Grad School

Tag: Grad School

Applying to Grad School for Music Performance Part III: A Few Last Things to Consider

A FEW FINAL THINGS TO CONSIDER WHILE APPLYING TO GRAD SCHOOL

What will make your audition great/ make you a good candidate for schools?

  • There is no such thing as a “perfect audition” so if you mess up a little, don’t worry about it too much. Play musically, confidently, and with passion. Trust yourself that you have spent a lot of time preparing for the audition and it will show through in your playing. The audition committee is not looking for perfection, but instead a student that has potential and they will enjoy teaching.
  • Know your music! Know all the standard excerpts, solo repertoire, method books, and chamber music for your instrument. Be familiar with standard symphonic repertoire as well.
  • Do your research on the school and teacher so you are familiar with the institute and the kind of instruction you will receive. Reach out to the professors and, if time and money allow, take a lesson from the instructor before auditioning.
  • Some auditions may include a lesson from the instructor. Be open to criticism and show that you are able to make adjustments/ improvements on the spot.
  • Have a general goal in mind of what you want to do while attending the school and what you want to achieve post-graduation. This will likely be asked in the application process or at your auditions.
  • Get teaching experience on your major instrument and secondary instruments if possible.

Hidden Costs:

  • Application fees: Most applications cost $100+ so be prepared to spend a couple hundred dollars on all of these if there are several schools you are highly considering.
  • Accompanists: Not all schools require accompaniment in the auditions, but some might. Discuss with your accompanist how much they would like for rehearsals and recordings.
  • Recording spaces and equipment: This can cost a bit of money, but it can also be practically free if you reserve a room a space at school and use your own recording device.
  • Flights: These can cost anywhere between $100 and $500. Check frequently for good deals on flights and consider your options. If you have access to a car, consider driving to some locations- there will be some money involved to cover the cost of gas, but it will still be considerably cheaper. 
  • Hotels: Costs for hotels can vary. Consider staying at motels, hostels, Airbnb, with current students at the school, or with friends/family that might live in the area where you are auditioning. These could all be some cheaper options.
  • Spending money for travel: You will have to purchase meals when you travel and may want to go shopping if there is time so bring some spending money.  

Abbey Atwater ‘19

Career Peer Educator

Applying to Grad School for Music Performance Part II: Timeline

GRAD SCHOOL APPLICATION TIMELINE

There are many steps towards applying to graduate schools and you should start thinking about this process early (junior year of college). Here is a step-by-step procedure in the process of applying to grad schools and how to organize the details:

Finding schools to apply to

  • Considering the tips from above, form a list of several schools that interest you and create a chart to keep track of all the information about the schools and their application/ audition processes. Definitely include more schools than you plan to actually apply to and then start narrowing down your options after really getting familiar with each school (this changed many times for me so it is helpful having all the information easily accessible). Then, I recommend making a chart for every school that contains the following information:
    • Location
    • Teacher(s)
    • Cost of Attendance
    • Application Fee
    • Prescreening Audition Requirements
    • Prescreening/Application Due Date
    • Live Audition Dates
    • Live Audition Requirements
    • Link to Site
    • Application Requirements
    • Academic Requirements
    • Scholarship and Financial Aid Available
    • Financial Aid Application
    • Other Comments (population, safety, surrounding opportunities etc. . .)

*This is also a good template to use when looking into music festivals!*

Audition Repertoire

  • Make a list of all the repertoire required for these auditions so it is easy to locate in one place.
  • Start preparing EARLY. Know everything you have to work on before leaving school for the summer and spend the summer working on all the audition requirements. Take many lessons and know the pieces inside and out!
  • Practice productively and do your musical homework! Listen to multiple recordings, practice with a tuner and metronome, score study, record yourself, etc. . .  

Application and Academic Requirements

  • Start working on your resume, CV, personal statement, biography, repertoire list, and additional essays early so you have them all ready to go! You may just have to make some slight alterations to vary from school to school.
  • Get your transcripts! Check which schools require official transcripts and which can be unofficial to save money. Lawrence’s transcripts freeze around finals time so if you need your applications submitted by December 1st, get them by Thanksgiving (the earlier the better), unless you need your fall grades.
  • Ask for letters of recommendation well in advance so your recommenders have time for them to be well-written and so they can submit the forms on time. Ask during the summer or right when you get back for the start of classes.
  • Most schools will offer a generous amount of financial aid so know this sort of information in advance and fill out forms accordingly (they will often be due at the time the application is due).
  • Also, review music theory (including aural skills and sight singing), music history, and keyboard skills! You will probably have to take more of these classes in graduate school and the placement exams might happen at the time of your audition so be prepared.

Prescreening Recordings:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to get this done. Save yourself time if you need to remake a recording.
  • Be professional! Dress nicely, play in a nice space, use good quality recording equipment, avoid extraneous sounds and distractions, and don’t say more than you need to if anything at all (let the music do all the speaking).
  • Reserve a date, time, and space far in advance and find a friend to help.
  • If any music requires an accompanist, ask someone well in advance and communicate about when and where the recording session(s) will be held.

Live Auditions:           

  • Select an audition date and book flights and a hotel room ASAP (the school might be able to assist you with this).
  • Be working on repertoire for live auditions at the time you work on prescreening material (it may be a fast turnaround by the time you are accepted to advance from prescreening and not much time to prepare new music).
  • Packing: make sure you have all your music, equipment, forms, and dress clothes- do not forget your instrument! Have repair tools with you in case of an emergency and know how to care for your instrument on your flight.
  • Arrive early! Try to fly in at least a day before auditions (flights may be delayed or canceled) and get familiar with the layout of the campus well before your audition so you are not completely lost. Also, try to play in some of their performing spaces ahead of time or wherever the audition will be.
  • Understand you will likely have to miss some school for these auditions so contact professors and organize your schoolwork accordingly.

Dates/Times to start putting all this into action:

  • Throughout all of undergrad: Build up a vast knowledge for music (repertoire, performers, orchestras, festivals, competitions, etc. . .) and be able to perform most of the standard repertoire for your instrument.
  • Winter through summer break of junior year in undergrad: Make a list of schools you are interested in and start narrowing these options down to determine which schools you will apply to. As you continue to do research, start reaching out to teachers and get lessons from them over the summer or during the fall if it is possible. Start working on audition repertoire.
  • Fall of senior year: Ask for letters of recommendation ASAP, obtain transcripts, record prescreening auditions, and work on/ submit application materials. December 1st is the national deadline for these so try to have everything done by mid-November.
  • Winter of senior year: Take live auditions (some schools may accept recorded auditions or may have regional auditions, but auditioning in person is usually recommended).
  • May 1stNational deadline for college decisions. 

Abbey Atwater ‘19

Career Peer Educator

Applying to Grad School for Music Performance Part I: What to Consider

APPLYING TO GRADUATE SCHOOL FOR MUSIC PERFORMANCE

Why grad school?

  • Consider your options post-undergrad: Is graduate school the best route to assist you in finding a job in your field? Will this investment be worth it in the end? As a performer, it definitely can benefit you when looking for professional work, but it is not always necessarily required.
  • Do not do it just because everyone else in your studio or school is doing it- do it if you feel like this is the right path for you.
  •  Some people prefer taking a gap year after feeling burnt out from undergrad. Others would prefer to continue their education and do not want to take the risk of losing their drive.
  • Student debt really becomes a concern after undergrad so taking a gap year (or a few) or not attending graduate school at all is always an option in order to repay this debt.
  • Graduate school is not for everyone and that is ok!

What schools should I look into? These are the top things to consider:                      

Teacher

  • Find someone who is a big name for your instrument/ voice and will help you make connections with other professional musicians/ organizations. Also, take time to read bios and listen to these teachers as performers- find someone who you admire and who you would like to influence your sound.You want to find a good fit: someone you will get along with that will push you hard and teach you a lot, but not someone that will push you over the edge.
  • Another aspect to consider is who best will prepare you for current real-life auditions. “Older” professors with many years of experience teaching and performing might have some of the top reputations in the business, but may not have taken a professional audition in decades. The art of taking and winning auditions has changed drastically from just 10 years ago so working with people with more recent auditioning experience can be just as beneficial.

Name/reputation of the school

  • Aim BIG and look into schools known for their musical excellence (schools you see in performers’ bios). Some schools have reputations for landing people jobs so find those schools that have high employment rates.
  • View ratings of the school/ professors and see what kind of overall rankings the school has.
  • You will be faced with competition everywhere you go, but some schools might be a bit more fiercely competitive than others might be. Is this something you would like or are you looking for a more supportive, sympathetic institute?

Geography

  • Find schools in areas that will have many performing and teaching opportunities available. Also, try to find schools located near first-rate orchestras so you have the opportunity to attend their concerts and connect with those musicians (places like NYC, Chicago, and Philadelphia are bound to offer great opportunities for freelancing and all have top-notch orchestras).
  • Location can be important. Consider if you want to be somewhere hot or cold; rainy or dry; East, West, or Midwest; rural or urban- these can all be factors to consider.

Other Important things to consider:

Cost and Finances

  • Graduate schools are expensive and the cost to attend is often a deciding factor in where people choose to go. Do not let this hinder you from still looking into great (but expensive) schools. If they really want you to attend, schools will find a way to make this possible and cover much or all of the cost for you. Graduate students are usually prioritized for financial aid and many schools offer graduate assistantships where you teach undergrad students of your voice or instrument.
  • Consider if you will be living on or off campus and how much living expenses will cost.

School Culture and Size

  • Can you imagine yourself attending this school? Are the students and faculty people you get along with and are people who will motivate you to grow more as a musician? You will be there for at least two years so make sure you can work well with your other colleagues.
  • Are you looking for a smaller conservatory or a large state school? There can be considerable differences between the kinds of opportunities available and challenges you face at large versus small schools so think about what kind of environment you will thrive best in.
  • Having gone through four years of undergrad, you have probably built up a strong support system of friends or are in a committed relationship. Are you ok potentially going to school on the other side of the country from your friends and family? There are various ways to cope, but this can be a concern for many students. There are always going to be plenty of people to meet and befriend in graduate school!

Abbey Atwater ‘19

Career Peer Educator