Seeking advice is not a sign of weakness.
In fact, it’s a strength.
The ability to synthesize multiple perspectives into your own perspective is one of the hallmarks of maturity.
OK… but who should you listen to?
The list of people offering you advice is huge:
- your private teacher
- your parents
- your orchestra director
- your friends
- your youth orchestra colleagues
- your guidance counselor
- college bass teachers
All of these people are valuable assets in your quest for a double bass program.
All of them, however, have potential biases that may color their advice.
These biases aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We all have them to some degree. Knowing that they exist, however, can help when synthesizing these varied opinions.
Here are a few common biases you should take into account when digesting advice from your trusted sources.
1. Familiarity Bias
People tend to be way into the school they attended or the teacher they studied with, to the exclusion of other programs.
This is totally understandable.
Gaining comprehensive knowledge of every single potential bass program in the United States (let alone the world) is an insane task…. as my caffeine-riddled body can tell you!
If someone has found success and had a good experience at their particular college, they’re likely to recommend it to others.
Awesome. Nothing wrong with that.
It pays, however, to keep that familiarity bias in mind. We tend to like what we know.
2. Location Bias
New Yorkers ted to think that their NYC schools are pretty sweet.
The same goes for folks in Chicago, Colorado, Miami, etc.
This is a totally understandable bias. It’s a close cousin of Familiarity Bias, in fact.
When I lived in Illinois, it seemed like everyone and their dog went to school somewhere in the state.
Now that I live in California, it’s the same thing only for my new state.
3. Reputation Bias
There are several schools known as orchestral powerhouses, jazz powerhouses, and music education powerhouses.
It’s easy to recommend these schools to everyone in “blunt instrument fashion.”
While every school on those powerhouse lists is an undeniably great school for many students, it might not be the right pick for you and your specific situation.
Applying to 10 schools that are out of reach for your skill level, financial means, academic history—whatever—serves only to waste everyone’s time.
Worse still, it may send you down a dark spiral of discouragement as you compare ourself to others in truly unhelpful ways.
4. Faculty Myopia Bias
The is a tough one to explain, and it only applies to some faculty members.
Put simply, it’s easy become enmeshed in the cultural zeitgeist of a particular institution and lose perspective on the world outside of that campus.
This can even narrow down to the departmental level.
For example, a faculty member might not understand why a student may be interested in exploring a double major in biology or engineering in addition to their music degree.
This degree might be a wonderful choice for that student, but the faculty member lacks the capacity or empathy to understand the student’s development outside of the music domain.
This can be a tough one to spot, and it can be a subconscious thing for faculty members. Just be aware that this might be percolating at some level in some faculty members.
5. Faculty Self-Interest Bias
In my experience, this only applies to a a small portion of faculty members, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Full-time faculty members may need to keep a minimum viable studio size.
Part-time faculty members are often paid on a per-student basis, so convincingly that additional student to attend that institution will help their bottom line.
Really, there’s nothing wrong with either of these scenarios. Faculty members wanting to draft you for their program is great, actually.
You’ll have a teacher who really wants you there.
Just know that they may not be able to see what the best fit is for you.
How could they, really? They’ve had limited contact with you at best.
If you’re lucky enough to be counted by university faculty, enjoy it and consider it as positive affirmation. But keep this bias in mind.
I’ve written a few articles on this topic:
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