Bad Students: Do They Make The Best Stars?
December 8, 2015
Jon Hockley in Music Education, career advice, music education, success

Why is it  that so many of the successful artists seem to be loud, outspoken, rebellious people when it’s this same kind of attitude that gets students kicked out of school? That somehow breaking the rules leads to more success than sticking to them.
Well before I answer this question, there’s a lot of things are wrong with the statement.
For one, you don’t have to be famous to be successful.
Secondly, loud people are more noticeable so they are the ones that are easiest to recall.
Thirdly, being successful without going to school is so radical that it’s sensationalised.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the other 99.9% of successful people in the world who don’t let their education situation define their life.
Having spent fifteen years of my life working in and out of music education and the music industry I see patterns emerge with what kinds of students and non-students go on to become famous and/or successful. Amongst these patterns I see many who break the mould and many who don’t. So I want to cut to the chase and say that education has a big effect on your life, but it’s just a small part of your journey. It exists in many forms and no two experiences are the same. I could end here but I want to hammer home education’s place in your career. Firstly, I wan’t to dispel a few strong opinions I hear get thrown around the music industry.
Myth: Music Education is unfashionable

Your only famous because you went to X school. Even Ed Sheeran said “and i didn’t go to Brit School”.
Great, that worked for Ed, but what about the successful people that did go to Brit School. What about the unsuccessful people that didn’t and the unsuccessful people that did. Some schools have better connections to the industry than others. Some have better teachers and some have big budgets, but the way I see it is this: Schools don’t make successful people. They provide opportunity, but the student has to grab the opportunity. Opportunity is the back bone of education and when ambition meets opportunity, that’s when amazing things happen. Go to the best school you can but never for one second thing you will be spoon fed.
Myth: Music Education is Counterintuitive

I hear this touted. If you’re taught music then it means your ideas are not your own. your not a true artist because art is intrinsic and can’t be taught.
The truth is no one is born a great artist. Your art is only a strong as your experiences, your interpretation of those experiences and your projection of those experiences. The only thing that is intrinsic is in an artist’s ambition and this can’t be taught. What’s wrong with surrounding yourself with hundreds of creative skilful people for a few years? There are many way to experience life but one experience can’t be better or worse than the other. Only the person who doesn’t decide to move forward, who stays in one place, who’s experience never changes, becomes the lesser artist. Education doesn’t make you a better or worse artist but it makes you a different artist and you can use this to your advantage. 
Myth: The qualification isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.

Music education is more than just the certificate. It’s the friends and people you meet. The skills and bespoke tuition. The creative environment and the specialised equipment. This experience is priceless and for the poorer ambitious individuals, state funded music education can be a massive opportunity.
You may agree or disagree with education but you can’t judge someone’s journey to success. An obedient student with no ambition is almost as pointless as a dropout with no ambition. Whatever choices you make just make sure it builds more bridges than it burns. 


Jon Hockley is the lead consultant of The Artist Potential which is an artist development and consultancy service. He has worked in the music business for 15 years and is obsessed with personal development.


Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (
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