Studying music abroad is the perfect way to jumpstart your career in an industry that is becoming more internationally connected, and one that now demands proficiency in a wide range of global styles and approaches. Often you will get to study a musical style in the place it originated while also experiencing how local or traditional music has been fused into a vibrant and quickly changing contemporary scene. Music administrators will learn new approaches to management and how the music industry varies widely within different legal and cultural frameworks through music study abroad programs.
Why Study Music Abroad
Music--perhaps more than any of the other performing arts--has been profoundly influenced by globalization and new technology that allows instant sharing of information across cultural and geographical borders. A truly talented professional musician must not only master his/her instrument, but should be able to adapt to a wide range of styles when playing in an ensemble. A truly talented music producer or administrator should be aware of international music trends and how to navigate an increasingly complex worldwide music industry.
Participating in music study abroad programs gives musicians a fresh perspective on their instruments, which often includes learning an entirely new style of playing that can stand alone or be integrated into other genres. Music producers and administrators gain experience working in unfamiliar environments and the ability to adapt to a wide range of circumstances.
Studying music abroad is certainly not limited to instruction in a university classroom. There are conservatories, music academies, recording studios, record labels, opera houses, symphony halls, and countless other musical institutions that are prime locations to study music abroad. Depending on your interests and the willingness of your home institution to offer academic credit for a non-traditional education experience, you might consider a music internship for hands-on learning and the chance to see how music functions in a real-world context beyond the ivory towers of a university, or even a music-focused volunteer program to enhance your own musical abilities by leading workshops and teaching young people, while also experiencing the power of music for education, social change, and development.
Every destination has its own unique traditions and musical offerings and you will want to choose where to study based on your specific interests, language abilities, and the strength of instruction in your instrument. However, some of the best countries to study music abroad are:
Ghana, where music is integrated into every aspect of life and the University of Ghana has direct ties to the National Theatre, which is one of the foremost performance venues in the country;
Italy, where musicians have the unique opportunity to study opera in its birthplace and dive into a thriving jazz and rock scene in big cities like Rome;
Brazil, where recognizable styles like samba, bossa nova, and choro can be heard daily, and cities like Salvador boast an eclectic blending of styles inspired by the African influence brought by slaves centuries ago;
India, where popular musicians such as the Beatles have retreated to study with masters, and where each region has its own distinct musical style and dozens of unique instruments.
Courses & Programs
Unlike many other disciplines, music is often taught in very small classes or in one-on-one lessons. In many cultures, musicians are identified at a young age based on their talent or natural inclination toward performing, and assigned as an apprentice to a master musician. The teacher-student relationship is paramount in many places, and thus students studying music abroad are often pleasantly surprised by a large amount of individual attention.
The best time to study music abroad varies widely from location to location. Some points to consider include if and when there are large music festivals happening, the timing of a venue’s performance season, and the term structure of universities and conservatories. Many universities offer music study abroad programs that follow a standard two-semester schedule with the first semester running from August or September through December, and the second semester running from January to May.
For musicians hoping to train in their instrument, expect an audition or placement process. Often schools will accept a video audition, but some may also require an in-person placement audition upon arrival. For this reason, it is important for musicians to stay open-minded and flexible when considering their music study abroad course options. Be sure to select a large number and wide range of courses that will be approved by your home institution in case you don’t qualify for some, or if a particular instructor only has room for a limited number of students per semester.
Think of the truly great musicians of our time. Nearly every one of them has collaborated internationally, and most popular contemporary styles are a blend of genres from many places. Music study abroad programs give you the chance to immerse yourself in a particular style, and to train with some of the most talented musicians in the world who play in that style. It also makes you more versatile as a musician, which is one of the single most important qualities for having a successful career in the music industry.
For music administrators and producers, music study abroad programs can give you new tools for addressing challenges by learning to think creatively and adapt to any situation. Working at a recording studio in a well-known city or helping to manage an international artist are ways to broaden your portfolio and show future employers that you have what it takes to work in a fast-moving cutthroat industry.