How to Get a Great Education (Without Going to Grad School!)
Recently on the GVAI blog, we talked about how to go about choosing the best grad school for you. (If you haven’t read it, see it here!) But, what if you don’t want to go to grad school? Nowadays, grad school is a major expense. Student loans are a heavy burden and make it hard to start a financially healthy career. Because of that, many young professionals are deciding to forgo the grad school route for other means of education. So, what are alternatives to a traditional graduate school education in music?
A Private Voice Teacher
When picking a music grad school, many academics suggest that your private voice lesson teacher should be one of your main considerations, if not your top consideration. If you don’t want to foot the bill for grad school, you could invest some serious money into seeing a voice teacher. If you’re not having to worry about paying tuition (or about time spent doing homework), you could even see your teacher twice a week. Imagine how much progress you’d make with that much individual attention!
Young Artist Programs are an amazing way to gain both experience for your resume and growth as a performer in a nurturing setting. Some companies will provide a living space or a stipend for the course of the program. Other programs do not, but also do not charge you money to partake in their program. Several of these programs are affiliated with existing large opera companies or festivals. There are websites where you can find these, e.g www.yaptracker.com and https://www.auditionsplus.com/auditions.php.
Pay-to-sing programs are like YAPs, except you pay for the opportunity to perform and for the training you get. Some are more expensive than others, but usually well worth the expenditure. Many of these programs provide daily classes in diction, movement, breath, song, yoga, dance, acting, etc.
You might already know GVAI’s summer program that has a focus in German diction, learning about how to sing abroad in Germany, and performing German art song. This year we will work on Mozart’s Magic Flute.
Acting or Dance Classes
More and more, acting is an essential skill for professional opera singers. Instead of spending tuition money on taking more classes in music history, spending money on acting or dance classes may be a better investment. Opera companies are no longer interested in singers who are JUST fantastic singers. They are not looking for the “park and bark” singer. As operas are becoming more commercialized and even live-streamed in movie theaters and online, directors want their singers to be even more convincing in their characters. Having solid skills in acting or in dancing will catch their attention.
An essential skill for any singer is the ability to play the piano. At the bare minimum, you should be able to pluck out your part with one hand. Ideally, a singer is able to play multiple parts at once or even a piano accompaniment. It will make learning your music a million times easier. Plus, if you also want to teach music, you will find it much easier to teach singers with better piano skills. In college, you will often be placed into a keyboarding class with multiple students playing at the same time for one teacher. You would improve your piano playing much quicker with a private piano teacher.
Competitions may not seem like a place to learn, but they are what you make them. Have someone film your competition performance. Later, watch your performance and take notes. Show it to your teacher and have them evaluate it as well. Watching yourself on video is one of the most effective ways of understanding what you need to work on. Additionally, some competitions will offer feedback. For example, for several of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Competitions, the judges will sit with singers one-on-one afterward to offer feedback. If you do not receive official feedback through a competition, it may be worth emailing your judges to ask for their feedback.
Graduate School (for a non-music degree)
I know this is an article about educating yourself WITHOUT attending grad school, but I’d also like to talk about how to continue your music education while attending grad school for a non-music degree. There are several reasons a singer may choose to attend grad school for something other than music, whether it is to have the education necessary to have your dream dayjob, or whether you want to prepare a plan B to a career in music. If you want to attend grad school for something else and still continue your music education, it is essential to continue to take voice lessons while in school. If you have the time, it’s also a great idea to participate in local operas where you are attending school.
Go to grad school in Germany
If you want to receive a great education without the huge cost of it, think about applying for German music schools. We already posted a blog about how to get started.
Are you a singer who took a non-traditional route? If you attended grad school for music, would you do it again if you could go back and do it over? Tell us about it in the comments! Also, be sure to share this blog with someone you know who’s deciding if they want to attend grad school.
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Hello, I am Christine, the director of GVAI, a passionate singer, German diction, voice and performance coach. I love music, singing and dancing. Life is an exciting journey and I invite you to walk with me....
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