We first had the opportunity to tour the facilities and meet with the staff at Musicians Institute (MI) back in 2008. The Drum Program (formerly known as Percussion Institute of Technology or PIT) was an excellent program then, and due to their continual development and re-imagining of the program to reflect the ever-changing drumming industry, it remains a top-notch and current school today.
Is the Drum Program at Musicians Institute right for you? To help answer this question, we met with Stewart Jean (Drum Program Chair) to discuss key topics that our visitors and prospective MI students need to know before confidently selecting a school to pursue their drumming education.
Why is the Drum Program at Musicians Institute right for me?
Stewart Jean (Drum Program Chair): Making the decision to attend Musicians Institute, or any music program, is a serious commitment. Our redesigned curriculum was developed to provide the most contemporary and relevant material to our students so when they leave MI and enter the real world they are well-equipped and trained.
Also, our location in Hollywood, CA puts our students in the middle of the most bustling music scene in the world. From well-established bands to recently signed acts, MI has for decades now been the go-to resource for the industry to find new talent. When someone makes the decision to move to Hollywood and attend MI they are opening themselves up to literally endless possibilities for career development. Making this decision puts a student on a path to success.
I often run into a graduate who is now on tour with a band, playing a television show, doing a clinic, working as a rep for a drum company, teaching at a university, producing an artist/event or just stopping by their alma mater to say hey, and I recall when we first met and how excited they were to get started on their education at MI with nowhere to go but up.
What types of drumming skills or level of play is expected before being accepted in the Drum Program?
Jean: This would depend on the desired program (Certificate, Associates or Bachelors degree). A student seeking a Certificate or Associates degree must have playing experience on the kit and understand rudimental basics although reading skills are not a priority. A student seeking a Bachelors degree goes through a more rigorous audition process including intermediate reading skills and a robust awareness of playing styles.
What if I'm not an innately talented drummer but enjoy playing and would like to make a career of it?
Jean: While our program certainly challenges top-notch players seeking to broaden their skills, we do offer programs and courses which allow students to customize their classes on an a la carte basis. With the MI Select Program students can get their feet wet with a shorter commitment to allow themselves the chance to see if they can develop the skills to make a career of it.
With the design of our program and the unending dedication of our faculty to help all students as much as possible, I am proud to say we have succeeded in getting all level of players to the next level. As Program Chair, I think it is vitally important to provide an unconditional commitment to all of our students.
What are possible signs that might indicate that I have a strong chance to successfully complete the Drum Program?
Jean: Anyone who is seeking to further their music education and get to the next level are making a serious commitment to themselves. The person who knows what they want and can visualize their future has the most success with our program. Many of our most successful students know they are entereing an incredibly competitive field and understand the dedication and hard work one must put in to attain their personal and professional goals. The student that is prepared to grab every opportunity to play and get critiqued, to fall down and pick themselves up, to open their mind to all musical styles gets the most out of their time at MI.
How does the Drum Program at Musicians Institute embrace emerging technologies in the music industry?
Jean: With open arms and minds. We understand that any drummer today (certainly at the professional level but even at semi-pro levels) has a better chance of career success and longevity if they have a strong understanding of e-drumming (triggering, muti-pads, full e-kits), DAWs (Ableton, Logic, ProTools), loop and track creation and the like. Our Drum Program offers core and elective classes on all aspects of modern tech and continues to grow alongside the industry.
Outside of the core curriculum, what opportunities are there to pursue my personal drumming interests?
Jean: We offer a diverse pool of elective classes and ensembles to allow students to customize and round-out their educational experience at MI. Popular offerings are the Hybrid Drumming Ensemble, Progressive Drumming, Essential Repertoire, Developing Your Groove, How to Practice, New Orleans Drumming, Drum Set Soloing, Bridging the Gaps, Double Bass Workout, Fill Fest, Ableton Live, Computer Notation, Hybrid Cajon Techniques and the brand new History and Evolution of Contemporary Gospel Drumming. Visit www.mi.edu/catalog for detailed descriptions.
When is it too late, age-wise, to benefit from enrolling in the Drum Program?
Jean: Never. From my experience of teaching at MI since 2014, I have seen many people of varying ages, backgrounds and expectations fulfill their dreams whether those dreams include stardom or simply gaining more skills and perspectives on their instrument. While most of our students are of the general college age of 18-22 we have many students who are in their 30s, 40s and older who finally wound up in the position to pursue their advanced education.
What kind of support and resources do you provide to alumni?
Jean: My main message to new students at orientation day is that the drumming community is one giant fraternity. MI grads are members for life and know that they always have a home here in Hollywood. Our grads are our product, and we value each and every one of them from the first day they tour the campus throughout their entire career. Our Artist Services Department guides current students along the way to prepare them for life after MI and that guidance continues post-graduation.
It is so easy now through social media for MI to track student/grad success stories, so we can help promote gigs, clinics and events that our alumnus are a part of. Additionally, with our new digital e-book curriculum, alumni will always receive notifications when the material has been updated and ready for download.
There's no doubt that the quality of education you will receive at MI is top-notch, and the contacts, resources and music scene connections you'll gain access to is unparalleled. For these reasons alone, it's easy to recommend the Drum Program at Musicians Institute. However, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the outstandingly friendly, dedicated and talented staff. They're who make MI what it is. They have proven themselves to be personally devoted to each and every student's growth and future success after graduation. As Stewart Jean said,
MI grads are members for life and know that they always have a home here in Hollywood.
We encourage you to reach out to MI (contact MI). They will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or put you in contact with a member of the staff that can help you best. You can also request more information about the drum program here. Be sure to stay up-to-date with the latest happenings at MI by following MI on Facebook.
If you have any questions for us regarding our visit to MI or our discussion with Stewart Jean (Drum Program Chair), please don't hesitate to contact us.