By Maryssa Chartier
Becoming a Music Major
Do you dream of becoming a passionate band director? Perhaps a professional musician, or even a world-famous composer? The first step to making your dreams come true is to become a music major! Becoming a music major is a bit different than applying for college as a math major, there are some extra steps involved, and there’s certainly a lot to consider. As a recent music graduate, I clearly remember how nervous I was trying to find the right school and get ready for my music audition. But I’m here to help break down the process, and hopefully get you into the school of your dreams!
What is often overlooked is making sure that you start early! I recommend researching the
schools you may be interested in at the end of your junior year, and the summer before your
senior year. While you may be able to procrastinate in other aspects of your life, you do not want to put this off! Start making a list of schools that pique your interest.
How many schools should I apply to?
You should plan to apply to at least 3 universities, you’ll want to have a few options to choose from. I don’t recommend applying to more than 5 schools, planning auditions for more than 5 schools will be a difficult task.
What should I consider when choosing what schools to apply for?
Major professors: Do research on your major instrument professor at the school. Listen to
recordings of them playing, do you like their sound? If possible, find recordings of masterclasses they taught, do you like their teaching style? Listen to their studio recitals and check out their studio website/social media pages if they have them!
Environment: Take into consideration the environment of the university. How is the university laid out? What is the student life like?
Tuition: College is expensive… (something I didn’t truly understand until it was too late). Find out the average yearly tuition – is it something manageable for your financial position? On top of tuition you should consider housing, textbooks and music related expenses.
Scholarships: Look into what scholarships you’re eligible for – academic, minority, military,
etc. You’ll want to consider schools that are able to offer a fair amount of scholarship!
Ensembles: What types of ensembles does the school have? If you love modern music, check to see if they have a new music ensemble! I also recommend listening to recordings from different concerts, do you like the type of music they program?
Admission Requirements: Double check the admission requirements for the
University/College. What is the minimum GPA requirement? Thoroughly read over the music
audition requirements: What pieces are recommended/required? What scales are required? Is sight-reading a part of the audition? Is there an interview? Is there a music theory portion of the audition? Be sure to not skip over anything, double check all requirements!
Degree Plans: Read over the degrees offered, make sure you are applying for schools that have the degree you truly want! Also look into what minor’s the school offers – most universities don’t offer Bachelor of Composition degrees but will offer a minor in composition!
Now that you’ve decided what schools you will apply to; the real fun begins!
Choosing Audition Dates
Regardless of what degree plan you planning to pursue, you will have to take an audition and possibly go through an interview process. If you’ve decided to apply at multiple schools (please do!) you’ll need to strategically plan which audition date to choose for which school.
First, you need to go through your calendars and agendas and write out every band festival,
standardized test and any other date you will be unable to be at an audition (spring break,
holidays, etc.). You don’t want to be 2 weeks away from your audition and then realize you have to take the SAT that weekend! Yikes!
Next, you should rank your schools from top choice to “backup”. This is important because from personal experience, I don’t recommend scheduling your first audition as your top choice. This is a new experience, and you won’t know what to expect (no matter how much you prepare!). If possible, try to schedule one of your backup choices as your first audition, in case nerves get the best of you! Then once it’s time for your audition at your top choice, you’ll have a good idea what to expect and feel more prepared.
The most important thing to remember is: Don’t put your audition off until the last minute!! I
know this entire process can be very stressful, and you may feel like waiting until April or even May will give you ample time to prepare a stellar audition – and this may be true. However, many schools award scholarships on a rolling basis, which means first come first serve. Trust me, as comforting as 2 extra months sounds, you can be just as prepared in January, and possibly get a much better scholarship package for being an early bird! Scholarships aside, April and May are very busy times for high school seniors, you’ll want to have all your auditions completed before the mad dash to the end of your senior year!
Get in Contact with Your Major Professor
Now that you’ve chose your audition dates, you need to send emails to the major professors at those universities. Why? Well, there’s a few reasons.
You should introduce yourself to them! If you attend this school, this is the professor that will be by your side for the next 4/5 years. Taking the initiative to get in contact with your professor early will show your professionalism and will form a more personal connection between you and the professor. I’ve been told from multiple professors that they love when prospective students reach out to them before their audition!
Try to set up a lesson with the professor, when I was in high school this didn’t even cross my
mind. But this is such a good idea. You not only will get feedback on your audition materials
from the person you will be auditioning for, but you will also get to experience their teaching
style and personality and decide if it will be a good fit for you!
Please, please, please don’t hesitate to ask the professor any questions you have about the
audition, the school, or the program. Professors want to help you, even before you are their
student! Sometimes the professor will even get you in touch with a student who is currently in their studio, who you can ask questions and receive answers from a student’s point of view.
Prepare for Audition
Alright, you’ve made it this far, it’s time to get serious!
The key to having an excellent audition is being over-prepared. As soon as you decide what
school’s you are auditioning at, figure out what pieces you’ll be preparing (and scales if
necessary) and start working. You should have all of your repertoire completely audition ready at least a month before the audition, so you won’t be cramming trying to learn things in the final stretch. Put the work in early!
The best advice I can give is to play your audition for as many people as you can. Your friends, your band directors, if you have a lesson teacher (obviously), and your family. The more time you spend playing for other people, the more comfortable you will feel during your auditions.
It’s Time for Your Audition!
It’s time for the big day! What should you bring to the audition?
Make sure you bring plenty of water so you can stay hydrated and avoid potential dry mouth
caused by nerves. If you are someone who likes to snack, bring a few healthy snacks with you!
Bring extra copies of your repertoire! I’ve been in audition and realized one of my pages was
missing – a true nightmare. Don’t let this happen to you! Bring at least one extra copy of all your music, and if you’re a forgetful person, bring two!
I also recommend bringing a folder with your printed resume to give to your audition panel,
include any other required documents.
Your Audition is Done, Now What?!
Kick back and relax, you deserve it after all the hard work you’ve put into this process! Perhaps take yourself out to a nice dinner with family and friends to celebrate a successful audition. Keep an eye on your email/mail, you’ll be receiving decision letters soon!
I’ve Been Accepted into Multiple Schools!!
Congratulations! I knew your hard work would pay off!
When deciding what school to commit to there’s a lot to take into consideration:
Financial Package: Some may disagree with me on this one, but I think the financial package is one of the most important things to take into consideration. College is so expensive, choosing a school that is offering a great financial package is the way to go.
Professors: Think back to your audition, and any communication you’ve had with
professors/staff at the school. Make sure you choose a school you felt comfortable and safe with the faculty, especially your instrument’s major professor.
Location: How far is the school from your family? Some people are totally okay with moving
across the country to attend the school of their dreams, but some people need to be close to their family for various reasons. This school will be your home for the next few years, remember that when deciding!
Once you’ve made your final decision, don’t forget to decline the offers at the universities you will not be attending.
I hope my advice will help you along your journey to becoming a music major! Remember to
use your resources and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if/when you need it!