10 Mar Paying for a Formal Music Education
The aspirations of the over 20 million young Americans who enroll in college annually can be generalized into three distinct categories. For the majority, an academic degree is a means to an end. They have chosen a career path, and hope to break into that line of work by attaining the minimum credentials required of them. For others, a degree serves a more idealistic purpose. Not unlike the educated class of classical antiquity, their aim in attending a college or university is the lofty one of education for education’s sake. Musicians, however, tend to split the difference in seeking a formal music education. On one hand, their pursuit is based on the same ideals as those who seek education for its own sake. On the other, they aim to make connections and learn necessary skills and disciplines necessary to compete in the highly competitive field that music performance has become today. The trouble is that paying for a formal music education is ― like all college training in the U.S. ― an expensive investment, and one that does not always promise the immediate financial rewards that other career paths might.
For young musicians who seek to tread down the one less traveled by, a well thought-out plan to finance such training is indispensable. One thing is certain: nobody wants to shoulder dozens of thousands of dollars of debt straight out of college, and the ever rising student debt problem in the U.S. is a symptom of the economic problem that this repayment model represents. In reality, the problem is that most young students are inexperienced. They simply cannot yet fathom the weight that they are promising to bear by signing to repay a loan often so large that it represents a sum they may never earn in a single year. In short, they have “not yet learned the value of a dollar.”
Complicating matters even further is that of the cost of living. Even those who are employed full time know that paying for housing, transportation, healthcare, and other basic survival necessities is no easy thing. For students whose time should be dedicated wholly to education, their studies, and potentially internships, this is compounds the problem.
To forgo financial difficulties in the future, it is crucial that aspiring musicians seek alternative options in financing their education ― if only to supplement the cost of their training. Many times, the cost of education can be reduced significantly if not entirely, if only the correct scholarships, stipends, and grants are sought.
Federal Pell Grant
The Pell Grant is a traditional financial aid that does not need to be repaid. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s website, the amount awarded depends on a few factors:
- Demonstrated student financial need
- The cost of attending school
- Status as a full-time or part-time student
- Plans to attend school for a full academic year or less
State-funded Scholarship Programs
Here in the state of Florida, a program known as “Bright Futures” has been around since 1997 to help students of academic merit attend any college or university that they choose within their home state. While it seldom covers all of the tuition required, it often does fund a significant portion of a student’s cost of education. Many other states have similar programs to financially support their top academic performers in their college pursuits, and musicians are almost always among them.
College of Music Scholarships
It is true that academic disciplines in the arts and humanities are not nearly as well funded as their mathematical and scientific counterparts. This is a symptom of our collective culture that ascribes education first and foremost an economic role in our world. Nevertheless, the liberal arts and humanities programs do have some resources available to their students, and before and even during the application process, students should find out about qualifying for college scholarship programs. All serious music programs in the U.S. have some type of funding available for incoming students of great talent. It’s money that is there for that purpose only, and anyone serious about studying music should apply for any available scholarships.
Generous nonprofit organizations and philanthropists donate to the arts and humanities, not to mention several federal initiatives. Below are three major organizations that offer scholarships for students of merit.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. Any google-savvy person will be quick to find thousands of scholarship websites country-wide. To be sure, these are not always easy to qualify for, and some are easier to earn than others. But a little searching is worth the effort, and many music students are successful in funding their educations very responsibly, making their educational experience that much more relaxing and enriching.