Welcome to the Q & A section of this website

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 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 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.

The Learning Curve: Modus Operandi

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 …

The Learning Curve: an observation in modern education

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 …

Black Hole Syndrome

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?   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” – 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.

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 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




Hello Jim,  I’m writing to ask you about the delay on your new survey.  I’ve noticed it pushed back until next year and also looking forward to the second “This is My Story”, also noticing it being pushed back as well.
Randy Spencer (Windsor), October 26, 2015
Hi Randy, thank you for your inquiry.  I’ve received less than 100 responses to the new survey and they mirror the 2013 survey almost exactly.  Until there’s a shift with new information to present; I’ll be holding off indefinitely.  As for the second installment of “This is My Story” … I’ve received 2 submissions over the past year and they both come across as ‘testimonials’ more than a genuine reflection of their experience.  I’m not here to promote any one school, so getting a story about how wonderful it was attending such and such school, is really not what I’m looking for.  That being said, I am open to success stories but they need to reflect what’s real first and foremost.
JL – October 28, 2015

Hi Jim!   I just found your site, very helpful!  Originally I went to school for media arts at Sheridan back in 2008. I didn’t finish the program, but I came out of it with a passion for film score and music production rather than film. I’ve always been a pretty accomplished musician, and play multiple instruments.   I’m at a point where I’ve been out of school for a few years though and am feeling very stagnant. I recently moved back in with my parents for a while after living on my own for 6-7 years so that I could keep my studio work going without having to worry so much about money.  Anyways, I want to go back to school, and study theory, but I also want a heavy emphasis on contemporary and electronic music production techniques (because I record all my music in logic and rely on a heavy database of sample instruments, but still also play live instruments).  Basically the type of school I want to go to is Berklee. I know it’s out of the question though because of the enormous cost.  Can you recommend cheaper and maybe better alternatives to a school like this where I will be able to focus my knowledge broadly and practically, and with a modern approach rather than traditional?
Andrew McLeod (unknown location), October 15, 2015
Hi Andrew, thanks for this …  I’m assuming you’ve read my report, blogroll/forum/2013 survey carefully and you are well aware of the challenges here.  When I get messages like this I always think that this person could be the next Thomas Newman or Danny Elfman – so let’s go there.  I see these key words/tags in your message – #filmscore, #electronic music production, #studio, #logic, #theory, #berklee, #alternatives.   What comes to mind for me first, is Humber College’s Music Program – …  It’s no Berklee but it’s a fraction of the cost and it’s a BA (not that the ‘qualification’ makes any real difference to those in the industry).   As you probably already know, Berklee is very theory/performance intensive with electronic electives and Humber is the closest model to that here.  Upside is that all your tags are relevant;  downside is that it’s a 4 year program and I’m wondering if you want to spend that much time in a formal education setting at this stage.  Humber also offers a shorter ‘certificate’ program but it’s a taste rather than a meal (and maybe that’s all you need).  Otherwise – all I have to offer is what’s on the menu in my report (top shelf).  Faster track private college options include OIART, Harris or Metalworks.  Metalworks has this new Music Performance and Technology program – – and this will be considerably more expensive – 2 years.  I know little about what’s going on out there right now – particularly with these new programs – so tread lightly.   It is however, a professional learning environment which is conducive to your goal.   I suggest you visit all 4 schools and keep an open mind and ask a lot of good questions.  Keep in touch – I’d like to know how it goes.
JL – October 16, 2015

Greetings Jim,  I am soon going to be in my final term at a recording arts school and I am seriously considering dropping.  Part of my reasoning is financial but it’s also because my band wants to tour in the states and I’m kind of stuck as to what to do.  My question is this … how important is this diploma I’m going to get?   I’ve had many people tell me that the “piece of paper” means nothing anyway and a lot of what I’m taking here is a total waste of time.   What do you think I should do?
Justin Wren – (unknown location), October 13, 2015
Hi Justin,  those telling you that the ‘piece of paper’ means nothing are quite accurate (esp. in music/recording arts).   The term ‘it’s not what you got, but how you use it’ comes to mind.   That being said, finishing what you start is a measure of your commitment – and if I were a future employer (any field) and you were sitting across from me in a job interview and you told me you dropped out of school, I would be much more inclined to hire the person who I interviewed just before you – who graduated.
JL – October 14, 2015

Hello Jim,  I graduated from a media arts school here in Toronto in 2013 and have been seeking meaningful employment since.  My original focus was on music and then shifting towards post sound as my studies progressed, realizing that finding a job in music would be nearly impossible.  I have been struggling since, working at various jobs at cafe’s and bistros in the city and am finding it extremely difficult to integrate.  I’m looking for any insights into what I can do to get into the industry, since sending out hundreds of resumes and actually visiting audio post studios hasn’t worked.
Ben Carlson, (Toronto), October 12, 2015
Thank you Ben.  There has been a major shift in the industry over recent years and the traditional approach doesn’t apply.  It never did and schools don’t address this challenge.   Where there was once a thriving post-production scene in Canada/Toronto, and new opportunities regularly, now it’s a ghost-town.  Biggest problem is that there are now half a dozen schools pumping out audio grads every year here and the market is saturated with qualified/even ambitious young people willing to rise to the occasion at a moments notice.  Sending resume’s out is pretty much a waste of time yes, because there are very few seats opening inside the circle and those that do open up are snatched up by those with connections on the inside, before the word even gets out.   At most reputable audio post facilities (including broadcast), there’s even a long line-up of those willing to work for free (volunteer/intern) because of the sheer numbers.  All I can suggest, is to build a solid on-line presence/portfolio that is short and focused – clips with your audio work that scream amazing in a simple, super-slick/accessible link (ie. WordPress), and then get out there – shake hands at industry events/functions with your physical presence and impress those who can assist, including independent film-makers.  Offer your services pro bono and keep building your reel.  Then, follow up – follow up – follow up.  This is imperative only because so few actually do that.  Your mindful persistence with a handful of good contacts (in the flesh) will outlast the many resumes that those in power get every day, even if it’s with someone lower in the food-chain (but has influence).   I have also found that networking in Linkedin is a good thing to do.  My experience is that those who carry themselves like they’re on the inside already (and conduct themselves as such – with that level of grounded confidence/conviction), are those who find themselves poised to slip into position, when the timing is right (it’s a mindset and yes, timing is everything).
JL – October 14, 2015

 Hello Jim,   I’ve been reading through all the great info on your website and I’d just like to say thank you for the effort you’ve put into demystifying the world of Arts education in Canada. It has been eye-opening for me (and for many others I’m sure) to say the least.   I’ve been involved with music pretty much my whole life, and have been making my own recordings at home for roughly the past 7 or 8 years. Though I do feel my work is improving, I am yearning to be in an environment where I can be immersed in all things audio. I know there is a strong argument against schooling for audio engineers. Seems like most opinions I read online say “don’t do it”, “you can learn all this on your own”, and “don’t waste your money, spend it on gear.” For the longest time these words kept me from looking any further into education. But after coming across your website, it has helped me gain a new perspective on things and I am now strongly considering this as an option once again. I think it really depends on the person and also what they choose to take from it. Your essay “the learning curve” really helped me a lot in this regard. It really takes a lot of the disillusionment out of what people expect from going to school. Now, I just need to figure out which school is best. Or better yet, best for me. I should mention that after speaking with my father on the matter, he has offered to very graciously pay for my tuition to one of these schools, making my desire to go all that stronger.

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


Hi Matt, thanks for your message/questions.  It’s kind of like you’re at this fork in the road and you’re not sure which way to go.   Both OIART and Harris are good schools, so whichever path you take, you’ll be in good hands.   There is however, a primary difference in their focus.  OIART is really about “pro-audio/post” (film/television/advertising/corporate sound design), where Harris is focused more on ‘music biz’ related activities (production/engineering/arts management etc).  Either way, you’ll get a fairly well rounded education that encompasses audio/sound/music – (all applications) and I think their web-sites are good indicators on what the content is going to look like between the covers.   I’ve always loved this “visualization” exercise – where do you see yourself in 5 years?  What are you doing?  Where?  The most common answer (in the thousands of students I did the exercise with), was something like this … “Touring with my band and preparing our second album for the label, booking the studio and doing pre-production” … answers like that.   There is only one person/former student that comes to mind who did just that, Chris Tait (Chalk Circle), after Trebas Institute.  They were signed to Duke Street Records in the early 90’s.  Chris went on to become very successful as an advertising music producer after they disbanded and honestly?   Student/graduates like him, I can count on one hand because that narrative is such a serious stretch (esp. now).  Ok, thousands of students envisioning themselves doing this (music biz activity) in 5 years and only one (that I know of/hundreds of brilliantly creative students), who actually went on to do that.   Of course there are more; my point being – they are an extreme minority.   Most people who sign up for these courses think that it’s a ticket IN and this is just not so.  My experience is that those who target realistically after doing the necessary research, are the ones who are still active in audio careers years later and that those who get the “fame, fortune and glory” bug out of their systems early, are the one’s who eventually rise to the occasion and find their place doing audio-visual, media production professionally.

JL – October 04, 2015

Hi Jim.  I’m a graduate from a music/media arts school in Toronto (not in your report), and really wishing I’d found your site earlier.  I’m writing to you because of my unique situation.  I found out late in the game, after spending a lot of money on an education in music/sound, that I’m tone-deaf.   I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes over the past 3 years and am sad to report that I still work as a chef at a restaurant in the city, and I hate it.  I’d like your opinion because I’m pissed/disappointed that I spent so much money and have nothing to show for it (still paying $340/month to OSAP) and even if I do find a job in music/sound, I’m wondering how it will work with this infliction.  Honestly, I was really into being in the music business when I signed up – thinking it was a shoe-in with my diploma.  In short;  I feel ripped off.
Steve D., (Toronto), August 25, 2015
Hi Steve, thanks for this.  Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do to help you here.  I remember having students who were tone deaf.  Neither they or I had any idea until I worked with them in recording workshops in their final term.  They/we were in production workshops where we had bands in and practicing to become ‘producer/engineers’.   Certain student/participants (a small minority), couldn’t hear when a vocal performance was off key (let alone being a bit flat), or when instruments were out of tune which is a fundamental necessity.  Ironically, this was AFTER they had taken and passed ear-training and music theory courses in their first 2 terms.  It’s like spending thousands at a flight school only to find out that you’ll never become a pilot because you’re colour blind.    None of these schools are going to test or tell anyone coming in, because they really want your registration/tuition first and foremost.  Where there are now tests you can take up front for colour blindness (on-line),  there’s nothing (that I know of) for this particular impairment.  Yes, it would be great if these schools ran some basic ear-training entrance tests before “accepting” registrants – but it’s never going to happen, because they don’t need to, and because essentially – it’s your problem, not theirs.  My suggestion?  Forget about it and move on.
JL – August 26, 2015

Hello Jim.  I have been doing some research on line and came across your website giving a top ten list of Ontario options for persons considering post-secondary education in a media orientated career.  My step-daughter who is soon to be 16 going into grade 11 is doing a lot of hard work investigating educational options for a career in vocal teaching/performing.  She has looked at MetalWorks Institution and an institution in Los Angeles.  She is now seeing that such a career maybe a difficult one to earn a decent living at and is now considering a broader range but still at MWI or other such programs – yes the US is still on the table as she said she just contacted a school somewhere in Florida.  My concern is that she is focusing so much on MWI that I am not sure it is a good fit for her or that it will give her the recognition she may need in the field upon completion.  So I am doing, what I have encouraged her to do and reach out to people within the industry to seek their wisdom.

Phil Wilson, (Kingston ON), August 05, 2015
Hi Phil.   This is a tough one.  Good news is that she still has a couple of years to go. If she were my daughter, I would definitely not recommend Metalworks, (with her desire to be a vocal teacher/performer).   MWI is very appealing and they certainly know how to bait the hook with lots of dazzle but it’s expensive and not necessarily worth it (in your case).   Going to CA or Florida to pursue music would definitely give me the creeps because it’s even more expensive there (esp. w/our disintegrating dollar plus higher tuition/travel/living expenses etc.) … yikes!  No.  Honestly, I’d feel a whole lot better if my kid was at a Canadian school (closer to home) that offers an opportunity to blow it out of her system and not leave her/you with a massive education bill and little/no prospects.   I’ve never recommended this one to anyone before but again,  if it were my daughter under these specific/unique circumstances, I’d suggest something like IMP at Seneca (short and a fraction of the cost).  She could explore music – do lots of singing/recording and (hopefully) after 8 months – move through it and out the other side – and into something more lucrative (that has a future).
JL – August 06, 2015

“Good Day Jim.   I see so little information on media arts education on-line, (other than the school’s websites).  It’s great to see your report and read the feedback.   I’m in London Ontario, having just graduated from high school and have been working at Montana’s bar & grill, taking the time to decide what I’m going to do.  I’ve always had a passion for video games and I’m seriously considering enrolling in the 3D Animation/Character Design program at Fanshawe College’s new Centre for Digital & Performance Arts campus downtown here for next September 2016.   What is your opinion on this?   Do you think it’s possible for me to find a job in London as an Animation/Game Designer after I graduate?” .
Josh Anderson, (London ON),  July 06, 2015
Hi Josh,  I’m extremely skeptical about what’s going on in London right now.   Information (on-line) on the Centre for Digital & Performance Arts is old and sketchy, and any criticism is carefully concealed so as to continue a positive spin on what appears to be a giant money suck by politicians and education system ensconced bureaucrats there.  From what I can tell, It is they who stand to benefit the most from this $40M investment in the downtown core of London – NOT student/graduates (people like you).   Accurate information is hard to come by.  After sifting through hours of little to go on, it would appear that the centre is in fact open to 400 students enrolled in various Digital Media and Performance Arts programs, including a “London Girls Rock Camp”, – with plans to have over 1000 full time students attending in September.  I have no idea how accurate this is – and so.  Will you find a job as an Animation/Game Designer in London after you graduate?  This question gives me the shakes.   The North American market is flooded with media/performance arts schools offering these (super-appealing/profitable) programs and existing students, even graduates who have absolutely no idea what’s really going on (or how any of this translates in real-life).   In short;  Fanshawe’s so-called expansion in London makes big promises on the front-end and I see very little delivery on the back-end.   In the end/end, I see most of the Centre for Digital & Performance Art’s graduates eventually working at Montanas – only now with student loan/debts that need to be paid – shaking their heads wondering “what was that?”.  On a positive note, Fanshawe’s 3D Animation/Character Design is an $8,000 certificate  program, as opposed to a $30-40,000/diploma (blatant ripoff) at a private career college, oh – and 3D animation is now widely used in educational/corporate clips (yawn) – ok, so back to reality.  The competition is fierce (dozens of schools pumping out thousands of CGI grads every year across Canada) AND considering that 99+% of the world’s 3D animation/game development happens outside Canada; I think it’s fair/safe to say that finding/securing meaningful employment after doing an 8 month community college program in London Ontario (or any of these schools for that matter) is highly unlikely.
JL – July 30, 2015

“Hello Jim – I’ve read through your report and I’m still somewhat confused about whether I should go to a public or private school.  I’m 25, living with my parents in Mississauga and work part-time at the Home Depot.  I started my band 2 years ago and we do shows and are releasing our first EP next month.  I’ve been seriously considering Metalworks but it’s a lot of money and my parents are discouraging that option, thinking I would be better going to college or university (cheaper and I can get OSAP).  I understand that there is a big risk in doing music at a private college and that very few actually graduate (let alone find employment), but that feels like the best option for me and I could start in September, otherwise I would have to wait a year.  If I did wait until next year; would the music program at Humber be a better choice for me, or should I just skip music altogether and do Ryerson”?”
Jason Christopher, (Mississauga),  June 26, 2015
Hi Jason, I would recommend you read “The Learning Curve – an observation in modern education”,  here in the blogroll.
There are no easy answers here; like one is better  than the other (not so simple).  It totally depends on your unique situation and timeline.   At 25 (and still living with your parents) – the public school system could still work well for you but don’t assume that just because you’re doing music at Humber, that your chances will be higher in finding suitable employment upon graduation.  Like I’ve said many times … one doesn’t do one of these programs expecting to find a ‘job’ after.  This is more about embracing a bigger picture/thinking out of the box (developing entrepreneurial spirit).   Ryerson is still my fave, but it’s a long wait and a 1 in 10 chance you’ll get in Sept/16.  You will also need to put your musical ambitions on the back burner if you go that route, but yeah putting all your eggs into the music biz (audio) bundle basket seems far-fetched and limiting.  If you’re in Mississauga – there’s also Sheridan – lots of options and opportunities in their Media Program where you can keep your music/sound focus while exploring other avenues.  Just a thought.
JL – July 29, 2015

“Greetings Jim, I’m curious to know your thoughts on the recent closure of Everest College.  My daughter is/was a student and was about to finish her program and now this!   We have learned our lesson the hard way.  We are now being harassed by other private colleges wanting to “help” us.  I’m skeptical.”
Kamal Singh (Brampton), February 23, 2015
I met with several Campus Directors at Everest last July/August; all of whom were extremely confident that the issues would be resolved and that someone would buy them and they would restructure.  My gut feeling is that MTCU was willing to give them the time (flexibility) to do just that (which would allow existing students finish).  The problem is this – they were allowed to continue enrolling students on their flimsy track record and on the assumption that someone would magically just show up and save the day.   Everyone in the know – knew that the college was a lemon and yet no-one really rose to the occasion – to deal with it (allowing the growing issues to fester).  I was skeptical even last summer and could see it ending badly early in the new year and here we are.  I just wish more had seen it too.  All students in registered post-secondary deserve better.
JL – February 25, 2015

“Happy New Year Jim – I’m curious to know about your shifting Ryerson up to the top spot.  Why now?   I’m also curious to know what happened with the 2014 survey.   Are you going to post the results of that?   Finally – your “This is My Story” feature?  Will we be seeing more graduate feed-back soon?”
Robert Mailloux (Toronto), January 01, 2015
Yes Robert and thanks for asking.  It was time to change it up here in the report.  I’ve spent quite a lot of time at Ryerson this past year and I’m extremely impressed at what’s going on there – particularly in their DMZ/Digital Media Zone.  In short;  I’ve seen a quantum leap in that camp that I haven’t seen elsewhere.  There’s a shift occurring in MAE that some are picking up on faster than others.  In short;  I’m seeing a fading interest in schools predominantly offering a music biz curricula in favour of programs covering more realistic options.  As for the peripherals;  I didn’t get enough participation with the ’14 Survey to warrant a spread so I’m shifting ahead a year.   I’ve received a handful of submissions for the next installment of “This is My Story” – most being grads who have wonderful things to say about the school they went to – not that it’s a bad thing – I’m just looking for a story that’s more grounded in what it’s like to be a graduate surviving out there in the real world and offers a more comprehensive overview on the challenges being faced now.
JL – January 02, 2015

Hi Jim:  I found your blog tonight and find your insight and information both helpful and concerning.  My son will be turning 19 soon and is currently in his first year at the University of Saskatchewan in the Edwards School of Business in the college of commerce. I don’t think he really loves what he is doing right now and we have told him he is just starting out and needs to be patient.  His passion is music and he performs regularly with his band and also solo. He performed in the high school band and is self taught in piano and guitar.  We have taken him to Nashville twice now for a holiday and he has performed there a couple of times. His goal is to move down there and start a career in the music industry there and also perform there.  I have recently found out that he is researching schools in the GTA for music management and one school he is looking at is Metalworks.  I guess my question for you is what your opinion is and what your advise would be for him. He is a really nice kid but is still quite naive to the ways of the real world and am worried about him being taken advantage of. He hasn’t had a lot of life experiences yet.
Bryan Pratt (unknown location), December 22, 2014
Hi Bryan, thanks for this.  I think it’s safe to say that you have to let your son go and give him your blessing.  It’s tough for parents in these situations because the options and opportunities are so tenuous/unpredictable.  That being said, my gut feeling (in this case), is that it’s going to work out regardless.   Both the EBM (Entertainment Business Management at Metalworks) and AMP (Arts Management Program at Harris) are very good and the only 2 of their kind that I would recommend.  It’s really about going to visit them both first and seeing which one is the best fit before registering – best in the new year.
JL – December 22, 2014

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

Hi Laura – Ryerson doesn’t do music so that’s not an option.  Your son has the ‘itch’ as I call it and music is quite unique over other itches.  He’s one of thousands who get it every year in Canada.  Think of it like this.  It’s like the kid who sees his first hockey game on TV and decides he wants to play in the NHL, so you’re going to spend $40,000 to send him to hockey school for 2 years! – but hey … anything’s possible!   Most young people get hooked into the ‘idea’ of it, then drift into oblivion (dropping out) after seeing what’s really required, then 4/5 graduates from media/music schools end up doing other (unrelated) things in their subsequent careers (an expensive distraction).  The music biz is very entrepreneurial so – thinking you’ll be getting ‘a cool job’ after finishing one of these programs is actually delusional and counter-productive.  Those who become most successful in music/media arts create their own jobs.   Those who actually find more traditional ‘jobs’ are surprised (for the most part) to find out that it’s completely different from what they expected going in (pays a lot less than they thought), and isn’t nearly as sexy as they had hoped for.  I bumped into one last night (a gifted student I had at Trebas years ago) – he’s an usher at Massey Hall.  He’ll tell you about that.   All I can suggest is that you carefully read the content in my ‘Survey 2013’ (pertinent info) and questions/feedback in the FORUM.  That being said; I like to think that everyone has what it takes (going in) – so I’m wishing you and your son good luck and great success.   Here are some additional links below.


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