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

Carnegie Hall, Eastman, Royal Northern College of Music, NACWPI, and ClarinetFest recital and master class appearances headline Dr. Michael Dean’s extensive and versatile career. He is featured on four commercial CD’s: Mysteries, Desertscape: New Music for Clarinet, Woodwind Music of Robert Fruehwald, Vol. 1, and Red Mesa Trio. Two more CD releases featuring Michael Dean are upcoming: a second CD of Fruehwald's music for woodwinds (Vol. 2) (2014/15) and a new solo CD, Postcards from Silver Lake (2015/16).... He has performed with the Southwest Symphony Orchestra, Nevada Symphony Orchestra, Abilene Philharmonic Orchestra, Garland Symphony Orchestra, Mesquite Symphony Orchestra, Southeast Chamber Players, and the Red Mesa Trio. He recently performed for 11 years with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra.... His articles have appeared in journals such as Southwestern Musician, WINDPLAYER, NACWPI Journal, and The Bandmasters' Review. As "ClarinetMike," he actively writes for his own widely-read clarinet blog, Michael Dean is an active clarinet performer, teacher, and consultant based in the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas Metroplex. He was recently a tenured Associate Professor of Clarinet for 11 years at Southeast Missouri State University. He returned to his native Texas in 2012 due to family illness. He maintains a large private clarinet studio in L.D. Bell Cluster (HEB) and Grapevine-Colleyville. 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, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas at Arlington. His web page,, features video and audio of his teaching and performing as well as information on his CD's and other publications. He lives in Hurst, Texas with his wife, two children, and golden retriever, Andy.
This entry was posted in All, Performance & Pedagogy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to ClarinetMike’s Graduate School Rules

  1. Jacob Claude-Armand says:

    en français svp

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s