Program set to open in Fall 2021 and offer ‘unique’ degree opportunity
The final steps required to launch Ryerson’s new four-year, undergraduate music program in 2021 were recently approved, according to a November 2019 report from the school’s Board of Governors.
The Ryerson Professional Music (RPM) program — in conjunction with Ryerson’s Music Den, a business incubator launched in 2016 for aspiring innovators in the music industry — will provide three essential elements: physical recording, musical performance and the business of music.
Charles Falzon, the dean of the Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD), says this is one of the very first things he started looking at in the beginning of his tenure as head of the faculty five years ago.
Falzon said the demand from students was already built in from existing programs.
“Our music modules, our business of music, our music industries, our music production are so in demand. There were a lot of people who wanted to do more than music — there was a real gap,” he said.
Within the past several years, FCAD has accepted less than 10 per cent of its applicants due to high demand, according to Ryerson’s letter of intent for the music program. This expansion will respond to requests by students who wanted a wider range of music-related programs. Canadian postsecondary institutions have separated traditional conservatory music degree programs with the technical side of modern music production, like live event production and operating a record label.
“I don’t know of anything like this in Canada,” Falzon said. “I think it’s quite unique.”
According to the letter of intent for the program, Canada has yet to establish an undergraduate institution in the study of contemporary music. Its competitive pricing for international students makes it a viable option for those who wish to enroll in a saturated market.
In 2015, live music companies and resulting tourism activity generated by events contributed nearly $1.2 billion to Ontario’s GDP, according to a live music analysis in Ontario. They accounted for a total of the province’s 7,300 full-time jobs in 2013.
“There is not, to my knowledge, a high-end, comprehensive, four-year degree program that is majoring in music in the way that this is,” Falzon said, adding that the program will prepare students for the ever-changing technological and economic marketplace.
Falzon spent time with notable leaders in the industry, including those from Boston’s Berklee College of Music and Toronto’s Massey Hall and Roy Thompson Hall, many of whom expressed support for this type of music program.
“We need people who aren’t just musicians — people who are leaders, managers and innovators,” Falzon said. “We also had demand from the City of Toronto, looking at Toronto as being the music hub. So, it was very much a perfect situation.”
Employment in the arts, culture, and recreation grew more than 30 per cent from 2016 to 2017 in Ontario, making it the second-largest growth segment in the entire labour market, according to the Board of Governors report. In 2018, Ryerson’s Music Den partnered with Universal Music worldwide making it part of a “global network of incubators” in the music industry.
“The reason Universal is interested in Toronto is because it’s the third largest music market in North America. The reason that they’re interested in us is because this is what we do and we’re going to be even stronger once we have a music program,” Falzon said.
The music presence is undoubtedly expressed through Ryerson’s student-run music group, Musicians@Ryerson, who have dubbed themselves the “unofficial music faculty.”
Preethi Suresh, president of Musicians@Ryerson, said that when she started looking at university programs four years ago, it was difficult to find one that was performance-based.
“The Performance school here has acting, dance … but they don’t have a music performance program,” said Suresh. “That’s kind of the reason why we call ourselves the unofficial music faculty; we provide the music side of things.”
Suresh said that during their office hours, they provide music lessons to those who want to drop by for a quick lesson. “That’s what we’re here for, because we don’t find that on campus,” she said.
Suresh said they’re a community of friends who have built relationships through Musicians@Ryerson. They host events such as open mics — a weekly event held every Wednesday at the Ram in the Rye. “We just jam together,” she said.
Suresh has visited many different cities but says that she hasn’t seen a more vibrant atmosphere when it comes to music in Toronto. “There’s almost something to do every single night, whether that’s something in the city or someone having a show, it’s very vibrant,” Suresh said.
Before the Hard Rock Café shut down on Yonge and Dundas Street, the group used the space for their annual Battle of the Bands, a judged-concert style battle that features six Ryerson bands. “It’s a yearly event that we do, where bands compete for a chance to win big prizes such as a record deal,” she said.
Last year, the event was held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) and raised over $20,000. “We definitely make use of the fact that Ryerson is located in such an urban area — there’s a lot to do around us and there’s so much more which we have yet to explore,” Suresh said.
The City of Toronto estimates that music contributed $700 million dollars to its economy in 2014 and an estimated 18,500 songwriters, music creators, composers, beatmakers and lyricists reside in the city, according to a study conducted by the Toronto Music Advisory Council.
“The past five years the city has seen a wave of local-born artists including Drake, The Weeknd, Deadmau5 reach international popularity and acclaim,” the letter of intent reads.
“Our expert in music is as strong as most of the industries that we have in the creative area,” Falzon said. “You just look at the roster of high-end names — the scene is really big.”
Ryerson’s new program is set to begin September 2021 with an initial intake of 50 students. It will be jointly offered by the FCAD schools of Creative Industries, Performance, and the RTA School of Media to establish a Bachelor of Fine Arts in professional music (BFA).