Below are questions received and answered via email. If you have a specific question, feel free to email Jim at the email address below. If you don’t want your question or identity to be shared in this forum – simply put … “please do not share” or “with-hold name” in the subject line.
Hello Jim, Jason from Scarborough here. I’m a beat maker and performer and am looking for a program for Sept/19. I’ve read your stuff and I’m skeptical now. The schools that I’m most interested in look so good, almost too good. Which school do you think makes the most sense for me?
Jason Sanborn – Scarborough – Dec 3/18
Hi Jason. Yes they do make it look so good. I really don’t know you or your situation there and I don’t read crystal balls, so me recommending some place specific would just do you a disservice. What I can tell you is this. The primary motivation behind most enrolling in these schools/programs is that chance to become larger than life/famous, if only they had the edge that they could get by getting a music/media education. That said, in the 30 years and 10,000 + students/grads I’ve worked with at the various schools I taught at, I don’t know one who is famous now. Not to discourage you – just putting out the facts as I see them. I’m also seeing 9/10 of those who graduated not employed in music/media (years later). Go visit the schools that you’re pulled to and make a decision that’s grounded in reality (not fantasy).
JL – Dec 5/18
Greetings Jim. Not sure if this is off topic but I’ve been spending time in your music page and really enjoying your clips. I especially like how it all sounds. I’m seriously researching new near field monitor/speakers here in my studio and am curious to know what you’re using.
Steve Armstrong – Toronto – November 07/18
Hi Steve. Thanks for listening. My studio monitoring is very humble here. I’m using Canadian made Paradigm Monitor 3v.3 reference monitors (passive bookshelf speakers), powered by a Cambridge Audio A300 integrated amp, but do all my critical listening on Grado SR60 headphones. I used Stax Electrostatic headphones for years (80s/90s – $600) but they’re super expensive now, plus the last pair I bought disintegrated after 3 months so no more Stax. The SR60s are $120 and are the most musical headphones I’ve ever owned. I can actually feel the bass frequencies down my body and into my legs. I’m not sure how that’s possible.
JL – November 10/18
Hi Jim. I’m a musician/songwriter (guitar/keyboards), and I’ve been considering doing a music/recording program for a couple of years now but I still haven’t done anything about it. I’m torn after reading graduates putting out their story (message boards) advising people not to waste my money on a school and that it can be done without the expensive education. Some comments are suggesting buying equipment and learning on my own. I’m curious to know what you think. Is school worth it or not?
Peter Carson – Toronto – October 15/18
Hi Peter. There’s no definitive answer to your question. It depends. I’ve seen those who enrol and take to it immediately, despite the obstacles, graduate and go on to do great things in the field. It happens. You may be one of those people. I don’t know. It’s all about how serious/committed you are, the sacrifices you are willing to make and the risks you’re willing to take. In my experience, most who enrol at these schools don’t put a lot of serious thought into it (impulsive) and drop out early because they liked the ‘idea’ of it but their vision wasn’t grounded in the necessary conviction or self-discipline to carry it out/see it through. The other thing (for what it’s worth and not intended to discourage you), is that those who enrol, graduate and go on to become successful didn’t think about it long going in. They just decided and did it.
JL – October 19/18
Hello Jim. I found your website and have a question. Our son graduated from high school 4 years ago and has been working in the food service industry and still lives at home with us. He has been talking to an admissions counsellor at a University in NB and is seriously considering doing an on-line/distance learning program. I’m curious to know what you think of this type of education and how the prospects compare post grad.
Name with-held by request – Toronto – October 2/18
Hi C (if I may). It depends on the school/program but generally on-line/distance learning programs are considered to be sub-standard post-secondary platforms amongst human resource professionals. I’ve had several conversations with employers/those who hire/HR etc. over the years, and the general concensus is that those who physically attend a proper (brick and mortar) college/university are preferred over those graduating from on-line schools/programs.
JL – October 4/18
Hello Jim. I just found your website and I wish I had found it sooner. My son just started at Trebas Toronto. I don’t see any mention of that school in your report. What is your opinion on them? Name with-held by request – Toronto – Sept 9/18
Hi B (if I may). I worked at Trebas for 21 years and there were some wonderful moments for me as a teacher there (1985 – 2006). Unfortunately it’s been taking on water for a few years now which is likely why the recent move to Yonge/Wellesley (and a smaller space). That’s about all I can say about it. I hope your son finishes successfully.
JL – Sept 10/18
Hello Jim. I graduated from one of the private schools in your report just over a year ago, in audio production and I have been looking for employment in the field ever since. I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes and this year visited/registered at an Employment Ontario office but they’ve done nothing to help. I’ll work anywhere and am extremely flexible. Right now I’m a server at Montanas and am desperate in wanting to move forward. Do you have any suggestions that might help?
Chris Tomkins – Mississauga – August 7/18
Hi Chris. You can’t depend on anyone out there to help you here. EO/Employment Ontario has become a KPI numbers game and don’t really do anything to help anyone find a job anymore. Sending out resumes is a message in a bottle approach to seeking employment; the term ‘pin the tail on the donkey’ comes to mind. Biggest problem is that these schools don’t really address the challenges grads face while they’re attending and they’re left behind (for the most part), post grad. Developing a ‘plan’ is really in your court and thinking out of the box is what’s necessary. Send me your resume and any links to your work on-line and I’ll make recommendations from there.
JL – August 10/18
Hi Jim. I recently found your site and am glad I did. I’m planning to do a media arts program next year and am on the fence hoping you can shed some light on my situation. I’m 24 and at a fork in the road wondering should I do private or public college and what program should I take? I do music, video production (shooting/editing), graphic design, web apps and photography but have no idea what or where I’ll be in 5 years (because I love all of it). I realize that those who become successful ultimately specialize and are professionals in their field only I’m not sure what that profession is yet?
Jared Sizemore – Toronto – July 28/18
Thanks Jared, I hear you. I really like the community colleges in this country (Ontario in particular). There are some really good programs out there and all sporting a big bang for the buck. It doesn’t get much better than this (anywhere in the world). The nice thing about the public college system here is that you’re starting out with a wide pallet of options and opportunities and can focus more-so on one or a few disciplines as you go. Any of the public post-secondaries in my report are recommended. I also really like Humber’s ‘Media Communications’ program. They’re all in tight competition with each other and most of the teachers are on contract now so there’s an influx of fresh talent all the time (very few 6 figure fossil ‘professors’ anymore). In short; it’s a great time to do a community college media arts program in Toronto.
JL – July 30/18
Hello Jim. My son is a musician (22) and recently registered at a private school in your report for a Sept start. He says he wants to learn more about recording so he can do his own records. I’m a single mom and he’s my only son. After reading your report/blogs etc. I’m worried about him not being able to find suitable employment and/or what his music career will look like later. I also don’t like the lifestyle that comes with it (seeing it already). I guess I’m looking for some feedback on what I should do.
Name with-held by request – July 21/18
Hello J (if I may). My mom used to tell me “worrying is praying for things you don’t want” and that has always stuck with me. Going to school won’t hurt/harm your son and if anything will educate him on what’s really going on (sooner or later). The motivation for almost all enrolling in these music/audio programs is wanting to be rock or rap stars (or wanting to be around them, in the biz) and all for the obvious reasons … it’s fun. Most drop out early on so the damage is far less, than sticking it out and owing $20K at the end of it. Be patient and support him as long as you can because one day, he will figure it out.
JL – July 25/18
Hi Jim. I’m seriously considering attending a Private College for music/audio this September and I’m looking at your MAE Survey. I see that your Student Loan Default rates are 5 years old (2013). Is there anything newer? Also what do they mean exactly? I’m not sure how to interpret these numbers.
Jeff Stahl – Toronto – July 12/18
Hi Jeff, thanks for the nudge. I’ve updated the MTCU default rates in the survey to 2015. There’s a 2016 list but I can only find it in MS Excel where this link is PDF. There’s not much difference between the two anyway. It’s the column on the far right that tells the real story. Total PCC default rates are 17% meaning that 17% of students getting OSAP loans (averaging from all OSAP PCC schools) were in default 2 years after they graduated, indicating their inability to integrate successfully. Any school with 17% or higher represents a high risk investment from my perspective. You’ll notice that audio/music schools such as Metalworks & Trebas Institutes have 23.1% & 24.1% student loan default rates respectively and schools such as OIART & Harris Institute have 4.2% and 6.9% respectively. For me this indicates that a higher % of graduates (at OIART & Harris) are in fact finding meaningful employment after the fact (jobs enabling them to pay loans back). 2016 data indicates that Harris’s default rate data is 0%. The other thing I like about these KPI (Key Performance Indicators) is that they are real data, unlike other MTCU KPI stats (ie. Graduation Employment Rates) where data can be fudged and is interpretive. It should be noted that more than half of all those attending media arts post secondary schools overall are self funded (most likely by parents) so there are no default stats to go on. Also default rates for public Universities/Colleges are less than half of those attending PCC colleges.
JL – July 12/18
Hello again Jim! I was a student of yours at Trebas a long time ago. I just looked at your music page and I love it. I’ve been doing something similar (mixing my audio/music w/found footage and uploading) and am curious to know how/where you get your visuals and what your process/workflow looks like.
Greg Burton – Toronto – July 01/18
Wow, this is a first. Someone asking me about my music. Thanks Greg. I sometimes wonder if anyone listens to this stuff. I harvest segments from YouTube after doing multiple searches. I may look at several hours worth of stuff (narrowing it down to a few minutes) with an idea in mind that always changes, then pull specifics into Final Cut while assembling music samples/loops into Logic Audio that resonate. I’m then in and out of both programs building it; almost always adding more synths, voices/lyrics and percussion when approaching the final edit. I’ve done 60+ clips over the past year and half are posted on my music page w/2 new albums of music now done. I find it’s the combination of working one medium that inspires the other. #GatewayHouseSessions #FearNLoathing #NightParachuting #SpearmintLake #TempleRedux
JL – July 02/18
Hi Jim. I found your website and have a question. My son is a talented rapper who graduated from high school 3 years ago and has been employed in the food service industry while working on his beats in his computer based studio here. He is seriously considering enrolling at Trebas in September in Toronto (his friend already goes there). I’m worried after reading some of your blog articles that he may be wasting his money (OSAP student loan) but he is very focussed on this. What do you think? If he can’t make it work as a rapper, what are the options after finishing his education?
Name with-held by request – Newmarket – June 15/18
Hello J (if I may), thank you for your message. This is a tough one and I’m not sure what to tell you. Music is an easy sell and these schools make it look easy (at least up front). I remember working at Trebas in the ’90’s when there were thousands of rappers and beat makers pouring in from the periphery of the city, signing up and thinking that this was the way to go, only most dropping in then out early on and drifting away. It’s an odd sense of entitlement with a brief fixation on the idea of becoming larger than life where it’s almost always all or nothing for between 3 – 6 months (on average). The term ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ comes to mind. My thinking is that there’s not much you can do but let him go through it (and hope he gets what’s really going on) and drops out early enough that he doesn’t end up owing huge money at the end of it. It’s crazy to think that Trebas made millions off these kids (they still do) and not one became a famous rapper. Most of these guys (back in the day) dropped out by the end of first term so the damage was minimal. The saddest part for me is seeing Trebas graduates (20 years later), still working at Long & McQuade.
JL – June 19/18
Hi Jim. My daughter would love to make her living at Music. she is a singer/songwriter, plays fabulous guitar, drums, sax, and recently has taught herself keyboard. All she wants to do is music. We are concerned that she is destined to work crappy jobs trying to get known in a thankless, competitive industry where you need to know someone, particularly out here on the West Coast. (We are on Vancouver Island) We would support her going to University. To get a music degree so she has some options. What are your thoughts?
Name with-held by request – British Columbia – June 2, 2018
Hello C (if I may), I’ve had thousands of students like your daughter (hundreds of girls), who came into various music/media schools I taught at over the years; many extremely talented and some even graduating. All had a dream of becoming the next Drake or Taylor Swift (or whomever). That said, I don’t know of one who is making their living in music per se’ (after spending 20 – 30K on an education). A few are in the entertainment/media industry in some capacity but not performing professionally (as artists). My advice would be to encourage her to go to university and get her music degree. That way she’ll have a foundation from which to become a teacher (grade school or high school) later on. Making a living in the music industry these days (as a performer/musician/writer etc.), is a real stretch … maybe because there isn’t a music industry anymore. Even when there was one, it was like dreaming of becoming an olympic athlete … possible but improbable.
JL – June 3, 2018
Hi Jim. Love your site. I’m curious though. Almost all of your posts, blogs etc are warning against doing a music/audio education and yet you recommend 3 private schools in your report. Why is that?
Jared Keen – Montreal – June 1, 2018
Hi Jared. I would never suggest not doing music/audio school especially to those whose calling is just that. There are those who register/enrol and graduate, going on to do great things (audio/music) so it’s not my intention to interfere with that. My position, is that if you’re going to do an education in that field, then just make sure it’s a good school as opposed to a school that fundamentally wants to take your money in exchange for wishful thinking.
JL – June 02, 2018
Hi Jim. I just read your ‘MAE SURVEY’ and found it very insightful. My question is that you say you don’t consider DJ’s or Musicians as being ‘legitimately employed’ in the media arts business/profession. Why not?
Jason Rand – Toronto – May 28, 2018
Hi Jason. It should be noted that most DJ’s and musicians are reliant on a primary income from other sources, even though many like to tell people otherwise. 9/10 musicians I know here in Toronto have day jobs in a completely unrelated vocation.
JL – May 30, 2018
Hi Jim. Any thoughts on the four year Sheridan college Integrated Media Design degree vs the two year Seneca@York option? Love to hear your opinion!
Sharon Ricci, Burlington, April 23, 2018
Hi Sharon, I love the IMD program at Seneca. Any college program more than 2 years is superfluous IMO. I think Sheridan’s 4 year program will have a lot more filler and a whole lot less lean beef.
JL April 23, 2018
Thanks for the feedback! I own a boutique advertising agency and I know in my field no one really cares whether you have a degree or diploma as long as you can do the work and are creative. I was wondering if it was the same in this type of field. So I’m glad to get your insight. Now that I have an expert on the line I’ll pick your brain with another question: What do you think the job market looks like going forward for interactive design guys?
Sharon Ricci, Burlington, April 24, 2018
.My assessment (Seneca vs Sheridan) is a sweeping generalization. Two things should be noted. My leaning endorsement towards Seneca is for gifted students who are self-starters and can run with the ball (without being told what to do or where to go). Sheridan’s IMD will work better for those who are more average and tend to do better w/a slower curricula. Also, the degree holds more weight in larger organizations (w/HR departments). It really comes down to the individual (desire/passion/ambition/talent). Young people who are doing really cool things on their own (before college) tend to thrive in shorter (fast track) environments and yes, lots of jobs for interactive design guys (esp. those who are really good at it).
JL – April 24, 2018
Hi Jim. I’m 18 and a singer/songwriter currently living in London ON. I recently submitted my app for Fanshawe GAS (General Arts & Sciences) for MIA (Music Industry Arts) in ’19, then found your report and blogpost BLACK HOLE SYNDROME. I am now reconsidering because it is my intention to stay and live here after graduating, preferably in a field that is fun and that I enjoy but am realizing that it’s unrealistic. I’ve been told that one can wait 1-2 years before being accepted for MIA even w/GAS and am curious to know why so many young people in London are lined up to do MIA when there are no jobs here after graduating?
Name with-held by request – London – April 15/18
Hello J (if I may). Not sure how accurately I can answer your question. When I taught there in 2007/2008, I got the distinct impression that students there knew that it was a long-shot but didn’t care. Bottom line? It’s 3 years of college (in a super fun program, paid for by someone else) and they get to live at home and continue having all the perks/amenities at their fingertips. Thinking outside the box is not one of Fanshawe College’s strong suits. I recommend looking at UWO (Western University) or even better, college or university in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, then moving back to London after (if that’s where you need to be). In doing your education in a larger city/epicentre you will be returning home with a much larger view of the world, and that in itself will allow you to see/do things not possible otherwise. In closing, the last thing I want to do is to discourage ‘the next big thing’ out of London from doing the MIA program. It’s just that in watching it for 43 years now? I have yet to see it happen.
JL – April 18/18
Hello Jim. Our son is graduating from high school in June and we have a problem I’m hoping you can help us with. He doesn’t want to go to college or university. His best friend (a year older) is a bicycle courier here in Toronto, says he makes enough (April-October) to take the winter off (and travel) but he still lives with his parents. Our son wants to do the same thing and his friend says he can get him in. I’m sick about this. Without a degree or diploma what will happen to him? Will he be living with us for the rest of his life? What happens when he turns 30 and doesn’t want to be a bicycle courier any more AND it’s too late? What would you do if you were in our position here?
Brianna Kingsley – Toronto – March 17/18
Hi Brianna. You’re not going to like hearing this but you can’t force your son to go to college if he’s not ready. Young people are in and out of new realities every day so if he takes a year or two and becomes a bicycle courier, travels in winter and becomes truly curious about the world; I’ll bet you that when he finally decides to pursue higher education, that he will excel. In my experience, parents who pressure their kids to go to university/college (and succeed in making them conform to their reality), end up with complacent students who do only what’s necessary to get through it (hating it), whereas when they go back to school when they’re ready, they (almost always) take control of their lives and their educations because they’re totally into it. The world is full of people who hate their jobs, just like they hated school … why? Because it’s something you’re supposed to do (instead of want to do). Timing … is everything.
JL – March 18/18
Hello Jim. Our son is a musician and is finishing high school this June and wanting to do music college in September. He has applications in at Fanshawe and Centennial (MIAP/Music Industry Arts) but really doesn’t want to do the General Arts & Sciences prerequisite first. We’re now visiting private colleges and I’m noticing there are so many to choose from. We’ve read your report and we understand that it’s a tough business and a lot of competition. I just don’t understand why there are so many when there are so few real job openings in the market. I’m hoping you can shed some light on this.
Tom Fairbanks – Toronto – March 13/18
Hi Tom. In a nutshell, music/sound recording school was/is a money maker and most of those running these schools take advantage of people’s ignorance around what’s realistic. Kids are drawn to the glamour/thrill of it, having no clue what they’re getting into when they sign up which would explain why more than half drop out and most of those graduating drift into non related vocations after. It was a stretch even back in the day when there was actually a real music business but now even more-so. The good news, is that because of music/entertainment’s enormous popularity, there’s lots of education choices (even good ones). The not so great news is that meaningful integration post-grad is something that rarely happens regardless. It does happen though, and that’s what they want you to see first – because you too, could be a winner!
JL – March 13/18
Hello Jim. I graduated from a college in your report 2 years ago and I have still not found a job in the industry. The one thing that school didn’t teach me was how to do that. I’ve sent hundreds of emails/resumes expecting to at least receive some replies but haven’t received one. For now I work at Starbucks and continue building my music reel/portfolio in hopes that one day it will all click. I would appreciate any feedback/insights you might have on how to connect with the industry.
Aaron Jordan – Toronto – Feb 13/18
Hi Aaron. I often wonder what would happen if colleges applied the same effort into the development of entrepreneurial spirit, occupation (labour market) research, skill set marketing and proper ongoing networking as they did on standardized testing and teaching young people how to be good (compliant) students. Sending out hundreds of email/resumes reflects the “in the box” thinking that comes standard equipment in post-secondary in North America because most who occupy positions in these schools (teachers/administrators) are hanging on to survival themselves, probably working on contract and knowing what it’s like to be hungry. I would say that the personal touch is far under-rated these days and that one quality 30 second encounter with anyone of influence will far out-weigh the 100 email/resume’s you might send out on any given day. Being able to follow up with an on-line reel that impresses is essential. Also, forget about Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn is a far better way to establish on-line connections. Tactfully messaging prospective mentor/supporters in that system will yield far better results than flooding the market electronically (email/resume etc). If you love what you do and are good at it, you will find your home in the labour market – in time. People have to like you AND see that what you’re offering has value – to them.
JL – Feb 14/18
Dear Jim, I am a father seeking your advice. My son spent four years in the USA and one year in Canada studying Naval Architecture with down sloping results. I finally understood or, better, realized that his real wish is to study audio production. To become an audio engineer that is. Although I am his financial sponsor I am most importantly interested in assisting him to make the proper school choice. I objected his idea of attending the Athens (Greece) 3 year course leading to BA/BSc (Hons) Audio Production for the reason that I believe that facilities and instructors/professors play a vital role and such arrangement is most probably not the best in Greece. I proposed to him to consider OIART in London, Ontario leading to a diploma (I suppose) or the UK based two year course of SAE (irrespective of which campus). I would greatly appreciate your professional advice basis your experience on the above mentioned (or possibly others) alternatives and I would like to reimburse you for your services/consultation on the matter. Please note that I can arrange for contacting my son so that you can duly understand his thoughts/professional target and, hence, comment/report accordingly. Looking forward to your reply.
George Tsokris – Athens – Feb 07/18
Greetings George. Thank you for your message. I would be happy to assist your son. I recently launched the Jim Lamarche Mentorship Program (with a few willing participants). Have a look at this link for more information on how to proceed to the next step.
JL – Feb 08/18
Hello Jim. I found your site recently and am finding it very useful. Thank you. Our 17 y/o son has been shooting/editing short documentary style video clips for about a year now and uploading them to YouTube, having done 9 now – and they’re quite good. We’re thinking that maybe the next step is sending him to a program where he can hone his skills. He’s finishing high-school this June and we’re thinking of college options. Have you heard of Seneca’s DFI (Documentary Filmmaking Institute)? http://www.senecacollege.ca/dfi/ – I’m curious to know what you think of this program?
Alison Sizemore – Toronto – Jan 21/18
Hi Alison. I’m a big fan of Seneca and have no hesitation in recommending DFI to your son. It’s an 8 month project driven certificate program (no OSAP) but can tell you that it’s the best $5K you’ll ever spend on your son’s education. No nonsense – straight to the point Media Arts Education. The next start-up is in September so you’ll need to get your app in soon. I’m thinking that DFI is one of the best ‘bang for the buck’ MAE programs out there.
JL – Jan 22/18
Hello Jim. I have a question about the Harris Institute and OIART. First, how much experience do you suggest one have before attending these kinds of schools, as in know-how with various DAWs such as pro-tools, etc, and does this have a big impact on overall success. Also, any particular reason why you rated Harris above OIART? You said OIART is remote, can you say anything bad, or less favorable about it, at least compared to Harris? That last question I ask because on Wikipedia it is claimed that OIART is very prestigious, as if to suggest the most prestigious audio recording school in the area.
Rod K. – unknown location – Jan 19/18
Hi Rod. I’d say that having as much experience with audio/related programs will only give you a bigger head start but not essential as long as you’re quick with computers and most people under 30 are so not really an issue. As for the Wikipedia page claiming that OIART is ‘prestigious’, you need to understand that what you read about any school on the internet is in all likelihood created by the school itself. In other words … don’t take it too seriously, and don’t believe everything you read. As for why Harris over OIART? They’re both excellent schools and it’s difficult to put one higher than the other. The only reason I give Harris the B+ and OIART the B is because Harris is closer to the action.
JL – Jan 19/18
Ok, one more question. I found this link online, and apparently OIART has no stats on how many people actually graduate, with an “ND” under graduation rate. To me this seems like a an odd thing to exclude, isn’t it? Do you know if there is any information for this. http://www.tcu.gov.on.ca/pepg/audiences/pcc/2013/OIART_INC_200731.pdf
Rod K – unknown location- Jan 19/18
Ah yes, our beloved MTCU KPI stats. I’ve written about this in my MAE Survey – http://www.jimlamarche.ca/survey-2013/ and what I can tell you is that they are misleading in that they document graduates integration rates in their “field of study” which could include selling popcorn at a movie theatre, working at a music store or even at Best Buy in their ‘home audio’ department not to mention any number of other possibilities. Jobs IN the industry right? Wrong. In other words, these numbers/stats don’t represent what’s really going on – not even close. That said, OIART’s numbers here ARE higher than the others which indicate that they are in fact the most successful in assisting their graduates find meaningful employment. As for why the “ND” beside graduation rate? I have no idea.
JL – Jan 19/18
Hello Jim. I’m 24 and in the process of looking at college/university options for later this year and have a question. I would like to pursue a career in music/entertainment but don’t know where or how. I don’t play an instrument or write songs but have been told I have a nice singing voice. I’m more interested in the business side of the industry and am wondering if attending a community college or university in Ontario would be best or a PCC with a degree partnership. What is your opinion of Harris Institute’s partnership with UWS/University of West Scotland? My parents think I should get a degree and the partnership there leads to a Masters. I’m just wondering if the extra expense is worth it or if I should go to a university in Ontario.
Name with-held by request – Toronto – Jan 16/18
Hi J (if I may). I don’t know anything about the partnership between Harris and UWS. What I can tell you is that PCC partnerships with offshore colleges/universities are typically for show and I have yet to see proof that any really work. My experience is that having a university degree from another country (almost always) presents problems later. The best MA (or BA) to get is one from the country you plan to work in. If you plan to further your career (post-grad) in Canada, then you are wise to get your degree from a public Canadian University. That way you’ll know for sure that it’s grounded in our system and that you’re getting your money’s worth.
JL – Jan 17/18
Greetings Jim Lamarche. I read your report, forum and blogs and my question is about the value of media/music college diplomas in the workplace. I’ve been considering going to a media arts college but dreading the thought of owing $20K after graduating and having a diploma that makes little difference. A friend of mine is a self educated video editor and is doing quite well professionally. He keeps telling me that I can learn everything I need to know by looking at on-line tutorials (for free). What are your thoughts on this?
Barry Thurman – Newmarket – Jan 15/18
Hi Barry. A few years ago I would have advised against it, but now am much more convinced that one can learn enormous amounts about media arts on their own (now more than ever). I spend most of my work week these days in Logic Audio, Final Cut and Photoshop and honestly? I learned most of what I know (about these programs) by looking at YouTube clips. One of my biggest issues around formal education is being forced to learn/spend time studying so many unrelated/irrelevant/non-applicable skills/subjects before getting the diploma. As an example of this, I graduated from a media arts program at a Toronto PCC in 2014 and found 20% of what I learned useful and 80% not (waste of time). If you know exactly what you want to do and where you want to go? I say sure, be pro-active; take advantage of the thousands of free clip tutorials – build yourself a killer reel/on-line presence – learn to network and do it yourself. That said most people need the structure of college/university to realize success.
JL – Jan 16/18
Hi Jim. I have a quick question. I’m 29 and looking for a good PCC media arts school (in Toronto) to attend later this year. I love music but don’t play an instrument and my preference would be a private college that has a more comprehensive digital media related curricula (web graphic/audio visual production etc). My problem is that most, if not all the PCC media related schools in your report focus mainly on music. Why is that? Do you know of any that may fit my requirements and aren’t just music/audio?
Dave Stewart – Toronto – Jan 1418
Hi Dave. The reason PCC MAE colleges focus on music is because of the appeal (an easier sell). You might want to look at TFS (Toronto Film School) or even better, Herzing College (Eaton Centre) has decent Web/Graphic Design, Digital Marketing programs that are well equipped/organized for less than half the cost. http://www.herzing.ca/toronto/. I’ve also heard good things about Ryerson/Chang School’s Digital Art Production Intensive (P/T evenings) program – https://ce-online.ryerson.ca/ce/default.aspx?id=3883. Ryerson is a public university but their Chang School of Continuing Education caters mostly to mature students.
JL – Jan 16/18
Hi Jim. I’ve been reading your website (really appreciate what you do) and was curious about whether a MAE degree is really worth it. I’m a student currently finishing my 4 year honours in biology and have realized I truly have no desire to continue in the lab. I was interested in the idea of Harris as they have a program specific to the business side of the industry which is where I would like to end up. However, when reading alumni testimony from a lot of media students you constantly see people recommending just trying to get an internship and break into the industry yourself as school in this field for a lot of people doesn’t seem to pay off. I’d be interested in you’re opinion regarding this belief and how reasonable it is to attempt to just find a job in the field without schooling especially for someone who doesn’t necessarily want to be producing music themselves.
Brendan Horton – unknown location – Dec 23/17
Hi Brendan. The only MAE ‘degree’ that’s worth anything is Ryerson’s BA/BFA/MA from their RTA School of Media (or the equivalent at a University in BC) with an honourable mention to OCAD/CFC – Digital Futures Initiative (MA MDes/MFA). Any other college ‘diploma’ program (ie. Harris), will bring about some insights on how to formulate a plan and negotiate the terrain but that’s all because diplomas mean little in comparison. Media related businesses (from what I’ve seen) will only grant internships to graduating students from related programs (having saturated the market), so the idea of just jumping into an ‘internship’ and using that as a platform is a serious stretch. Internships (for the most part) are a gesture from the school that rarely result in placement being ‘free labour’ (coming and going in a revolving door at any given time). Sometimes internships work though. When I first moved to Toronto in 1978, I did a government funded 4 month internship at Kensington Sound. Where most interns were let go at the end of their time there, they had to hire me on because I was engineering 2 albums (and they needed me). That’s the secret to internships. One has to bring something unique to the table that they need and are willing to pay for after the internship period is done which is why most internships fail.
JL – Dec 24/17
Greetings Jim. I’m looking at schools for next September and have a question. It’s down to 2, Harris and Metalworks but I’m wondering how Harris can be better than Metalworks after looking at their websites. Metalworks has 3 massive studios, 2 huge lecture halls and several large classrooms where Harris has one small studio and several small classrooms (and a website that looks 20 years old) and yet you give Harris a B+ and Metalworks a B-. Just curious to know why that is? I’d like to get as much hands-on time on big gear as possible and from where I’m sitting, Metalworks has what it takes to make that happen more than Harris does.
Name with-held by request – Toronto – Dec 2/17
Hello P (if I may). I’m thinking … ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ here. Yes Metalworks has bigger and better but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a whole lot of access as a student there. I’m thinking ‘quality’ vs ‘quantity’ and “it’s not what you got, but how you use it” that means more here. Yes, Harris has one humble studio (that’s not small by any means) but it’s accessible 24/7 by their students for their own projects/development, unlike Metalworks where studio time is rationed and closely monitored. I’m suggesting you go to both and take a good long look at what’s really there (and how much access you’ll really have to the gear) before deciding.
JL – Dec 5/17
Hello Jim. I’m writing to you after having found your site/report and have a question regarding the strike that is now in it’s 5th week at public Ontario colleges. My 18 year old son just started his first year at Humber (Computer and Network Support) and is now looking at the possibility of losing his entire year because of it. We are angry and disappointed as he is doing nothing but waiting and it doesn’t look good. He is now considering doing a similar program at a private college because he can start in January. It’s a lot more expensive, but a counsellor has told him that he can transfer his OSAP over to their school and start right away. We’ve read about private schools in your blog and are hesitant. What do you think about this as an option for us?
Maureen Franklin – Toronto – Nov 14/17
Hi Maureen. It is most unfortunate – this situation at the Ontario colleges and I feel your pain. It’s difficult to believe that the province has allowed the strike to go on this long and that the OPSEU union has so much power here. While I’m sure they have ‘good’ reasons as to why they need to throw half a million public college students under the bus for their cause, I can’t help but think that there is no reason or excuse to put all of them on hold for potentially a whole academic year now … a set-back that has all encompassing ramifications and a fallout that will be felt for the rest of their lives. If he were my son, I would encourage him to hang on to his wish to do his program at Humber at least until the end of December should the strike go that far. The one good thing about private colleges is that he can start in January even if he waits until then to decide, but honestly it’s a serious compromise in my opinion. Just don’t let them pressure you (or him) to commit to it any sooner (something they’ll try to do). From my perspective the benefits of staying at Humber will far outweigh the switch into a PCC system where the same education will cost 3 times more just for the convenience of saving his year. If he can salvage something out of all this and still stay in the public college system, I think it would be worth the wait.
JL – Nov 15/17
Hi Jim. I have read a lot of what you have published, and concur with you regarding your opinions of the misalignment between educational programs and career opportunities. I am reaching out to you, as a mother of son, who has moved around quite a bit to different post-secondary institutions, both colleges and universities. He is in the midst of applying for media production programs(music), specifically private colleges. He is looking at the Harris Institute, Trebas and RAC Canada (he would also like to consider Metalworks, but because he lives downtown, logistically its too far). I realize there are also some public colleges such as Seneca and universities such as Ryerson that offer similar programs, but its more competitive to get into. My son has a high school diploma (with the goal of getting into college) with scattered post-secondary courses, so entrance into universities may not be an option. He is looking to start a program ASAP (ie. Trebas starts Oct 16 and Harris Institute November). Its quite an expensive undertaking, so I am looking for some suggestions/opinions?
Name with-held by request – Oct. 10, 2017
Hello S (if I may) … It’s all in my report and there’s nothing that sticks out as being different here. Out of your options there, I would definitely go with Harris Institute with an honourable mention to MetalWorks. The one thing that you don’t want to do is to cave into a specific time-line or take something one of the admissions counsellors tells you too seriously, because it’s all quite subjective and designed to snag you (and likely a commission for them). All too often it’s one little thing that determines what school a person goes to and that ‘thing’ is almost always insignificant looking at the big picture (in retrospect later). Take the time you need, think it through and decide carefully.
JL – Oct. 11/2017
Hi Jim. Our son wants to enrol at a music/media college in Toronto this January and we can’t seem to find any information on-line as to the value of the diploma in the workplace. It’s a serious investment on our part and we’re wondering how music/sound employers perceive a private college qualification after graduation.
Jennifer Stahl – Toronto – Oct 09, 2017
Hi Jennifer. The qualification/diploma means very little in the labour market because there are half a dozen schools out there pumping out hundreds of grads every year into a market where there are very few real employment opportunities for those in audio/music AND PCC diplomas hold little weight especially in programs of this nature. That said; the one positive aspect to having the diploma is that it measures your son’s commitment to his craft/career – finishing what he started (and that means something), because most drop out before their program finishes. If I was an employer interviewing for an open position in my audio/media facility, I would likely favour those who finished their program over those who didn’t.
JL – Oct 10, 2017
Hi Jim. I was a student of yours at Trebas in 1990 and have fond memories. I found your website recently and enjoy reading your blogroll and forum. I’m currently working in retail management having never found a job in the music industry. I’m curious. How many of us students do you know that have gone on to become successful in music? I don’t know of any in my class who made it work and would like to know what you have seen.
Jonathan Price (Hamilton), August 02, 2017
Hi Jonathan. I started at Trebas in 1984 after having just been signed to A&M Records and became full-time staff at the school in 1988 after having been dropped by the label. Teaching became my primary source of income for the 20 years following and I enjoyed it knowing even then that this expensive education was a crap-shoot more than anything. I used to openly tell my students the odds even back then, which may explain why so many dropped out (sorry Mr. Leonard). Truth is; I know of very few who graduated and went on to become successful in music. I’m thinking that in the 7,000+ students I’ve had (and the $50,000,000+ they’ve collectively spent), I know maybe a dozen who became full-time musicians/performers or music industry participants or music engineers (making their living as such) and no one whose name you would recognize. Most of these people aren’t in music today. Hundreds dabbled in it after school – putting on a good show, but never made any real money doing it before quietly defaulting to a normal job after a few months or a year. I would love to say that such and such was once a student of mine but no. My experience is that most who enroll in these programs possess neither the talent nor the ambition to break through but are nonetheless attracted to the glamour/thrill of being famous (or being close to people who become famous) and that’s what these schools thrive on (use as marketing fuel). That ‘what if’ or ‘just imagine’ spin on what’s possible – but only IF one applies themselves/makes the investment. It’s like professional sports. In the tens of thousands of young people out there right now, who are ‘serious’ about hockey, how many will end up playing in the NHL (or even professionally)? My attitude? Those who have what it takes won’t let the odds against them affect their commitment, and maybe a reality check will prevent future headaches (and unnecessary financial debt) for the multitudes who would be happy just with that 15 minutes of fame and glory.
JL – August 05, 2017
Hi Jim. I’m a singer songwriter and have performed at various festivals over the past few years. I’m writing to you to find out if you know anything about CMI/Canada’s Music Incubator workshops/programs in Scarborough. I’m seriously considering registering for their 7 week program coming up next month and am curious to know what you think of it. http://canadasmusicincubator.com/
Stephanie Haines – unknown location – July 24, 2017
Hi Stephanie. I remember a similar version of this started years ago by Arnold Lanni/Arnyard Studio (gone now) attempting their own version of a Metalworks Institute type deal only with shorter/less expensive programs that didn’t pan out. I’m now seeing Coalition Music’s CMI/Canada’s Music Incubator ads on my Facebook although there may be no actual connection to the former. I’ve taken a good look at their sparse on-line presence and think it’s safe to say that it’s more of the same … music industry hangers-on with empty gas tanks, looking for any way to make money (survive) and defaulting to that familiar bottom-feeding position. I mean if I was young and hungry for attention as a budding musician/artist/rapper/rock star, this would be a most appealing proposition and all for a few thousand dollars for a couple of months – in and out and BAM – away we go! If only real life worked that way.
JL – July 27/17
Hello Jim. Firstly, thank you for your site/report etc. There’s very little information on what’s going on in post-secondary media arts schools and your site is informative. My son just finished high-school and really wants to go to a private college for game design. He attended an information session/tour a few weeks ago and just found out that he is accepted for a start this September and he is excited. His father and I have been encouraging him to attend a public college/university but he would have to wait for a year and this school says he can start right away. We are skeptical (esp. after taking in your website) because it’s all too easy and costs 4 times more than a public college, and don’t know what to do. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Name with-held by request, Toronto – June 26, 2017
Hello S (if I may). I find it interesting that 9 years after posting my first blog report, that more parents read me than their kids do. It’s as if what’s real (for sons/daughters) isn’t important as long as there’s a reward for believing in something (anything), regardless of its legitimacy. More recently, for profit – private media arts colleges have become more relentless (marketing) by targeting their impulse motivated demographic with juicier bait. I’m fascinated by the set-up and in their knowing exactly how to hook young people in. Your son’s reward is in being ‘accepted’ for this program – implying that he’s won some sort of contest (or that his intent is superior), when in fact anyone with a high school diploma or is over 19 and can read/sign an OSAP form is accepted (part of the seduction). Be patient and encourage him to keep his eyes open/listen to all perspectives is all you can do, then hope for the best. Pressuring him will only backfire. September is still 2 months away. Kids are bombarded with fast and easy answers to career/learning (short term gain – long term pain). On Facebook for example, I’m seeing more and more directed ads popping up in news-feeds that catch young minds in the moment and are extremely effective. This one below targets gamers (that’s most male teens) and implies that there’s a $61K job as a “game designer” waiting for them after they graduate (and that financial aid is just a click away), when in reality most grads never become game designers. More like they’ve just gone in debt to the tune of $35K and spent 18 months going to school and getting an education that they’ll never use professionally. The title and details also suggests that there are a number of (gaming) education options/colleges & universities after the click, when in fact it’s a single private (PCC) school who is advertising.
JL – June 28, 2017
Hello Jim, thank you for your reply and your feedback. I have shown my son your response hoping he would reconsider/change his mind and he is determined in his decision to attend private college/Game Design this September regardless. Is there any advice you can give me/us at this point? Knowing where we are, what would you do/suggest if you had a son in this situation?
Name with-held by request – Toronto – June 30/17
Hello again S. I understand your frustration here and am sympathetic. If I had a son in this situation, I would make it clear that I disagree with his decision (and why) and yet I would still support him to pursue his intended goal as a Game Designer (only smarter). I mean, it is quite possible that he would be good at it and successful too. I would then set up a meeting with a community college and look at the options there with him. The market is flooded with Game Design grads because there are so many schools (public and private) offering the program and even though there are jobs in gaming, what is unfortunate is that there are far too many qualified graduates than what’s needed. That said, Sheridan College has a 4 year Bachelor’s program and these graduates will have a distinct edge when applying for employment because they’ll have a 4 year degree vs. an 18 month diploma AND that the degree can be had at less cost than the diploma. The down-side is that he would have to wait until Sept/18 to start – but maybe a year off from school and finding a job (saving some money), would benefit him over the longer term (short term pain – long term gain).
JL – June 30/17
Hi Jim. I found your report card page and thought you might be able to help. My son’s passion is rooted in music/audio. He’s a practical learner, picks up instruments and recording technology quite easily, and has no theoretical training. He visited Trebas institute recently with his eyes on the Audio Engineer program. He has the hope that he will be able to find work creating audio for any number of the modern day sources; media agencies, game companies, really anything where it’s required to have professional audio created). To that end, I’m trying help him by finding out out what kind of things people look for when hiring audio engineers, and what kind of skills/education they deem reputable. I just finished reading some awful reviews from former students about Trebas online, dated though, (2012ish). I noticed they don’t make your list either, and you’ve worked there albeit awhile ago. Any and all feedback would be welcome.
Paul Aussem (Toronto), June 09, 2017
Hi Paul. Thanks for your message. Trebas doesn’t make my list because I don’t recommend it. In my opinion there are better options out there (bigger bang for the buck). No one in education will ever tell you this (for obvious reasons) but truth is this … there are very few ‘jobs’ per sé for audio engineers anymore and the supply is a thousand times greater than the demand. This may have something to do with the fact that there are half a dozen schools out there who have been consistently pumping out grads into an industry that has drastically shrunk in size. There are rare opportunities that quietly present themselves mostly in small format broadcast/web audio but only those who are totally committed/right place right time get them, which is a tiny fraction of those who attend/graduate from such schools (because most are distracted by the music biz and have bigger plans that rarely pan out). That said, I would suggest Harris Institute or even Metalworks Institute as the quality/calibre of student/participants is considerably higher as are the success/integration rates. Have a look at my survey for more insights (link below). What “people look for” first and foremost is commitment.
JL – June 10, 2017
Jim – your blog was brought to my attention and I was thrilled to see your ranking of Seneca@York and our range of successful program options. You may know of our new website but thought I’d share, so you and your followers can access our latest news and information. Cheers! www.senecacollege.ca/create/
Michael Maynard, PhD – Dean, Faculty of Communication, Art and Design
Principal, Seneca@York Campus – May 15, 2017
Hello Jim. My son has been accepted to Seneca/York for IMP – 1 year program and Centennial MIAP – 3 year program. He is currently completing grade 12 in Toronto and is a rapper. I was looking through your site and could not find any reference to the MIAP program. Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.
Janet Eastwood, Toronto – May 11, 2017
Hi Janet. Centennial’s MIAP/Music Industry Arts and Performance is not listed in my report because I don’t recommend it. From my perspective, any stand alone contemporary music performance diploma program that requires 2+ years of participation/study is superfluous and impotent. I mean, can you imagine LL Cool J, Wu-Tang Clan or the Beastie Boys having done a 3 year college music performance program? Unthinkable. Rap esp. and formal education just don’t go together. MIAP is like MIA/Music Industry Arts in London (Fanshawe) or MIA in Ottawa (Algonquin) only longer, and without a solid technical component which I believe to be an essential part of such an education. Seneca’s IMP/Independent Music Production would be better, only because it’s an 8 month certificate program w/an active small format technical curricula and your son can essentially get what he needs there without wasting 3 years of his life on a MIAP college diploma that means nothing in the real world anyway.
JL – May 12, 2017
Hello Jim. I would like to know your opinion on the NIMBUS Recording & Media School in Vancouver.
Of course no school guarantees a job after but I would appreciate knowing more about the reputation and quality of this school.
Suzanne Desgagne (unknown location) – April 19, 2017
Hello Suzanne. Thanks for your inquiry. I don’t know ultimately as I’m in Toronto and have never met anyone who has attended nor taught at Nimbus. I met Bob Ezrin years ago when he was active in the music biz, so all I have is their website and a few on-line reviews to go on. That said, Nimbus strikes me as operating in the classic music/recording school paradigm, run by those who can no longer make money in the industry and now cashing in on education. Unlike the many options in Toronto/GTA (Ontario), there’s not a lot to choose from in Vancouver so I’m sure they’re doing ok. Their presentation paints a favourable picture around the prospects for grads but I’m willing to bet that if you looked carefully, few (if any) go on to become successful in the music industry (maybe because there really isn’t a music industry anymore) and that’s their predominant menu item. For me, there has to be more integration options post-grad after spending that kind of money and media/music schools need to be more proactive in preparing students/grads for a wider range of potential outcomes (because feeding them an all sugar diet isn’t healthy). From my perspective, schools like Nimbus (that focus on music and attract that target demographic) are clearly in it for the money first and foremost – knowing full well that their graduates will likely disappear because of what’s real now (lots of hype and little accountability). In short, if I lived in BC and my kid wanted to go to Nimbus, I would strongly advise against it.
JL – April 20, 2017
Hello Jim. I found your website about a year ago and it’s been helpful. I have a question around a Forum entry recently by Rob Mann and I’m curious. You said that Private Colleges ‘blatantly falsify information’. I’d like to know more about that as I’m now looking at the distinct possibility of registering at one of the schools in your report and would like to know what to look for/beware of.
Jared Fricke (unknown location) – April 09, 2017
Hi Jared. The most common and obvious ‘falsification’ is in their consistent claim that there are lots of jobs/opportunities post grad. When I was teaching at the International Academy of Design/Toronto Film School, they boldly boasted to everyone coming in that 96.6% of all IAOD grads found jobs within 3 months of graduating. They were right about that, only that 96.6% were mostly survival jobs unrelated to their training because they were out of school and now in debt. In the hundreds of students that I had there (in Recording Arts Technology/RAT), I only know of 1 who found a job IN the industry they were trained for (pro-audio). Their most popular programs were (fantasy files) Film/RAT, Animation, Game and Fashion Design so a 96.6% success rate is sheer fiction designed to boost profits. MAE PCC colleges in particular thrive on spreading the good news about their ‘success stories’ even though these success stories (many overblown, amplified and reverberated) represent a tiny fraction of those who attend and graduate, but are still most appealing to those who don’t know. I’ve had students who were tone deaf, in a music/audio program because they liked the ‘idea’ of being in the music biz and none of their instructors told them (even me) because they were already signed up and finishing their program (by the time they got to my workshop), even having miraculously passed ear training classes in earlier terms and graduating before drifting into oblivion (for all the obvious reasons). So ya, these are just a few examples of what I’m referring to. In short, most of these schools take advantage of those who have big dreams (however delusional), can sign registration/student financing (OSAP) forms and are gullible enough to believe everything they hear. In closing, I am in no way suggesting that attending a private college is a bad idea, only that one needs to go in with their eyes wide open and able to tell the difference between real news and fake news.
JL – April 11, 2017
Greetings Jim. I am a musician/songwriter in Waterloo with an undergrad (BSc) from the University of Waterloo. My dream is to be in music and I found your site recently. My question is this. I’m torn between attending public or private school. I understand that public colleges are slower and longer and that there are fewer choices but I’m still not sure what’s best for me now that I’m 25. I would also prefer to stay in Waterloo and commute to school but understand that this will be difficult. What (in your opinion), is the biggest difference in private vs. public and which do you think would be best for me?
Rob Mann (Waterloo), March 28, 2017
Hi Rob, sounds like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place there. For me, the biggest difference between public and private post secondary is their priority/primary motivation. For all private (PCC) colleges it’s money and almost all blatantly falsify information in order to coerce registrations because they are “for-profit” schools with a “can do” or “anything is possible” approach to education (but lacking in realistic outcomes). Also, there are few checks and balances enforced so there is an abundance of ‘alternative facts’ floating around which are misleading and often damaging to participants. With public college/universities there’s simply an omission of facts (as opposed to outright falsification). In my 30 years in the education business, I’ve seen PCC colleges consistently fabricate the truth, but never once seen a community college or university do that. Your options are an hour drive west to OIART or Fanshawe in London (Music Industry Arts) which may allow you in directly with your BSc (skipping the required GAS, General Arts and Sciences prerequisite) or an hour east to Mississauga (Metalworks Institute) which is a PCC. Either way and regardless of what any of them tell you, thinking you’ll be able to make a living as a musician/songwriter in Waterloo afterwards will be a serious stretch on the reality gauge. That said, there are very real success stories in both the public and private media arts post-secondary sectors so anything IS possible. All 3 schools are reviewed in the MAE Report.
More information on Private vs Public post-secondary here …
JL – March 29, 2017
Hi Jim. My name is Braden and I’ve been following your list for a few years now and I appreciate the look at media education in Ontario. Seeing Ryerson at the top of the list I now wish I went there for my undergraduate! I was wondering about the Fanshawe listing and have seen its steady decline down the list, but I still see Music Industry Arts graduates (and OIART grads for that matter) in some of the game companies I plan on applying to. Would you say that’s more of the talent of the MIA graduates more than the program itself? I was also looking at the Audio Post Production course that comes after MIA. While I’m interested more in the sound design aspects of APP compared to MIA and their focus on music engineering/live sound/etc, do you have any opinions about the Audio Post Production Program?
Braden A (London) March 25, 2017
Thank you for your message Braden. I welcome any good news/success stories from the MIA camp (and any camp from that matter), providing those success stories are REAL. All too often when good news trickles in here, it’s sugar coated, amplified and reverberated. So please, if there are graduates from any school in my report, out there doing wonderful things in their profession, let me know and I’ll gladly spread the word! I love Fanshawe College and grew up in Music Industry Arts, so it is still very dear to me. I think the quality of education is comparatively high overall and that staff are extremely competent educators. Biggest problem for me is that it’s all very insular. Most grads stay in London after 3-4 years (w/GAS) in a dedicated program that requires migration in order to connect and succeed. Why is that? Why don’t they know this or if they do? Why did they do it? It’s just not discussed in any great detail. I occasionally get emails from grads working survival jobs in London, asking my advice on how they can successfully integrate into pro-audio. Really? Their expensive and time consuming education doesn’t seem to include looking outside the bubble (nor was it ever intended). It’s like choosing to live on a small island and wanting to know where you can drive your Maserati on an open highway. Read the whole story here …
JL – March 26, 2017 – (continued) …
Hi Jim. Thanks for your reply, I always appreciate any second opinions about colleges/universities outside of their pamphlets! When I mentioned MIA (and OIART) graduates have a job, the example I was thinking of was a company in London called Digital Extremes. Two MIA graduates and one OIART graduate are current sound designers there (and they’re looking to hire more!). One thing I was also hoping to get your opinion on: Is talent a part of finding a job in the field? I know it seems like an obvious question, but at the Open House for Fanshawe I managed to meet some Audio Post Production students (and a few MIA students) and they mentioned that “Yeah there are some students who don’t use their lab time and just show up to class only”. Are those students squandering their chances for a job in the field? With regards to the bubble, would entering the program with the mindset/plan of going to Toronto/Montreal/Quebec City be crucial to success in the field? The article you mentioned touches on being in London versus being in Toronto, and while London is starting to grow on me I am not against moving to other parts of Canada for a job.
Braden A (London) March 26, 2017
Hi Braden. Nice to hear that new opportunities are opening up in London for MIA/OIART grads. My experience is that many (if not most) of the students at Fanshawe in particular (in MIA) are far more interested in being in a fun post-secondary program than actually working in the field and that OIART grads are more committed to their craft and their careers. A good example of this is the comment you received at MIA’s open house …“there are some students who don’t use their lab time and just show up to class only”. Students who don’t use their lab time in any of these (expensive) programs are just coasting (on Mom and Dad’s dime) and not that interested in integrating into the profession. Is talent part of finding a job in the field you ask? Absolutely. Without talent (ambition/commitment), it’s a no-brainer. Graduates must be extremely good at what they do (creatively/technically) and going into MIA or OIART without being willing to make the necessary sacrifice to move to where the action is (i.e. Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver), is a waste of time. Between Fanshawe, OIART and Western pumping out grads every year, the supply of relevant jobs in London Ontario will always be microscopic compared to the demand for them there. I’m speculating that there are thousands of media grads who are now working survival jobs because it was never their intention to leave London in the first place and there are relatively few paying opportunities there compared to a larger city like Toronto. Staying in London for most comes first (close to family and friends); connecting their education with a meaningful career in audio/media a distant second. It’s difficult enough for seasoned audio professionals to find employment even in the big cities anymore and there are media arts grads from all over the province here in Toronto – working at Starbucks.
JL – March 27, 2017
Hello Jim. My son is currently attending a recording arts school not listed in your report, with the goal of becoming a successful music producer and musician. His hero is Dave Grohl and also plays drums, guitar and sings. His father and I have been supportive but quietly skeptical, esp. after reading on-line message boards and reports and looking at websites like yours and hearing about so many who go to these schools and end up doing nothing related (professionally) after. If you were in our position, what would you recommend? What advice would you give your son, to help him find a meaningful job after he is finished?
Name with-held by request (Toronto) March 17, 2017
In my experience, graduates of these programs are only slightly better informed about the realities of the music/audio business when they finish but still go through the motions of trying to integrate after. Some make it work but most don’t. One problem is that many have this idea (going in), that they’ll be rolling with rock stars after they graduate and there’s little/no appeal to anything less than that. Those who do connect almost always have a more grounded understanding of the challenges and better prepare themselves for what needs to be done in order to secure employment in their field. If he were my son, I would suggest he target broadcast (radio and television) first. Having top notch (fast) digital editing skills with a willingness to intern at a reputable place at least one time, having a reel of super slick commercial audio work ready to fire out at a moments notice (ads, PSA’s, station IDs etc), immaculately done. Radio/TV stations and organizations (ie. SiriusXM, Vice, CBC, Sportsnet/Rogers and Bell Media etc), employ hundreds of audio professionals collectively and there’s a lot of movement in those circles and yet few audio grads seriously look there. The key is focused persistence and getting out there regularly. Talking to people (directly) is crucial – right place, right time. Most grads do everything on-line (like casting fishing lines in the ocean) and thus get lost in the crowd (because everyone else is doing just that). Those who connect go the extra mile and have more realistic expectations.
JL – March 22, 2017
Hello Jim. I’m curious. The last two entries in your Forum are rattling my brain. First it was that schools with CG/Animation programs are still graduating students into a saturated market where there are no jobs for them, then the latest is the woman who wants to do an on-line program, to be a school teacher where there’s no room for new teachers and school boards are swamped. What I don’t understand is WHY these schools/programs are allowed to continue; especially knowing that they are taking in new students who will ‘drift into oblivion’ (as you call it), after they finish. Why is it allowed to continue? Why are these schools allowed to get away with it?
Andrew Flynn (Ottawa), February 14, 2017
Hi Andrew. It’s not so easy. Once a school/program has planted roots in the system, the only thing that can shut them down is if students don’t register. It doesn’t matter if they are relevant or not. It happens; programs are started then close, due to a lack of interest but it’s rare. That said there are a lot of programs out there that are very popular (like for instance yes … Computer Animation/Game Design, Education/Teaching, Fashion Design, Film, Music/Recording Arts Technology, Entertainment Arts Management to name a few). Many started back in a time when prospects were more promising but now continue only because of their popularity (and because they make money). In some cases, teachers/staff are unionized and programs are rock solid even though the industries they’re servicing are far from it. For me the saddest part is that no one knows anything or if they do? It’s kept quiet. Young people line up to register for these programs having no idea that there’s little for them on the other side; often with massive student debts for educations that they’ll never use and entire classes defaulting to survival jobs after graduating. I think of it as being like the childhood game “pin the tail on the donkey” (where you’re blind) because there is nothing to go on. Even labour market stats are useless in finding out if a program has relevance in the market or not because they are out-dated and inaccurate. It really requires extensive research; digging and asking lots of questions to those active inside those industries (not teachers or in education) but IN the industry (only so few actually do). Why is it allowed to continue you ask? Because that’s just the way it is.
JL – February 14, 2017
Hello Jim. I realize that this question isn’t about media arts education, but I’m stuck here and am looking for advice from anyone who might have any insight. I’m 30 years old and have been out of school for over 10 years and am seriously considering doing a Masters of Education degree on-line program from Yorkville University in NB. I’ve spoken to them 3 times and they have been very helpful in assisting my start plan for later this year. I’ve always wanted to be a public school teacher but have 2 kids (6 and 3 years old), and am divorced and can’t attend a full time study program. I’ve been told that if I work diligently on my program (from home), I can have my degree in less than 2 years! My question is this – what do you think of on-line/distance learning vs. regular programs and what do you know about Yorkville University?
Jan Bowen (Pickering) February 10, 2017
Hi Jan, thank you for your message. I’m afraid I have some bad news here. Firstly, it’s a Masters degree from a private University (in Education) when 4/5 grads from real (public) teacher’s colleges/universities can’t find jobs because the market is saturated (and has been for years). These schools are still raking in new students though but they’re not telling them what’s really going on or that it will be difficult to find work on the back end after they graduate. On top of that it’s an on-line Masters. Any post-secondary distance learning program is volatile at best simply because the quality varies greatly from school to school. Some are good but more aren’t and it’s a well known fact that most employers/human resource departments don’t take on-line qualifications seriously. From my perspective, going to school (physically) is one of the most important parts of any education process, because it’s the interaction that glues it all together. My honest suggestion would be that you consider taking something like a Child Development or an ECE (part-time) evening program at a Community College (i.e. Seneca). Having your RECE (Registered Early Childhood Education) diploma has far greater potential and can be had in the same time frame. Most importantly it’s a real qualification from a real post-secondary school that could lead to a real job.
JL – February 13, 2017
Hi Jim. My daughter is passionate about a career in computer animation. She has applied to the 3 year advanced diploma programs at various colleges in Ontario to begin in September 2017 as follows: Seneca, Humber, Loyalist, St. Clair and Durham. She researched Sheridan heavily, attending open houses and portfolio reviews, but in the end decided not to apply there because their Bachelor of Animation appears to focus more on classical animation and they save most of their computer animation content for their graduate program. She really does prefer digital/3D. Here’s my question…her first choice is Seneca’s program, but as you know it is extremely competitive and while she remains hopeful, she’s being realistic and does not expect to get in. Today, she was thrilled to receive offers of acceptance from Humber, Loyalist, St. Clair and Durham. We have been surfing the internet, trying to gain a sense of which program of these four would be her strongest option vis-à-vis work prospects, skills training, all-round reviews. When you search for the best animation schools or reviews, everyone posts and blogs about Sheridan. We get it. It’s considered the gold-standard by many, but for her purposes, that’s not helpful. She seems to be leaning towards a choice between Humber, St. Clair and Loyalist. Can you share any insight?
Name with-held by request – Feb 01, 2017
Hello E (If I may). It should be noted that the market is flooded with thousands of animation grads who are now working in survival jobs to pay the bills. Most of these college programs were started back in a time when computer/3D animation was in it’s infancy (showing great potential), but have since become redundant with far too many schools/programs pumping out talented young people into a saturated market. They continue because of the appeal (and the revenue), and most who enrol have no idea what’s on the other side of their education. Here in Canada, Seneca and Sheridan are the only two that have a legitimate reputation in the industry and am speculating that almost all grads from the other schools you’ve mentioned, drift into oblivion after due to a shortage of employment opportunities. In short; If your daughter can’t make it into Seneca or Sheridan – my recommendation would be that she choose a different career path.
JL – Feb 01, 2017
Hi Jim. Your website is terrific. Are you familiar with the Sonic Arts program at City College of New York for someone interested in making and producing music? http://sonic.arts.ccny.cuny.edu/ How would that program compare with, say, that of Ryerson’s School of Media? Our son is passionate about music (plays alto sax and in jazz combos, tinkers on the piano) and has his heart set on applying to CCNY or Berklee in Boston, but big cost differential for Canadian!!!
Hoping to find equivalent in Canada. Thoughts?
Alison Morton – (unknown location) – January 16, 2017
Hi Alison. CCNY/Sonic Arts is a 4 year BFA and it looks pretty good. Doing some math and it’s going to be $60K+ (US) just for tuition and fees, then there’s living there for 4 years with an abysmal Can/US conversion, I’m thinking $300K+ CAD when it’s all said and done. Then there’s the obvious question. What’s your son going to do with his education when it’s over? Having a BFA from an American college in music/audio comes with big limitations north of the border especially (unless he goes to teachers college after and becomes a public school teacher). CCNY/SAC doesn’t really compare to Ryerson School of Media in that Sonic Arts is primarily focused on music media where Ryerson has a much broader focus. Whichever way you look at it, the Ryerson BFA would be a fraction of the cost and would have all encompassing ramifications (pro-active career possibilities), even though music is on the back burner, and besides the only money being made in music anymore, is in music education.
JL – January 16, 2017
Happy New Year Jim. I have a question around 1 year vs. 2 year programs. I’m noticing that some private colleges offer 1 year programs and also 2 year programs in the same discipline. In some cases the 2 year programs are BA or Masters degrees. Can you explain the difference between the two? Is the 2 year program worth the extra time and money? (considering it’s double the price).
David Lawrence – (Brampton) – January 04, 2017
Hi David. Bachelors or Masters ‘degrees’ at PCC Colleges (anywhere in the U.S. or Canada) aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. I’ve always been astounded that private schools have been allowed to call themselves “universities” and offer degree programs and that there’s so little information on what’s really going on. Where there is no question that public colleges and universities offer legitimate, accredited programs/degrees, there remains too many questions around the value of any PCC qualification (including diplomas) because of shady practices and dishonest accreditation processes by that industry as a whole. From where I’m sitting and in particular, any extended (degree) option from the private sector is just a way to milk more money out of registrants with a watered down curricula that’s stretched out and giving students the impression that the extra year is going give them a ‘double shot’, AND that the designation is more important (means more), when in fact a 2 year vs. a 1 year qualification (degree/diploma) in the PCC post-secondary education universe makes little/no difference at all.
JL – January 05, 2017
Greetings Jim. I’ve just accessed your report and have a question for you. I understand that there are some favourible options in Ontario but am wondering about elsewhere. A friend of mine who is a professional DJ recently told me that if I really want to go all the way with my audio education, I should go to SAE Institute in New York. He hasn’t gone there but it’s what he’s heard. What is your opinion of SAE Institute?
Oliver Hurley – (Toronto) – January 03, 2017
Hi Oliver. I’ve met several SAE grads and have known 2 teachers who taught at various campuses in the states and can tell you that it’s no big deal. It is by far the biggest audio/music media school in the world with 54 campuses in 28 countries and there is no doubt in my mind that they are all very different. When I was teaching at Metalworks Institute, I met a graduate of SAE Dubai who had enrolled at MWI, and told me that it was very expensive and not very good. A bit of research and it’s $26K US for their one year audio “diploma” (that’s $34K Canadian/double that for their 2 yr “BA”), then you’ve got to deal with a student visa, moving there and living expenses. That said; I’m willing to bet that getting your education in Canada (at one of the three audio/media PCC schools recommended in my report), would prove to be the bigger bang for the buck (cheaper overall and way better).
JL – January 04, 2017
Hi Jim. I just finished reading Black Hole Syndrome and Modus Operandi in your blogroll. You paint a dark picture on the music/media education scene and I suppose I’m thankful for the warning but disappointed too. I was seriously considering looking into enrolling at a music/sound school in London for next September as music has always been my life and I want to do something in my career that I love. I have my BSc undergrad and my parents want me to go to medical school but it’s not what I want to do. I want to do music but honestly don’t know now. What would you suggest?
Kathy Dunn (Windsor) November 27, 2016
Hi Kathy. I post this stuff to provide insight to those who may benefit but it’s not my intention to interfere. I don’t plaster this around everywhere and if someone is curious enough to find me and read what I have to say, then so be it. If it changes their mind then maybe it’s for the best (meant to be). Again, my attitude is that if a blog report on the internet changes your career plans, then maybe it was a bad idea in the first place, because if it truly was your destiny – such a thing wouldn’t alter that. What would I suggest? Difficult to answer but based on experience, I’d say be patient – and if it takes an extra year or two to figure out the right path, then take the time. Among the biggest mistakes I’ve seen with young people in post secondary, is making a decision/commitment on a program too soon (perhaps impulsively) and regretting it later. Take the time you need to think it through. All those schools/programs will still be there and if they’re not? Then you didn’t want to be there in the first place.
JL – December 01, 2016
Hi Jim. My son is dead set on a career making movies. He has evolved his hobby into paying gigs to make short videos for companies and orgs and has an award from a local film festival. Recently he launched a website for his services as well. He clearly has a passion for this and it consumes his free time – as a parent I really want to ensure that he finds a career he loves and does not find a life of misery that he hates. So…now we are looking at schools as he graduates HS this year. He has his heart set on Ryerson and we are visiting this coming Friday. This past weekend we popped in at Humber for the Bachelor pgm and were quite impressed. I read all kinds of posts saying save your $$ and just go make films but our only requirement is that he has a degree of some kind so that all his options are open to him in the future – especially for working out of country. I do not see anywhere on your site (which I admittedly only found today) that mentions or reviews the Humber program. Any comments? They mentioned to us that when comparing to Ryerson that Humber is a mix of theory and hands on and he would get more hands on at Humber. In addition Humber has industry professionals that are the profs unlike Ryerson. Any comment on the two or would they both be good options?
Jason McDermott – (unknown location) – November 14, 2016
Hi Jason. I’m thinking that Ryerson (Film Studies or RTA) would be the best choice, with the 4 years resulting in a BFA. My understanding is that Ryerson is really tough to get into and the competition is very intense. Humber’s Film & Media Production is also a 4 year degree program (BA) that may be a lot more accessible, looking like a solid option as well. These are both favourable options for film/media in Ontario esp. for someone just finishing high school. As for which one is better? I couldn’t comment on that. They’re both different and both ‘public’ post secondary programs that offer formal degrees which can lead to bigger and better things. The fact that your son is already doing it, having taken the initiative to find ways to make money and launching a website dedicated to his craft (so early in the game), is a really good indicator that he will make it work regardless of where he goes to school.
JL – November 14, 2016
Hi Jim, I have a question about ‘career services’. I graduated (from a private college) in August and have not found a job in my field yet. I was told coming in, that I would receive ‘active assistance’ from their Career Services department upon completion and that they would be working with me to develop an “action plan” and help me find a job. So far they’ve done nothing (other than a class on resume writing). Is this just a problem with this school or is this something that happens everywhere?
David Franco (Toronto), October 19, 2016
Hi David. In the 30+ years and 6 colleges I’ve worked at, I would have to say that “Career Services” at most private colleges (in particular) are mostly cosmetic in that they are there to make an impression and give those registering, something to look forward to at the end of their program (sense of security), but for the most part don’t really do anything. There are exceptions but they are rare. Short story; if you’re registering for any college program, be prepared to do whatever you need to do on your own, to find employment/integrate successfully because you’re not going to get a whole lot of help/support from the school itself.
JL – October 25, 2016
Greetings Mr. Lamarche. I am contacting you on behalf of my daughter who lives with us in Brampton and has just finished high school in June of this year. She wishes to taking a year off to live in India before returning and continuing with her education. My question to you is around public verses private colleges. She has narrowed her search down to 2 schools – Humber College (Broadcast Television) and TFS/Toronto Film School and is deciding which one to enroll in – in 2017 for the September start. Can you explain the main differences between private and public post-secondary education and advise us as to which program she would be best suited for.
Gurpreet Singh, (Brampton) – October 03, 2016
Namaste Gurpreet and thank you for your message. I would like to suggest that you read my post in the blogroll entitled “The Learning Curve: an observation in modern education” – http://www.jimlamarche.ca/insight/the-learning-curve-an-observation-in-modern-education/ – as I describe the primary differences in public and private post-secondary there. As for her choices thus far; I am skeptical of both. For me, any program that has the word “television” in it, is already looking through the rear view suggesting that there will likely be a curricula where much of it is or soon will be outdated and perhaps an investment in an education that has minimal impact. TFS/Toronto Film School is very expensive – has a lower graduation/integration rate and would be a high risk investment from my perspective. I would be more apt to recommend Ryerson University, OCAD/CFC or even Seneca (School of Communication Arts), as there are more options on the back end of them and having far more potential.
JL – October 05, 2016
Hi Jim, I’m looking at options for next year. I’m a composer/programmer interested in learning more about recording/MIDI (large and small format) with the intent of becoming a film/television writer/producer (music and sound design). I’m looking at schools where I can get the most access to gear during off class times as I’m thinking that it’s the practical part of the education that’s most important. From your perspective, which schools offer the most access to studio time?
Glen Lewis, (unknown location), September 29, 2016
Hi Glen – good question. I remember attending the Music Industry Arts program at Fanshawe in the late ’70’s and being able to book the studio for personal projects 24/7 and I doubt that it’s still the same (but don’t know). I remember times when I slept in the loft for 2 hours before going to class in my final year there and yes – it was a crucial part of my education because I spent more time in the school/studio than anywhere else; having access to the facilities. All I needed to do was to book it and – I had it! I know Harris Institute does that but it’s rare anymore in other schools. More often than not anymore, students are put into work groups and allocated designated slots working together on a project which is not nearly as effective because it’s a periodic rotation/rationing over an all you can eat around the clock buffet. This would be one of my first questions going in for the tour and don’t take their word for it – talk to students and ask them, because what the school says and what’s real can be very different.
JL – September 30, 2016