NSCC teaches music business

NSSC music arts student Tim Barager dreams of becoming a rock star, but these days he’s learning all facets of the music business. (Photo: Meaghan Parent)

Tim Barager holds a white-and-gold bass guitar in his hands. He lounges in a chair, casually plucking notes on his instrument, as fellow students saunter past.

Barager started playing bass guitar seven years ago. Self-taught at first, he eventually signed up for private lessons.

“It's just a funky instrument,” Barager says. “You can do lots with it.”

The 21-year-old from Halifax is enrolled in music arts at Nova Scotia Community College – a new two-year intensive diploma program at the Waterfront Campus.

Although Barager dreams of making it big, he says he understands the music industry  “doesn't always work that way.”

Tom Easley, NSCC music arts faculty member, says the idea behind the program is to prepare students for the real world.

“There's no question about it, the music industry is a hard profession,” Easley says. “You really have to work.”

Anthony Ricessco, a professional violinist and private music teacher, agrees.

“It can be tough,” Ricessco says. “But the NSCC program is a really good idea.” 

On top of traditional course offerings, NSCC has compulsory music business classes such as the business of live performance, where students learn about the process of negotiating contracts and the logistics of touring.

For Barager, the practical music business courses, small program size (a maximum of 30 students per year) and low tuition were the deciding factors in choosing NSCC.  

He pays about $5,000 for tuition and supplies each year, compared to about $8,000 a year for a four-year music degree at Dalhousie University.

Easley believes the program is preparing students to have a full-time career in music and to stay in the Maritimes, if they choose.

Nova Scotia's Department of Labour and Workforce Development tells a different story. On its website, Career Options, it states the majority of musicians and singers only work part-time.

It labels work prospects in music as “fair,” as opposed to the other options of “good” or “limited.”

On top of teaching at NSCC, Easley has been performing for more than 20 years. Since the early 1990s he has been part of a blues trio called Hot Toddy. 

“I think students who make it through the program are definitely going to give it a go,” he says.

A 2007 survey  found that 86 per cent of  NSCC graduates  are employed in their chosen field of study.

“The music arts program is still new, but fundamentally it's all here,” Easley says. “We'll see. Come talk to us in five years.”

As for Barager, since attending NSCC he has formed a reggae band called Brother Sister with some classmates.

“I'd really just like to go on tour with my band and become a rock star,” he laughs.

But Barager remains realistic. After graduating, he says he will probably try to pay off some of his student loan by working as part of an entertainment crew on a cruise ship.

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