College of Contemporary Music
VP of Academic Affairs
Musicians Institute (MI) in Hollywood, CA, awards Bachelor and AA degrees as well as certificates. Its campus spans several blocks between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards, and includes a variety of buildings that house world-class production facilities, a concert hall, classrooms, practice rooms, computer labs and more. MI offers several fields of study that cover creative, technical and business aspects of the industry. Its mission is to provide students with the tools necessary to become successful musicians and music industry professionals.
A Los Angeles-based drummer and producer, Donny Gruendler has performed, toured and recorded with artists such as Kenny Burrell, DJ Logic, the Funk Brothers, DJ A-Ski, Rick Holmstrom and Kirk Fletcher. He has been an educator for almost 15 years and is the author of several books: Playing With Drum Loops (Carl Fischer), Seeing Sounds (Hudson Music), Private Lessons (Hudson Music) and Dubstep Drumming (Hal Leonard).
Why Do Some Students Struggle?
It takes some students a while to adjust. We have students from all over the world and sometimes when they get here it’s a shock. They’re in the heart of Hollywood and in the middle of the music industry. The demands are higher and the quality expected of them is greater. In terms of the struggle, for some students, it can take a quarter or so to get comfortable, while others find that they may want to pursue other interests.
How Did You Become an Educator?
I was an artist first. Back in 2003 I had just come off the road when a friend invited me to a clinic at Musicians Institute. That inspired me to get into education. I started as an instructor and loved teaching. I began editing curriculum and that led me into administrative positions.
What Is MI’s Mission?
The ultimate goal is to help students become the best in their field, as an artist or music industry professional. We show them how it’s possible to develop a career and actually make a living with music.
What Makes A Good Teacher?
Teachers who can bring real-world experiences into the classroom are the best. But they also must have other qualities: They should be organized and stern enough to push students. They need to be a motivational speaker as well as a caregiver. And, most importantly, they need to respect the students.
Must Teachers Have a Degree?
Governing bodies that accredit schools usually require degrees. However, at MI we also give equal value to industry experience. A person who might not have a degree may have successfully worked in the industry. So, we have an internal process that determines if a non-degree holding instructor can teach. We make these evaluations on a case-by-case basis.
Why Do Some Teachers Fail to Make The Cut?
It’s like any gig. Some gigs are better for certain musicians, and it’s the same with teachers. At MI, we require a lot from our instructors and we operate at a pretty fast pace. We expect our faculty to be the best of the best and very professional.
What’s Unique About MI?
MI functions like a microcosm of the music industry. The networking opportunities are tremendous, not just because we’re in Hollywood, but in the school itself. Students work together on projects. For example, a drummer or singer can spend time with audio engineer students. We have a world-class recording studio available, and a concert hall where students can videotape their performance.
We also offer counseling where students can ask anything they want, and we help them get industry internships. And, because of our location, we often bring in pros from a variety of fields for master classes and clinics. At MI we are constantly reassessing and improving our curriculum so that we not only give students the knowledge they need and help to develop their skills, we also expose them to real-world experiences.