Gap Year for a Music Major?

Are you thinking about taking a gap year as a music major? Does hearing about friends planning to take a year off between high school and college have you thinking about what it might be like to do something similar? If you’ve answered yes to either of these questions, you’ll want to read this article.

1. Taking a gap year is not commonly done by music majors.


Unlike other majors, music majors have skill sets that need to be kept current. Schools want to know that your proficiency on the instrument you auditioned with will remain at the same level as when you were accepted.

If a non-music major takes a year off before starting college in order to travel, do volunteer work, get involved in a political campaign, or engage in some other transformative experience (which gap years SHOULD be about), they will likely be growing their knowledge and skills to broaden the scope of what they’ll be studying for four years.

But if a music major can’t continue practicing and taking lessons, they stand to lose ground. Majoring in music is about building on the skills and knowledge you already have.

2. Every school’s policy is different.

Expect that schools’ requirements will vary. Find out what they are at the school you plan to attend.

• Some will expect you to disclose your gap year plans by the May 1st “National College Decision Day” deadline.

• Some will expect this BEFORE the May 1st deadline.

• Some will allow you to disclose your gap year plans later in May or even in early June.

3. Find out whether you need to re-audition –– and when.

This could have great bearing on your travel plans as well as on how/where/when you’ll prepare for your audition.

4. Will financial aid/scholarship money you’ve already been offered still be available?

This varies from school to school. At some schools, a re-audition determines whether scholarship money will be re-offered.

5. Do you need to explain your reason for taking a gap year?

Find out what you need to share and with whom. Describe how you plan to keep up with your music and explain how taking a year off will broaden your musicality.

6. Some schools make it clear that you cannot enroll in college courses during your gap year.

If this was your intention, will the school you plan to attend allow you to do this?

Parting Thoughts

• If you do take a year off, figure out how you can be assured access to your primary instrument and a practice space you can count on. And then figure out how you’ll incorporate practice and lessons into whatever else you’re doing.

• Your gap year will fly by. Set up notifications on your phone, laptop, and other devices to help you pay attention to school deadlines. Schools will not be lenient or understanding if you miss them.

Thanks to these participating schools for contributing to this article.

Click on these schools to learn more.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Music

Colorado State University Dept. of Music, Theatre and Dance

Interlochen Center for the Arts/Music Conservatory Program

Ithaca College School of Music

San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts

University of South Carolina School of Music

University of Southern California Thornton School of Music


Photo Credit:
Interlochen Center for the Arts


  1. Joanna

    I am still only a sophomore in high school, but my playing level on the saxophone, while it is proficient, it is not advanced. I want to major in music education, because I love the idea of teaching and music is what makes me the most happy. So, is a gap year acceptable? This would be a year that I would focus on improving my abilities as a jazz saxophonist, and still performing in ensembles, etc. I just want to figure everything out before my senior year. I think a gap year could help me become more advanced with my jazz saxophone abilities. Since it would be a music education major though, would that be okay?

    • Rather than taking a gap year, we suggest you use the next two summers to improve your performance skills and prepare for auditions in anticipation of your senior year. Check out Summer Music Camps & Programshere on for tips on what to look for in a music program and to find lots of programs to choose from. We also suggest you get some experience volunteering with the age range you think you’d like to teach – perhaps even helping them with practicing beginning music.

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