(photo courtesy of the Warehouse Studio, Vancouver)
M A E . 2 0 1 6
Welcome! I originally launched MAE in Canada as a blog in 2008, with the intention of leveling 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 (profit). 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.
Students under 25 tend to do better in the public school system (Community College/University). It’s slower and more grounded in the elementary/secondary mind-set (unionized), and those 25 or over tend to do better in Private (PCC) Colleges which are fast track programs (1 year on average) but costs much more. I can’t honestly say that one is better than the other – only different and distinctly relevant to those with unique requirements. There are many more music/media arts education options out there; these are the only schools/programs that I would recommend/seriously worth looking at. If a school is not on this list, then I would suggest proceeding with caution and any music/media arts school that tells you that there are “lots of jobs” for graduates of their program, are essentially falsifying the facts (coercing the registration).
There’s a Q & A in the Forum (emails received) and I have written a number of post-secondary education related articles in the Blogroll with survey results and music links on the back end of the site.. Feel free to take this all in and share if you like it (share tabs bottom). If you have a question (or comment), email me (address below). If you don’t want your question or identity to be shared in the Forum – simply put “please do not share” in the subject line. Below are my top 10 media arts schools in Canada.
NEW for 2016 – The Learning Curve – Let it Happen – hackschooling and the anatomy of entrepreneurial spirit
NEW for 2016 – New Music Page – music composed and performed by Jim Lamarche (now in HD)
UPDATED for 2016 – The Learning Curve – an observation in post-secondary education (private vs. public)
School Ratings: (PCC) – Private Career College, (PUB) – Public – University or Community College
1. Ryerson University – RTA/DMZ – School of Media – (PUB) – Toronto (A+) - http://www.ryersonrta.com – I taught audio production in RTA from 1991 – 94 at the Rogers Communications Centre when it was still Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, just before it became a university and I have worked with dozens of graduates since, reflecting on their experience there in RTA, having met most of them in an industry capacity 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 has the best post-secondary media arts program 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 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 related career after graduating. The root structure is 66 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.
2. OCAD University/DFI (Digital Futures Initiative – MA, MDes, MFA) and CFC Media Lab – (PUB) – Toronto (A) - http://www.ocadu.ca/academics/graduate-studies/digital-futures.htm – is relatively new on the grid for me and it’s way cool. Formerly The Ontario College of Art and Design, now OCAD U, (founded in 1876) recently partnered with CFC (Canadian Film Centre) in 2013, on the Digital Futures initiative, allowing participants to cross-pollinate in any number of multi-disciplinary forums, in a similar way that the DMZ/Digital Media Zone (incubator system) mentors Ryerson students post graduate. Best part is that participants can earn a Masters degree in Media Arts and Design from OCAD in a system that’s all about invention and innovation. I’m thinking the way to go is to start at OCAD then finish at CFC (post grad), as the Centre is more about mentoring/activation than traditional pedagogical activities (in Film/TV/Media/Music) – http://cfccreates.com/programs/22-graduate-program-in-digital-futures. I will be updating this one over the course of this year with new information because it’s all very new, but in the meantime – have a look at the links above and run with it. Let’s put it this way; if one has a ‘vision’ for the future in digital media/design and is focused and ambitious? This is the place to be. What’s here (in this report), is the tip of the iceberg and there’s a whole universe under the surface – stay tuned. Highly Recommended.
3. Seneca@York – School of Communication Arts – (PUB) – Toronto (A-) – http://sca.senecac.on.ca/prospective - Post secondary partnerships are all the rage right now and this one between York U and Seneca is one of the best combinations I’ve seen yet and the network keeps expanding exponentially. Communication Arts/media studies at Seneca@York is a progressive example of what’s going on in the public ed sector, 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/Centennial and Algonquin Colleges (London/Toronto/Ottawa) and seems out of place to me. Regardless – 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. Highly Recommended.
4. Harris Institute – (PCC) – Toronto (B+) – http://www.harrisinstitute.com – Welcome to the Private Career College – PCC sector/side of the equation and a swing into a music/audio focus (with the next 3 listed schools just below). Where there are a number of sketchy choices, there are only 3 notable options that can be taken seriously (in my opinion). This is a good one. Graduates from the Harris camp indicated the highest satisfaction rate and had the most positive reviews of all the schools reporting in the MAE 2013 Survey. 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 Toronto. I’m all about promoting good private colleges here only because there are so few. It’s truly unique – humble pie, and yet a powerful little institution giving it the edge. I think that Harris Institute is the best school of it’s kind in Canada. Highly Recommended.
5. OIART – (PCC) – London (B) – http://www.oiart.org - There’s a really good private school in London Ontario (founded in 1983), dedicated to music/sound/audio called the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology that’s a must for this report. 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 (just before launching his school), Paul was/is a gifted musician and engineer/producer from the UK and had/has a totally different approach. Although OIART is out in the boonies, it’s curricula, facilities and mandate are first rate in what I would call an intensive, fast-track, high quality audio education. 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” 10 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 Avid/ProTools 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 original expression, and willingness to take in constructive criticism. Let’s just say that there’s a whole lot of ‘bling’ in the mix, in what now appears to be the quintessential ‘rock’ school. 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.
8. Durham College – School of Media Art & Design (MAD) – (PUB) – Oshawa (C) – http://www.durhamcollege.ca/academic-schools/school-of-media-art-design – I’ve never been to Durham College (the only school in this report where I can say that), but I’ve had the good fortune of meeting a few graduates who were in the MAD program there and I feel that their input is worth echoing. I’ve also spent some time looking carefully at the web-site/reels etc, so I’m confident that this is pretty accurate. It’s a community college in Oshawa, so I’m thinking there’s the predictable public post-secondary lag, in that it’s unionized – professors earning 6 figures/year – in a 25hr work-week with 4 months off every summer (yawn) – ok you get the picture. That being said; There’s a wide range of media related programs (19 in all) that you would never guess coming from a college at such a distance and so off the beaten track – almost like a chinese buffet (on the highway) … where some dishes are going to taste fresh and others that you leave on your plate after one bite – everything from Journalism to Graphic/Web – Gaming/Animation, Digital Photography/Video Production to Music Business (guessing that’s a waste of time), but all feeling grounded and hinting at a big bang for the education buck. Ok, let’s just say that if I had a son or daughter (just finished high-school) – still living at home, in that neck of the woods, and REALLY wanted to do media arts – I’d send him/her there only because it’s convenient, cheap and looks pretty decent. Not a lot to lose here (financially) and maybe a great appetizer for a more serious education experience later on.
9. 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 – 3 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.
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.
Relevant articles – A Heap of Money – by Jeremy Johnson – graduate, Metalworks Institute (2009)
Letters to the Editor in the Forum
The Learning Curve – Let it Happen – hackschooling and the anatomy of entrepreneurial spirit
The Learning Curve – An Observation in Modern Education (private vs. public post-secondary)
The Learning Curve – Erase & Rewind – introducing the open loop/non-linear post-secondary model
Black Hole Syndrome – the unspoken agenda in post secondary education
Jim Lamarche – Journal: the human condition, gender politics, spiritual isolation, hypocrisy in modern society, renewed faith, redemption in expression http://jimlamarche.blogspot.ca/
New Music Page – music composed and performed by Jim Lamarche (now in HD)