Jump to content

Menu

Music major


Recommended Posts

Caveat -- my future music major is only a junior this year, so what I say is gleaned from websites, not from firsthand experience.

 

What kind of test scores / AP scores are needed depends on the music school.

 

At least a few years ago, Juilliard had no academic requirements. I doubt that Curtiss rejects many applicants because they don't have outstanding SAT's. :p

 

But -- some colleges (like St. Olaf) have students apply to the college, get accepted, and then go through the process of getting admitted to the music school. (That was true for St. Olaf a few years ago and I think it is still true, but please correct me if it isn't.)

 

Merit aid -- Some schools (like University of Indiana) do stack merit aid on top of any music scholarships, so high scores can help a student receive more merit aid.

 

The question I ask myself when we are making decisions about the rigor of dd's classes is -- at the end of the day, will she have an academic education that has challenged her, have we provided her with an education worthy of a high school diploma, and does she have the basic skills she needs to succeed if she decides to stop pursuing music.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Conservatory requirements will be very different from State U and many LAC's.

 

Conservatories ONLY offer the arts and in some cases, only music. They take the absolute creme de la creme of the students that apply and audition. They offer only a modicum of academic coursework on campus. These institutions are very different animals from college and universities and the competition is brutal. I personally witnessed something that was, uhm...horrible, at an Eastman audition. I believe they caught the perpetrator and turned them over to police, but this kind of behavior is fortunately, not common, but also not rare at conservatories where the stakes are high and some kids kind of snap under the pressure.

 

At most U's and LAC's, music students go through the same admission's process that the other students must endure. After gaining admittance to the college with an "intended major" of music, then one applies to the school of music which will include auditions in many cases and interviews possibly masterclasses. Now, the profs in the music school can put pressure on the admin process to admit someone they really, really want for a specific reason such has "we absolutely must fill an oboe orchestra spot this year". However, if there are two students who are fairly equal in ability, the one with the higher academic achievement will just about always get the position since this would be consistent with the admission's process of the school as a whole. I graduated with a degree in piano performance from an excellent LAC and this is the process I went through...definitely a lot of weight was placed on my abilities as well as performance experiences and recommendations, but the reality was that I had to be an academic achiever in order to get into the program no matter what.

 

There are pros and cons to everything. Conservatories, for the student so type A personality dominated that they are determined to be the next big Carnegie Hall performer, may be the way to go. The hyper focus on performance could pay off and it helps to have that "ivy" name behind you - heading to a concerto competition, the conservatory will prepare you. However, for many musicians, conservatory doesn't make sense. The student who seeks a wider academic interest will want to cross train on two or more instruments or across disciplines, and maybe even go into teaching, major or minor in an academic that is not offered at the conservatory, etc. For that the LAC's or uni with a highly ranked music department, may be a better fit. Some kids live and breathe music to an almost exclusive extent. Others, extremely talented, still prefer a wider breadth of college experience. In my case, my science geek bent made conservatory a poor choice for me. I ended up prefering the LAC experience - more academic offerings and people to hang out with that weren't competing with me for position, recognition, and scholarships. Music is ridiculously competitive and cut-throat and ESPECIALLY at conservatories.

 

That said, one of my closest friends attended Curtiss and fit right in...fit is everything. Great for her! Bad for me!

 

So, if LAC and Uni is the goal, you'll want to at least meet the minimum education requirements for admittance (these are the guidelines published on their websites or college confidential) and then if the school is selective/competitive you will need to exceed those requirements in order to get into the fray for scholarship considerations plus find out if there are any additional requirements for the major. One example is STEM, specifically engineering, chemistry, physics, etc. the school may state that algebra 2 is the minimum math requirement, however a student usually cannot gain admission to these majors even if they were accepted by the college without pre-calc and in many of the top 50 programs, Calc 1. Three sciences may be listed as the admission requirement, but four required to be considered for a specific major. Or if these requirements aren't met, the student has to take the prerequisites their freshman year which is perfectly acceptable, but may mean no scholarships since departments often give out their school of engineering, school of sciences, school of whatever, to the incoming freshman that are the top 10% - 20% of the declared major...ie...they have certain prerequisites out of the way and can start on their major immediately. It can also delay graduation if you are out of sync getting started your freshman year.

 

My best advice is to talk with your child about exactly what he or she wants to achieve through a music major. It's a wonderful major! However, he/she should double major with something else. Music is very hard to break into right now. Budget cuts in most cities means orchestras are not hiring or they are hiring for a pittance...schools are cutting their music teachers, advertising firms are cutting back on "jingle" work which can be tough on budding composers, some teachers are having a very difficult time filling their studio slots with students because of parental inability to pay, some are having to lower fees, etc. It's not the boon time in music that the 80's and 90's created! There are music jobs to be had; the competition is pretty stiff. A double major gives the musician another set of skills to fall back on while carving out that music career.

 

Once you've identified the areas of focus, look up schools in the Fisk or Princeton guides and on College Confidential. Make a list of rather non-negotiable requirements that your student has such as, "NO way am I living with bugs!" (cuts out some of the deep south) or "No Snow!", which means DON'T apply to Eastman for certain. LOL. Identify 10-12 schools your student is very interested in investigating and then send for their college catalogs. From these you can figure out which programs have the best chance of good fit and you'll be able to see the order of progression of courses needed to graduate in 4-5 yrs. Don't discount 5 yrs. Between juries, recitals, performance requirements, and possible teaching requirements (some schools require all instrumentalists to have several students of their own from the community and must "student teach" before graduation), etc. some music majors just can't make it through in four. The catalogs should not only give general admission info, but each department should say what the additional requirements for ideal candidates would be.

 

Pick six to eight that fit and visit as many as you can; try to have a lesson or at the least, attend a masterclass. Interview, interview, interview...don't go to the general student tours. You won't learn anything beneficial about the music department. Set up your tour individually. This is rather standard with music and art majors anyway and is not a difficult accomodation for the school to make...it's practically expected.

 

From these visits, try to narrow it to no less than six. Add to your list and start over if you have eliminated a lot of schools. It's important to apply to at least six because, well, in music...every year each school has specific slots to fill and so you might be the ideal candidate for a certain program and not get in because you play clarinet and they don't need any clarinetists this year or whatever.

 

Also, while on these visits, talk to the chair of the department and find out what percentage of music majors received scholarships last year and what the average award is. You can then add this to the estimated scholarship award for all freshman admissions plus any need based aid your student might qualify for plus any private or unusual scholarships (around here there is a very generous foundation that hands out 20/ $2000.00 per year awards to county graduates - so $8,000.00 per student) that your student might get which will help you decide if the school is within reach both in admissions and money.

 

As for AP's, if the intended minor or double major is not STEM, my suggestion would be to focus on some humanities AP's that will get the attention of the humanities department. The AP World History would be excellent since music is an integral part of history and culture, heavily influenced by the people, the religions, the governments, etc. it would actually be quite helpful knowledge to have for music history coursework. AP Music Theory...DO NOT use this as a means to skip freshman theory even if it is offered. Don't get out of sync with the progression of courses and understand that during the freshman year there are "weeder" courses. Music theory is one of them and the aural harmony component is difficult. Better to take the background that the AP music theory coursework gives to get an "easy A" than skip to sophomore theory and get blindsided by the workload. But, a 4 or 5 on this exam, demonstrates a level of mastery that many high school musicians do not have and that's a good thing!

 

Those two specifically come to mind, but other AP's such as literature would probably be seen as competitive for music majors as well.

 

Happy Hunting!

Faith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Former college music adviser at a state LAC here-Faith covered most of this.

 

1) You want to be in the upper quarter of the admitting class of your university in general, because if you're not, you may never even make it far enough to be considered as a music major. Usually, we don't even see students until they're either accepted to the university or at least pretty far in the admissions process, and you'll be competing not just with music majors but overall for any significant merit aid. At my school, we'd bend over backwards to get a student we wanted a good financial package, but ultimately, we only had a small percentage of what the overall university offered. A student who was in the 90% of our potential entering freshman class, we could usually manage to get a full ride for, because we could argue them as a strong merit contender (and since our music school is the strongest at any state LAC, we got a lot of students in music that were above average compared to the college as a whole). A student in the 50%, not so much.

 

2) Use APs for courses that are not in your major/minor field of study, but keep in mind that having some "Easy" classes that only take the 9 hours a week is very, very helpful for a music major. If you do a full course load of ONLY music classes, you're going to end up burning out quite quickly. I would strongly suggest either getting a double major credential in education or business because those are the areas where a majority of music jobs are. I would suggest a general ed credential, especially if you're a strong enough math/science student to do an endorsement in one of those areas over a straight music education one, and a general business degree double majored with a music degree vs a music business one simply to keep as many doors open as possible. This is likely to add at least a year to your degree plan, so if you can do AP/CLEP/Dual Enrollment with this in mind, you may be able to keep it to four years. For example, if you're planning to double major in business, look at the math required there. It's likely you'd be better off doing statistics, which is usually a stand-alone, vs Calculus, which is a sequence and is usually specific to business majors.

 

3) Take as many writing classes as you can, especially technical writing or journalism. Music majors are often quite writing intensive-something often students don't expect, and a lot of music jobs are writing intensive. Music history often ends up being as much of a leveling course as music theory.

 

4) Physics is helpful, but don't take credit out of it IF there's a course offered specific to the music school. Some programs will do a physics for musicians, and that's a wonderful class and surprisingly helpful.

 

5) Take Music APs or Dual Enrollment courses, but don't expect credit. Use them to show that you're more serious about music than the typical student who is saying they're a music major because they marched in the high school band. Even if it's offered, DON'T TAKE IT!! Not only are course sequences different, but it can be very, very difficult to get the appropriate classes to graduate on time if you get off schedule.

 

6) Be aware that many LACs, mine included, are pretty much stuck accepting anyone who declares a music major into 1000 level classes, even if they don't have the skills. Don't be at all surprised to walk into Theory 1001 and be handed a fairly intensive test, or to be told that 75% of students registering won't finish the program (or even worse statistics). The whole idea is to scare away those kids who declared a music major because they sing in the shower or played 3rd clarinet in the high school marching band-or, at least, to get them to sign up for a non-music major level music theory class FIRST. And even then, don't be surprised when half the class ends up dropping out over the first year, despite the course material not really being all THAT bad from a long-term music student's POV. It's easy to end up with music major imposter syndrome-that since everyone else is struggling and complaining about the class, it can't really be that easy, and I must be doing something wrong. Chances are high you're not. It's simply that you've prepared for this more. I wouldn't count on anyone as a long-term classmate until at least Sophomore year, maybe even Junior.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Number six is sooooooooooooooooooooooo true! In my freshman theory class for music majors, we began with 45 students. We ended the first semester with less than 20. Remaining in the major for sophomore year, 12! Conservatories are not "stuck", they get to cherry pick. But, yep, some uni's and LAC's do not get to do the cherry picking they'd like. One guy declared a music major because he played bass guitar by ear and thought it would "uber cool". He didn't make it past the first day placement exam since he couldn't read a note! That's a nasty that many theory profs hand out after introducing themselves. It's a brain bender, but it gives him/her an idea who has the stuff and who doesn't and it's an eye opener for the wannabe's that don't have enough background to survive. They then have the opportunity to withdraw from music classes without penalty and pick up something else before it's too late. It seems cruel, but it is actually rather merciful. By the end of the sophomore year, an excellent music department will have "helped" those that can't cut it see the light and move on to something else, leaving them with the crop they wanted to begin with to mold and shape, and most will have figured it out by the end of the first semester!

 

Faith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

DD19 is in her freshman year studying music in college and I can agree that FaithManor and dmmetler are spot-on. DD was able to test out of everything except one English class due to her AP and ACT scores. This is very helpful as it means she will actually be able to graduate in 4 years with her degree. She had one "real" class last semester (Psychology) and another one this semester (University Studies), but everything else is music. She did take Physics in high school because she needed a second lab science (required for every school where she applied).

 

The gotcha on music degrees is all those music classes that are worth only 1 credit but take up 8-10 performance/rehearsal hours a week. And that doesn't include regular practice time, small group rehearsals, and extras for performing groups (organizing music or set up for events).

 

But don't let this info scare you (or your kid!) off. DD19 loves her "music life". All her friends are in the music department and keep the same extreme schedules. She always has lots of things to do and places to go and she is happy because she likes to keep busy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for all your "words of wisdom." Ds is a very gifted pianist and composer. We have given it a great deal of thought before deciding on pursuing a music major. He wants to get in to top music schools like Juilliard, Peabody, and Univ of Michigan. I understand that most conservatories only care to see your SAT scores and not so much your grades. However, schools like Univ of Michigan and Univ of Indiana would want the SAT scores, grades, AP scores, and SAT Subject tests. So, it's difficult to meet these requirements when ds has to spend time on the piano instead of preparing for these exams. As far as double majoring, it's hard if he ends up in a conservatory. He doesn't like many subjects but math and English. Our challenge is choosing the right courses that will prepare him for either a LAC or conservatory while still have time needed to practice and participate in piano competitions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our challenge is choosing the right courses that will prepare him for either a LAC or conservatory while still have time needed to practice and participate in piano competitions.

 

I hear your pain. If it's any comfort, every other musical kid out there is juggling the same balls -- academics and music.

 

I think homeschoolers actually have it a bit easier -- our kids don't waste time in random school-related stuff like bus rides or mandatory pep rallies, and we can pick and choose the classes so our kids can focus on what is important to them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hear your pain. If it's any comfort, every other musical kid out there is juggling the same balls -- academics and music.

 

I think homeschoolers actually have it a bit easier -- our kids don't waste time in random school-related stuff like bus rides or mandatory pep rallies, and we can pick and choose the classes so our kids can focus on what is important to them.

 

 

Oh yes, I remember those days. I was in a brick and mortar school and one that had no support for what I was aiming to do in life. Since conservatory was not going to be a good fit for me, I had to prepare for uni/lac and that meant keeping my grades high, studying for exams, having an extracurricular besides piano, and yet getting all of this amazing music stuff in.

 

I won't lie. I had no life. Literally. Other people went to school events - I didn't. Other people got together with friends. I didn't. Other people had an after school job or they went on vacation or...I didn't. Well, I went on vacation a couple of times, but I asked my parents to arrange for practice time for me while gone. They either arranged for a local college or uni to allow me the use of a practice room, or a music store...more than one sold pianos because I was in there playing all day! :D I once practiced four hours in a music store inside a mall. Looked up at one point and about 50 people had congregated to listen. I guess it was an impromptu concert. During those four hours, my brother and parents were off having happy, happy fun tourist time without me. That's a choice I made.

 

There are choices to be made. But, here is my concern. Conservatory is conservatory...it is the Russian Roulette of the music world in terms of admission. Have you had your son's abilities evaluated by serious pro, somebody in the business? Has he had any major master classes? What are the objective opinions of his talents? The reason I'm asking is that people tend to not understand that students have to be in the top 2-3% percent of high school performing artists to gain admission to conservatories AND get merit aid. With the tuition, room and board, at these institutions hovering at $45,000 - 55,000 a year, usually merit aid is needed and that's another spin of the wheel. So, the issue is if he isn't admitted to conservatory and he hasn't juggled his academics to be in that top group for uni or LAC, what are his options? Worse, if he is admitted to the conservatory without enough merit aid to afford it. What is that back-up plan? Do you have enough saved to pay the bill in full for him which would GREAT!

 

U of M has an amazing music school. Eastman is, in my opinion, greater than Julliard and New England, but it is also a part of a university of system and so getting in is also dependent on stats. Since these are top 50 schools, they are very concerned about their reputation so he'd have to maintain good stats and academics to gain admission so the can then apply to the school of music. Frankly, I can highly, highly recommend both of those uni's music departments.

 

I was accepted at U of M and ALMOST went. I had been accepted to Oberlin which was my first choice, but they didn't cough up enough merit aid - there were too many pianists applying that year so it was DOG EAT DOG for scholarships. I loved Oberlin! It was sooooooo me! I ended up not choosing U of M because it was so different from Oberlin. I went with the tier 1 LAC that I was admitted to and that offered me some decent scholarship money. I met dh there and the rest is history, but if I could go back to school today, I'd be at Oberlin.

 

So, look at fit issues as well. Visit the schools on NON tour days so you can speak with profs. Have a lesson at each place or have him sign up for a master class. Talk to students of the music departments and schools he is interested in and definitely look at the larger picture. There isn't anything wrong with putting the piano ahead of his other academic pursuits, but then you have to consider what that means, the consequences of doing that, what he plan will be if that doesn't work out...a gap year and retake the SAT or ACT, travel, performance experience, change of teacher and then re-audition, etc. There are definitely options, but make sure you educate yourselves about them and help him make the best choice for his personality and goals.

 

I've got to go make an airport run. I'll be back this evening and can answer another PM if you have more questions.

 

Faith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing I'll suggest-if you can POSSIBLY afford it, send him for a summer to some pre-professional camp program that runs a conservatory level schedule. Interlochen is the biggest name, but there are other ones. This will both give him an idea of what caliber of students are applying for really, really big name music schools and give him a good idea of what the schedule and demands on a music major are like, and also may give him an idea of whether he is more interested in a piano performance focus or a Theory/Composition focus, or something else entirely (it was at such a program I discovered musicology-which hadn't even been on my radar before). That will likely help determine whether he needs to focus on Conservatory programs or University ones.

 

For piano, he's going to have to be very, very, VERY good indeed to get merit aid at a competitive university. And I mean "regularly in the finals at international competitions" good. It may be different at the conservatory level, but the sad truth is, pretty much any major university talent comes secondary to the needs of the school when it comes to giving merit aid, and we're usually overstocked on piano players who are at a level of skill where they can accompany vocal ensembles, instrumental soloists, be in the stage band and so on (pretty much any vocal or elementary music music ed major who actually is going to graduate needs that level of piano proficiency, and, if they've had good teachers, hopefully is near it before they even enter our program) . We simply don't need to give money to pianists, so you have to stand out by a lot if you want to get money-be at the point that the university faculty cannot bear to think of losing you. And a 1500+ Math/Verbal SAT would make our jobs a lot easier.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ds was actually accepted to BUTI in Boston this summer. However, it's too expensive for us. The tuition alone is $4025 with no scholarship or financial aid offered. We have decided for him to attend a camp in SC, which he participated last year and really liked it. We're still waiting for that email that says ds has been accepted, but I'm sure he will get in.

 

Yeah, we need to have a back-up plan if he doesn't get into a school of his choice. He wants to be a piano professor so graduating from a reputable school is essential. He needs to practice more, and I'm confident that he will be accepted to a top school. This year so far, it's been tough with a lot of school work. He's managed to win a couple state concerto competitions, and he's always done well at out State competitions. Like I said, if he practices more, he may win an out of state comp. Two years ago, he was a national finalist in The MTNA comp. More work needs to be done, of course.

 

Faith- How is Eastman better than Juilliard? And why do you like Oberlin so much? Oberlin has an option for students to double major. Is it in a nice area?

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

Faith- How is Eastman better than Juilliard? And why do you like Oberlin so much? Oberlin has an option for students to double major. Is it in a nice area?

 

 

Well, the rankings, are the rankings and there is a lot of opinion and subjective judging that goes into it. The general thought at the present time seems to be that Eastman offers a broader educational perspective and as part of a university system - more real world and therefore, better for preparing for life on the outside.There will be those that will have good reasons to still place Julliard ahead of Eastman...so, this is the general argument on the subject with some other subtleties thrown in - professors, are they "human" and approachable, are they not, etc. Personally, I think the culture at Eastman is better; I think the psychology of the place is better. I think Julliard eats people alive and I've known more than one student who ended up HATING music after four years at Julliard. So I think of Eastman as "greater" or "above" Julliard because I think it is a more wholesome environment for the student and frankly, I've rubbed elbows a few times with faculty from both, and I do think the faculty at Eastman is more humane. However, faculty changes occur and it's been a while, so who knows! It could be completely different. I'm not hanging out with the crowd that rubs elbows anymore so my impressions are definitely older. And again, none of it really matters except - "Can the student gain admission?" "Can the student afford it?" "Is the personality of the student a good fit for the environment?" and "Does this institution meet the student's criteria?" Only the institution that is a "yes" to all of these is the "great" college/conservatory for the student.

 

Oberlin I liked for more than the music department. The general culture on campus and other educational opportunities, the interaction with students, the lesson I had with a professor there stood out more than any other place, etc. Lots of reasons that weren't necessarily about who had the best music school at the time. I felt like it was a place I could fit into...Curtiss made me feel like I'd never fit in with anyone which may not have been true at all, it was just my impression. I loved the Oblerin campus and the feel of the school much more than Cinci. But, money trumped everything and I didn't get enough merit aid to afford my top choice.

 

U of M was affordable, offered me a fair amount of aid, and again, stellar music department. However, except for Curtiss, I liked it the least.

 

Ultimately, of the list I gave, I am slightly reluctant to say where I landed. I don't want to give too much weight to any one of them because, well, there are so many considerations and the reasons I ended up where I did had much more to do with parental pressure and money than music itself. At the beginning of this journey, it is important to go check things out for yourself and figure this "fit" thing out with your student. You also need to look at all the practicalities, the goals, future career, etc. and then be realistic about what is needed to get into the institutions that will most benefit your child.

 

Music is just such a subjective major, I would hate to sway you. I will be honest here, I've known people who cam from podunk, hardly heard of schools with itty bitty music departments that no one ever heard of who are doing AMAZING things in music including a dear friend who is the director of a world famous opera company...you'd be floored to know his alma mater! Sometimes there are these hidden gems out there where some professor decided to take a step back from his/her crazy, rat race music career, and go invest in some kids that weren't "conservatory material", and the outcome is exciting. So, I really can't say that school X or school Y or school Z is the #1 best place. Like the ivies, sometimes the big name music schools open doors for you, and other times shoulder to shoulder judged on merit alone, the conservatory does nothing for you - lots of hidden gems out there.

 

Faith

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...