Music Education

Breaking Free from the Syllabus: Discovering Your Unique Musical Path

Maxy Chan


31 May 2023

It’s a privilege to have a formal music education.

I studied classical music as my degree at university, and before that, I spent 14 years learning the piano.

However, after graduating and reflecting on my educational experience, I came to a realization: I didn't truly enjoy the structured and syllabus-driven approach to learning.

I want to share my perspective on the benefits of formal music education, while also emphasizing the importance of self-discovery and finding what truly works for each individual.

Formal music education, whether through universities, conservatories, or music schools, undoubtedly serves a crucial function. It provides students with a structured curriculum, a foundation of theoretical knowledge, and valuable guidance from experienced educators. For many, this traditional approach proves immensely beneficial in honing their musical abilities and nurturing their artistic development. It offers a comprehensive understanding of music theory, history, and performance techniques.

However, as we transition from being students to becoming independent musicians, it is vital to evolve our learning processes. We must embrace the responsibility to discern what truly resonates with us and adapt our approach accordingly. Leaving behind the spoon-fed nature of institutional learning enables us to explore alternative paths, discover new methodologies, and shape our unique musical identities.

As adults who have completed primary and secondary education, we possess the agency to choose how we continue our musical journeys. We have the freedom to explore various learning methods and curate our own educational experiences. It is essential to experiment, to venture into uncharted territories, and to break away from the conventions that may limit our growth. Through self-discovery, we can uncover what truly inspires us, what sparks our creativity, and what enables us to express ourselves authentically through music.

In this pursuit of self-discovery, we must be willing to let go of preconceived notions and even the things we have learned along the way. The process of unlearning and relearning can be both liberating and enlightening. It allows us to challenge ourselves, break free from our comfort zones, and embrace new perspectives. Great insights often arise from experimenting on ourselves, finding the courage to explore unfamiliar genres, techniques, or even unconventional instruments. It is through this openness to change that we can truly grow as musicians.

Formal music education undoubtedly offers numerous advantages and lays a solid foundation for aspiring musicians. However, it is crucial to remember that education is not a one-size-fits-all approach. As we transition from the structured world of institutional learning, we must take ownership of our musical journeys and find what truly resonates with us. Embracing self-discovery, experimenting, and letting go of the familiar can lead us to uncover hidden talents, unique artistic expressions, and ultimately shape us into the musicians we aspire to be. So, let us celebrate the privilege of a formal music education while embarking on a personal quest to find our own.