TED vs. Harvard (Part 1)

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I know I have posted any piano tips lately.  Bear with me.  I am just swamped for the next few weeks, but have big plans.  I also have had contributions from people of their hymn arrangements.  I plan to post the first one next week.  That should be a lot fun trying to help each other.

If I had to pick only one magazine to read, it would be Fast Company.  This month, there was an article entitled “TED vs. Harvard.”  For those of you who don’t know, TED is a company/event where the very best talent in the world comes together to share short talks about anything of interest.  Many of you have probably seen TED talks on the internet.  The subject matter is all over the map, but you normally feel like the quality is just exceptional and often, very special.

The point of the article is that the quality of the education TED provides (mainly for free) is of the same or better quality as you would get at a top university.  That brings up the questions of how necessary a college education is today and what the future of education looks like tomorrow.

I think about this question all of the time for various reasons.  For example, I have a college degree in Computer Science.  I do not have a degree in music, and that hurts me in certain ways.  I have no doubt that some speaking/performance opportunities may never open up to me in music unless I get a music degree.

Sometimes, I consider doing that.  It is tempting.  But then it occurs to me that I may not need one.  After all, I study with a top college teacher already.  He helps me with everything I really need to know from composition to theory to performance.  I can’t imagine that any theory class in any university in the country would be much better.

If I want even more, there is a wealth of information available in books and online.  In other words, opportunities like TED are available to musicians too.  For a very modest amount of money and effort, you can get a world class musical education without ever enrolling in a university.  And if you go that route, you will not have to take classes that you don’t want/need and won’t have to deal with certain other things that waste time and productivity.

I see important advantages of going to college though.  Structure is the biggest one (rather than an ad hoc approach to study).  Another big one is the opportunity to be around other musicians.  That is actually huge because musicians make each other better.  Practically any pianist for example will play better when playing with other musicians.  Good musicians feed off each other. 

But if you can get a very good teacher and/or educational materials and you can find ways to perform by yourself and with other musicians, you can get good training outside of college.  I will say though that getting a good teacher is easier said than done, especially if you live in a less populated area and not around universities (yes, that is ironic).

Many of you that read this blog are either college professors or music majors.  I am not trying to offend you.  Let me know your thoughts.  Am I missing something about the advantages of a college degree?

Of course, for many of us, going back to college is not really an option for any number of reasons.  For those of you in that category, regardless of what field you want to study, let me just encourage you to look for alternatives such as TED.  These are amazing times we live in.

If you want to improve in music, here is what you need to do.  Come up with a wish list of the top five people you want to study with.  Don’t settle; even if they are famous, in high demand or live somewhere else, write them down.  Then call the first name on the list and try to make it happen.  You will be surprised what happens.  My experience is that most top notch musicians are very interested in helping other musicians.