When senior year in high school rolls around, you usually have a good idea of what you want to do after school. Having already been through this process myself, I feel that it would be beneficial to share it with other people who may be going through the stress of the same process.
The most important thing about college applications and auditions is that you should do everything as early and soon as possible.
Submit your applications and audition materials the first possible day, the sooner you apply, the more likely there is to be money you can receive as a scholarship. It is the same with auditions. Sign up for the earliest auditions; schools usually hand out money as things happen, so there is more in the beginning than there is at the end. If you audition the last day, there is a 99% chance that there will not be any scholarship money left and you might need to look for loan options to cover the costs. As it is, a large number of students who take financial aid in terms of student loans tend to suffer later trying to pay it back. Although there are financial companies that can let you refinance student loans with a personal loan to help with the repayment, it might still be more beneficial for you to apply early and aim for those scholarships.
As far as preparation for the audition, auditions are in the spring, giving you plenty of time to prepare. Unless a student is auditioning at elite music schools, there is a lot of flexibility about what level a student entering a university should be at. No matter what level, however, students are required to know their major and minor scales the whole range of the instrument, etudes, and a solo piece from the standard solo repertoire. The auditions are usually classical auditions, however, more and more schools offer jazz auditions, or let you play one jazz tune with an Aebersold or tracks during your classical audition. At a jazz auditions, the students are asked to play their scales, blues in concert F, Bb or C, and another piece of their choice. Some schools also ask for rhythm changes.
Each program is unique, and accepts only a limited number of students. Around the time of the auditions, schools post their audition requirements on their websites, and you should strictly adhere to their guidelines.
Sometimes students worry about how long they have been playing their instrument, but as long as you work hard to prepare for your auditions, the colleges will usually take you into consideration and you should do fine. They look at your potential as much as they consider where you’re at ability-wise at the time of your audition.
There are several things that you should take into consideration when looking for schools to apply to:
1) Major: What do you want to study? Just music? Jazz? Classical? Composition? Look for schools with strong programs in what you wish to do.
2) Location: Do you want to go far from home, or stay close?
3) Cost: What can you afford? Some schools look to have a diversity of students economically and geographically and are willing to hand out scholarships accordingly.
It also helps to do scholarship auditions, maintain a high GPA, and score well on your SATs and ACTs. It doesn’t hurt to take both of the tests. Also, diversify yourself – don’t just do music, participate in a wide variety of activities – this will help you a lot.
Some really good music schools: Eastman School of Music, Boston School of Music, Berklee School of Music, USC.
Each school is unique in which style of music they stress – some it is classical, big band, or small ensemble jazz. You should apply to the school that best fits what you are interested in. If you plan on becoming a music major, whether to teach or perform, you are going to be playing a lot. So, your schedule will be filled with music classes. To prevent going to school for more than four or five years, I recommend taking academic GE (general education) classes during the summer.
If you do not want to be a music major, but want to continue studying music in college, a lot of schools do not require that you audition for the music program, but only the individual groups, whereas music majors are required to do both auditions. Music majors are also required to do recitals either every semester or year. If schools offer lessons, music majors study an hour a week, whereas non-music majors are only required to study half an hour every week.
As a music major in your freshman and sophomore year, most of you classes will be theory, history, etc., and you don’t really start performance classes until your junior year with the exception of concert bands. If you do well at your auditions, however, they will make an exception and admit you into some of the other groups.
I hope that this information has helped you with your college process, or has at least answered a few of your questions.
If you have any further questions, I would be happy to answer them. As far as my college career, I recently graduated from Cal State University Long Beach as a Woodwind Performance major with a minor in Business: Marketing. I’ve also earned my Master’s Degree in Music (emphasis on ethnomusicology) from Queen’s University Belfast. I applied to USC, University of Miami, UCI, Cal State Long Beach, Cal State Fullerton, and Berklee School of Music. For my Master’s, I applied to Indiana, UCLA, UNT and QUB.