(photo courtesy of the Warehouse Studio, Vancouver)

Welcome to MAE 2014!

I originally intended for this blog to level out the playing field – to shine a spotlight on the misconceptions surrounding Canadian post-secondary music/media arts education (specifically) and to expose some of the myths that schools project to boost enrollment.  I feel I’ve made some progress in that regard.   Education systems (overall) are not necessarily benevolent (as we are led to believe) and are all too often insular, myopic, detached and self-absorbed.   It has been my mission to clarify and support the curious individual, and to provide assistance to him/her with pertinent accurate information from which to plan, proceed and succeed.

Unlike my previous WordPress blog, this website provides more important accessible information with links to the schools attached and I’m choosing to be more positive.  There are a lot of good schools out there (private and public)!   All the schools in this report are worth looking at regardless of their grade.  If a school isn’t here, it’s not because I don’t know about them – those worthy of mention are all I’m reporting on now.  Also, for those interested – there is a section on my work as a composer/writer (on the back end of the site … tabs/menus on the top right).  Thank you for your continued support and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors – whether it be in a media arts career or not.  Please have a look at the other pages here, (ie. Blogroll, Forum and News) containing detailed information/posts on the education system.  Here are my top 10 media arts schools in Canada …

jimlamarche@sympatico.ca

School Ratings:  (PCC) -  Private Career College,  (PUB) – Public – University or Community College

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1.  Harris Institute – (PCC) – Toronto (A+)
– http://www.harrisinstitute.com – recently bumped up to the top spot after the 2013 survey results in.  Graduates from the Harris camp indicated the highest satisfaction rate and had the most positive reviews of all the schools reporting.  John Harris left Trebas Institute in 1989 with his own vision and ideas on how audio production/arts management should be taught and was the second serious school of it’s kind to evolve in the GTA.  I’m all about promoting good private colleges here only because there are so few.  It’s truly unique – humble and yet a powerful little institution giving it the edge.  Harris get’s top marks and all indicators now show that it is in fact, the best school of its kind in Canada.  Highly Recommended.

2.  Ryerson University – RTA/DMZ -  School of Media – (PUB) – Toronto (A)http://www.ryersonrta.com  – I taught audio production in RTA from 1991 – 93 at the Rogers Communications Centre when it was still Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, just before it became a university and I have spoken to several graduates since about their experience there in RTA, having met most of them in an industry capacity working in the field after they finished.  This is a Media Arts degree program over 4 years (BA/BFA/MA) and is very intensive and can be followed up in their Digital Media Zone where those with a unique vision can incubate and fertilize.  Ryerson is hands down, the best public post-secondary media arts school in Canada and is a model for the future in MAE as a whole.  Unlike most of the other schools here in this report, RTA focuses more on servicing the “broadcast/digital media” sector, where thousands of RTA’s graduates are now fully integrated into successful careers in a different quadrant of media arts but still crossing over into the audio/visual production arena.  In 2011 they changed the name from  “Radio and Television Arts” to “RTA School of Media” out of necessity, as the former name had become an anachronism,  just like the word “video” or the term “multi-media” had become.  I think they should have just dropped the whole RTA thing completely and just called it the Ryerson School of Media (just my opinion).  It’s my guess that they kept the RTA tag out of respect for recent graduates.  Regardless, RTA / Ryerson is still an important contributor to the media arts education system in Canada and is a must for this report.  If my kid was interested in doing something in media arts, I wouldn’t hesitate to support his/her choice to do the RTA program at Ryerson University, if only for the reason that there is an elevated probability that he/she will integrate into a successful professional media arts career after graduating.  The root structure is 65 years deep at Ryerson (RTA started in 1949) and is very solid which counts for a lot especially IF – a graduate wants to “connect” with the real world. Ryerson University is a true testament of the public education sectors intrinsic value – tried and true.  Highly Recommended.

3.  OIART – (PCC) – London (A-) http://www.oiart.org - The Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology is an excellent media arts school (focusing on the craft of creative/technical audio).  I spent the better part of a day there a few years ago, having played in a band with OIART’s founder Paul Steenhuis – 36 years ago, when/where he took me under his wing and taught me much of what i know about audio, brilliant man,  Paul was a gifted musician and engineer/producer from the UK and had a totally different approach, even back then.  Although OIART is out in the boonies, it’s curricula, facilities and mandate are first rate.  No bling, platinum platitudes, song and dance … no ‘dog and pony’ show, no “future idol” crap, what you see is what you get.  Pure juice -  no sugar added -  straight forward and honest.  Highly Recommended.

4. Herzing College – Graphic/Web Design (PCC) – Toronto (B+) -  http://www.herzing.ca/toronto - Henry Herzing started Herzing College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1965 which has evolved into Herzing University with 11 campuses State side and several College campuses in Canada, becoming a solid installation in the Private Career College system in the U.S. and Canada.  The Toronto campus (Eaton Centre) established in 1968, is a humble and yet powerfully effective example of what happens when all goes right in the Canadian PCC sector, with courses in Paralegal/Law Clerk, Community Service Worker, Medical Office and Business Administration (and more).  That being said; one of the best kept secrets about Herzing Toronto is their “Graphic Design” and “Web Design” programs which are both really excellent.  Situated in an immaculately maintained lab in the rear part of the college in a dimly lit room, are large screen iMac computers outfitted with the latest technology (Adobe – Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash etc etc) and 2 dedicated instructors (projection screen) who know their stuff, guiding students into an intensive immersion into the latest graphic/web applications/technologies.   Herzing Toronto runs like a swiss watch and there is a level of professionalism that is rare in PCC colleges.  Recommended

5.  Seneca College – School of Communication Arts – (PUB) – Toronto  (B) –   http://sca.senecac.on.ca/prospective - Seneca College registers a solid B in media arts education having a wide variety of programs, options and opportunities that are, from this perspective – looking most favourable in the grand scheme of things.  from their world-renowned Animation Arts program where a long list of alumni now work on blockbuster feature films, down through their Visual/Digital Photography/Illustration and Graphic Design programs which are very good but then, settling for less than average with their IMP – Independent Music Program which comes across as a scaled down version of MIA – Music Industry Arts programs – Fanshawe and Algonquin Colleges (London/Ottawa).  It’s a real mixed bag and requires a serious look at before deciding – but overall, I would have to say that this is a first class community college that comes with excellent facilities and a solid faculty.   Again, clean, honest and zero pretension – which is the best part of the public education sector.  This is a website worth taking a good look at simply because of all the amazing choices – not to mention the many bridging options / transfer options available with other colleges and universities world-wide.  Seneca@York is a bona-fide public community college that has some nice trimmings and yet also comes with some of the predictable lags in bureaucracy – that is in the nature of a government run education system.  Seneca College is still a strong contender for those under 25, wishing to pursue a career in media arts.  Recommended.

6.   Metalworks Institute – (PCC) – Mississauga (B-)http://metalworksinstitute.com - Founded more recently by Gil Moore from the 80′s “corporate rock” band Triumph and a few who migrated from Trebas Institute in 2005, starting their ‘elite’ (now ‘premiere’) entertainment arts institution west of Toronto as an extension of the Metalworks Studios complex in Mississauga. They were looking to make a “splash” in the media arts education scene and they did just that – still “rockin” 9 years later and all because Gil Moore knows what he’s doing.  Great facilities and a slick presentation compliment their experienced faculty in an impressive combination of well-kept analog and state of the art digital technologies (best of the new and old).  Their affiliation/partnership with Digidesign/ProTools creators also makes them a serious choice, bringing with it a solid sense of meaningful history as well.  Having finished a tour of duty there (2 years – 2007-2008), I am left with mixed feelings.  MWI has an “authoritarian” approach to education – containment and control being their priority over freedom of expression, and willingness to take in constructive criticism.  Let’s just say that there’s a whole lot of ‘bling’ in the mix (and not a whole lot of real inspiration).  They sponsor the “Mississauga Future Star” search (pretending that it’s relevant) and promote the platinum “dream” in exchange for big money.   That being said; despite the reported short-comings,  Metalworks has a good organizational structure, a solid curricula and some top notch players on board.  It’s a tough school and those who graduate will have strong survival skills … Worth looking at.

7.  Sheridan College – Media Arts Program – (PUB) – Oakville (C+)http://www.sheridancollege.ca – Inspired by a couple of recent emails – and what appears to be an obvious need to address Sheridans efforts in media arts education.  Like Ryerson (above) and Fanshawe (below), Sheridan College is a bona-fide public institution / Community College which means that what it basically comes down to is … what you see is what you get.  The one thing i love about public education is that there is (for the most part) an absence of the many contrivances that are more obvious in the private career college (PCC) sector and a lot less pretentious posturing.  Although Sheridan’s MAP is more humbly equipped than Fanshawe’s MIA (Music Industry Arts), the curricula is more grounded in the reality of the Media Arts landscape and more graduates integrate successfully because of it.  This is largely due to the fact that it resides on the periphery of the GTA and there are more grads who find meaningful employment in a nearby cosmopolitan centre, whereas most grads from Fanshawe’s MIA program drift into oblivion because London is so far away and removed from any real meaningful media arts activity.  At Sheridan you will be practicing the skills necessary to integrate into a more diverse arena where the game presents more options and opportunities.  You will learn the solid basics around Screenwriting, Producing, Directing, Camera and Lighting, Editing, Sound and Digital Effects (the nuts and bolts of any comprehensive media arts education platform).   Another perk is that after completing the MAP, graduates can bridge into an Honours BFA degree at York University, or University of Toronto or earn a Bachelor of Communications degree at Griffith University in Brisbane Australia.  The down-side, as reported at Fanshawe a similar type of government run institution – is that it’s long and it’s slow – teachers are unionized and there is an elevated level of complacency in any such system of education.   at Sheridan, In 3 years (6 semesters), a student / participant will spend $22,323 in tuition and another $7,500 in books and other fees coming in at almost $30,000 in total.  That’s a tough pill to swallow and a massive OSAP loan to deal with later.  Is it worth it?   Maybe.  It depends on the person (ambition).  Some people thrive in a slower community college environment – needing the time to formulate their plan.  Others thrive in a shorter term PCC environment that moves faster and is more expensive – per education year.   One has to go and evaluate carefully asking a lot of good questions.  That being said, successful media arts graduates from any school are a minority over those who have made it, (making their living in media arts) – that includes Sheridan.  It’s all risky but if one has the passion and the willingness to sacrifice, then just maybe it’s worth it.  All in all i’d say that if you’re young – have lots of time – and still live with mom and dad – Sheridans Media Arts Program may just right for you - Worth looking at.

8. Toronto Film School – RCC Institute of Technology – (PCC) – Toronto (C) http://www.torontofilmschool.ca – I taught courses/workshops at the original Toronto Film School from 2005-2007,  in their RAT – Recording Arts Technology program when it was in the CBC building as part of the IAOD – International Academy of Design before it closed 6 years ago.  I visited the new TFS -  2 years ago, and prompted by a few recent emails then and now,  I have taken down my oldest review (then owned by an american corporation) and re-wrote this review from scratch.  It is with some hesitation that I enter the new TFS so low in the list – and yet do so with the optimism that this will quickly change and be upgraded over the next year to 3 years.  The original TFS was an unfortunate bi-product of the (publically american owned and plagued)  CEC – “Career Education Corporation”, having had 80+ campuses world-wide – and having licensed and operated the TFS at their now defunct IAOD campus here in Toronto  (Wellington street at John).   CEC dumped/closed  IAOD / TFS  and a dozen other schools throughout north America, because of the massive head-aches around mismanagement, law-suits etc etc – a huge mess.   The original TFS was expensive and BAD!  OK – this is the NEW TFS (version 2.0) and they would really prefer – that we don’t talk about the old one  – yes,  this is a whole new ball-game – now owned and operated by a Canadian owned PCC – RCC Institute of Technology.   Bad karma aside, the new TFS looks like it has a promising future – once they actually learn to stand up and walk again. The new campus (Dundas Square – Toronto) is a progressive “work in progress”  that is shape-shifted into a quasi-presentable mold (more resembling an unfinished model that still needs a lot of work than a real school),  a project “in construction” as it were.  Staff seems stable and positive and facilities are clean, simple and functional – all small format – computer/software based which will need to be augmented (larger format facilities) in order for the new TFS to be taken seriously (like a decent post-production suite).   It will be interesting to see what RCC does with the new TFS.   Will there be some real forward thinking (entrepreneurial spirit)  in mapping out this potentially great school, or will it default to the safety of the status quo – recirculating the bad smell that was there just a few years earlier?  Either way – go look and talk to students there now – because I’m not sure what to think/report.

It should also be known that as of this date,  June 28th, 2014 – I have not been able to look at TFS after having visited in their first year running (2011) at their new campus (Dundas Square). I’ve asked my contacts there if I can come and look but I have not been responded to.  I would like to update their status there/here, but for some reason – (or so it would appear) they don’t want that.

9.   RAC – Recording Arts Canada – (PCC) – Toronto/Montreal (C-)http://recordingarts.com/ – founded by the Keca brothers many years ago (originally in Montreal).  I did a guest lecture there in 2001 at their Stoney Creek campus.  It was a nice feeling and yet a fledgling institution devoted to educating young entrepreneurs in music/sound/audio.  There’s lots of sugar in the mix with a serious music biz (rock school) spin going on (based mostly from what I see on their site) and I’m doubting that there are many real meaningful connections happening on the back end, but ultimately I don’t know.   I’m sure there are some success stories here as there are in any school and I welcome hearing about them, because in the many years RAC has been up and running – I don’t know of one.  Let’s just say, that if meaningful employment (post grad) is high on your priority list?  (I’m betting) there are better options.

10.  Fanshawe College – Music Industry Arts – (PUB) – London (D)http://www.fanshawec.ca/programs-courses/full-time-programs/mia2-intro - I have fond memories of London Ontario and for Fanshawe College (in particular).  MIA still has great, modern facilities and a solid faculty, however there are several problems here.  First problem:  most students finally getting in, have to spend a whole academic year in general arts & sciences, before they can qualify for MIA, which is a waste of time and a cash grab by the college.  Where once there was a rigorous audition process to screen applicants and a long-waiting list, now almost anyone with a 2.0 GPA in general arts and sciences can enroll (and the college crams them in).  This minimal academic focus has sucked the wind out of MIAs creative sails and has increased the amount of  “sludge”  getting in (those with little talent or desire).  There was a time when class sizes were small and every student in MIA was uniquely gifted (technically and creatively), which elevated the whole experience – times have changed.   Second problem: the fact that it’s a government institution augments a heavy sense of complacency which does not support solid work-place integration for graduates, and this complacency seems to be more obvious/prevalent/apparent at Fanshawe (for some reason) than at any other public college/university that I know of.  The result of this is a  l-o-n-g  and  s-l-o-w  process which is lacking in any real inspiration. I’ve taught there too and have done guest lectures over the past 20 years.   You could look at it this way, to do all of MIA and the optional digital/post elective year would be about $24,000 – so in the end, it’s actually the same if not more (with living expenses) than it would cost to do a  ‘fast track’  (one year) at most other schools and it’s a 3-4 year commitment (with GAS).  Also, in my opinion … a slow education makes for a slower career evolution.  Most in MIA live in a comfortable insular bubble that’s cut off from the outside world.  Slow breeds slow. There’s a very real “union shop” feel to Fanshawe and MIA feeling like a mere extension of high school.  The antiquated work ethic which prevails here is particularly incongruous with the competitive reality of the music/audio/sound/media-arts business.  What was once an ambitious and vibrant artistic community in the 70′s – that lived life on the edge, has since been reduced (like the franchises in their junk food courts) to an exercise in commercialized bureaucratic futility.  There are some really good media arts programs out there in public community colleges but unfortunately – this isn’t one of them.

 

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more information in the Blogroll, Forum, News and Survey/2013 (above)