If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in drumming, one of your biggest options is to attend a formal music college to study drums and get a recognized qualification. Through that process, you’ll learn from experienced teachers and make plenty of connections along the way.
Here’s a list of some of the best educational institutions to check out that have programs for drummers. They’re based in the USA and UK.
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Berklee College of Music
The Berklee College of Music is arguably the most well-known music college in the world. It has an incredible reputation, and many of the students that sign up for different programs come from all over the world.
The college is based in Boston, Massachusetts, and it has a seriously large drum department with several world-class drum teachers. The list of teachers includes James Murphy, Yoron Israel, Dave DiCenso, and Mark Walker.
There are a lot of world-famous drummers that studied at Berklee, including Matt Garstka, JP Bouvet, David Cola, Steve Smith, Thomas Pridgen, and Nikki Glaspie.
The college offers an impressive number of music programs where you can choose drums as your main instrument. This includes full-length degrees, short course certificates, and performance diplomas.
Berklee is known to be the place where some of the best musicians in the world first met each other and started playing together. Based on reputation alone, Berklee is the top drumming college on this list.
The Musician’s Institute is the leading music college in Los Angeles, California. LA is where all the big things happen in the entertainment industry, so studying here is a great idea if you want to be in that location.
The college has a list of impressive names that studied there previously, including Anderson Paak, Ray Luzier, and Andres Torres.
The main aim for drummers who study through MI is to get a highly immersive experience where they get taught practical music industry skills. The syllabus is based on contemporary music, meaning the drummers learn how to play and get work with modern music artists.
The college offers Bachelors and Masters degrees, as well as shorter courses for drummers who only want to spend one or two years there.
The biggest takeaway from the drum program at MI is that it will equip you to take on every possible career that a drummer can have.
Leeds College of Music
The Leeds College of Music is the music education branch of the Leeds Conservatoire. The college is based in Leeds in the UK, and the college offers degrees in jazz or popular music, where you can choose the drum kit as your main instrument of study.
When you study drums there, you’ll be taught by Joshua Blackmore, Caroline Boaden, Pete Flood, Tim Giles, David Hamblett, Damien Harron, and Dave Walsh. These are all highly experienced drummers and percussionists, and the amount of time you get with them depends on which specific degree you do.
One of the best things about this college is that you can get a degree in popular music. A lot of drummers don’t study in college as they don’t want to do jazz. This is the perfect college for drummers like that to go to, as most of the other colleges in the UK are heavily jazz-centered.
University of North Texas
The University of North Texas is one of the best colleges to attend in the US if you want to specialize in jazz drumming. The music college section of the university has one of the most highly regarded jazz degrees out of all the universities in the country.
The college has a wider percussion department, but you can choose the drum kit as your main instrument.
There are so many killer jazz musicians who graduated from the university, including most of the original members of Snarky Puppy.
UNT is an excellent university to go to if you want diversity. It’s an amazing university that offers qualifications in every possible area, so you’ll get a full-on university experience when going there, as you’ll integrate with students from various areas of study.
It’s also a good option for traditional jazz drummers. If you love playing classic jazz, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to play in small jazz ensembles there. You’ll also learn more about the inner workings of jazz and jazz culture.
The Drummer’s Collective is the drumming branch of The Collective educational institution. It’s a private college that only offers diplomas and short courses with no degree options. The drumming syllabi are structured to give the students as much real-world experience as possible.
The college is based in the heart of New York City, so the environment gives you plenty of opportunities to meet and network with different musicians.
The longest qualification that the college offers is a two-year performance diploma, and it involves learning about every facet of being a professional drummer.
One of the best things about the college is that there is a large number of teachers, so every drum student has a very personalized sense of education.
The whole idea behind the college is that it’s also an environment where gigging drummers in New York can come and teach. So, you get drum lessons from highly experienced players. You could have a lesson with one of them in the morning and then watch them play a gig in the evening.
The Royal Academy of Music
The Royal Academy of Music is another highly sought-after music college. It’s based in the heart of London, so it shares similar features to the Drummer’s Collective, giving you an educational space with a world of opportunity around it.
If you’re a drummer, your only option with the Royal Academy is to get a jazz degree, specializing in drumming as your main instrument.
It’s a highly comprehensive course, offering one-one lessons, big band playing opportunities, composition classes, jazz history classes, and music technology classes.
This is another good university option to consider if you want to go deeper into jazz drumming and education. All the jazz ensembles that you get to be a part of will help you grow significantly as a musician.
What To Look For In a Drum School
One of the biggest things to check out when looking at different schools is what teachers are on staff. Good drum teachers can change your life, and you may find that certain schools have drum teachers that are incredibly well-known.
If you have a favorite drummer, you may be more inclined to go to a school where that drummer is teaching all the drum students.
You’ll be able to see what drum teachers a college has by checking out the website. If you don’t know any of the teachers that you see there, it’s worth checking them out on social media. You’ll be able to watch videos of them playing, and you should also do your best to find videos of them teaching.
That will give you a very good idea of who will be teaching you before you arrive at the school.
You should also check how many teachers every potential school has. Some have dozens, while others only have a few. The number of teachers available will cater to different personalities.
Some drum students will thrive from being taught various topics by several different teachers. Other drum students will prefer to have one drum teacher to take them through a whole syllabus.
You should also check to see if those drum teachers are regular performers. It helps to have drum teachers with real-world experience, and it’s a bonus to be able to watch them play at their own gigs when you’re under their tutelage.
Another important thing to check out at different drum schools is what opportunities are available. While the primary purpose of studying at a tertiary institute is to get a qualification, it’s better to choose a school that offers plenty of performance opportunities.
The three main aspects of drumming are performing, recording, and teaching. You should go to a school that offers students opportunities within all three of those aspects.
You should look to see what live performance opportunities are on offer. Every drum school will have you perform a recital with a band at least once a year. However, you should look for what’s on offer above that. Are there weekly jam times? Can you host your own shows using the school’s venues? Those will become very valuable if you’re looking for performance experience.
When it comes to recording, every music school has professionally equipped recording studios. You should check if it’s in the syllabus that the drummers will get the opportunity to use those facilities.
Lastly, teaching is something that all drummers should consider as an income source. Some drum schools will teach you how to teach. They’ll also give second and third-year students the opportunity to teach first-year students.
While the experiences you get when studying at a drum school are invaluable, the biggest takeaway will be the qualification that you get.
Music qualifications are a bit strange in context with the working world. You don’t need them for most opportunities, as making a name for yourself in the music industry is all about networking and getting lucky.
However, the biggest reason to get a drumming qualification would be if you wanted to teach at a public school. For a lot of schools, especially in the UK, you need some sort of degree to be paid fairly as a teacher. That also counts for teachers who are drummers. A drum teacher with a degree will get paid more than a drum teacher without one.
If that’s where you want to go with your drumming, you’ll need to make sure that you’re attending a drum school that offers you an official music degree upon completion of your studies.
Most music schools also offer performance diplomas, but they honestly hold little weight compared to a degree. A degree will also help you if you ever want to emigrate from your current country of living.
If you’re not looking to get a formal degree, you can save money and time by joining a performance diploma program. You’ll still get all the experience and opportunities.
The final thing to look for when searching for a good drum school is its location. All the most prestigious music colleges are in the USA and UK, so you’ll have the most schools to pick from when looking at those two countries.
When looking at what city or state to move to, you should consider the location of the schools in those areas and how the life around them is. Some locations have higher costs of living than others, while other locations have much busier music scenes.
If you’re studying music at a college, it’s a good idea to live in an area where gigs are abundant, allowing you to get even more playing experience when you’re not busy with your studies.
I’d suggest going to the busiest music areas if you’re just looking to do a performance diploma. Those are all about experience, so New York and London would be the best areas to study in.
If you’re getting a degree, you should look closer at schools that aren’t as musically busy in the surrounding areas. You’ll still find plenty of gigs, as all music schools are placed in areas with plenty of opportunities. Some just won’t offer as much as you’d get from living in big cities.
Top Drumming Schools, Final Thoughts
When looking for a good drum school, the best thing to do is listen to stories from drummers who attended these schools in the past. They’ll give you a perspective on how beneficial their experience was.
A lot of people will tell you that attending a drumming school isn’t worth the money, but if it’s something you really want to do, then you should go for it and enjoy every minute.