full Sail. There are plenty of better programs that don't cost as much.

Since you're 19, I'm assuming that you're preparing for auditions. Which music schools accept you will also help to narrow your choices. Since you live in Michigan, both U of M and Michigan State have good music schools - especially U of M. There may be scholarships and financial aid available, too. I never would have been able to attend my first choice of music school if it wasn't for the scholarship that I got. (Again, work on that audition!)

Some of the best music schools in the country (no particular order) include
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Eastman School of Music - Rochester, NY
Oberlin - Oberlin, OH
Juilliard - NYC
Manhattan School of Music - NYC

Two of those are in your part of the country!

If you want to stay in the Midwest, most of the Big Ten schools have good music programs. Though, the out-of-state tuition can be high.

If you do decide to study music, focus on getting a good basic music education rather than focusing on games. That will benefit you the most in the long run. You may end up doing something other than games when you start working, and that may be a very good thing!

When I was in college, I wasn't even thinking about videogames, film, or TV. Heck, games were barely on the map music-wise. After college, I worked as a gigging jazz musician, then started working on TV commercials, then somehow got into films, and now also do videogame work.

Never planned on living and working in Hollywood, but hey, you take what you can get in this business!

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Completely agree with Muzo. If you're wanting to focus on composition, then I'd attend a top notch, solid music school where you can focus on becoming both a better musician and composer. Sometimes this means going to a school where you have the most opportunities as a performer and leader as well. During my undergrad I was able to be a student conductor of one of the choirs, take part in two of the three choir programs at the school, was the student leader of the house band for all school events, played bass clarinet, saxophone and percussion in the wind symphony and piano and saxophone in the jazz band. Because of this, I was exposed to a large amount of music and roles in each of the ensembles.

Plus my school had a VERY strong theory and comp program back in the day. I'd look at schools like that first and then learn the software side on your own- as I did.

I hope that helps,


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Hi Trevor,

I think you should check with yourself what your goals are and what you want to learn in the upcoming years:

Questions like:

- improve composing
- developping sound design skills
- learning to work with studio equipment
etc etc

Based on the outcome I think you should check which education would fit your needs.

I did 3 major studies at the same time and having a master in classical composition, sonology and musicology. At the time I started to study I really was focussing on entering the world as classical composer and my first years I worked mainly in the avantgarde contemporary music scene. I realised this was not the world I wanted to enter and I decided 2 years ago that I wanted to focus on the film and even more game audio world since it would combine much more my interests in working with groups of people, working with technology etc.
My education however provided me with a rock solid background and due to having an extended education like I had I did not had to worry about my music skills.
However for all the other stuff I had to start from scratch (like studio techniques, sampling etc. - heck I wrote with pen and paper till 2 years ago :P).
I think if you asked me now what I would study if I knew that I would enter the game world directly I think I would answer that I would change the studies since I am missing now some basics for the game audio world like networking during your study, study projects etc which I would like to have done.
On the other hand my current background provides me a lot of backup and I can live fully from my music work since I have a large background and I teach, give masterclasses, orchestrate, write children songs, making theatre music etc beside my game work to keep cash flow alive.

I hope this helps a bit in getting your thoughts organised and therefore making your choise :) 19 is a good age to start. I was 19 when I started to study and graduated my last master degree at the age of 25.

Good luck!

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Original post by Jaap1978
heck I wrote with pen and paper till 2 years ago :P).

Some of the most talented people I work with still use pen and paper. You're in good company!

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I think that there are so many positives when considering a formal education in music, despite the hefty price-tag.

1) You have so many resources at your disposal, be it equipment, libraries, performers, professionals and others interested in what you are doing. These things become exponentially less available as you get out of school.

2) You get formal training to hone your craft and are offered wisdom from some of the best out there. By doing this, you save a ton of time and energy and become much more focused in your musical and creative goals.

3) As Nathan said, if you enjoy performing, a university has a great variety of opportunities to get in and try-out for an ensemble. Some don't even have auditions and you can just go in and do it for the sake of doing it. And, what's even better, is if there isn't an ensemble that fits your tastes, you have other students with which to collaborate and start your own. A group of students and I were able to start organizations that focused on what we wanted to learn, allowing us to apply for funding and meet people involved in music that we wouldn't otherwise.

4) Colleagues - I can't stress this enough. You meet a ton of people and in music, people are very friendly and there is a great sense of community. I am still writing music for people that I met over four years ago. You never know where you may end up (wink Muzo) and it's always great to have those ties to aid you.

I say do a lot of research on individual schools. If you want a traditional eductation, go to a school that has a long tradition. If you want superfocused training, go to a conservatory. If you are looking for something that's well-rounded, consider a university. If you want vocational training, look into schools that focus on that (VFS, Full Sail). I will say that when I spoke with a rep at VFS (Vancouver Film School) that their typical demographic are those people between ages 25-35 who have a theoretical background. This of course may change, but it seems that most who attend have a traditional education and have decided to focus on sound design.

This is a big step and the decision should take some heavy consideration. I am just now mentally committed to getting into sound design after 7 years of music training. My view is like that of the others; having had formal training and opportunities to compose, perform, conduct and teach, I feel very well equipped to take that next step.

If the price thing worries, consider this. You may qualify for student loans which are the lowest interest-rate loans you will ever have in your life. Also, think about all the things people spend money on that could be better used for school. I myself have quite a bit of loan debt from school and I don't have a single regret because of the experiences and people I've met. I'm so much better off now than where I started. Education is the best purchase you can make.

Most of all, don't be in a hurry. Skills like ear training and composition take years of work. Not to scare you because it's very rewarding, but just think about what it is you're really interested and find out the steps necessary to take.

Good luck to you and please don't hesitate to ask questions.


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