FAQ pages

“I want to major in percussion when I go to college - where should I go to school?”

Oh, too many questions have to be asked before I can make any such recommendations. What I’d focus on are questions such as:

- where is the school located? Is it in a city with a thriving music scene, or out in the middle of nowhere? If you’re in an area with a strong music scene, that means there will be more opportunities to perform and/or study off-campus, adding to the musical education you’ll get at the school itself.

- who teaches at the school? The percussion faculty member(s) at a school are going to have a significant impact on the success of your college years. Don’t be impressed just by a big name - a big name is no guarantee that this person will be able to actually teach you well. Find a teacher with whom you can work well as a student. Find a teacher who is skilled in the areas you want to study, whether that’s focusing on a single area of percussion or instead covering a wide variety of percussion studies.

Don’t be impressed by the fact that someone has a doctorate, either. There are some fantastic percussion teachers who have earned their doctorate, but there are also many teachers who went out and got a doctorate just for the sake of getting the piece of paper (the diploma) and for putting the title on their resume for the next college job search. The letters, “D.M.A.,” just like a “big name,” are no guarantee that an individual is indeed a good teacher.

- how good are the other students at the school? You’re going to be interacting with these other students - practicing and hanging out with the other percussion majors, playing with these students in the school’s ensembles like the Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, and the stronger the student body is at a school, the more you’ll be able to learn from them - and the more you’ll be challenged to excel in your own work. Also, the stronger the students, the better the literature that the school’s ensemble conductors will be able to program. The school where I did my undergrad’ studies had a wonderful orchestra conductor - great teacher, very knowledgeable about music, a wonderful woman who taught me volumes about music - but the string studios weren’t as strong as those at some other schools, and as a result, we didn’t do any really heavy orchestral literature like Mahler or Stravinsky in my days there as a student. When I went to grad’ school, they had a much stronger string program, and the orchestra was doing much more technically challenging literature.

- JW