by Mark Shilansky, Assistant Professor of Ear Training
When I am done with this degree I will have an immense amount of satisfaction. I can feel the level of intellect with which I write and speak and comment on music is rising, so I might even be able to comport myself like a civilized human being when this is all over. At the very least I will most likely get paid more by the institution at which I teach, and if we wind up living somewhere else I will be hireable. There aren’t too many Colleges where you can even get in the door without a DMA or a PHD (or at least an ABD… all but dissertation). We can debate the merits of that system until we are blue in the face, but it is the way things are. I have been involved with a few searches for faculty (a little here but more at UNH) and you would not believe the number of applicants… dozens to hundreds of people for even a part-time gig, and everyone has a Doctorate, and they’ve composed and conducted and they often play classical music AND jazz and have published articles… it’s like they lived every moment of their lives since High School knowing that they would someday be attempting to get a gig of this sort. And those of you who are sitting there saying, “Well, people who get Doctorates in Jazz can’t play… that’s why they’re getting a Doctorate, because they can’t get a playing gig…” … well, that may have been true in the past, but have you heard Rick DiMuzio? Because he is one of the best saxophonists in saxophony and he has a Doctorate and he can write and he even probably knows more about the band Rush than you do, and he can probably “cut” you on bass or drums, because I have played with him on those instruments and he is not fooling around. I don’t mean to start a fight, I’m just saying that because we can’t go on the road with “masters" anymore (because many of them are dead and if they were alive where would they play?), the place to interact with music masters is often in the academy (I mean, next semester I’m going to try and study with Billy Hart, just so I can play some tunes with freaking Billy Hart! What is the problem with that? It is going to be so much fun, and even when I turn the time around he won’t make me feel bad because he’s alright with it when some of his bandmates do it), and so more and more amazingly talented musicians are going to school and getting degrees where maybe they didn’t 20-30 years ago, and also if you are from another country it is harder to deport you if you keep getting degrees (at least until Trump gets going), and you don’t have to start paying off student loans if you stay in school, but the fact remains that people with Doctorates CAN play well now, and they are coming for you.
All this to say: This is my experience, and most of the thoughts going through my head at this particular moment. Like I said, Joe Lovano could call tomorrow and send me a private helicopter so we can go make a record with Paul Simon and the ghost of Paul Motian, or I could get a bad grade on this paper on which I’m procrastinating by writing this screed and crawl into my own belly-button to live for the next several months, the way I do when I read negative teacher evaluations about myself (after 6 of my 152 students bother to fill them out… when are they going to be MANDATORY like they are at so many other colleges?). Maybe you should ask your Doctor if a Doctoral program is right for YOU. Stop immediately if you experience bleeding, hallucinations, or if you take a solo on “Giant Steps” that lasts for more than four hours.