Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to Choose a Music School

Tips for choosing a music school

In this video, Robert gives you some tips to wisely choose a music school for your students, your own kids, or yourself.

Released on November 2, 2016

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. This is Robert Estrin at and with a viewer question who asks, how to decide what music school to go to? This is an extremely difficult choice for so many musicians. After all, there are so many music departments and universities, colleges and conservatories all over the world. How do you narrow it down? Well, there's the obvious things. Well, you want to go to a school that, you know, has good ensemble so you get to play with good musicians, good orchestras to play in if you're a wind player or a string player.

There are many things that come into play. The prestigiousness of the institution, perhaps the city you'll be in. After all, you're going to spend years of your life and maybe you want to be in an urban environment where you can start embarking upon a career in performing or teaching if you want to have those opportunities. Or maybe you want to have the solace of a rural environment where you can just delve into music and stay immersed in it without distraction.

But you know, when I was facing this challenge myself, there was one criteria which rose above all the others more so than every other decision combined which is this. If you're an instrumentalist or a composer or a conductor, ultimately, it comes down to the private teacher who mentors you. This trumps everything else about where to go to school. When I was choosing schools, I listened to many recordings to determine what player do I have a reverence for, who I'd love to learn from? Because after all, you could go to the finest conservatories in the world. But if your teacher is not a great teacher or not the right teacher for you, you're not going to get what you need to develop your art because you can have all the theory backward and music history backward in the world, get to play in good groups.

But if you can't master your instrument or your craft, you're really dead in the water. It's the most important thing, so make sure there's someone at that school that you are considering going to who you really want to study with. Now, the challenge is tremendous in this regard because just because somebody can play well doesn't mean that they can teach well. The opposite is true. There are people, for example, who had a lustrous careers years ago but maybe they have physical ailments and they don't performed and haven't performed in years but they might be great nurturing teachers who can really help you.

Worse yet, there are some teachers who are just mean, you know, and how to know, because you might think, "Oh, well this teacher must be great because look at all the phenomenal students that they have," and after all that is a great indication. If for example, the teacher that you're thinking about has contest-winning students all over the place, you figure they must be the ones to study with. They very well could be.

But I've also seen the situation where an illustrious name goes to an institution so all the most talented students apply to that school, vie for this teacher so they have people who are already on such a high level that all they're really doing is coaching them, not so much teaching, just putting the final refining touches on their playing and getting all the credit for it, the work that somebody else that were with them for years previous.

This is not an easy thing to discover. Talk to as many people as you can. Visit the schools that you're interested in going to so you can meet people and that is ultimately the most important thing you can do is to find the right teacher to take your playing and your music to the next level. Thanks for these great questions. I am Robert Estrin here at and Thank you.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Tony Lockwood * VSM MEMBER * on November 2, 2016 @6:08 am PST
As always, sound common sense. Well done, Robert!
Robert - host, on November 4, 2016 @4:42 pm PST
Thank you! There is more to come.
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