Thinking About Studying Music In College? Read This.

Some of you may want to continue with music as part of your college curriculum.  There are two ways to utilize music in your college application process: pursue an actual music major or use music as a supplement to your application.

General Information

For music majors and some music supplements, an audition is required. One school that requires this is Stanford University. Other schools allow for recordings to be submitted via their online portals, for example, Dartmouth College.  As a rule of thumb, however, for prospective music majors, live auditions are considered better than recorded auditions because professors understand the finesse required for performing well on the spot.

Music Majors:

For more competitive musical instruments (such as violin, flute, and clarinet), a pre-screen audition is required if you want to pursue a music major.  This is to weed out the less qualified players and to ensure that the professors don’t waste their time listening to subpar players.

Other instruments, such as the saxophone, don’t require a pre-screen, but always make sure you check with the school! A list of audition repertoire and requirements are usually listed under the university’s music college admissions section.

Another helpful hint: it would be awesome if you could get sample lessons from your prospective professors before your actual audition! This gives them a chance to get to know you and your playing, and when your audition time comes around, they’ll be able to hear the progress you’ve made in your playing. These aren’t required, but they are nice to have so that your future teachers can give you advice.  Then you’ll have time to progress and come audition season, they’ll see if you’ve taken their advice to heart and how good of a student you are.  Additionally, it’ll give you a chance to see if the professor is a good fit for you and your style of playing as well.

Music Supplements:

A music supplement is usually what you would have played in your audition if you were going to apply as a music major. For saxophone, a recommended audition set is three pieces of contrasting styles from the various musical eras.  Music supplements can be attached to your Common Application online or through the private college’s online “audition dropbox.”  Be careful to note the supplemental deadlines for some private schools!

If you’re not pursuing a music major and only sending in a music supplement, make sure you stand out! Colleges would rather not spend time listening to mediocre recordings. These supplemental recordings can either add to your already impressive resume or detract from it.

A High School Student’s Account of an Audition Experience

My most memorable audition memory was when I flew out to Northwestern University in early March to do a live audition in front of the new saxophone professor, Dr. McAllister. I got there Friday afternoon (even though my audition was on Monday) because I knew that the cold weather would change the way my reeds would respond. I got to meet the current students in the saxophone studio, explore the beautiful campus, and experience student life for a few days.

The actual audition itself wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be. Make sure you bring audition appropriate clothes! The morning of my audition, I realized that I should probably not audition in black skinny jeans, so I ran around downtown Evanston, spent $100 in GAP on a new outfit, and then ran across campus to the Regenstein Hall for my audition.

When you audition, make sure you keep in mind that these professors WANT you to do well. They’re scoping for prospective students, and they’re on YOUR SIDE. A lot of us get caught up with thoughts like, “Oh, they’re going to judge me if I mess up,” but in reality, teachers understand that no prospective student is going to play perfectly. Instead, they look for potential. The best advice I can give you is to walk in with a smile and play your heart out.

Note: Information for this article was acquired through an interview with a current high school senior.

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Clara Ma

Clara Ma

Clara is a third year student attending the University of California, Berkeley currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and Media Studies. Her school activities include being a captain on the Cal Dance Team, being a Campus Ambassador, as well as being part of THRIVE Dance Company. She enjoys living vicariously through others on the Internet, keeping up with pop culture on Tumblr, and watching a copious number of television shows (namely Sherlock and How I Met Your Mother).