applications, auditions, and majors …oh my!

November 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

It’s getting to be that time of the year again.

Pumpkin pies, tree-trimming, candle-lighting, present-sharing, well-wishing, end-of-year concerts …and turning in those music school applications.

For the graduating high school seniors and the contemplative juniors looking to make a career in music, find the right music school or college can be a daunting process, and on top of all those applications and SATs, there’s an audition process to boot. The good news is, all of the music teachers and mentors in your life (good/bad/indifferent) have all managed to survive this (!)

(you will, too!)

Here are a few thoughts and insights I’ve come across over the years— some a result of learning from my own experience, while others are a credit to far wiser sources. Enjoy, and best wishes!

1. The private teacher is everything. Perhaps the most important person you will come into contact with during your undergraduate career is your private lesson teacher. They are a constant throughout your education, and it is imperative that you are happy with them and getting worlds out of your experience studying under them. Take a lesson or two with your potential future teacher in advance of the audition period to get a sense of their style and see if it’s a good fit. They’ll also be able to give you an accurate assessment of whether or not they think you’ll be a good candidate for their school.

2. Your current HS teacher will have a lot of great insights. They may be able to make introductions for you as you take preview lessons at college institutions.

3. The audition is the main determining factor of your acceptance. That isn’t to say it’s time to slack off at school, as many university programs or conservatories connected to universities have academic requirements. It only means that the time you spend preparing your college audition repertoire is invaluable, as it is frequently the “make-it-or-break-it” factor of your acceptance. Check the audition requirements carefully of each school you apply to, as there may be some discrepancies between them.

4. If you don’t feel ready for the audition process right now, there are options out there. Some schools offer a liberal arts degree in Music (no concentration) for which you don’t have to audition. A few conservatories offer extension division study, which may or may not require an audition. If you are accepted to your dream school on the basis of grades but you don’t have a successful audition, you may be eligible to begin your academic career undeclared and re-audition at a later date. The good news is, as I mentioned in my previous post on perfectionism and risk-taking, it’s okay to not feel entirely ready or feel some discomfort about the process. (To be truthful, I’ve never met someone who has been as excited about taking their college auditions as they were about getting a present from the tooth fairy.) I had my fair share of joy and disappointment, but in retrospect I’m glad I went through that experience several times throughout undergrad and grad school.

5. Getting into a small, lesser-known school doesn’t mean you won’t make fabulous progress any more than getting into Juilliard will make you the next Itzhak Perlman. Sometimes being a part of a smaller program will supply you with great opportunities and more individualized attention. If you feel that it’s time for a change, you can always transfer. (I did, and I was very happy with how both legs of my undergraduate career unfolded.) There are hardworking folks in any school, and there are those who for whatever reason lack the motivation to practice and study. As long as you do the work consistently and practice smart, you’ll be amazed by what progress you’ll make!

6. Some schools offer unified applications. When I was applying for college, I had to fill out separate forms for EACH school. Nowadays many conservatories and large university music schools offer unified applications. This takes a lot of additional stress out of the process.

7. Start an audition club at your high school, youth orchestra or prep program where you and your fellow seniors all play your audition rep for each other on a regular basis. (Looking back at my senior year in retrospect, I am smacking myself for not thinking of this one sooner— we had 12 future music majors in a class of 208 and could have had a field day with this!)

8. Much of the time-honored wisdom of general college application applies to us, too. (Applying to “reach”, “middle” and “safety” schools; applying to a few schools but not so many as to be overwhelmed, etc; looking for learning environments that best suit your personality —city or country life, big or small student body, close to home or far away, etc.)

9. Numerous professional musical institutions offer scholarships. For more information, talk to your private or school music teacher or search online. National organizations like MENC or ASTA are a great place to start. Even local/state chapters of music teacher groups and music shops frequently offer such opportunities.

10. Come May/June, it’s all done! Time to breathe easy…for now.


If you have any wisdom you’d like to impart from your college audition process, please consider leaving a comment below! We’d be glad to hear your insights.


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