Are you trying to figure out how to make sense of all the aspects of applying and auditioning at several music schools? We feel your pain!
Each school’s website includes a very specific list of their application and auditioning requirements, so there’s no reason for us to include all of that information here. Instead, this article is designed to to clarify and hopefully simplify various aspects of applying and auditioning to music school, an often daunting component of majoring in music.
Once you decide which schools you’re interested in, prioritize them according to your own criteria. Then create a list of application, pre-screen and audition requirements and deadlines for each school. Use this handy Music School Application Table or create your own spreadsheet to track all the information. Otherwise it’s easy to miss, assume or confuse any number of key components of the application/audition process.
You may find that it’s not humanly possible to prepare for all the auditions because of school, homework, exams and other commitments you would have to miss. You may not have the finances to get to all of your auditions. You may also discover that there are too many non-overlapping audition requirements. Think of this as helpful information for eliminating one or more of your lower priority schools.
Apply before auditioning
If you are applying to a music school within a larger university, you must apply to both the music school and the university by their stated deadlines. Note that some schools accept students for fall only; others allow both fall and spring semester start dates.
• Most music schools offer regular admission as opposed to Early Decision (ED) or Early Action (EA) since ED and EA require you to apply and audition early in your senior year. Auditions are typically scheduled in mid-to-late January or February, after the ED/EA deadlines.
• Should you find a school you really want to go to that offers ED or EA and you think you have a good shot at getting in, make sure you understand the terms under which you are applying should you be accepted. Be prepared to audition early.
• Applying and being accepted Early Decision is legally binding. You must go if accepted, assuming the school meets your financial needs. Early Action, Restrictive Early Action, and Priority Deadlines are NOT binding.
• School needs change each year. This affects who they accept. There may be more or fewer slots for your instrument or voice part than the previous year or for any year in the future. This is not meant to frighten or dissuade you from applying. It’s just factual information to help you understand that some of the factors that determine whether you get accepted or not are simply out of your control.
• If something doesn’t make sense to you, first try searching for answers on school websites.
Still confused? Contact the admission offices of the schools and ask questions. You have the right to get all the information you need to make informed decisions.
• No matter what a school says, unless you have applied Early Decision or Early Action, you have the right to wait until May 1st (postmark date) to let schools know whether or not you are accepting their offer.
An increasing number of music schools are requiring prospective undergraduates to send a pre-screen audition before considering them for live auditions.
The pre-screen consists of a CD or DVD created according to each school’s specifications that must be received by the school’s deadline.
Find out what is expected of the pre-screen recording in terms of audio quality, repertoire, and accompaniment. Doug Long, academic and college counselor at Interlochen Arts Academy, encourages students to take their pre-screens seriously. Ask for help from you private instructor and/or school music teacher. Record your pre-screen in a location with good acoustics and lighting, such as a local church. Dress professionally if sending DVDs.
Some schools require downloading your pre-screen through designated tech companies specializing in digital auditions. Faculty then review those online. Schools that use this method of screening will walk you through the process on their own websites.
Auditioning can be a stressful experience. Doug Long at Interlochen encourages students to visit their top two or three schools prior to the audition. Get a feel for the schools before audition day. Stop by the audition room to get a sense of the acoustics, as well as to find the nearest bathrooms and water fountains.
Learn all you can about live versus recorded auditions. Consider pros and cons of each if given a choice. Weigh these against how serious you are about the schools you’re applying to.
Students sometimes like to audition first at schools they consider their “safety schools” to get audition experience under their belts. While the subjective nature of auditions means that you can’t assume any school is a “safety school,” if the stakes feel higher for some schools compared to others and if auditioning at a lower priority school will help you better understand the audition process, go for it. Just remember that your “safety school” could turn out to be the only school that accepts you, so give all of your auditions your best possible performance.
Some schools consider both undergraduate and graduate students for the slots they are looking to fill in, for instance, their jazz orchestra or big band. What this means is that you may find yourself competing against students with far more background and experience when you audition.
Tips for Successful Auditions:
- Find out which schools require pre-screens, as well as live auditions versus recordings.
- Are regional auditions available at the schools you are interested in?
- Are regional auditions weighted equally? Are they available for your instrument? For vocal applicants?
- Are digital auditions acceptable at the schools you are interested in?
- Are digital auditions weighted equally? Do they qualify for scholarships? Are they available for your instrument? For vocal applicants?
- Do you need to provide your own accompanist?
- What are the instrument specific, composition-specific or vocal-specific requirements?
Remember: When going on a live audition, allow extra time for travel just in case inclement weather causes traffic or airline delays.