Music School When Older?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by jgbass, Nov 25, 2005.

  1. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I was wondering today if anyone here, in their 40s up, has gone to some formal music school, either in jazz or classical, and what has it been like.

    I have my own unique learning track and didn't even start with upright until my 40s, although I played other instruments. and did not even start taking music seriously either until then. I think I keep reconsidering what being "serious" mean anyway. I've had my good share of gigs in different styles of music, but I keep going towards jazz and standards as my music of choice and classical, but I am open to many styles of music.

    Without being in a formal school program, I think I am missing out on the contacts I could make at a school, in-school playing opportunities, as well as being around students who are on the same kind of learning track.

    I get frustrated playing music with more casual players who maybe just want to jam. That's okay for many people, but I have other goals and want to work with people who want to get paying gigs going. But I am also just not nailing the auditions with the musicians I really want to play music with. I think a school could help me with some consistent playing opportunities to work out things I've been shedding. So, I am thinking of taking the plunge and just do what it takes to get more to a pro level and think school would help. Better late than never.

    So, has anyone had a late start and what has it been like? Would like to hear from you.
  2. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    A friend of mine went back for his masters at around age 40. I will ask him if he'll write somethings about his experience.
  3. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Thanks. I would like to hear from him.
  4. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    OK, here the reply from my friend. He said that if anyone has any questions to feel free to contact him if you have any questions.

    I'm not a member of this forum, but my old friend Fred forwarded this question to me, probably because he knows that it fit me.

    I went back to school for my MM in Jazz Studies (guitar) at UNT in 2001. I was 40. The previous year, I taught 997 guitar lessons out of my house (I kept track), and decided that (a) there had to be a better way to teach (wholesale, not retail, I thought to myself), and (b) I really wanted to become a better player too, not just teach others forever. I had been playing since I was a kid, but I had never thought of myself as 'serious' or 'good'. I wanted to play with better players. I knew that I had no illusions at my age about becoming a 'name' player, so that was not a motivator. But I also knew that since I had avoided the whole dream of being a serious player for many years, working in music-related jobs (or sometimes not working, or not in music-related work), that it was time to face it or forget it.

    The good news for me:
    I was a better player than I thought I was.
    Being older meant I was focused on the music, not partying or girls.
    Professors enjoyed having an older student setting an example of getting up, going to classes, shedding, etc.
    I was neither the only 40+ student nor the oldest.
    Doing a graduate degree is easier than working a day job. It requires about the same amount of time.
    The UNT environment - 400 or 500 jazz studies majors - meant community (or fish bowl, depending on how you see it), peer pressure, and lots of people who mostly loved music the same way I do. I haven't seen that before or since.
    The bad news for me (and maybe for you):
    Poverty. Get used to it. After awhile, that occasional $100-200 social gig seems like a gift from above. I spent all the $10K I had saved, plus $10K my parents gave me as a gift. Plus I now have some student loans to pay off. Being older meant I wasn't going to live like a 21-year old student. I had a nice apartment and no roommates. It cost me.
    There was and will always be someone younger who could play something I couldn't. Sometimes 'mature' felt like just 'old'. And sometimes I really wondered if I was doing the right thing with my life. That feeling was temporary, always.
    The degree itself didn't get me a gig. There will still be people making more money playing country or rock music. And colleges would rather hire trumpet or saxophone teachers, but that's their problem, not mine.
    Whatever problems I had going in, I still mostly had coming out: I'm still not great at networking or hustling work.
    It made my long-term relationship a little weird at times (my girlfriend remained, since she had a good job and a house).

    I got my MM in May '04. Then the real fear set in: what if I do nothing with this degree, and end up working at some crappy job with nothing to show for it but student loans? Fortunately, my phone rang about three weeks after graduation, and I was offered a sabbatical replacement teaching post at a college in Canada. Since I was up for the first adventure, why not be up for the next one? The sabbatical replacement turned into another one-year renewal, and I'm likely to get a tenure-track offer within a few months.

    I got hired for my playing first, but what nailed the job (and is causing the re-hire) is the other things: I can (and do) teach jazz composition, music technology (Finale and simple MIDI), arranging, and can coach student ensembles. I didn't know this stuff, nor want to, when I began grad school. But I love it. Teaching is not just a fall-back position for me - it's part of what I am now. Jazz musicians should learn that 99.9% of the world will not care about what they play, so teaching is a way to spread the disease of jazz and combat the forces of stupidity.

    It was worth the three years of my time, and the money I spent. I have absolutely no regrets and wished that I had done it sooner. My relationship survived, and we got married five months ago. It's an international marriage, and we buy a lot of plane tickets, but we have valid reasons that keep us living in different places right now. It's temporary. Meanwhile, she finds me easier to deal with, because I did the thing that I had to do.

    Kevin Brunkhorst
    Asst Professor, Music Dept
    St Francis Xavier University
    Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
  5. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003

    Thanks for having your friend write this up, forward to you and post it here! Much appreciated. Sounds like, overall, this was a positive experience for him and now he is doing work he really enjoys.

    The Good News mentioned is really good. I really don't have any illusions anyway, am a realist at heart, and thinking mostly along the lines of being a better player, better gigging situations, and enjoy teaching anyway. Have already thought about all the potential Bad News as they all could potentially apply here but workable, for sure.
  6. Scroller


    Jul 16, 2005
    Wow. Now that's well said...

    The quote is actually by Kevin Brunkhorst. Thanks for posting Freddels. There is much of value in what he has to say...
  7. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    What an inspiring story.

    I hope you go through with it, jgbass! And if you have a woman in your life, don't let her slip away.
  8. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    JG IS the woman in her life. :) Check out her sig line.
  9. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I'm glad people here read signature lines. Hmm, just trying to keep a low profile here. Just change the pronoun to "he" and you're right. Music and relationships aren't always the easiest.

    By the way, speaking of signature lines, I'm still trying to figure out yours, and may be so obvious I am missing it. :help:
  10. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    It's Latin. "The educated man always has riches within himself."
  11. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Good quote!