First, the good news. University composition programs do a lot of admirable things for their students. Upon completion, one certainly has a command of the craft itself, the history behind it and current trends, as well as the essential musicianship skills that graduates of any music program would have. A good, solid, artistic foundation.
What is still frustratingly lacking, however, is a coherent, integrated curriculum explicitly laying out the different options composers have in today’s diverse marketplace for earning income. This results in a sad situation wherein we send young composers out into the world with no clear sense of how to make a living out of their profession. Yes, some newly-minted grads will have a keen entrepreneurial sense and will almost instinctively know with whom to network (and how to do so fruitfully) and others will have been fortunate enough to have had an adviser on the faculty who proactively shepherded them through the maze of career options or assisted them in making good real-world connections.
But unless one aspires to earn a terminal degree and become a composition professor, it seems most collegiate programs aren’t much interested in teaching what other economically-viable paths exist for today’s composers. Let me stop here and say, again, I believe our compositions programs do plenty of good things and the professors deserve much approbation, but clearly there’s a big problem here that isn’t being adequately addressed.
Read the rest of this (and much more) in my book Writing and Living in the Real World: Advice For Young Composers