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. 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
Hello Jim, thank you for your Media Arts Education website and all the information that I couldn’t find anywhere else … information that has helped me in so many ways. After reading your report/forum – 3 years ago, I decided to pursue Engineering at U of T and am doing my post grad in robotics (IRM) and it’s the best decision I ever made. I still play music in my band on the week-ends but didn’t attempt to make a career out of it whereas the guitarist in my band graduated from Trebas last year and works at Long & McQuade (and is $20K in debt). My question to you is this – why are these schools so successful/profitable when it’s so obvious that they are a scam? I would have thought that your report would shut some of the bottom feeders down, but see that they are still thriving.
Roger Thompson (Toronto) – September 19, 2016
Hi Roger, thanks for this. I think the word ‘scam’ may be a bit harsh. I only say this because I know of many grads from music/media arts schools who have gone on to become very successful (ok an extreme minority), even at Trebas. As for the rest? My theory is a simple one. Most people who invest their time, energy and money into music/media arts programs are far more interested in the fantasy than the reality. I think many who sign up already know that it’s a crap-shoot but the idea of ‘imagining’ a favourable outcome over the next year or two (while parents or government pays), has great appeal to them. Honestly, only a tiny percentage of those who take in the information on my site actually use it and if it helps even 10%, then I’m happy with that. I’ve come to the conclusion that music/media arts schools will continue on like they always have, simply because there’s a huge market of young people out there who aren’t really that curious, nor are they interested in being accurately informed.
JL – September 20, 2016
Greetings Jim – I’m a guitarist, vocalist/writer having visited some of the schools in your report and am seriously considering enrolling in a music/media program sometime next year. A friend of mine is in one now and he told me that half of his class dropped out after the first term. I’m confused and curious. Why would so many people drop out so early, after making a commitment (financially), to do this?
Damien Forbes (unknown location), September 12, 2016
Hi Damien, good question. 2/3 of the people who are attracted to these programs are looking for instant gratification, and anything that represents even a remote challenge are thrown off/put out (like failing one test or having to retake a course because they missed too many classes etc.) Music/media schools lure prospective registrants in with dazzling marketing followed by that jaw-dropping tour and that glimpse into a world that looks exciting and appealing making it look all too easy and registrations are all too often on impulse. When students find out that they actually have to put in a serious effort to get results, many bail. It’s a numbers game too. What these schools will never tell anyone, is that they make a lot of money from those who drop – thousands of dollars each even if they leave after first term.
JL – September 15, 2016
Hi Jim. Our son is seriously thinking about enrolling at one of the schools in your report, in September/17 and we’ve been doing as much research as possible. I just read your updated survey and found it very informative. It’s data from 2013 though, and I’m wondering when the 2016 survey will be published.
Jessica Sherman (Toronto), August 23, 2016
Hello Jessica. At this point in time I won’t be publishing any new surveys only because the results I’m getting from those who participated in the 2016 MAE survey are almost exactly the same as the survey I conducted for 2013. In short, there’s really not a whole lot of new information to share with anyone since then. This updated survey is the official MAE 2013/2016 version. http://www.jimlamarche.ca/survey-2013/
JL – August 23, 2016
Hi Jim. I’m looking at schools to study music/professional sound next year; going to visit some and looking at websites to get more information and I’m curious about one thing. Student/Alumni success stories etc. posted on school’s sites. How realistic are they? I can’t help but feel they are a lot of hype but I’m not sure.
Jamie Barker, (unknown location), August 09, 2016.
Hi Jamie. I can tell you this … there is a small percentage of students who graduate from media/music schools who DO go on to become very successful in the business they signed up for – maybe not rich and famous yet (their original plan) but successful nonetheless. Unfortunately you’re not going to see too many of them on a school’s website because there aren’t nearly as many as the schools would have you believe there are (plus, the real success stories graduated years ago). If you look carefully (read between the lines) more often than not; there isn’t a whole lot of hard evidence that most of their so-called (more recent) “successful grads” featured, are even making their living in the business but just trying really hard to make it look that way. Ok, maybe some money but not enough to live on, perhaps living with their parents (or a relative or employed spouse) or having a survival job and appearing to be doing much better than they actually are. It’s an ego thing mostly, coupled with the school’s need for convincing marketing – a win-win for them but just a show for anyone watching and don’t know.
JL – August 11, 2016
Hello Mr. Lamarche. I was researching audio schools and came across your website which was extremely informative. I was disheartened at the lack of research there is on the subject of audio schools internationally, especially considering I cannot personally go and check them out because I live in Pakistan. I’m sending this email in the hopes that maybe you would be able to guide me on this subject. I just graduated from college with a non-music major, but have been active in the music industry here. Pakistan has very limited opportunities available for studying music, let alone a niche genre audio engineering which many people do not opt for here. I spoke to a senior professional in the industry who recommended OIART in Canada, but I recently found out that they are not accepting international students at the moment.
Considering this is a practical field, I have opted for doing a diploma and OIART would have been perfect for that. However, since that doesn’t seem to be an option at the moment, I went through your list and found a few other options of which the Harris Institute seems promising. But I also am aware that I need some sort of guidance on the matter. As far as the requirements are concerned for international admissions, I can cover the tests etc. My question, basically, is what schools would you recommend for an international student? On a side note, I have looked into North America as well and have found a few places that can be perfect. The only issue, again, is if they specifically provide space for international admissions. I feel like Canada would be more accepting towards Pakistanis at the moment than America given the election tone. Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!
Sincerely, Zahra Paracha, Co-founder Lahore Music Meet, Lahore Pakistan, August 07, 2016
Greetings Zahra. I’ve visited your site http://lahoremusicmeet.com/ and am impressed with the good work that you are doing there. After taking a good look at everything, I’m thinking Harris Institute would be the best fit for you. I’m sending you a link to the International Students page on Harris’s site for more information. In short, there’s a maturity at Harris which I think is more conducive to your mission, in a program that is shorter and faster (and better connected) than the community college programs here (that do international intakes as well). Keep in touch and let me know how it goes.
JL, August 08, 2016
Greetings Mr. Jim, I’m a rapper/DJ and write songs. I’m wanting to learn more about music production and the music business and am not sure which way to go or which school would be best for me. What would you suggest?
Dean Gibbons (unknown location), July 22, 2016
Hi Dean. I get a lot of these inquiries … “Hey Jim, I play in a band, what should I do?”, and every possible variation in between. I’m not a crystal ball nor would I ever know how to advise a person based on such little information. Finding the right answers will require a certain (basic) amount of effort on your part. You can start by reading my report, the Forum/Blogroll and the 2013 Survey in my website (my guess is that you haven’t done that yet). That’s about as good as I can do for you – for now.
JL – July 29, 2016
Hello Jim, I’ve read your report and all the posts in your Blogroll and have a question around the validity of formal media arts education. If the diploma/credential means so little in the industry, then why do people pay big money to go to these schools?
Brendan Dempster (unknown location) – June 01, 2016
Hi Brendan. Most who attend these schools will finish with a more comprehensive overview/understanding of the creative, technical and business aspects of their industry and in some cases, it is this extended exploration/perspective that makes all the difference to an individual’s success. The term “looking at the bigger picture” comes to mind. That being said, most of these schools popped up before the internet, and when large format technology proliferated the scene (more relevant) and when there was no such thing as small format (computers/software etc.), so learning how big hardware worked (proper schooling), made a whole lot more sense. So yes, with the rapid diminishing of large format technology, one could easily ask the question why? There are some graduates from media/audio arts schools who have commented on internet message boards, saying things like … “don’t spend the money on formal education … spend it on gear and learn it yourself”. This is a very valid option now, only in that it allows one to focus solely on their craft the way they want to learn it, and there are so many amazing tutorials on-line if you know where to look (youtube) that are really good, so yes – it’s all quite doable without a formal education. I recently met a Toronto composer/musician who chose not to go to school and is doing extremely well. He invested in gear almost 10 years ago, has his own slick small format studio and told me he learned most of what he knows by absorbing hundreds of clips/videos on-line and he is doing brilliant work having done just that – so ya – why do people pay big money to go to these schools? Good question.
JL – June 02, 2016
Hi Jim, I’m writing to ask you a question around schools. I’m considering Metalworks and Trebas for Audio Production and Engineering and I’m not sure which one is better. I don’t see Trebas in your report but have seen good reviews and heard good things, and it’s close to where I live in Parkdale Toronto. I’m a composer/programmer and wish to pursue a career as such but am not sure which fork in the road I should take.
Jared Biggs, (Toronto) – May 27, 2016
Hi Jared, there is no doubt in my mind that Metalworks is a much better school – better people, studios/gear, curricula and it’s about the same price. If it has to be Trebas or Metalworks? I would say Metalworks is a better way to go.
JL – May 30, 2016
Greetings Mr. Lamarche. I’d like to get your opinion on what you think of Centennial College’s MIAP (Music Industry Arts and Performance) program. I do rap/hip-hop and am looking for a good program that will help me develop my skills and where I can learn more about the industry and I like that it’s less expensive than private schools.
Jeremy Wallace (Toronto), April 28 2016
Hi Jeremy. I don’t know a whole lot about what’s going on at Centennial as this is fairly new on the grid. I’ve visited the website and have taken a good look, and unlike the other MIA programs (Fanshawe/London & Algonquin/Ottawa), there would appear to be little emphasis on the “technical” side of the equation (no sign of any real gear other than computers) and that is a concern for me. Music Industry Arts and Performance implies that there’s more substance over the other MIA programs when in fact, it looks like there’s far less. That being said, I understand that there is sizable chunk of this market that wants the music/performance aspect only (not caring about the technical, other than how to hold a microphone properly), but honestly that’s narrow minded and leaves grads with no real options later on – esp. if all one has is a college diploma in music and performance. If you’re going to do a longer community college music/media program, it is my opinion that a healthy (practical/hands on) technically focused – large format curricula is as important (if not more important) than the performance focused courses. If you’re going to invest 3 years in a public post-secondary music program, I’m thinking Humber is a better choice. You’ll finish with a real degree in music and they have a real recording studio there. If dropping a beat and bustin’ a rhyme is all you want to do? There’s always the IMP Independent Music Program at Seneca (all small format). It’s one year (certificate) – cheap and they’re ready to take you on – OSAP all good, lots of fun and all fairly easy, but it’s child’s play from my perspective. A more serious undertaking will require a more serious commitment.
JL – April 29, 2016
Hello Jim. My name is Josh Gerbrandt and I am a high school music teacher in Toronto. I came across your blog the other day and was thrilled to read some of the posts. By training I am a classical guitarist and teach high school guitar programs, but over the last couple years I have taken over the AMM (Music and Computers) course at my school, Georges Vanier Secondary School. The program which I have called “Vanier Studio” used to be called the “One World Youth Arts Project” under the direction of Steve Lashbrook. The former teacher retired, so I came in and have been working on developing the program. We have a “midi lab” space, as well as a main studio floor, with a 32 channel mixer, 4 Delta 1010 interfaces, a smaller room that I call the drum room (as it is a small drum recording space with 8 channels available for recording) as well as a couple of small rooms for vocal/guitar. This past year we have attended a tour of Metalworks, led by Alex Andronache, and did a small “recording trip” to Recording Arts Canada to see post secondary options. I am looking to head to Harris Institute some point either this semester, or in the coming school year. The reason I emailed is that when I saw the report card regarding Media Arts colleges, it made me wonder, “What made that 20% or so successful in getting into the field?” Last year I was in the market for buying a car, and it turned out that the Mazda dealer sales rep was a RAC grad. I also know someone who doesn’t work in the field but graduated from Fanshawe in the late 90s. As I teach the students at the high school level, are there things to help guide them into good post-secondary Media Arts Programs, and even then, get them beyond and graduate those programs with jobs in the field? Have you seen any sort of pattern in those students getting positions? Most of the students walk in the door have an extremely glorified view of the industry (doesn’t surprise), but what things would you say students need to succeed?
Josh Gerbrandt (Toronto), April 20, 2016
Hi Josh, thanks for this. I remember as a teacher at Trebas Institute (years ago) – new classes/first day looking out at the 30 or so fresh faces in each class and spotting the 1 or 2 who had what it takes to make it work out there in the industry. Almost always a quiet demeanor/intensity in their eyes and that rare razor-sharp focus that none of the others possessed. By the end of the first term (of 3), the classes were half the size because so many didn’t get the ‘quick fix’ they were hoping for, and the school would join what was once 5 classes down to 2 or 3 and these students were always still there. I remember congratulating them at their graduation months later and yes, watching them go on to become successful in the music/media arts industry that they signed up for. I was almost always accurate in my predictions early on. What made them successful was their grounded desire/ambition and motivation/passion for the program more than anything else. Seeing all the obvious delusions and pitfalls early on, they still rose to the occasion, every single day/week/month – consistently stepping forward with optimism and in pro-action (elevated commitment). There are way too many music/media arts schools out there, particularly in the PCC sector. If there were only a few and they had higher admissions standards, the 20% (of grads) that succeed now would be more like 60%, but with so many schools competing for their piece of the market share and so little oversight in terms of rules and regulations, the many schools that are out there are free to feed the fantasy and coerce those with little real desire (and an abundance of ego), that their dream can in fact become a reality IF they sign up for the program. I think it’s a lot like wanting to become a professional athlete. Out of the multitudes who wish it (little talent), or even are truly gifted and perform well in the early stages (winning competitions/trophies etc.), there are only a very select few (on top of that) who can actually make pro sports work as a career.
JL – April 21, 2016
Hello Jim. I’m writing to you to ask you a question. My son is 3 years out of high-school (graduated in 2013), still living at home and plays in a band (doesn’t work). He says he seriously wants to be in music and we want to support him but it has been a challenge for his father and myself. They recorded a 5 song EP a year ago and it was good but they rarely practice anymore, having gone from 3 nights a week down to Saturdays and that gets cancelled half the time. Now he’s talking about going to a music/recording arts school at a private college (not in your report), because his friend is there (just started) and will still be there in September when my son starts – and can “show him the ropes”. It’s $19,000 and says he can get an OSAP loan and is determined, thinking that a diploma will be his ticket into the music business. Needless to say, we are concerned after having read your report; which is something our son isn’t interested in reading. Ultimately we want him to get an education that will lead to a rewarding career and I’m skeptical about this path he is choosing. Do you have any ideas/suggestions on what we can do here?
Grace S. (Toronto), March 14, 2016
Hi Grace; What I’m hearing here, is that if your son is 3 years out of high-school and doesn’t work (living at home), then maybe you have ‘enabled’ his complacency or dependence – which is a whole different issue and has longer term ramifications, but this isn’t what you’re asking of me. My experience (in the 30 years teaching in media arts/music), is that almost all of those who gravitate to these types of schools/education, want to be rock stars (rappers/DJ’s etc.) or at the very least, work/play with famous people and thus, are looking for the quickest and easiest path to fame, fortune and glory and these programs are offering a tempting quick-fix to all their problems. Now, if it can be had in one year with a student loan even better, because they’ll easily be able to pay it back after they’re out there making it (at least that’s their thinking in the moment). The problem is that music/media schools play right into that fantasy with flashy marketing and seductive one-liners but in reality is very different on the back end.
September is still 6 months away. Be creative … the best you can do is to encourage him to open his eyes and do some serious research before putting all his eggs in his one comfy basket, assuring him that there are lots of baskets (even better ones). Admissions reps at most private colleges try to pressure a commitment/enrollment by dangling incentives and a deadline in front of prospectives (because he or she is on commission), so watch out for that. Many sign up at PCC colleges impulsively because of that. At the very least, encourage him to visit other schools before he decides and to wait until it feels right. What I can tell you (that may help), is that he will be able to attend any PCC school in September, even if he registers on the first day of class – so there should be zero pressure (between now and then). Best part about having my info here, is that your son can check in with his friend (going now) and get the real scoop in late August (which may change his mind). Good luck!
JL – March 16, 2016
Hi there Jim. First and foremost, thank you for creating your website. As someone who is looking at audio production schools, these reviews have been a great help. Harris, OIART and Seneca were already my top 3 choices, so I was relieved to see them so high on your list. Though when I was reading it, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of schools had founders that were (at some point) a part of Trebas, yet Trebas wasn’t on your list. I’ve been looking at Trebas as well, and while I couldn’t find many reviews, they seemed mostly positive? I’m just wondering what your opinion is on their school, since they seem to have a decent pedigree. Thanks.
Ryan Morrison (unknown location), February 02, 2016
Hi Ryan, I don’t like Trebas Institute. They employed me for years and I am grateful for that, however I would not recommend it to anyone. Much better options in my opinion. What is really important to know, is that private college ‘reviews’ on-line are often a spin created by the school themselves (and aren’t real). This is a common occurrence/practice and it works. That said – go there and have a look at it and let me/us know what you think.
JL – February 03, 2016
JL – October 16, 2015
I have always heard great things about OIART, and your review only reaffirms what I really already knew. A few other schools I had heard about were either much lower on the list or not there at all (i.e. Recording Arts Canada). The one school I was unaware of was the Harris Institute. This sounds like another great option for me. After a few days of consideration, it seems like it will be either OIART or APP at Harris, should I choose to take the plunge. This is by no means an easy decision, and I was hoping you could give me some insight into what might be my best choice. I feel that OIART is probably the best option, but the one thing that deters me is it being in London. You see, performing music is just as important to me as recording/mixing/producing it is. A band I am currently in were considering moving away, most likely to Toronto. I guess my question is do you think it would be more worth going to OIART, despite other potential opportunities in Toronto? I’d rather not compromise here, but I do really like the idea of being able to be in Toronto while going to school, and playing shows with my band on weekends, but at this point, I really just want to make the best decision for my career. I understand this will be a difficult question for you to answer, but I am basically just hoping for any input/suggestions you may have for me.
Matt Fudge, (unknown location), October 03, 2015
JL – October 04, 2015
Phil Wilson, (Kingston ON), August 05, 2015
Josh Anderson, (London ON), July 06, 2015
Hi Jim, I just came across your blog….. Great help for many of us with questions. My 17 yr old son is a musician, has a great band, writes and records his music etc….. Having said that, he knows his passion is to be a professional musician and also go into the recording/engineering side as well. We have looked at Humber…. He doesn’t think it’s for him. He has gone on a Metalworks tour with his highschool (as well as we are going to go look at it tomorrow). He likes Metalworks and knows he would love it there but still unsure. I’m trying to lean him to look at the media arts program at Ryerson…. But he says he is too passionate about music (and he really is). My question is….. Would Ryersons program have any relevance in music production if he were to look at that? Metalworks seems pricey for the 2 years and I’m unsure about jobs when they are done. My son says it’s all about how serious you work at it, and that his passion and commitment will get him a job…… I hope he’s right about that… Lol.
Laura Gruntz – (unknown location) – December 05, 2014
JL – December 08, 2014
Hi Jim, I’m 27 and thinking of going back to school and taking a media arts related program. Being an amateur film-maker; I love making clips w/my own music (Adobe Premiere and Logic Pro X) and uploading them to YouTube and Vimeo. I really like the idea of turning my passion into a full-time career but have no idea what that would look like (or where to start). I’ve read your report and am still trying to decide whether to do public or private college. What do you think?
Ken Taylor – Toronto – November 11, 2014
Hi Ken – thanks for your message – read this … jl
Hello Jim, I am in the U.K. having a 3 year B.Sc. degree. My parents and I are moving to Vancouver in February/15 and I am looking at attending CDM (Centre for Digital Media) and getting my MDM (Master of Digital Media) which is 2 years. My questions are: 1) What is your opinion of this school and this qualification and 2) They say on their website that they need a 4 yr B.Sc or BA undergrad and I only have a 3. Do you think they’ll accept me? This is the only school of it’s kind in the world and I’m curious to know what you think of it.
Kerry Watson – London UK – October 29, 2014
Thanks Kerry. Yes, I see their ads/billboards on the Toronto Transit – giant picture of a woman wearing google glasses – that’s not a good first impression . Anyone with any real ‘vision’ in media arts already knew that google glass was a bad idea from the get-go (let alone using it as an ongoing marketing platform). Beyond that, any school that uses the word ‘digital’ in its name indicates a lag as the word is already an anachronism (right up there with ‘video’, ‘television’ and ‘multi-media’). I’m thinking that the whole idea is to project that you’re ahead of the game – not behind it. One of the things I look at closely are the students who attend (quality) and the work (projects) they do – proudly uploaded on the school’s website – for the whole world to see/hear. For me it’s appalling how bad most of it is. The only school that uploads student projects that are actually good is OIART in London Ontario, otherwise just about everything I look at/listen to (Canadian) is abysmal (and that includes CDM too). This is the ultimate litmus test for me. Otherwise, I’m naturally hesitant around elevated qualifications in the media arts post-secondary landscape for this very reason. More expensive ‘in the box’ training (ie. Masters degree) in media arts seems almost superfluous (overkill) in light of the fact that fundamentally, what it’s all about – is passion, drive/ambition/talent and connections. No 6+ year university degree in the world can give you that. When it comes to media arts; some schooling can work really well – too much can burn you.
JL – October 30, 2014
Hi Jim, I’m a singer/songwriter (with my partner Josh) and want to learn more about the music business. I’m seeing many different avenues and schools but more than anything, I/we just want to get our music out there, tour and become successful artists. What is your advice for us?
Sara Berger – Toronto – October 24, 2014
Hi Sara, I can only reflect on what I’ve seen, having been a teacher/educator in media arts (at Trebas, Ryerson, International Academy of Design (Recording Arts Technology)/Toronto Film School, Metalworks and Fanshawe) since ’83. In the 10,000+ students I’ve had (most of whom shared a dream similar to yours), I don’t know of one graduate from any school (singer/songwriter or band) who has become successful as an artist in the ‘music biz’ (earning their living as such). That being said, I’ve seen/heard thousands who tried real hard – (almost too hard). The music invariably sounding flat (bland/banal) and lacking in any originality (even though they, and everyone else in their circle think it’s amazing – enabling the delusion). My theory is that these schools create an insular, “formulaic” approach to learning and this ‘in the box’ agenda rubs off on anyone who tries to be ‘creative’ in it. You might consider skipping school altogether – travel with your partner – go to clubs in the darker undercurrents of the world (NY, LA, Nashville, UK, Australia, Germany, etc.) and soak in some real musical culture because, the outcome going to a music/media arts school in Canada (for this sole reason) may turn out to be just another expensive karaoke night out.
JL – October 24, 2014