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Joined: Feb 2010
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I'm at kind of a crossroads in my life. Since I graduated in 2005 with a BM in piano, I've been a "working musician" with a full-time job that is unrelated to music. My job pays decently, but is unfulfilling and the high cost of living in the area where I live is making it difficult to see much of a future here. I do play with some local choirs, but I'm just not getting the performance opportunities I'd like to have. I've saved up about $30,000 and so, I'm playing around with the idea of going back to school. Eastman would be my primary and foremost choice because of its academic strength and I should be able to prepare a satisfactory audition to their criteria (Beethoven op. 101, Brahms op. 21/2, Schoenberg op. 11/2, Chopin op. 10/10 etude).

Has anyone here done anything similar? I would be uprooting myself completely and starting over, plus, most likely, relying on student loans to cover my costs while I studied. One alternative would be to get an MA locally and then apply to a doctoral program later, but I doubt I would be able to fully commit myself to it given my current work schedule, and losing any income would be a problem given the escalating cost of living here. Rochester NY is quite cheap by comparison.

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I don't know any of the answers but I just wanted to say that I am very impressed and even moved by your story. You've done well in circumstances that haven't been easy and not what you've wanted, including that you've been able to save so much during a time when a lot of people have been lucky if they've just been able to get by.

And good luck. You surely deserve it. thumb

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It sounds making better living (more money) is one of the big concern for you.
If it is the case, I do not think getting MA in piano performance will be the fast fix to the problem.
It is better off that you to go to a business school, and get a job that will fulfill your financial needs first.
After that, you can play piano for fun like many people here. It is fun to play piano for fun, rather than making money from playing piano.

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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
It sounds making better living (more money) is one of the big concern for you.
If it is the case, I do not think getting MA in piano performance will be the fast fix to the problem.
It is better off that you to go to a business school, and get a job that will fulfill your financial needs first.
After that, you can play piano for fun like many people here. It is fun to play piano for fun, rather try to make money from playing piano.


I'm well aware that most musicians with DMA's make less money than I do now. The issue for me is that it's not fulfilling to do something else for 8 hours a day and then try to squeeze in music if I have time - it's just not what I wanted to do with my life.

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If it is your passion, you should pursue it then.
Build good relationship with piano people etc, you can make pretty good money too by teaching serious students.
Good luck!

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I understand your love for piano. I am probably older than you and studying with a concert pianist that I have mentioned before once every month. I truly love my job as a pelvic floor surgeon but pursing a DMA in piano performance is now my dream. I am lucky to love two professions and to be competent in at least one so far in life.


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A doctorate in classical piano performance will likely not be helpful to your future ability to earn income. It tends to confine one to an academic tribe that does not need another piano professor. And I shudder to think of the cost of that credential, between tuition and several years of lost income. Clearly you are doing well right now.

My advice would indeed be to pursue a master's part-time while keeping your present job, and then reevaluating your situation. Or even better might be to keep your job but skip the master's idea, keep playing for the choirs, find a high-level piano teacher within an hour's drive with whom to study privately, and hire a life coach to keep you aimed toward your goals. Or to help you refine those goals.

There's nothing wrong with a return to full-time schooling, if you can afford it. But it can be a dodge from living the life you want.

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I kind of feel two ways. At first, I want to scold those who tell you that you should forget about it and keep making money - you know, money isn't the only aim in life. Money comes and goes. You don't need $2 million condos to be happy, Jesus. Etc. (And I know what it's like to be scraping by, so don't question my judgement) It absolutely SUCKS, more than anything, to be doing something that you DO NOT want to do. That's 8 hours of your life every day!!! And then you go home, have a drink, whatever, cook, sleep. Wake up and do it all over again. What kind of a life is that? I'd rather have no money and be scraping by than living a life like that. It absolutely kills your soul. And if you enjoy what you do, then good for you - that's a different story.

But on the other hand... what do you expect from this degree? Is there a way to do it cheaper - ie, what are the schools that offer full scholarships, are you good enough to get full scholarships, etc. If you're just doing it to escape your current situation for some years, I wouldn't do it. Because then you'd be back to square one, in debt, and back at your current job. If you can cut down your hours of working and work musically related jobs, and play concerts, then I'd suggest doing just that.

So... I don't know.



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Keep in mind that a degree from Eastman (or Curtis, or Juilliard, or Manhattan),
will likely not thrust you into a life of performance opportunities much beyond choir stuff anyway. Winning competitions or aggressively organizing your own concerts is the only thing that will do that.

Have you thought about applying to SFCM? Just a 5 years ago, it had the reputation as the "reject" school, but now it's on par with Eastman and Colburn, quickly gaining prestige, and they give tremendous financial aid. Cost of living is bloody expensive, but then again your in SF, so your plugged into tons of potential teaching and performance jobs, potential for earning income (much more than in Rochester), plus I'd imagine you have your current contacts nearby in San Jose. You could study while simultaneously building your career, whereas in Rochester, once you finish with the degree, you gotta get out and start over in some new place anyway.

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My question is what would you plan to do with an MA in music? Although I have not taught at a junior college I have a family member that does...and honestly you'll make a more money teaching privately.

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As someone who went back to school and studied for the DMA and now three years out of school I can tell you I could have done the same jobs I am doing now with a Bachelors degree. I teach piano at a music academy and have a church job. I am the most qualified of all my coworkers, aside from me about half have Bachelors degrees and half have recently finished a M.M. I was lucky in that I had an assistantship for my DMA so I did not go into debt, but I do have quite a bit of debt from my Masters. If you want to teach I would say look into joining MTNA and completing their certification and/or go to school locally study Piano Ped. and Performance for your Masters, while building a studio in your area, a lot of it is networking and word of mouth actually. I could give you so many examples of coworkers, classmates, friends who took out enormous debt to go to school and are now teaching privately and struggling with bills. They had these big dreams and expectations when in reality the college teaching market does not support all of these graduates. My coworkers and I often have discussed that making a living as a freelance musician is difficult. I make about $28K a year at this point.
Would I trade it all in for something else? I've thought about that many times but always conclude that I can't imagine another profession, so there you go.

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Hi Jeff,

My old boss at UCI finished her MA at 24 from USC. She got the job at my old department teaching the students the "faculty" didn't want to teach, mostly piano minors, as a visiting lecturer. She also got a job running the piano division at a (then) newly opened junior college nearby.

A tenured position came up the last year I was in graduate school that paid more and would have gotten her more clout in the department. She is a wonderful player, excellent teacher, had been hired as a soloist many, many times with local and regional orchestras, was starting to concertize outside of the area, played lots of chamber music with good people, etc. She was really beginning to build a career. However, the department decided to hire the violin teacher's wife who had a DMA from Indiana.

So my old boss got fed up and auditioned for DMA programs. She got in to Mannes, Manhattan and SUNY to study with Gil Kalish. She opted to go to SUNY, and had a great experience. She and her husband finally settled in North Carolina, which they don't hate, where he works for Roland and she runs the piano department at a performing arts high school. She is not unhappy with how things turned out.

Tell me, is there a particular piano teacher at Eastman you want to study with? After all, the connections a famous teacher can plug you into are worth their weight in gold. Or are you thinking about a musicology or theory degree?

If you there is a teacher there you have in mind, have you played for them yet? Also, would you consider going to a school that would give you an assistantship/fellowship?

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My guiding principle is if I would regret it if I am to die tomorrow. Life has an expiration date. May not work for everyone but just imagine if you have only so few years to live. It tends to sort out what important for you.

Would you like to go to Eastman to learn more incredible pieces, have opportunities to play with orchestras (could be at school too) and live with music 24 hours? Would you like to travel many countries (need money for this)? If you are single, would you like to meet a man or woman of your dream (may require time and some money)? Would you rather spend all your savings and get a European grand?

For me, I wanted little bit of both. So I only have up to an hour of practice time. I'm constantly sleepy but love my life outside of piano as well. I know 2 DMA's. One is doing extremely well. A respected professor with full studio, some people drive 2 hours (in AZ) to take lesson from her. She performs a lot in the community from solo, chamber, etc. So she is doing well. Another one has only 10 students. She teaches at an after school music academy on the side. She lives in a high cost area. She told me that she realized that she did not like people. She is a great performer but did not like teaching. I hope you like to teach people as much as performing. Because that's something you can fall back on.

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F.Y.I.

Kind of hard to study under someone who is not there.

http://www.esm.rochester.edu/faculty/true_nelita/

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The fun part of having normal people job (office jobs)

1. You get paid while you take vacation.
2. If you are not in the mood of working,you can do nothing for hours. You just need to pretend to be busy.
3. If you are good and personable, you can keep moving up, and make more money.
4. There are way more positions than, say, piano teaching at community colleges, universities, etc.

The not fun things of having normal people job:
1. Office politics.
2. We are faced with many things that we have to solve (no previous examples).
3. Get laid off
4. Work 8 hours or more every day.
5. Sometimes need to do tedious work (depend on the nature of the job)

But at the end of the day, I'd rather work normal job, and play piano for fun. It will drive me crazy to keep practicing, and teaching, not to mention unsteady income, etc. Last thing (for office job), you do not need to be very good to make decent monies, just be above average to make decent monies.

It really depends on the person. Some people really want to have DMA for personal satisfaction. Some people will just be happy to be able to play like a DMA without the need to have the DMA diploma. Nothing will fit for everybody.....You should think what makes you happy and move on.

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Good evening.

Originally Posted by jeffreyjones

Has anyone here done anything similar?


Sure! Although I was a good bit older than you. Best thing I ever did, should'a done it years earlier, but you know would'a should'a could'a. Never looked back, never un instant of regret. Ever think of going and doing this in Europe?

Hats off to Pogo for her post!


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I think if this is your dream, you should go ahead and apply. Given your savings and the possibility of stipend, you may not be looking at debt. You're right that living in Rochester is cheap. (Just be prepared for a long winter without sun.)


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Just to touch on a few points that different people have kindly pointed out.

I'm aware that I would have most of the same opportunities with a DMA that I already have with my bachelor's, especially since I have so much collaborative experience already. And that I would make less money working full-time as a musician than I do now, unless I taught privately and charged substantially more than I do now based on the prestige of the degree. Which is fine - I think I'm worth it and my students think I'm worth it, but if more people would be knocking on my door if I had an advanced degree, then that is something of a plus. As it is, I turn down new students almost on a weekly basis because I'm too busy.

This might be something that's more possible years down the road - when I've saved up more cash than what I have now, and can buy a house outright in Rochester or Cleveland or Bloomington and take it from there.

What's not really possible is doing a part-time masters now. I work 60 hours a week and sometimes every day for a full month, because I have a day job, three choirs, Sunday services, and four students plus the odd symphony engagement, competition, wedding, or what have you. The amount of practice time that it takes to prepare a master's recital would simply be out of reach. But if I really did just want to focus on scholarship - which I think is my strong point more so than actual playing - Stanford is in my backyard if they would have me and if I could afford it...

My teacher also went to SUNY and studied with Gilbert Kalish. I haven't discounted that idea though I know nothing about Long Island.

I suppose the underlying question is what exactly I want to do. I suppose the answer is that I want to learn more about great music beyond what you can get from liner notes or Wikipedia. I loved going deeper and getting the full perspective on what I was studying. The theoretical analysis of Beethoven's Op. 7 slow movement that Dr. Belet walked us through rates as one of the most satisfying musical experiences I've ever had. The music library in downtown San Jose is pretty extensive, but it's out of date and isn't getting the newest scholarship in its doors. It's a musical museum. Oberlin was a musical forest, much more of a living thing.

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Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
[...]2. If you are not in the mood of working,you can do nothing for hours. You just need to pretend to be busy.
[...]


While my response may not be on topic, this statement just seems to echo what is seriously wrong with the attitude of so many in the modern work force. Any job one gets paid to do is worth doing well and honestly, whether or not one is "in the mood." Whether the attitude espoused by RS is rampant world-wide nor not, I cannot say, but that someone should publicly advocate dishonesty to this degree just appalls me!



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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by RonaldSteinway
[...]2. If you are not in the mood of working,you can do nothing for hours. You just need to pretend to be busy.
[...]


While my response may not be on topic, this statement just seems to echo what is seriously wrong with the attitude of so many in the modern work force. Any job one gets paid to do is worth doing well and honestly, whether or not one is "in the mood." Whether the attitude espoused by RS is rampant world-wide nor not, I cannot say, but that someone should publicly advocate dishonesty to this degree just appalls me!



Well said, Bruce.

While you are at it, please inform us as to the music college degree that the late Malcom Frager had, as well as the multiple degrees of the late Charles Rosen. They need to know.

And, while you are at it, tell them what Charles Ives did for a "living."


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