Date: 02/24/2010 Print This Post



Gearing Students For The “Real World” Since 1994, MI’s Renowned Bachelor of Music Program Sets Itself Apart From Many U.S. Music Schools With An Intensive Curriculum Combining Traditional and Contemporary Instruction

Today, there are hundreds of thousands of enormously talented college kids across the world dreaming of coming to Los Angeles to make their mark in the music biz.

Taking math and English courses as part of their school’s liberal arts curriculum, they’re champing at the bit and biding their time before giving themselves an opportunity to conquer the world.

Others are enrolled in music programs at big universities or at well-known music schools in scattered parts of the country—and can’t wait to finish so they can hightail it to Hollywood.

But why wait? Why put off your dreams when you can earn a Bachelor’s Degree that prepares you for lifelong success in the music industry right in the heart of L.A., where everything is already popping?

Since Musicians Institute ( launched its world-renowned Bachelor of Music Program in 1994, the school has equipped hundreds of talented students for successful careers in a wide array of high-profile positions. MI alumni success stories are endless – they include professional touring musicians with superstar artists; thriving singer-songwriters; composers for film, television and stage musicals; members of the U.S. Army band; creators of music libraries for film and TV licensing, sound engineers and professional educators.

And those are just a few of the music careers that MI grads are prepared to handle. “The education we provide benefits the many music students who don’t want to follow the traditional music education route,” says Joe Elliott, Director of the Bachelor Degree Program. “It’s a definite alternative to the typical Bachelor of Music degree you get at state colleges and conservatories because rather than focusing on the history and theory of music of the past, we deal directly with the realities of ways people are making a living in the business today. Compared to standard music degrees, MI’s Bachelor Degree offers much more actual performance content along with contemporary music-specific studies.”

What sets MI apart from the more traditional schools students might have on their short list? Associate Dean Gary Solt says, “What makes this program unique is that we’re able to take elements of traditional music and combine them with more contemporary styles and applications. You graduate with the skills to do more than be a music educator or audition for one of the few orchestra positions out there – you have the practical skills and versatility to make a living as a working musician. Our vision is to send our graduates out with the ability to have a long, fruitful career, not just a degree to hang on the wall. The extensive preparation that they put into their weekly performances and their final juries guarantees that they have professional-level live performance skills in a variety of styles including funk, Latin, rock, jazz and classical music.

While the study of traditional music icons like Bach, Beethoven and Chopin and the European orchestral tradition are not what draws students to MI, they are not absent from the curriculum. “We never devalue art music,” says Roger Steinman, Dean of the Bachelor Program, “In fact, we make sure to incorporate enough of it in the program so that our students who want to go on to grad school can be competitive.”

Another compelling reason to consider a college education at MI recalls that old real estate industry mantra: Location, location, location!

“When musicians consider where to go to pursue their goals, they’re usually thinking about L.A. or New York because these cities represent the top echelon of the professional music industry,” Solt says, “When you go to a music school in another part of the country, your first step after graduation is usually to move. But when you’re at MI, you’re already here, and you can begin your career networking the minute you hit town.”

The intensive 180-unit Bachelor Program at MI comprises four basic areas: instrument studies (with majors in Guitar, Bass, Drums, Keyboards and Voice), supportive music courses, general education and electives. Students audition and enter the program with their major instrument already chosen, so they begin immediately with a mix of private instruction and classes in ensemble, reading, instrument study and the aforementioned required performance juries where students combine their skills and knowledge as they assemble bands, rehearse, arrange and perform musical selections from a variety of different musical genres in a concert-hall setting. These performances are filmed, recorded, and judged by a panel of MI instructors and industry notables.

Steinman says, “The preproduction work that goes into these shining moments is as much a part of the students’ education as the actual performance. They’re being judged at a professional level, which is the whole point of the program!”

The Supportive Music element of the program includes courses in such essential areas as music theory, ear training, audio recording, music history, music business, computer applications, music teaching, keyboard skills, arranging and conducting. These studies are undertaken in depth—the program has eight levels of theory, for example, that merge classical and popular music-based musical analysis. Students engage in an equal measure of ear training, learning to apply their skills to deconstructing the tunes they play in ensembles.

General Education, which comprises 25 percent of the 180 total units required for the degree, is offered through a special credit-transfer arrangement with Los Angeles City College, although students can also meet the standards for English, history, math, science, etc. at any accredited school in the country and apply these credits to their MI degree.   “We’re looking for students who are fully functional human beings as well as great musicians,” says Steinman. “And yes, that means we also require them to apply critical thinking. A career in music depends not only on musical talent, but on versatility, organization, and mental discipline. We don’t want to train a narrow set of skills, but rather educate a well-rounded individual who has music at the center of his or her life.”

Elective courses give students options to both deepen and broaden their skills, such as a vocalist who wants to learn bass, a drummer who wants to sing, a guitarist who wants to shore up his or her MIDI or computer knowledge.

“The beauty of what we offer,” Steinman says, “is that they learn a lot of different approaches and styles that open up more potential career paths, and they develop the insight and connections to manage all of these different areas. We’re not just about preparing musicians for a few years in the business, but a lifelong career. For those who want to make this their life, our program is the answer. We’re also inspired by the very diverse student population, which includes students from many different countries and cultural and religious backgrounds. Sometimes MI really feels like a very cool and cosmopolitan small planet.”

Solt adds, “The greatest thing is seeing young people come to MI and embrace knowledge from the outset. Their experiences light a fire that stays with them for their whole life. They grow enormously in the years they are here, and because we are selective about the students we choose for the program, the majority are up for the challenges and stay the course. It’s wonderful to see them blossom at such a high level.”

Where Music Careers Are Born
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Located In The Heart of Hollywood, ‘The World’s Most Innovative Contemporary Music School’ Offers A Genre-Busting Range Of Instrument, Recording and Specialized Programs Geared to Launch Real World Careers In The Music Industry

Despite its success in priming over 20,000 musicians, producers, engineers, vocalists and music industry professionals for careers in every contemporary genre of music— rock, funk, R&B, hip-hop, jazz, blues, and fusion, among others— Musicians Institute (MI) is still one of the best kept secrets in the music education field. Located in the heart of Hollywood , just blocks from the Capitol Records tower, MI has an incredible history of innovation dating back to its origins in 1977 as the Guitar Institute of Technology (GIT), which broke new ground as a performance-based contemporary music school taught by working professionals. Within a few years, GIT was joined by bass and drum programs to form Musicians Institute and the evolution has continued to this day with degree and certificate programs for career-minded guitarists, bassists, drummers, vocalists, keyboardists, recording engineers, independent producers, guitar makers, music business professionals and filmmakers.

The best measure of MI’s success is the graduates themselves. The list of former students who have achieved success in the “real world” is long and colorful.  MI alumni don’t just appear on the covers of music magazines, they fill the pages in between. Those who have passed through MI’s halls before going on to achieve notable careers include Keb ‘Mo; Weezer guitarists Rivers Cuomo and Brian Bell; longtime Chick Corea guitarist and fusion giant Frank Gambale; Chad Smith and John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, drummer Curt Bisquera (Elton John, Mick Jagger, Bonnie Raitt); guitarist Fred Clark (Chaka Khan, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder); guitarist/producer John Shanks (Melissa Etheridge); the late Jeff Buckley; singer Angela Ammons, and recently former American Idol finalist LaToya London, who has just released her debut on Peak Records.

MI’s international reputation as a leader in contemporary education is based on four key factors, implemented by the school’s more than 120 pro instructors: 1) performance-based education, with practical, interactive instruction by working professionals in the classroom, onstage and in the studio; 2) intensive learning, including a fast-paced application-oriented curriculum that cuts quickly to the core of each subject; 3) an environment that encourages the expression of creative diversity and personal style; and 4) career development via programs that prepare students for the realities of highly competitive professions.

MI has expanded far beyond its roots as an instrument performance school and now offers specialized programs including the Guitar Craft Academy , which trains a new wave of guitar makers and technicians for the thriving instrument industry; the Music Business Program, focused on educating aspiring industry professionals; and the new Film Institute of Technology, which brings MI-style hands-on training to music video and commercial production.

MI has also expanded academically. Instrument students now have a choice of earning Bachelor of Music and Associate of Arts degrees as well as certificates. The latest offering is an AA program combining guitar, bass, drum, keyboard or vocal studies with a Music Business emphasis to turn out graduates who can truly fend for themselves in a challenging industry.

“What sets MI apart from most of America ‘s standard college music programs is that we take contemporary music seriously, and we combine all of the elements of a contemporary music education in one place,” says Keith Wyatt, MI’s VP of Programs. “We were training students in contemporary music back when it wasn’t considered a serious course of study. Electric guitar was the first instrument we offered and it remains our largest program, but to this day, most colleges still treat it as a second-class instrument because it doesn’t fit into the classical or traditional jazz repertoire.

“MI’s programs concentrate on training students to pursue their goals as efficiently and competitively as possible,” he adds. “The original basic idea was to bring a vocational-style practical focus to a creative art form. We teach students to organize their knowledge and skills and offer plenty of hands-on experience to make it all stick. Aside from all of the classes and lessons, by the time a player or singer graduates from MI, they have had dozens, if not hundreds, of live performing experiences and have rubbed shoulders with industry professionals, world-class teachers and visiting artists. Recording and film students know the gear inside-out and have produced their own projects. Guitar-making students have made their own guitars. Music business students have had day-to-day work experience. It’s still a tough business, but they leave here armed with something more than a dream.”

MI’s location in the center of Hollywood is a key part of the equation, training students for contemporary music careers in the very heart of the contemporary music industry. One-of-a-kind facilities tucked just off Hollywood Boulevard surround students with professional tools and atmosphere including top-of-the-line recording studios, an array of project studios, dozens of workstations, HD editing systems, a 500-seat concert facility and a wide variety of performance stages, class-rehearsal rooms and practice labs.

Summing up the ongoing mission and overall vibe of the MI experience, legendary bassist and film composer Stanley Clarke once observed, “What I really like about Musicians Institute is that not only do they provide an exceptional, hands-on music education, they also prepare their students for the many other things needed to go out into the real world and be a working musician.”

For more information on Musicians Institute, please visit or call 800-255-7529 .