Welcome to the 2013 edition of MAE in Canada. I originally intended for this blog to level out the playing field – to shine a spotlight on the misconceptions surrounding music/media arts education (specifically) and to expose some of the myths that schools project to boost enrollment. I feel I’ve made some progress in that regard. Education systems (overall) are not necessarily benevolent (as we are led to believe) and are all too often insular, myopic, detached and self-absorbed. It has been my mission to clarify and support the curious individual, and to provide assistance to him/her with pertinent accurate information from which to plan, proceed and succeed.
I have simplified the format – removing the blog link section, making the important information more accessible. Of course it’s easy to get more data on each reviewed school below simply by googling them. This definitive version of the report is complete and simply entitled/dated – MAE 2013. Thank you for your continued support and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors – whether it be in a media arts career or not.
NEW FOR 2013: MEDIA ARTS EDUCATION SURVEY – RESULTS BELOW
School Ratings: (PCC) - Private Career College, (PUB) – Public – University or Community College
1. Harris Institute - (PCC) – Toronto (A+) – recently bumped up to the top spot after survey results in. Graduates from Harris indicated the highest satisfaction rate and had the most positive reviews of all the schools reporting. John Harris left Trebas Institute in 1989 with his own vision and ideas on how audio production/arts management should be taught and was the second serious school of it’s kind to evolve in the GTA. It’s truly unique – humble and yet a powerful little institution giving it the edge. Harris get’s top marks and all indicators now show that it is in fact, the best school of its kind in Canada. Highly recommended.
2. Ryerson University – RTA/DMZ - School of Media – (PUB) – Toronto (A) – I taught audio production in RTA from 1991 – 93 at the Rogers Communications Centre when it was still Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, just before it became a university and I have spoken to several graduates since about their experience there in RTA, having met most of them in an industry capacity working in the field after they finished. This is a Media Arts degree program over 4 years (BA/BFA/MA) and is very intensive. Ryerson is hands down, the best public post-secondary media arts school in Canada and is a model for the future in MAE as a whole. Unlike most of the other schools here in this report, RTA focuses more on servicing the “broadcast/digital media” sector, where thousands of RTA’s graduates are now fully integrated into successful careers in a different quadrant of media arts but still crossing over into the audio/visual production arena. In 2011 they changed the name from “Radio and Television Arts” to “RTA School of Media” out of necessity, as the former name had become an anachronism, just like the word “video” or the term “multi-media” had become. I think they should have just dropped the whole RTA thing completely and just called it the Ryerson School of Media (just my opinion). It’s my guess that they kept the RTA tag out of respect for recent graduates. Regardless, RTA / Ryerson is still an important contributor to the media arts education system in Canada and is a must for this report. If my kid was interested in doing something in media arts, I wouldn’t hesitate to support his/her choice to do the RTA program at Ryerson University, if only for the reason that there is an elevated probability that he/she will integrate into a successful professional media arts career after graduating. The root structure is 63 years deep at Ryerson (RTA started in 1949) and is very solid which counts for a lot especially IF – a graduate wants to “connect” with the real world. Ryerson University is a true testament of the public education sectors intrinsic value – tried and true. Highly Recommended.
3. OIART – (PCC) – London (A-) – The Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology is an excellent media arts school (focusing on the craft of creative/technical audio). I spent the better part of a day there a few years ago, having played in a band with OIARTs founder Paul Steenhuis – 36 years ago, when/where he took me under his wing and taught me much of what i know about audio, brilliant man, Paul was a gifted musician and engineer/producer from the UK and had a totally different approach, even back then. Although OIART is out in the boonies, it’s curricula, facilities and mandate are first rate. No bling, platinum platitudes, song and dance … no ‘dog and pony’ show, no “future idol” crap, what you see is what you get. Pure juice - no sugar added - straight forward and honest. Highly recommended.
4. Seneca College – School of Communication Arts – (PUB) – Toronto (B+) – Seneca College registers a solid B+ in media arts education having a wide variety of programs, options and opportunities that are, from this perspective – looking most favourable in the grand scheme of things. from their world-renowned Animation Arts program where a long list of alumni now work on blockbuster feature films, down through their Visual/Digital Photography/Illustration and Graphic Design programs which are very good but then, settling for less than average with their IMP – Independent Music Program which comes across as a scaled down version of MIA – Music Industry Arts programs – Fanshawe and Algonquin Colleges (London/Ottawa). It’s a real mixed bag and requires a serious look at before deciding – but overall, I would have to say that this is a first class community college that comes with excellent facilities and a solid faculty. Again, clean, honest and zero pretension – which is the best part of the public education sector. This is a website worth taking a good look at simply because of all the amazing choices – not to mention the many bridging options / transfer options available with other colleges and universities world-wide. Seneca@York is a bona-fide public community college that has some nice trimmings and yet also comes with some of the predictable lags in bureauocracy – that is in the nature of a government run education system. Seneca College is still a strong contender for those under 25, wishing to pursue a career in media arts. Highly Recommended.
These institutions above, are the only schools that I would seriously recommend particularly to those who have real talent, ambition, self-discipline, passion and desire. Any of these 4 schools are favorable platforms from which to start a successful career in audio/media/entertainment.
5. Metalworks Institute – (PCC) – Mississauga (B) - Founded more recently by Gil Moore from the 80′s “corporate rock” band Triumph and a few who migrated from the fall-out of Trebas Institute in 2005, starting their ‘elite entertainment arts’ institution west of Toronto as an extension of the Metalworks Studios complex in Mississauga. They were looking to make a “splash” in the media arts education scene and they did just that. Great facilities and a slick presentation compliment their experienced faculty in an impressive combination of well-kept analog and state of the art digital technologies (best of the new and old). Their affiliation/partnership with Digidesign/ProTools creators also makes them a serious choice, bringing with it a solid sense of meaningful history as well. Having finished a tour of duty there (2 years – 2007-2008), I would have to say that their biggest downfall is in that they think that they are THE best school (ego) even though they haven’t been around long. The schools stoic ‘attitude’ (and superiority mentality) is lacking in both the creative passion and humility that’s necessary to thrive (in media arts education). Metalworks Institute has an “authoritarian” approach to education – containment and control being their priority over freedom of expression, and willingness to take in constructive criticism. They sponsor the “Mississauga Future Star” search (pretending that it’s relevant) and promote the platinum “dream” in exchange for big money – “elite entertainment arts” with emphasis on the “elite” and de-emphasis on the “art”. That being said; there are a lot of good things going on out there in a culturally confused Mississauga. Despite the reported short-comings, Metalworks has a good organizational structure, a solid curricula and some top notch players on board. It’s a tough school and those who graduate will have strong survival skills … thus definitely worth a look at.
6. Sheridan College – Media Arts Program – (PUB) – Oakville (C+) - Inspired by a couple of recent emails – and what appears to be an obvious need to address Sheridans efforts in media arts education. Like Ryerson (above) and Fanshawe (below), Sheridan College is a bona-fide public institution / Community College which means that what it basically comes down to is … what you see is what you get. The one thing i love about public education is that there is (for the most part) an absence of the many contrivances that are more obvious in the private career college (PCC) sector and a lot less pretentious posturing. Although Sheridan’s MAP is more humbly equipped than Fanshawe’s MIA (Music Industry Arts), the curricula is more grounded in the reality of the Media Arts landscape and more graduates integrate successfully because of it. This is largely due to the fact that it resides on the periphery of the GTA and there are more grads who find meaningful employment in a nearby cosmopolitan centre, whereas most grads from Fanshawe’s MIA program drift into oblivion because London is so far away and removed from any real meaningful media arts activity. At Sheridan you will be practicing the skills necessary to integrate into a more diverse arena where the game presents more options and opportunities. You will learn the solid basics around Screenwriting, Producing, Directing, Camera and Lighting, Editing, Sound and Digital Effects (the nuts and bolts of any comprehensive media arts education platform). Another perk is that after completing the MAP, graduates can bridge into an Honours BFA degree at York University, or University of Toronto or earn a Bachelor of Communications degree at Griffith University in Brisbane Australia. The down-side, as reported at Fanshawe a similar type of government run institution – is that it’s long and it’s slow – teachers are unionized and there is an elevated level of complacency in any such system of education. at Sheridan, In 3 years (6 semesters), a student / participant will spend $22,323 in tuition and another $7,500 in books and other fees coming in at almost $30,000 in total. That’s a tough pill to swallow and a massive OSAP loan to deal with later. Is it worth it? Maybe. It depends on the person (ambition). Some people thrive in a slower community college environment – needing the time to formulate their plan. Others thrive in a shorter term PCC environment that moves faster and is more expensive – per education year. One has to go and evaluate carefully asking a lot of good questions. That being said, successful media arts graduates from any school are a minority over those who have made it, (making their living in media arts) – that includes Sheridan. It’s all risky but if one has the passion and the willingness to sacrifice, then just maybe it’s worth it. All in all i’d say that if you’re young – have lots of time – and still live with mom and dad – Sheridans Media Arts Program may just right for you.
7. Toronto Film School – RCC Institute of Technology – (PCC) – Toronto (C) - I taught courses/workshops at the original Toronto Film School from 2005-2007, in their RAT – Recording Arts Technology program when it was in the CBC building as part of the IAOD – International Academy of Design before it closed 4 years ago. I visited the new TFS recently, and prompted by a few recent emails lately, I have taken down my old (out-dated) review and am re-writing this review from scratch. It is with some hesitation that i enter the new TFS so low in the list – and yet do so with the optimism that this will quickly change and be upgraded over the next year to 3 years. The original TFS was an unfortunate bi-product of the (publically american owned and plagued) CEC – “Career Education Corporation”, having had 80+ campuses world-wide – and having licensed and operated the TFS at their now defunct IAOD campus here in Toronto (wellington street at john). CEC dumped/closed IAOD / TFS and a dozen other schools throughout north America, because of the massive head-aches around mismanagement, law-suits etc etc – a huge mess. The original TFS was expensive and BAD! OK – this is the NEW TFS (version 2.0) and they would really prefer – that we don’t talk about the old one – yes, this is a whole new ball-game – now owned and operated by a Canadian owned PCC – RCC Institute of Technology. Bad karma aside, the new TFS looks like it has a promising future – once they actually learn to stand up and walk again. The new campus (Dundas Square – Toronto) is a progressive “work in progress” that is shape-shifted into a quasi-presentable mold (more resembling an unfinished model that still needs a lot of work than a real school), a project “in construction” as it were. Staff seems stable and positive and facilities are clean, simple and functional – all small format – computer/software based which will need to be augmented (larger format facilities) in order for the new TFS to be taken seriously (like a decent post-production suite). It will be interesting to see what RCC does with the new TFS. Will there be some real forward thinking (entrepreneurial spirit) in mapping out this potentially great school, or will it default to the safety of the status quo – recirculating the bad smell that was there just a few years earlier? Either way – I wouldn’t recommend the TFS for at least another year, once they work out some of the bugs, and finish putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.
8. Fanshawe College – Music Industry Arts – (PUB) – London (C-) (updated May 2013) MIA has great, modern facilities and a solid faculty, however there are several problems here. Fanshawe is the only public community college that supports a legitimate curricula in media arts/audio and is very different because of this. First problem: most students finally getting in, have to spend a whole academic year in general arts & sciences, before they can qualify for MIA, which is a waste of time and a cash grab by the college. Where once there was a rigorous audition process to screen applicants and a long-waiting list, now almost anyone with a 2.0 GPA in general arts and sciences can enroll (and the college crams them in). This minimal academic focus has sucked the wind out of MIAs creative sails and has increased the amount of “sludge” getting in (those with little talent or desire). There was a time when class sizes were small and every student in MIA was uniquely gifted (technically and creatively), which elevated the whole experience – times have changed. Second problem: the fact that it’s a government institution augments a heavy sense of complacency which does not support solid work-place integration for graduates. The result of this is a l-o-n-g and s-l-o-w process which is lacking in any real inspiration. I’ve taught there too and have done guest lectures over the past 20 years. You could look at it this way, to do all of MIA and the optional digital/post elective year would be about $24,000 – so in the end, it’s actually the same if not more (with living expenses) than it would cost to do a ‘fast track’ (one year) at most other schools and it’s a 3-4 year commitment (with GAS). Also, in my opinion … a slow education makes for a slower career evolution. Most in MIA live in a comfortable insular bubble that’s cut off from the outside world. Slow breeds slow. Frankly, most of the 100+ students (even the handful of talented ones), who enroll there every September are wasting their time (and money). There’s a very real “union shop” feel to Fanshawe and MIA feeling like a mere extension of high school. The antiquated work ethic which prevails here is particularly incongruous with the competitive reality of the music/audio/sound/media-arts business. What was once an ambitious and vibrant artistic community in the 70′s – that lived life on the edge, has since been reduced (like the franchises in their junk food courts) to an exercise in commercialized bureaucratic futility. There are some really good media arts programs out there in public community colleges but unfortunately – this isn’t one of them.
9. RAC – Recording Arts Canada – (PCC) – Toronto/Montreal (D) - founded by the Keca brothers many years ago (originally in montreal). I did a guest lecture there in 2001 at their stoney creek campus. It was a nice feeling and yet a fledgling institution devoted to educating young entrepreneurs in audio. they moved to Toronto in 2005 giving them a bit of an edge and yet they struggle with the competition. In the many studios/projects (albums/TV/docs/advertising) that I’ve done work on/with in the past 25 years, I have never worked with a RAC graduate nor seen any employed in a professional capacity. I have however, spoken/communicated with a few graduates after the fact who are working in unrelated professions, saying that RAC was a waste of their time and money. I’m sure there are some success stories here as there are in any school – I just don’t know of any first-hand.
10. Trebas Institute – (PCC) – Toronto/Montreal (F) - It hangs on. how? I don’t know. I taught there for 21 years (1983-2004, Toronto Campus) and it was the first private vocational school of it’s kind in Ontario founded in 1979 by David Leonard (still president) who essentially saw it as a way to make money (still does). When I came in, Trebas was in 2 rooms at the back of the now defunct mclear place studios on mutual street (previously RCA) before moving to new humble digs on Dundas street (near Parliament) in 1986. Trebas was actually quite good in the late 90′s with the highlight being their affiliation with CBC/GGS (Glenn Gould Studios) where I alone conducted advanced digital multi-tracking workshops on the AMS/Neve Capricorn system in studios 210/211 (multi-million dollar rooms/studios) exposing final term audio engineering and production students to a wide array of musical experiences (pro jazz/classical/acoustic/rock/urban) from 1998-2003. In an attempt to expand, they moved to their College/University campus (Stewart Building) in 2001, where costs/overhead became too high and quality plunged drastically. They dropped CBC and began hiring recent grads to teach (cheap labour) with no experience in the field so i bailed a couple of years later. In short, they made a move that was beyond their reach and resulted in their ultimate down-turn. With previous campuses in Ottawa, Vancouver and Los Angeles – now closed, both their Montreal and Toronto campuses manage to survive.
MEDIA ARTS EDUCATION SURVEY – RESULTS – 2013
On November 27, 2012 – I launched an on-line survey targeting graduates at the media arts schools in this blog report. Below are my findings. Most came in through messages sent (or forwarded) and a link to the survey in Facebook. I used my existing contacts there – 183 of them – 138 responded – 31 more came in through forwarded links (their friends/grads) – and the others (roughly 160) responded to the link provided in this blog – all between November 27 and December 27/12. I spent days sifting through the data – cross referencing in Google and researching disclosures.
There were 329 surveys (completed responses) in total. It should also be noted that just over 70% of all participants graduated from Private Career Colleges and that there were less than 30% coming in from the public sector and all graduating between 1977 and 2012. What’s most interesting and is the most surprising to me, is that 1/3 chose to with-hold their identity/names and that those “claiming” (overall) to be employed in the media arts business (full-time) were considerably higher than expected (see reported stats below). Even though I specified that “honest/truthful responses” were of critical importance – many responses were noticeably inaccurate/manipulated. Deciphering the data was the biggest challenge, taking the most time.
In my observation, there is a lot of “wishful thinking” out there (not necessarily a bad thing). Many graduates paid a lot of money for an education and feel the need to justify that – when asked. For example, I had one participant tell me that he is a ‘freelance multi-media developer’ now living in BC but when I went to his Facebook, his occupation indicated that he is a security guard at a yacht club – stuff like that. This was quite common and created a sizable grey area that can’t be measured.
Fortunately, about 80% of those surveyed were forthright in their disclosures, and I am still thankful to all those who participated, regardless. It was however, my original intention to gather accurate results across the board and thus, all I/we have here – is simply a better idea of what’s going on. There were about 60 – 70 that came in over the 30 days, where the information didn’t add up (make sense). For example – how many make a real living as a freelance “location sound engineer” living in Wallaceburg Ontario, or giving private music lessons to kids in Milton or as an “electronic communications coordinator” at a church in Guelph, artist manager in Barrie, wedding videographer in Markham, DJ-ing in Oakville – or playing in a band in London – or perhaps more importantly, does one really need a $20-30K media arts education to do these jobs? Conducting this survey was a lot more work than I had intended.
One school forwarded my survey link to all their “industry employed” grads (in an obvious email list – indicating a 100% success/integration rate) and I had to disqualify (purge) all 48 of them – which was difficult but necessary (all coming in over a 12 hour period) as the 19 surveys coming in separately from that camp (over the 30 days), told a very different story.
Still, on top of these challenges, I had numerous (abundant) “freelance” audio-techs/engineers and even “producers” living in and around the GTA (ie. Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Saint Catherines, London etc.) having graduated in the past 2 – 6 years. Some still living at home with their parents (or receiving financial support or with a wife who works full-time) some having (so-called) studios (having day jobs or no real jobs) and yet, almost all (90%+) “claiming” to be employed full time in the media/music arts business, having given themselves meaningful job titles and entitlements (some, even with dedicated websites.) Credits/photos with unknown bands and pictures sitting at big consoles (often a studio at the school they attended.) I couldn’t take most of them seriously. Still – stats below include all these, claiming to be employed full time in the media arts business (raw data).
Several participants graduated from their programs and became successful media/music business entrepreneurs right away. It doesn’t work like that. I came to the conclusion, early on – that many graduates surveyed, like to “think” they’re doing something far more important than they really are. On an upside, there was/is a humble percentage legitimately working in broadcast (radio/television) some working at established production or duplication facilities in a support capacity – A/V technicians (corporate events) – numerous others in peripheral and yet pertinent occupations (ie. live sound/pro-audio/marketing etc.). Some employed in an administrative capacity. I even found one, who graduated from Trebas Institute in 1997 who is now actually successfully operating a small recording studio/label in Minneapolis, Minnesota and records independent bands (coming in from all over the state). It’s what over 60+% of those going to Trebas at the time (thousands of students) wanted to do then – and I found one doing it! He’s a one-man show and he is successful (makes his living doing that). I think it’s important to report this and wish there were more like him. That being said, I’m disappointed. I was hoping for more accurate incoming data. There was quite a bit of reading between the lines that had to be done here – and thus I am sad to report that the final results of this survey (below) are inconclusive – at best. What I thought would be a simple task became extremely complicated/time consuming and yet I was determined to gather accurate information.
I remember being curious, about 3 years ago, going through my Facebook friends list (144 at the time had attended or graduated from various schools where I taught). Only 13 of them were employed in the media/music business and the others were in everything from retail sales (music/electronic stores), servers/cooks in restaurants or Starbucks/Second Cup – to plumbers, construction laborers (to any number of other things). I was guessing then, that the integration rate was around 10% – based on that (crude analysis). Since doing this survey, I have reason to believe it’s double that.
My personal overall interpretive conclusion (after carefully analyzing all the variables – realistically) is that on average – approximately 1 in 5 graduates (20%) from media arts schools – are in fact, legitimately or meaningfully employed in the media arts (or a media arts related) business – and that 4 in 5 (80%) operate/survive in unrelated vocations (primary income from other sources) and will likely never be employed in media/music arts.
I also observed integration rates being higher (20% +) at schools like Ryerson University, Seneca/Sheridan Colleges, Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology (OIART), and Harris Institute – and lower (10-20%) at schools like Recording Arts Canada (RAC), Toronto Film School, Metalworks and Trebas Institutes. The lowest was at Fanshawe College – Music Industry Arts – London Ontario. I had 16 surveys come in from that camp, and only 1 was meaningfully employed (in Toronto) in a media arts related job that he was trained for at school.
For those who have successfully integrated, any of them will tell you – there is very little glamour in the cards. It’s tough work. Long hours, temperamental employers, stress – deadlines, monthly quotas – irritated customers and low pay for the amount of time invested (in most cases). The term “paying your dues” still rings true – sacrifices made – and unlike the images we see, there’s not a whole lot of bling (fame, fortune and glory) going on in the real world of media arts – and yet (of course) – anything IS possible – with focus, self discipline; ambition in motion and in time. A big problem with young people entering the field; is thinking that it’s going to be a lot easier than it is.
As an added note of interest – beyond my comments above, I do not consider those working at music stores/electronic retail, musicians/DJs or those employed in education (ie. music lessons/instructors or teaching assistants even at media arts schools) as being legitimately employed in the media arts business/profession, even though most (in these categories) answered YES to question 3 below. This survey also (additionally) includes the 48/329 incoming answering YES to Q3 saying/reporting that they are freelance (self employed) engineer/producers (or successful music/entertainment/media industry entrepreneurs – raw survey data).
Survey respondents: 329 total (from media arts schools reported in this blog)
Q1 – School (list)
Q2 – Year Graduated
Q3 – Do you make your living in the Media Arts business (full time occupation)? (primary income from a job that you were trained for in a media arts school)
YES – 38%
NO – 62%
Q4 – Do you live with or receive financial support from any member(s) of your family or government? (meaning parents or a partner/spouse – social assistance/ontario works, EI, ODSP/WSIB etc?)
YES – 36%
NO – 64%
Q5 – Did your Media Arts Education – certificate/diploma/degree help you find employment?
YES – 35%
NO – 65%
Q6 – What is your current occupation (job title) and where do you work (company/organization)?
Q7 – Comments
Q & A -
Hey Jim, Your assessment of Media Arts schools has been a great help in deciding where my future lies. I am looking for a program that has a wide range of courses but would let me eventually focus on audio post production. I was recently turned down by Ryerson University with it being such a competitive program. As soon as that occurred I looked at Seneca College and 2 other colleges offering media arts programs, Mohawk College – Broadcasting – Television and Communications Media Advanced Diploma and Loyalist College – TVNM – Television and New Media Production. Neither of the other 2 are listed on your page but have a very interesting array of courses. Have you looked into these as well but they just couldn’t make the cut on your top ten list? Loyalist has already sent me an offer and I am waiting on Seneca as my first choice. Any information or advice you have on Mohawk and Loyalist would be greatly appreciated.
Nathan Burke – unknown location – May 14, 2013
Hi Nathan, I would recommend Seneca over Mohawk and particularly Loyalist. A good guage when picking schools is to avoid anything with the word “television” – in it. This is a dead giveaway that the curricula is yesterdays news, and that most of your “union employed” education will be out-dated even before your program is over. good luck
Jim Lamarche – May 16, 2013
Hello Jim, I’m writing you to ask your opinion on the future of Media Arts Education. My son is finishing high school in June 2014 and wants to do a media/music post-secondary program next September and we’re looking at our options. He is very musical and plays several instruments having expressed a real interest in pursuing music as a career, but we (his father and I) are skeptical of music and encouraging him to look at options that will lead to real employment and a career (especially after having read your blog). He is very bright, makes his own clips/uploaded and loves working with all forms of audio/visual media. What do you think? Knowing our situation, what do you think are the best options moving forward?
Maureen Wright – Toronto – January 07, 2013
Hello Maureen. I get a lot of emails from concerned parents and I congratulate you for taking an active interest in your sons future. I started this blog 5 years ago with the intention of addressing issues pertaining to music/entertainment arts education (my background as an educator) and then making it more about “media arts” out of necessity, simply because I saw, even earlier on, that most of the existing models (schools) would become obsolete within a decade. We are half way there now and I think I was accurate. I believe that the “old school” model (proliferated by audio/recording/music/entertainment arts) or the “rock and roll” school paradigm (and I would even include “film and CG/animation schools” in there – all still popular due to their immediate appeal) is becoming increasingly myopic. The apparent shift – is into a new model that supports greater integration for those wanting to embrace a bigger (and more lucrative) picture/outcome. I refer to Ryerson’s RTA School of Media as a prototype for the future in media arts education as it embraces audio/visual technology and yet is more pragmatically aligned with the real future and employs truly progressive (out of the box) thinking. If your son is flexible in his desire to learn more about media in general, I would suggest that he look away from schools whose primary focus is on a “music/entertainment/film business” curricula/agenda and more-so on a comprehensive media arts agenda which includes the acquisition of business, technical and creative audio/visual media skills – for what would appear to me, to be all the obvious reasons.
Jim Lamarche – January 08, 2013
Hello Jim – a big thanks for your blog. I just finished high-school and am working but my parents are encouraging me to go to post-secondary (college/university). I’m writing to you to ask you a question around schools that teach CG/Animation. I’m very interested in doing this as a career but really have no idea on the best school to enroll in. Do you have any insights that might point me in the right direction?
Brandon Frazier – Toronto – January 02, 2013
Thanks for this Brandon. This is a tough one only because I’m seeing major saturation in this field. There are a multitude of schools who teach CG for obvious reasons. It’s cool, fun and profitable (for schools) in particular. The problem is that even high profile animation houses have become “sweat shops” that bid low to get the job and then go out of business (bankrupt), because the profits don’t add up – leaving many many employees unpaid and unemployed on short notice – even experienced, (formerly high paid) animation artists are struggling to survive now. Bad timing for this. Still, schools in Canada are pumping out hundreds of new graduates every year and the opportunities are becoming few and far between (dwindling). Also – on top of this, flocks of highly skilled CG graduates from schools in China/Asia are immigrating and flooding the Canadian market every year and working for next to nothing, making it even more difficult for students here to integrate successfully. Honestly, this isn’t a good idea right now. I would highly recommend that you consider other options and not put all your eggs in the CG/animation basket. Bottom line: experienced, talented animators are unemployed in Canada right now and can’t find work. My advice? Get a rounded education in contemporary media from a university like say Ryerson, and prepare yourself for entry into the labour market with alternate skills that will you carry you in your future career. Hope this helps.
Jim Lamarche – January 03, 2013
Hello Jim – I’m writing to ask your opinion of the Music Recording Arts (MRA) program here in London. It’s a collaboration between the University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College (Music Industry Arts) offering a degree over 5 years. I’ve been thinking of doing the MIA program (2 years), but my parents think it would be better if I had a degree instead of just a diploma. I’m still researching all the options and would like to know what you think.
Stacy Rollins – London – December 22, 2012
Hi Stacy – yes this is new on the grid and I’ve had a look. There’s not much information to go on so I’m not sure. I suspect there’s a combination of efforts between the two schools culminating in a plethora of music theory/performance related courses in combination with the electronic/media related elements at Fanshawe, and I’m questioning the validity (point) of it. It feels like academic overkill in preparation for a vocation that requires an equal amount of creative entrepreneurial spirit – and a willingness (ability) to think out of the box. All this (in the box) training won’t teach you that. I just can’t get my head around doing 5 years of education in music/media arts in London Ontario. That would be committing/dedicating a big chunk of your life to the formal education process – but to what end? I suppose the degree is a good thing to have but honestly, in the labour market – it will mean very little in terms of industry integration (finding real meaningful employment) upon graduation – especially there in London. To me; this comes across as a way for post-secondary institutions in southwestern Ontario to milk more (OSAP) dollars out of one system and launder it in another – to bolster both schools growing infrastructure and ultimately support their priority mandate – which is to make money. In short, if you’re going to commit 5 years in any education system (and the obvious huge financial investment on your end) just make sure it counts for something and leads you into a lucrative career, or you’ll be paying your massive student loan off (with a job at Starbucks) for the rest of your life when it’s over. My advice, look at all your options very carefully before deciding – and pick another one – because I think this would work out much better for them, than for you.
Jim Lamarche – December 26, 2012
Hi Jim, I have an observation. I recently did tours of both Metalworks and Harris Institutes and am somewhat baffled by your reviews. From what I could see, Metalworks blows Harris away … the many facilities (studios) at Metalworks are 10 times superior to Harris’s dark little studio and after seeing both, I am considering Metalworks for all the obvious reasons.
Mark B – Toronto – December 14, 2012
Thanks for this Mark. Yes, I hear you AND I’ve always maintained that “it’s not what you got – but how you use it”. This is a no-brainer from my perspective. Metalworks likes to flash their whole operation around to prospective students as part of the marketing/publicity thing they do, even taking prospectives over to the Metalworks Studios part of the operation as part of the “tour” (not the school), when in fact only final term students get to do a short “group project” in one of those rooms (if they make it that far). Yes Metalworks has wonderful facilities BUT, you have to look at how much access you’ll have to them. That little studio at Harris is a hot-rod and (unlike Metalworks) students get 24/7 access to it to do individual projects throughout their time there.
Jim Lamarche – December 15, 2012
Hello Jim! I am seriously considering enrolling at a school in your report starting September ‘13. I have a friend who is there now (started last September) and says she likes it. I have an appointment lined up with their admissions rep in a few weeks. Do you have any tips for me on what to look for or any advice?
Jessica Morton – Etobicoke – December 09, 2012
Hi Jessica, thanks and yes – my first suggestion is to visit/check out several schools – not just one. You may be surprised to find out that an alternate school is a better fit for you (even if your friend isn’t there). I’ve been an admissions/counselor in the PCC sector and I can tell you that most schools will REALLY want you to register and get your financial commitment/registration deposit (even if your financing hasn’t been worked out yet). Pay close attention to any strategic sales tactics. What they show you/tell you will be very well thought out. Pay attention to the language and any provocative imagery they’re exposing you to. Have some good questions like “what’s the percentage of grads here who find real jobs in their field?” Those telling you 50% (or higher) are lying – (some may even boast a 80/90+ % integration rate)! This is a good barometer on their intentions. When I worked (taught) at the International Academy of Design / Toronto Film School, in 2007/2008, recruiters openly boasted that 94% of graduates find jobs within 6 weeks. What they didn’t say was that most of these jobs were at Starbucks, Tim Hortons or Blockbuster etc.
A good (trustworthy) school will be honest with you (even at the expense of potentially losing you); will let you go to take the time you need to make the right decision for yourself – being more concerned about your future than their monthly target – and they won’t harass you (rare but they’re out there). Some schools (especially private career colleges) will sacrifice honesty (appealing to your impulse reflex) for the registration-deposit IN / signing the contract and will tell you anything to get it. It’s a short term gain – long term pain approach to education and it doesn’t work. Talk to students at each school if you can. Share your intentions and get their feedback too. Hope this helps – Good Luck!
Jim Lamarche – December 11, 2012
Greetings Mr. Lamarche, I have 2 questions. Isn’t it safe to say that a lot of these schools are scams or rip-offs? It just seems that they consciously take peoples money knowing that they’ll likely fail after they graduate. I appreciate the heads up on what to look for and beware of so thank you for that. Second question, have you ever considered doing personal counseling? I had a high-school counselor who was free – but useless. I’m thinking that people might actually pay for good advice in planning their careers in music/media.
Gurpreet Singh – Brampton ON – (November 19, 2012)
Thank you Gurpreet, for your vote of confidence. I am here and available for personal one on one appointments for anyone who wants that. Email me for more information. As for the other thing; I can’t call any of the schools in my report “scams” or “rip-offs”. There are student/graduates from each school who have gone on to become successful – from the top of my list right down to the bottom. Using words like this to describe any of these schools is a cop-out, and justifies blaming others for our own inability to rise to the occasion. Again “it’s not what you got – but how you use it”. All the best.
Jim Lamarche – (November 22, 2012)
Hello Jim, I’m taking this all in and finding it all very interesting. I’m seriously considering attending one of these schools in your report and have an observation and a question. I’ve looked at all the web-sites in your “Blogroll” (sites that all these schools have created) and I find them revealing. The internet and a web-site is our first introduction to a school and I believe says a lot about who they are yes? If so; what kind of things should we look for when taking in a schools web presence and what should we be beware of?
Robert Fairburn – Toronto (October 19, 2012)
Hi Robert, Yes! Your observation is accurate/astute, and insightful. While it is said, that you shouldn’t “judge a book by it’s cover”, I think that it’s safe to say that a schools web presence DOES in fact, indicate what’s going on inside the organization. I also think it’s fair to say that a schools website shows us just who they are and indicates their priorities. Case in point … look at OIARTs website – my favourite personally (Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology – London). Austere, simple and powerful. There’s zero pretense here – flawless execution (mirroring their intent). You see, unlike most media arts schools; OIART is not blatantly “trying” to impress anyone (with the intent of luring them in), and that’s why it works so well. The message is quite simply about – “this is who we are and this is what we do”. Note too – that the prime focus of their presentation evolves around the student’s actual work (scholastic accomplishments), displayed in HD in Vimeo that looks and sounds amazing on any computer screen even with a modest sound system. Quality information. The overall message I get is - “Don’t even think about us (OIART), unless you’re serious”. On the other hand, I find major flaws with most education websites – especially the PCCs. Look out for any alluring marketing tricks (or one line slogans), that tease more than actually deliver (mirroring their intent). Provocative pictures with pretentious text – in what comes across as one big self testimonial reflecting a “look how great we are”, rather than a “here’s how we can realistically help you” mandate. Many colleges care only about themselves (money) and have very little regard for their students – and it shows. Flashy websites that scream the dream, “here’s what you can BE if you register here“. What’s most unfortunate, is that this tactic still works extremely well, in the grand scheme of things, particularly to those who don’t know the difference (target demographic). That’s why the facade continues (and the drop out rates are so high). I call it the “short term gain – long term pain syndrome” and it’s rampant. Honourable mention for great websites here as well – Ryerson – RTA School of Media and Toronto Film School. Bottom Line: Take your time and take a really good look at what’s going on under the surface before deciding.
Jim Lamarche (October 23, 2012)
Hello Jim, I’ve read your blog here and I have one burning question … why are there so many schools, when there are so few jobs? I’m stunned by Jeremy Johnsons epitaph. Maybe I’m slow, but I just don’t get it. How do so many schools get to be in business?
Rob McGibbon – Toronto (September 15, 2012)
Because it’s profitable and because it’s a free country. It’s relatively easy to make money teaching media arts in comparison to actually doing it. That being said – there are good schools who attract good students who are grounded and realistic and who go on to become very successful in the media arts business – however they are a minority.
Jim Lamarche – (September 17, 2012)
Hi, Jim. Thank you for providing invaluable information about media arts schools. I could have fell for the schools that you have said to avoid, if I hadn’t found your blog. But after reading your report, I still have some questions and I’ll be very appreciated if you answer them for me. I’m actually an immigrant from Korea, planning to land Toronto after six months, so please forgive my poor English if there’s any mistake. Have you heard about the school called ‘Recording Connection Audio Institute? (http://www.recordingconnection.ca/). Before I found your blog, I had found this engineering/producing school on the internet. They say on the website that colleges are somewhat useless and though they don’t grant any diploma, they provide the best and cheapest education through an apprenticeship(not an internship). The tuition fee is actually looks cheap but the curriculum seems weak compared to schools you’ve recommended. I almost made up my mind to apply to Harris Institute based on your recommendation, but I still want to ask your opinion about this school.
Sage Kim – Seoul, Korea (September 04, 2012)
Hello Sage Kim, thank you for your question. I only cover real schools with a curricula in this report and up until your email here, I knew nothing about this operation. Since however, I have asked around (reliable sources) and have done some research. The Entertainment Career Connection and the spin-off The Recording Connection Audio Institute appears to be anything but a real school, boasting only one on one in real studios with someone who is supposedly “connected” – OK. They’ve been operational out of LA for quite some time and their presence in Canada is more recent. It looks like they sign people up and hook them into an “apprenticeship” at a studio in their area (multiple locations – yes one near you!), then they give the apprentice (no not an “intern”) some reading up front, then pair you up with a “mentor”. In all likelihood it’s a struggling studio / person with a modest set-up, who can benefit financially from such an arrangement in what likely turns into an observation session more than a real (organized) work-shop (apprenticeship). I’m thinking that each experience has got to be completely different, resulting in a totally inconsistent outcome – like a roll of the dice. The website is slick and convincing and yet with no look at (or reference to) a real teacher/mentor or studio that they actually use (in Canada) in the 39 locations that they’ve supposedly set up shop at. Click the “Your Classroom” tab – WOW! Photographs of beautiful (fish eye lens), 5 star large format studios (in the U.S. – likely collecting dust), that appear to be copied and inserted from the net with loads of endorsements from A List players (including TV’s Judge Mathis yet) who probably have little or nothing to do with anything at this point. I mean, they have a location in St Catherines Ontario (what’s that going to look like? - it won’t look anything like the “your classroom” pictures I can tell you that). Yes, I’m hesitant and skeptical. They offer a BA & MA qualification (simultaneously)? I’m guessing that this piece of paper will be worthless in the real world – certainly here in this country. I don’t know, but I’m not feeling this. I’ve also found dozens of consumer boards / complaints / rip-off notices up on-line and the prognosis is sketchy at best. They’ve had run-ins with the Better Business Bureau and multiple reports (internet) that indicate that it’s a scam. I’m not including them in this report because I don’t really know (first hand), nor do I believe this qualifies as a real school, offering a real, legitimate education.
Jim Lamarche – (September 04, 2012)
Hi Jim. I’m in the Music program at Western U, here in London and I came across your blog recently. My parents were hesitant to support my future in music but it was my wish so here I am. I’m now concerned about where this is going to lead to. I know that there are many graduates here who teach music in public schools to kids but I really don’t want to do that. Here’s the catch; I want to be a working musician not a teacher. Also, my fiance’ /partner works here in London so we would like to stay here and raise a family. I’m now considering doing the Music Industry Arts program at Fanshawe College. I’ve been told that I can just start with my degree and not have to do their General Arts and Sciences undergrad. What do you think? Will my chances of finding employment be higher with both qualifications?
Name with-held by request – London ON – (August 12, 2012)
No – bad idea, this is a tough one and I wish I had better news. You can’t expect to “find a job” in music per se’ – especially in southwestern ontario. It’s like you have to be prepared (psychologically) for the impending reality, that you will need to create your own job when it’s over and that means that you’ll probably need to re-locate to a larger cultural center (ie Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver) to integrate successfully. The biggest problem in London is that most “graduates” stay there in their comfort zone – expecting that something is supposed to happen, and with the exception of the occasional opening at a local TV or radio station (who are swamped with resumes) or retail (music and electronic stores), there’s really not much else. It’s tough in bigger cities too, but at least there’s more going on. I believe that “arts education” is radically over-serviced in London Ontario because it employs a lot of people and keeps the gravy-train rolling. London is not an international city and is relatively dry (2 dimensional) culturally speaking. Pouring tens of millions of dollars into the expansion of arts education there (ie. Fanshawe Colleges new downtown campus – School for Applied and Performance Arts) will only bolster the infrastructure and will leave thousands of arts graduates with little or nothing to go to when their education is over. It’s the quintessential exercise in “wishful thinking” at the tax payers expense - once again – short term gain/long term pain. Seriously, my honest recommendation? You’re in London and you want to STAY there?? Becoming a primary school, high-school (or post-secondary) music teacher just might work out the best because it’s unionized and stable, pays well and you don’t need the Fanshawe diploma for that. Maybe going with the flow is a good thing in this case. Good Luck!
Jim Lamarche – (August 12, 2012)
Hi Jim. Great Blog thank you! I’m finishing high school here in Stratford and was seriously considering enrolling at Fanshawe College in London in 2013 starting with their General Arts and Sciences leading into Music Industry Arts. I play piano and sing and want to be in the music business. After reading your review, I’m questioning if that’s a good way to go now. I’ve heard so many good things about this program and am wondering what you mean by it being “complacent”. What do you mean? I want to go to a school that really inspires me. I want to graduate from a program that is going to get me going – out there into a successful career. What do you think? Is this realistic?
Shaun B – Stratford Ontario – (August 06, 2012)
Hi Shaun, I find emails like this difficult, in that your decision to do MIA at Fanshawe could in fact, be a good thing for you. You’re young, maybe – it can work? All I can tell you (from my perspective) is what I saw there. As an example (one of many) … I was invited from Toronto to London to do a guest lecture in 2006 by a friend who was a teacher there. Friday afternoons were their “guest lectures”. They had industry guests coming to London to talk to the students and I gladly accepted the invite in exchange for the college paying for my fuel to get there and back and being taken out for lunch. Just before 1pm, my host dropped me off in the room with the students (introducing me) and then disappeared. OK he’s making what – $70K a year there? (unionized employee), gone for the day thank you – over and OUT – got my photocopies – gone. There were 11 students – 64 on my list (64 photocopies). OK, I drove all the way from Toronto to do a guest lecture and 53 students were missing?? When I asked the students there where everybody was, they told me the others were at floor hockey (friday afternoons was floor hockey and the guest lecture was just “optional” and they wouldn’t be tested on it anyway – so – ah OK. I’m “filler”). I left the room briefly and went down to where they were playing floor hockey, asking one of them (standing on the sidelines) how many in the gym were in MIA students. He counted 25. Going back to the lecture room seeing that 3 more had arrived just after 1pm now – I was stunned. OK, so – 64 students – 14 present- 25 playing floor hockey and 25 unaccounted for (didn’t even come to school that day).
A year later I was invited to teach a production class to their 2nd year students, which I did for a semester (and was paid very well for). At any given time there were no more than half in attendance – students eating junk food (fast food court right outside) – entire boxes of donuts from Tim Hortons (passing it around), many texting/iPods etc or just totally preoccupied, and I listened to more problems, lame excuses, and petty complaining than I had from any other group of students in my life and it was viral. I addressed the food issue in my first class and 2 students got up and left and didn’t come back – feeling like a “fuck you”. It’s like nobody really wanted to be there (not even the teachers really – who complained as much as the students did), but – a certain amount of attendance was mandatory, so they showed up to collect. It’s what I saw – sad. For the most part the students attendance, was all about putting out the least amount of effort/time possible – to pass and get through this program and get the diploma. It would appear that now, TGIF get’s off to an early start at “Funshawe” in London – and that MIA is Missing In Action. So Shaun, you might consider another school if you’re really serious about this. It’s not where I would want to send my kid.
Jim Lamarche – (August 06, 2012)
Hey Jim, how’s it going? I was looking for a suitable audio production program that I would be able to attend this upcoming year and i had come across your blog regarding media arts education in Canada. Your insight on the programs was very helpful but I was wondering if you could help me in choosing a program that will best fit my character. Right now i don’t have much experience in this particular field but i am very sure that this is something i will fall in love with. I’m already a huge fan of music, and aspire to be a producer for mainly hip-hop and rap genres. Any advice or suggestions you would have for me would be greatly appreciate it! Thank-you for your time and i look forward to hearing from you soon.
Sandeep Virk – unknown location (August 02, 2012)
Hello Readers! forgive me but I’m swamped with emails like this one. I’m not a crystal ball OK? If you have specific questions, then as always – I will do my best to answer them accurately – providing that there has been ample thought and research done already and that I have enough information to reflect or shed new light on the subject pertaining to your unique situation. Oh, and Sandeep. All the schools in this report cover all forms of music – including hip-hop and rap. There isn’t really one that favours any genre.
Jim Lamarche – (August 04, 2012)
Namaste Mr. Jim – I am a singer/songwriter wishing to do my education here in Canada before returning to New Delhi, where I was born 19 years ago. Having come here at an early age with my parents and 2 brothers, I am wishing to returning to my home with new knowledge on how to make my career work in India. Unfortunately there are no schools there and I want to be educated here anyway. I wish to know more about the business side of the entertainment industry because I know it’s important to be acquiring well rounded understanding of how the music business works. I am wondering however, how a canadian education will translate once I return. Should I go to school here or just go back. My other problem now is – which school do I go to?? Ideally – OIART – because of your glowing review but it’s too far away and too expensive. I also need OSAP loan. I’m down to Metalworks Institute and Harris Institute. Knowing my situation, what are the advantages and disadvantages to both? Thanking you sir.
Harpreet Khaira – Brampton ON (June 22, 2012)
Yes Harpreet – reading this and looking at your situation, I would recommend Harris Institute for any number of reasons. granted, i’ve had an issue with their latest marketing platform – the “where are they now” thing they have going on - but it’s relatively harmless looking at the big picture (and having seen what other PCC’s do to get registrations). Harris is still the best school in the GTA for this type of education and i think the best fit for you. simply put, getting a solid education here is a good idea – fresh ideas to take back to Delhi, from which to launch your new career. the concepts media arts/entertainment arts education are universally applicable. Go look at Harris – particularly their AMP – Arts Management Program and - Best of luck!
Jim Lamarche – (June 24, 2012)
Hello Jim – I’m reading your blog and i’m confused. I’m finishing high school next year and wondering what to do? Should I go to a public school or a private school? While your blog is informative and I appreciate your insights, I’m still wondering ?? I’m 17, and I love film/visual media (I do short films) but I’m also a musician (keyboards and software on my mac mostly) and I’ve been told that I have a gift and should to go further with it. Problem is where? I ultimately want to direct feature films (anything that pays – TV/commercials, whatever) and do my own music, but wondering if that’s even possible, especially starting a career here in Canada. Now that you know my situation here, what do you think?
Warren Campbell - Toronto – (April 22, 2012 )
Yes, Warren, thank you and it’s a tough call. also, a decision that is a game changer. your decision will determine your future and i can relate. good news? John Carpenter and Robert Rodriguez direct and compose the music to their own films, as do dozens of others. it’s possible! what i can tell you is that the right education ultimately depends on the circumstances and it’s your job to figure it out before you commit. if you want to get my views on the private vs. public sector of education in Canada, then go to my blog-roll (upper right) and check out “The Learning Curve” (or just scroll down). both systems are very different and yet have specific advantages and disadvantages. in short, public schools are slower/more methodical and come with elevated bureaucracies that can be a hindrance to your development and YET, may give you the extra time that you may need to formulate your plan. private schools on the other hand are faster and get to the point in half the time (double the cost) but come with more inconsistencies in its curricula and are out to make money more than educate. it’s all about priorities. the “ethical” standards and responsibilities are totally different in both systems and continue to be questionable. for example: private colleges often recruit recent grads as “volunteers” (at first) to work for the school – some becoming “teachers” within a few months. i have a problem with that – all quite incestuous actually. the angle, is that they’re just helping the student to get some valuable “experience” (that they can put on their resume), when, in fact it’s really all about saving money – getting help for free (or very cheap). some private schools even have existing students working/administrating the colleges business while they are still students there. i have a really big problem with that! (not something you’ll see at any of the schools at the top of my report). the MTCU – Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities – oversee the public schools more closely as they are part of the same government run sectors so the ethics are better, only they can only accommodate a small portion of the markets needs with insufficient manpower – and thus we have - private schools – that fill the gaps only they aren’t monitored very closely because of it. i think, in your case – the fact that you’re young means that you could easily do Ryerson University, Seneca or even Sheridan College – or even Humber here in the GTA, and still get what you need while having the time to think about how you want to proceed.
Jim Lamarche – April 26, 2012
Hi Jim, I ‘m writing you because I thought you would find this interesting. I have an older brother and we were in a band together 2 years ago for a short time and both wanting to pursue careers in the music biz. We both came upon your blog just before registering at one of the schools in your report and while Jason went and did it (and since graduating), I changed my mind and decided to go to Ryerson and get my BA in Social Work. Jason has become an excellent musician and producer and he still plays in the band, but is now wishing he hadn’t gone to (said school) as he still works in a hospital kitchen to pay the rent, having found no outlet in the music industry to even start his career. I have just finished my second year of university and will begin my final year in September and will have completely finished my BSW next April. So, thank you for your insight. It changed my life.
Liam Forester – Toronto (March 29, 2012)
Hi Liam, thanks for the feedback. it’s never my intention to change anyone’s mind. There are many young people who were meant to be in media arts and subsequently make good choices around their education, going on to do great things – it happens. There has to be no question around one’s mission/purpose and one’s commitment to their future in the field. If there’s any hesitation, then maybe it’s a good idea to take a step back and re-think things through – like you did. a common mistake that many students at these schools make, is putting all their eggs in the “creative” basket – with no real contingency plan, which locks them into a corner where there are few options and opportunities. at least half of the students i worked with as a teacher in media arts education, were solely focused on the music business – wanting to either BE or be around rock stars (larger than life personas) – partaking in the lifestyle and the trimmings – drifting into oblivion almost always – coaxed by an illusion and exploited by the system. on the brighter side, i do a lot of labour market research in my job now and I can tell you that you are poised to make an effective entrance into a stable, long term career as a social worker – as there are multitudes of opportunities and dozens of new jobs posted every week in the GTA, (particularly at charityvillage.com) and within 5 years, you could easily be in a six figure salary position especially if you take an extra year and get your MA/MSW. good luck!
Jim Lamarche (April 3, 2012)
Hello Jim, Steve from Oshawa here, my older brother Aaron was a student of yours at IAOD/Recording Arts Technology a few years ago. I’m a film buff and am seriously considering moving to TO and going to film school. Being in the biz is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. My fave directors are Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez but I love the classic directors – Hitchcock, Scorcese, Kubrick etc. I’m thinking maybe Ryersons Film Program or maybe York University, or maybe the new Toronto Film School but your review is a little less than special on them. I want to go to a film school that’s going to take me somewhere in my quest to be a great film-maker. What do you think? What is your observation of film schools look like to you? Is it worth it? I’m committing to a $20 – $30K investment here. What does my future look like to you?
Steve Carson – Oshawa – (February 14, 2012)
Hi Steve – this is a good one, thank you. What I can say is that certain schools inspire it’s students (give more) and others bore (take more). There’s a different personality profile at each school, and it’s really obvious from my perspective, when I talk to a student – where they’re at. I’m at a point now where I can communicate with a few students at a given school and pretty much get where the school is at within a few minutes. Certain types of students are attracted to certain types of schools. The better schools attract a better quality of student and that rubs off on the whole experience. The lower end schools show themselves with elevated flash and hype, and tend to attract the more complacent students (those looking for a quick-fix – easy way through and out), and this is rampant in media arts education. In such schools, maybe 1 in 10 have genuine talent, desire and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to succeed – some are drifters and many of the others remaining are already big players coming in – distorted egos – having delusions of grandeur, but having neither the talent or the desire to do what it takes to make it work. The term “paying your dues” isn’t even in their vocabulary. Shallow expectations and little respect for the history of their future industry lead them astray, which is why they typically drift into oblivion after they graduate or in most cases drop out before they finish their program. I’d like to think Steve, that you are in the former category. My best advice in this case is to stick to Ryerson or York University. Private sector run film schools for the most part are more about the money and less about the education. Good Luck!
Jim Lamarche – (February 17, 2012)
Greetings Jim, I really like your blog on Media Arts and am tossing around a few ideas for September 2012, needing to decide really soon. I’m curious to know why there’s no report on Humber College and their “Film and Television Production” Program or York University’s BFA in Film Production in your report. I would think that they would be important programs to review, since they are basically media arts education programs here in Canada that are quite popular. Do you have any thoughts on these schools?
Jonathan Price – Whitby – (January 24, 2012)
Hi Jonathan, thank you for your message. I visited Humber College about 15 years ago and had a quick look at their humble facilities in Film and Television there. I went with a younger friend who asked me to come along because he was interested in registering and never did. We were there for about an hour and I found the whole experience rather dry and dull. There are a number of community college – media arts programs not listed in my report, largely because I really don’t know enough about them to commit to a report in the blog and because fundamentally, I don’t think there’s much to write about. For example, Fanshawe College has a “Broadcast/Television” program as well and I got to know some of the students and teachers there when I was in Music Industry Arts, in the late 70′s. My gut feeling is that a community college diploma in media arts/studies, is really a shot in the dark – again, long – slow and lacking in any real punch. If you are seriously considering doing public education in media arts, I would recommend Ryerson Universitys RTA – Radio Television Arts program (review above) – over anything like Humber, Fanshawe or any number of other community college program/courses offering what comes across as watered down versions of the same thing. I’m thinking that if Ryerson is yesterdays news, then the community college versions are last years news. As for York University’s Film Program – I’ve heard some good things and it is a university “degree” (Bachelor of Fine Arts). I also really like their “bridging” option with Sheridan Colleges Media Arts Program and the 3 month field placement they do with final term students – a great combination (see report above). I just can’t get my head around committing 4 – 5 years to any education in Media Arts. That being said, if you’re young and have lots of time and can live cheaply while going to school, it could work well. I’ve just added a link to York University’s Film program in the blog-roll (upper right).
Jim Lamarche – (January 28, 2012)
Hello Jim, Firstly, I’d like to thank you for the time you’ve taken to put this blog together. I’ve read it carefully and I’m a bit confused around your thoughts on Metalworks Institute. I’m not sure what to think after reading your review which is both positive and negative. Could you clarify? I live in Oakville and I’ve heard good things about that school (from friends) which would be easy for me to get to.
Derek Roberts – Oakville (December 19, 2011)
Hi Derek – sure. I think Metalworks Institute is a good school overall. I was there for almost 2 years in 2007 – 2008 and I was impressed with the whole operation. I just had a problem with their “attitude”. They come across like they are way more important than they really are, and that rubbed me the wrong way back then. OK, that was 3 years ago – maybe MWI has changed (but not likely because the same people – running the show – are still there). I saw it in the academic direction, administration and many of the instructors I met there. A school is a lot like our parents. It’s often in their attitude that dictates our altitude. This industry is already swamped with people who have egos that are way bigger than their talent, and I feel that the underlying message (esp in a school), can all too easily give a false impression about what’s really going on (misguidance). The word “delusional” comes to mind. Yeah, Metalworks is a big deal. what-ever! If you look at the best schools anywhere in the world, you will notice (for the most part), an absence of ego and an agenda that is free from attitude. Go – do it, you will learn a lot! Metalworks Institute is a really good school! just don’t get too caught up in the pomp and the pretension – it’s unproductive and only hurts more than it helps.
Jim Lamarche – (December 22, 2011)
Hello Jim, I’ve been thinking about attending one of the schools in your report (next year) having shopped carefully and visiting some of them. I’m a guitar player/songwriter in a band and wanting to take my career to the next step. My dad found this blog and sent it to me recently and now I’m wondering if I should even bother trying to pursue my dream. Your outlook is bleak and I’m rethinking this whole thing through again. I’m now thinking i might do what my parents wanted me to do in the first place, go to university and get my BSc. degree. I’m lost now and unsure of what to do. What do you think?
- Mark O’Connor – Toronto (December 02, 2011)
Hi Mark – i get this sometimes – “your blog is too negative – paints a dark picture”. the way i look at it, is if someone is reading this and is turned off from pursuing their “dream”?? then they were never meant to do it in the first place. 9/10 registrants in media arts schools come in, having no idea what they’re getting into, nor possessing the passion and ambition required to make it work. “crisis, what crisis? sacrifices? what sacrifices”. i mean come on – if a 20 minute read in a frikkin blog on the internet, changes your mind – should you even “bother”?? then, it was a bad idea to begin with and i’ve just saved you from having an enormous head-ache (and a $20,000 debt) later on. this is an “all or nothing” commitment. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again … “if the worlds next Joni Mitchell or Trent Reznor or Quentin Tarantino is out there reading this right now? then it won’t matter what Jim Lamarche or ANYONE has to say about anything. Mark, if you were really meant to do this, then you won’t let anyone stand in your way.
- Jim Lamarche – (December 03, 2011)
Hello Jim, In researching the school that I want to attend next year, I came across your blog which i found very informative. I live in Guelph Ontario and I’m 17 just finishing high-school here. I love my Mac computer and my passion is around assembling A/V w/music clips w/sound and posting them on you-tube. I am also a keyboardist and composer. I would eventually like to edit and possibly direct digital video clips, TV and even films and doing my own music too. I was looking at Music Industry Arts in London (Fanshawe College) and was seriously considering starting with their undergraduate General Arts and Sciences program and was planning to register for that in London in January for next September – then I read your blog and I’m questioning if that’s such a good idea. I’m now looking at the Media Arts Program at Sheridan College in Oakville, having visited that Community College and I really like it. I see nothing in your blog around Sheridans Media Arts Program. Is there any reason for that? I would be very curious to know what you think about my possibly moving in that direction.
- Shaun Parsons – Guelph ON – (October 24, 2011)
Hi Shaun, Sheridans Media Arts Program is now included in my report (above). thank you for your question and the poke to do something here. Sheridan has been on my mind for a while, having met some graduates in the field who are working in broadcast now. please read the report and email me if you have any questions. in short, i would have to say that you are making a much better decision/choice by attending MAP in Oakville over MIA in London. good-luck!
- Jim Lamarche – (October 25, 2011)
Hello Jim, I stumbled onto your article about media arts schools in Canada. I saw your grading of each individual schools, and why. I had dropped out of high school due to unforeseen issues. I am currently in the process of getting my equivalency. During my high school years, I made some choices that most wouldn’t. Although I do not regret these, no in fact if I had the chance I’d do it all again, I would. I have been giving it a lot of thought lately as to where and what I want to do. I see your recommendations, but I would like a more personal recommendation if possible. At some point in my future I want to start my own studio, and record label. I do not have my head in the clouds, I understand the workload of any of these schools will thin the herd quite nicely. I am not interested in ‘making it big’ like many who choose this path. I cringe at the thought of doing anything else in my life that doesn’t involve music in some way shape or form. Specifically recording artists, the creativity behind it and the long hours of work that is required. I have experience recording my own music, and producing it with sub-par equipment and programs in my own ‘home’ studio. I’ve been looking at OIART more so than others, because I feel that it would be the best choice. I also would like input from someone with experience and knowledge that I do not have, or have not obtained in my life. My study/work habits have been impeccable since I ‘smartened up’ as some may call it. The question I have is what school would you personally suggest for me? If it is OIART, why?
- Caden Hudson – Trenton ON – (October 26, 2011)
Hi Caden, thanks for your email – whenever i hear someone say to me, that they want to start their own studio and record label, i cringe – especially if they’re from a small town. maybe why i cringe – is that in the 24 years that i’ve taught media arts education – i’ve heard thousands of young people say that to me, AND – i’ve never seen it work! not one time. ok, some grads build a small hobby studio in their basements – with a mac computer and garage band software or a pro-tools box while working in construction or at their father in laws drain and plumbing business or selling TV’s at future-shop – oh and their wives work too – to survive – recording local bands on the week-end (who have no money) who want to be the next “Coldplay”. some even have fancy business cards and do up professional looking web-sites that “look” like they’re doing something real and important – pretending. ah the dream lingers on. please do forgive my apprehension – but i’m never convinced BECAUSE i’ve never seen it work. i have very little to go on here other than what comes across as the face value of a lotto ticket to advise you with (which numbers should i choose)? Caden … there is nothing more that i would love to see – than for you to go to a school that feels right to you AND then – start your own studio / record company and then – go on to become very successful (making your living in a music career), if just for one reason; so that i don’t have to keep addressing this in my blog, and can finally say – YES – it can be done – look at THIS! – before sending the person a link to your website and your many accomplishments. i would LOVE that!! for now, you need to do your own research and ask some serious questions before spending $30,000 at OIART or any school for that matter. i’m really sorry that i can’t be more optimistic here. think of it this way – this is an opportunity to prove to me and everyone else, that operating a successful studio/music label business in Trenton Ontario IS possible. i welcome that. good luck!
- Jim Lamarche – (October 26, 2011)
Hi Jim! I wanted to email you to thank you for your insights in the blog. I’m now considering an education in media arts and appreciate your words thinking that the RTA program at Ryerson University is the way to go now but I’m also hearing some good things about the new Toronto Film School – just around the corner . Just out of curiosity, where do you see media arts education going in the future? What will “separate the men from the boys” and what will schools need to do to prosper in the future? This is a big investment and I want to be part of something that is meaningful and has potential. What does the future in media arts look like to you?
- Jason Mitchell – Toronto – (October 01, 2011)
Hi Jason – thank you and yes, this is an excellent question. I believe that schools need to get more creative. a fundamental need to survive. it is in the fostering of creative talent – manifest in creative audio-visual magic that will ultimately separate the “men from the boys” as you put it. most media arts schools are preoccupied with a “short term gain – long term pain” marketing strategy that is careless and non productive – get them in – get their money and get them OUT! NEXT. what i experienced working at these schools for 24 years, is that student/participants who had genuine creative talent, were fundamentally ignored. teachers and staff were often jealous and sometimes even intimidated seeing a student who had real potential. ok, give them some studio time to play around with their ideas but that’s all – no real support. successful media arts schools of the future will need to foster their new horizons in acknowledging and mentoring new artistic creations that propel the participants (and the schools) future in really cool projects that make a statement. audio visual “masterpieces” up in you-tube for example, in alignment with a new vision with the right support and in the proper placement in the market designed to move people emotionally, then publicized properly will take that given institution into a whole new level. the next generation of gifted artisans developing in fertile soil, projected into a new awareness will elevate the next generation of meaningful media arts institutions in caring benevolence. when something takes off, that was given birth in a particular school? that’s when the show ultimately begins. schools don’t get that yet – it’s all in the inspiration followed by a good plan guided by a mindful presence. what does the future in media arts look like to me? well it might look a little like this … ok, the people who made this? were once students themselves.
- Jim Lamarche – (October 02, 2011)
Hello Jim, I read your blog recently, as I am interested in going to an audio production school. I am coming from a different background (accounting) however, so I am well aware breaking into an audio related field will not be a cakewalk. I am interested in becoming about sound designer (for film/video-games) primarily, and becoming a music producer secondarily. The reason for this is because I believe it is more practical to focus on a career that is (hopefully) somewhat steady. The two schools I am looking are your two top rated schools: OIART and Harris Institute. My question regarding these schools is do they focus mainly on the musical aspect of the audio? If I want to become a sound designer, would they be a good choice? Or are there better options? Also in regards to these two schools, do any of them ( I’m thinking maybe Harris) waste too much time on theory and impractical courses such as “history of music industry” and things like that.
- Joe Scandella – Montreal (September 21, 2011)
Hi Joe – I think both schools are great. you have to take a good look at the curricula and ask some serious questions. Harris is almost half the cost of OIART and it’s in Toronto. there’s going to be “history” style courses at any school you go to, and yes, some are going to be a waste of time for the most part – it comes in any academic landscape and in every school. just think about the school that feels right to you before deciding.
- Jim Lamarche (September 22, 2011)
Hello Jim – I’d like to thank you for your blog and for the advice you have for anyone wanting to know more about media arts education. I spent many years researching a school to attend and learned more about the big picture in 20 minutes reading your Report, than in 2 years of scattered bits and pieces found elsewhere. I am a graduate of one of the schools you write about, and I just wish that the information in your blog had been available in 2007 when I enrolled. After graduating, I interned (for free) at 2 music recording studios for about a year and now work as a projectionist at an AMC theatre. My question to you is this – Where do you see the Media Arts Education Industry going in the next 5 years? Do you think that your words will make a difference to the Media Arts Education landscape? Do you think you’re making any difference?
- Shaun Parker – Thornhill – (July 04, 2011)
Thank you Shaun – honestly I’m not sure what kind of impact i’m making, other than the thank-you emails i get from time to time. lots of people read my blog (300 – 400 per week) and i think (wishful thinking) that i’ve helped dozens, maybe a hundred or two hundred people in their decision making around the best direction to go in or even if they should do media arts education at all. i’ve had many who were seriously considering going to one of these schools and opted out after taking in my words, attending an alternate college program or going to university instead. for me, that makes it all worth while. as for the future – in 5 years? i don’t think much will change. i suspect that at least 1 or 2 of the schools in this report will no longer be in business but the other 6 or 7 will still be around, and maybe 1 or 2 new ones. some schools now, like Fanshawe College for example (Music Industry Arts) are well protected by a community college system that thrives on the hundreds of locals mostly, who apply and the college only takes in a fraction who want in still packing in 100 – 120 students every september. also most future students (especially in London), don’t really research their futures first – gravitating to this “amazing” course in the college system that’s flashy and looks cool. to those who do take the time to look carefully, here i am for them. perhaps they are the one’s worth saving the most.
- Jim Lamarche – (July 05, 2011)
Thank you Jim – for your blog. After reading it, along with other peoples opinions, I have narrowed my choices down to Metalworks and Harris Institute. For Metalworks, I’m considering doing the 2 year Professional Sound program and for Harris, I’m thinking about doing the 1 year Audio Production program. With Metalworks, I feel like 2 years might be better because I’ll have more time to build up a portfolio for future employers, and also the fact that they spend almost a year on live sound, which is something I might be interested in. Do you have any insights into the 2 year Metalworks program or is the 1 year audio production program still better? At Harris, the atmosphere feels more conducive and appropriate for learning music, but I’m not sure if their studio equipment is as up to date as Metalworks and if this should affect my decision at all? Also, I don’t know if composition is something I’d want to get into, but would a bachelor of music, or a bachelor degree from Ryerson, Humber or Fanshawe be more suited to someone who wants to score music for film or television? If you could help me out, I’d appreciate it so much. I’m pretty confused right now.
- Mark Taylor – Toronto – (June 06, 2011)
- Jim Lamarche (June 05, 2011)
Hello Jim, I’d like to thank you for taking the time and effort to put this out there. I have read your blog very carefully and after visiting a few of the schools in the report (talking to them, with the intention of pursuing a career in audio/media/music), I am left with an empty feeling. Correct me if i’m wrong … but it feels like most of these schools are run by people who couldn’t make their music careers work in the real world, OR if they were successful it was only for a short time and it’s over – so they created a safety net for themselves, a false spectacle … where as you say “the producers of the show” are the only ones who benefit … a facade. I am extremely passionate about my future in media arts but won’t subscribe to a lie to get there. Your insightful words are most appreciated.
Lindsey Strachan – Toronto – (May 12, 2011)
Hi Lindsey - an astute observation. i would have to say that yes, for the most part – Media Arts Education in Canada is hosted by those who are struggling to survive (or just wish to benefit from others ignorance). most have embraced an idea (out of necessity) that has evolved into an agenda that seriously with-holds the truth from those who inquire/register - in exchange for money/profit. I would say that 80% of the Media Arts Education Industry fits into this category. That being said, there are those schools (very top of the list in my report), who carry themselves with integrity and have a legitimate history – created and administered by those who have achieved elevated long-term success in the industry and simply wish to carry their good-will forward to the next generation. I would say that 20% fit into that category. OK. The familiar expression … “flying with the eagles” comes to mind. good luck!
Jim Lamarche – (May 13, 2011)
Hi Jim, I e-mailed you last summer to ask for advice regarding audio schools. In the end (due in part to your advice) I decided to go to OIART, and I couldn’t be more happy. From the professors to the facilities everything is top notch. Thank you again for all of your advice, the past few months spent here have been some of the best of my life. I hope things remain well with you.
Kristian Montano – London – (April 13, 2011)