From the Outside: The EDM College Experience
Everybody loves a top-ten list, and VICE magazine’s electronic music spinoff, Thump, recently put together an interesting one: America’s best colleges for electronic music. Some of their picks are surprising, like middle-of-nowhere Penn State or Ivy League school Brown, and some not so much, like USC in Los Angeles. When you look at it a different way, though, they would have been hard-pressed to find a college that didn’t have at least some kind of electronic music scene. Colleges, with their young populations and creative atmospheres, have long been hotspots for whatever is trending in the music world, and electronic music is no exception.
My first dive into electronic music came when I was in undergrad several years ago. Dubstep had recently hit the American scene and a few of my friends were becoming self-taught DJs. I watched them at shows and house parties, fascinated by the combination of musical talent, technical know-how, and aptitude at partying that DJing required. Really, it was just another interesting facet to the college music experience—I also loved acoustic instruments around a bonfire and had friends who played jazz guitar or dabbled in harmonica, too. Electronic music was one more means of creative expression for us, one that just so happened to be conducive to large, loud parties.
Thump’s list only scratches the surface of the colleges where students can explore their love of music, either formally in classes or casually in their social life. America’s colleges span a spectrum of options for music lovers. At Mills College in Oakland, CA, you can get an MFA in Electronic Music & Recording Media (which encompasses far more than just EDM, of course)—and there are other schools where you can study music in many different ways. But if you want to take an informal approach, I’d hazard a guess that you can find a thriving electronic music scene at nearly any college in America. After all, it’s no longer a niche genre, but a vast category of subgenres, artists, and sounds.
Even for those who are no longer in college or never went, the college atmosphere provides a boost to EDM culture. College towns draw great shows (Krewella played on my school’s campus earlier this year) and colleges foster music discovery for a new group of students year after year. If it weren’t for my college experience, I might not be writing this column. I surely would have danced to countless EDM hits either way, but it was meeting people who created their own electronic music and seeing the human side of it that really fascinated me. Although I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing you learn in school that you can’t learn on the streets, colleges are a great resource for learning and discovering new things. What some people forget is that these discoveries don’t always happen in the classroom.
How about you—do you have a college EDM story or a dream school you’d like to study music at? Share it below!