ClarinetMike’s Graduate School Rules

The University of Colorado at Boulder where I did my Master's Degree. Photo Courtesy of University of Colorado Boulder

Photo Courtesy of The University of Colorado at Boulder – where I did my Master’s Degree.

Hey! Below are some tips for success in graduate school from an article I published in the NACWPI Journal a few years ago. Many of these tips will also be helpful to new faculty. ClarinetMike says, “Follow the Rules.”

Graduate School Rules
By Dr. Michael Dean

A few years ago I spent some time pondering the graduate school experience and what advice I could offer my students. Below are ten tips that can help a graduate student successfully navigate the waters of graduate study. Most of these tips would also be useful to new faculty members. (NOTE: I was very fortunate in grad school to have had a number of excellent teachers and mentors, so not all of the tips below are based on my own experience.)

  1. Be Calm and Patient. Graduate school is generally less of a “grind” than undergraduate study. It is more of a “roller coaster ride” with high stakes exams, hearings, recitals, etc. Remain calm and enjoy the process. Remember that ” Good things take time” (John Wooden).
  2. Practice Good Habits NOW because “Life is a Habit.” Always be working to improve habits of personal organization (especially time management) and self-discipline. (See my recent article on John Wooden – available [HERE].)
  3. Take care of your body. Mom was right – exercise, eat right, and get enough sleep.
  4. Prepare for Culture Shock. This is especially true if you go to grad school in another part of the country – for example, going from the Midwest to the West Coast. Prepare yourself by looking up information on the Internet. Generally, it is true that “It’s not weird, It’s just different.”
  5. Know Rules. Every organization has written and unwritten rules – learn them. Carefully study the Graduate Music Handbook, if available.
  6. Be Courteous. Treat others as you want to be treated. Remember, professors are people too. Thesis/dissertation advisors are among the unsung heroes of academe.
  7. Keep Head Down and Mouth Shut. Don’t try to show off in class. The best way to make a positive impression is to be early to class, well-prepared, and have a positive attitude.
  8. Trust No One. “The walls have ears.” So be careful what you say and to whom. Letters of recommendation can be ruined, so watch out! Follow the advice of John Wooden’s father, “Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses, just do the best you can.”
  9. Write Everything Down. When your advisor, committee members, etc. tell you important information, take good notes and make memos to yourself. Develop your own standardized memo form – be sure it has a date on it.
  10. Perseverance is Everything. Stay at it! Keep learning and making adjustments. You will win if you keep going and don’t give up.

© by The National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors NACWPI Journal, Volume LVIII, Number 2, Winter 2009-10.

NOTE: This article can also be found on the excellent new NACWPI website HERE.

About ClarinetMike

American clarinetist MICHAEL DEAN performs and teaches internationally and across the USA to consistent praise such as "world-class clarinetist and pedagogue," "consummate performer," "inspirational," "outstanding teacher," "super," "brilliant performer," and "one of the best clinicians I have ever seen." His career is headlined by appearances at Carnegie Hall, ClarinetFest, NACWPI, Eastman School of Music, and Royal Northern College of Music with recent recitals and master classes in Canada, Italy, Spain, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas. In July, he will again return to Vipiteno, Italy as Clarinet Artist Faculty in Residence at the international Orfeo Music Festival 2019. He is featured on 5 commercial CD's and on New Media, such as YouTube. He is currently preparing another new clarinet CD, Postcards from Silver Lake. Dr. Dean has given more than 500 clinics, master classes and performances at high schools, universities, conferences and other venues. For 11 years he was a clarinetist with the Paducah Symphony and he's also performed with the Southwest Symphony, Nevada Symphony, Abilene Philharmonic, Southeast Chamber Players, Red Mesa Trio, and Duo 35. His articles appear in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he writes for his widely-viewed ClarinetMike Blog, the Internet’s #1 clarinet blog read in 150 countries on 6 continents: After a successful 25 years of teaching clarinet at the university level, he relocated to his native Texas due to family concerns. He is a past president and former National Board officer of the National Association of College Wind and Percussion Instructors (NACWPI). Dr. Michael Dean studied clarinet performance at Texas Tech University, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas at Arlington. His teachers include Robert Walzel, Phil Aaholm, Carol Jessup, Jess Youngblood, and Bob Ackerman. His web page,, features video of his teaching and performing as well as information on his CD's and other publications. He is a BG France Performing Artist.
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1 Response to ClarinetMike’s Graduate School Rules

  1. Jacob Claude-Armand says:

    en français svp

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