21st Century Career in Composing: Is Education the Answer?

Gerald Klickstein started a discussion on Linked In, "Are music schools preparing students for 21st-century careers? I have my doubts." This is in conjunction with his own blog post "Music Education and Entrepreneurship." The discussion questions whether or not our educational institutions are really preparing young musicians for a career in music.

Several comments on the Linked In discussion are from educators and either speak about what their establishments are doing to try and face the issue, with others in agreement with Klickstein in doubting what they're doing is really career preparation. Some of the problems are technology and the cost of keeping up with it; others are the institutionalized curriculum which hasn't changed in years. What ever the issue at the establishment the general consensus is we are not focused enough on how to have a career in music in the educational community.

Speaking to the topic of composition education there seems to be two approaches. One approach is in the classical music sector which focused on writing music using 12-tone, pitch class or serial techniques. There are orchestration classes and technology classes, but the core of composition is focused on ideas which are outdated by 50 or more years. Occasionally minimalism is considered an option or extended techniques are encouraged, but serious discussions into current composers like Libby Larsen, Jennifer Higdon, Thomas Adès or Nico Muhly --all composers who make their living composing (and not only in the film industry).

I'm not being fair to the Composers Seminar discussions which did embark on some of this type of discussion and occasionally discussed what it means to work in the industry. But this was a small portion of the focus and hardly enough to really prepare new composers with what they need to succeed.

It's difficult for every educational institution to really talk to the subject because so few composers really are making their living at composition. Perhaps the only way to really get this kind of education for a composer is to work for a composer who is making their living composing music.

If you make your living composing music, I'd love to hear from you!


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