OK, I’ll admit it. I laughed the first time I read the words “online music degree .” It sounded preposterous, dishonest, almost, like a school claiming you could get a degree in public speaking without ever having to get up in front of a crowd, or earning your nursing degree without having to set foot in a hospital. The music theory, music history, and other academic classes would be easy enough to do online, I suppose, but how could an online college replicate the orchestra concerts, the voice lessons, the remedial piano classes I remember so vividly from college as a music major? I mean, what are people supposed to do, video tape their performances and send them off to a far away professor to prove that they weren’t musically inept?
Well, I suppose that could work. Actually, when I think about it, I may have learned far more from my experiences as a working musician than suffering through beginner strings and piano 101 in the music department. Practically speaking, what was the difference between the local choir teacher and me, except that she had education credits and a diploma, whereas I had performance credentials and a demo CD?
Maybe getting an online music degree wasn’t as ridiculous as it sounded.
Colleges offering accredited online music degrees, such as Excelsior College, generally do it by allowing students to “frankenstein” their degree together. Students are encouraged to submit portfolios outlining their musical experience, track down online classes in music theory and music history to complete their degree requirements, and finish general classes such as math and science that may have been neglected in the flush of an artistic youth. Getting a hands-on music education is actually the easy part; even in brick-and-mortar music departments, it’s assumed that students received the bulk of their practical training at the music store down the street, or in their piano teacher’s living room, or helping their cousin’s band set up for gigs at the local VFW. Many highly respected music colleges, such as Berklee School of Music, offer a variety of online classes and certificate programs, but not full degrees. Schools like Excelsior allow you to combine classes like those with traditional online college courses and real-world music experience to earn your degree.
Getting your music degree online won’t turn you into a professional-level musician, but if you’re already a good musician, it sure won’t hurt you. Few music jobs, besides teaching at a public school, require any formal education, but really, isn’t teaching the perfect job for people who need to keep their evenings and weekends free for performances? Students benefit enormously from having a teacher who is also a working musician, particularly older students considering a career in the arts.
Earning an online music degree shouldn’t sound like the equivalent of ordering a diploma off the back of a cereal box. It should sound like paying your dues in the real world, like pounding the pavement with your demo CD, like playing everywhere you can and teaching eager eleven-year-olds how to play the guitar, so you can keep your own kids fed and clothed while passing the gift of music on to others. That’s what being a musician is all about, right?
If getting a music degree online makes that even a little bit easier, then I would encourage it.
This post is part of the series: Online Music Degrees
Let’s take a look at online music degrees and where you can go to earn one from a school of music.