Playing Your Best: College Music Auditions

For high school seniors who are interested in becoming music majors, this is the time of year that’s filled with musical preparation for upcoming college music auditions. Much excitement accompanies this process, and many students find themselves full of worry and trepidation. I would like to share some helpful audition advice to support you as you embark on the very busy audition season ahead.

 by Dr. Michelle Stanley

Preparing For the Big Day

1. Practice, practice, practice!
While I’m not advocating cramming, I urge you to include practice in your day-to-day routine. This includes practicing your entire required repertoire for each school. Be sure to review sight-reading and scales as well. Don’t be surprised if an audition committee requests you to play something that you weren’t expecting. It isn’t the intention to trip you up, but rather to see where you are in your musical development. Not being able to do something doesn’t mean you don’t pass an audition. It simply informs the committee of where you are in your abilities.

2. Create your own audition committee
Often the scariest part of auditioning is performing for a panel of strangers who  give very little feedback during your audition. Re-creating that atmosphere can help control your nerves on the day of your audition. Create an audition committee that will listen to you play through your music prior to your auditions. Pull in classmates, teachers, and friends to listen to you perform. The more strangers, the better! Have them ask you to play certain scales or different repertoire than what you have prepared. Act as you would at your audition. Practice smiling, thanking the committee, and playing your best.

3. The non-musical side
Often your audition begins the moment you walk into the room. Present your best self by being well-dressed, full of poise, friendly, respectful, and confidant. Mistakes are ok – even expected. How you recover, and how you perform overall, are what a committee will remember.

The Mental Game of Auditions

1. It’s all about your potential
An audition committee fully realizes that you are a developing musician who won’t be perfect in every way. If you were perfect, we wouldn’t need to teach you! We listen for potential. Does a student have the potential to be a great student and musician? We often think of your strengths and weaknesses and how they would work with our own teaching styles.

2. Fast fingers aren’t everything!
Playing fast and furiously is a small part of being a good musician. Perform with attention to intonation, integrity of rhythm, thoughtfulness, musicality, and beautiful tone.

3. “Oh no, they stopped me before I finished my piece!”
Don’t worry if a committee stops you early in your piece. It could mean that they could be interested in hearing more of what you have to offer or they felt that they have heard a full representation of your playing. Often there is a limited amount of time that they have to listen to each student and they need to hear as much as they can from you in a short period of time. Be sure to practice stopping in different places in your music and go on to other pieces as you review your repertoire daily.

4. You are the committee too..
While the committee may be assessing you to see if you are a good fit for their school, you should be assessing the school to see if it is the right place for you. Spend time touring the facilities, investigating the program, talking with other students, and most importantly, meet with the teacher that you would study with. If possible, get a lesson. Most teachers are happy to give you a free lesson as you research their school. College is a place where you are going to invest a lot of time and money, and you need to be happy with your choice.

5. The bottom line
The reason you are auditioning to be a music major is because you love music and
you want to become a better musician. Remember that love you have for music while you play. That excitement for music will shine through your performance and dazzle your listeners. Every college audition committee is interested in hearing you do your best. We are rooting for you to have an excellent audition!

Which school to attend?

When you finally have all of your offers from the schools you applied to and auditioned for, you have much to consider. After taking all the steps mentioned above (meeting the applied teacher you would work with, touring the school, talking with students), you should have a good idea about the ‘feel’ of each school.

You will want to consider other issues such geographic location, finances, scholarship offers and comfort with the size of the department and school at large, once you get a feel for each school. Make sure the schools you are serious about have all the degree program(s) you have interest in (especially if you are undecided about what you actually want to pursue). Will you study with a graduate student or the main faculty teacher in your area? What is the size of the studio you would be in? Will you be able to perform in the major ensembles the school offers?

Should you be lucky to get competing offers from several music programs, be sure to communicate those competing offers with each of the applied teachers. Sometimes an offer can be raised if you a school really wants you to attend.

Being a music major is a wonderful experience, full of strong bonds with faculty and students. This unique degree program is one that you will be a part of long after your degree is conferred. You choose to apply to each school through realistic and careful consideration. Choosing a school to attend a particular school is often a matter of following your heart to where you feel that you belong.

Good luck!

Dr. Michelle Stanley is Assistant Professor of Music (flute) at Colorado State University. She is a member of the Colorado Ballet Orchestra and a regular performer with the Colorado Symphony. Her teaching and performing regularly take her across the United States and abroad.

Link: Dr. Michelle Stanley’s website


  1. Aishani

    Hi, I have been playing electronic keyboard for 10 years now and have already applied to various universities for BA (Hons) in popular music. I just gave my Trinity grade 8 practical exam. My question is, can I play these songs for my audition?

    • It is extremely important that you follow the audition guidelines for each school you apply to. Expect that these will differ from school to school. Schools use your ability to follow their directions as one more indication of the type of student you will likely be if they admit you.

  2. jkarr

    I am doing a VIDEO audition for a school. Any advice? Would it be acceptable to use a video of a performance I did at a past school?

    Thank you!

    • Whether this is for a prescreen or the actual audition, the first step is to check carefully the guidelines and requirements of any school you apply to. Students have lost opportunities for not following directions. And, each school is different. Don’t assume that what one school asks for is what other schools will also want. If the requirements are not clear, contact the admissions office and ask specific questions.

      Most schools don’t expect you to spend a ton of money on creating your audition video but they do expect it to be done well enough to be able to judge your current level of proficiency and determine how well their program can provide what they think you need to become an even better musician. Note that some schools will only offer merit scholarships (scholarships not based on financial need) if you audition live. If finances are a concern, check this out with the school or schools you plan to audition for via video.

      Check out this article: Tips for Pre-Screens and Recorded Auditions

  3. Rilei

    Hi! My name is Rilei and I am a junior in high school. I have been playing clarinet for 7 years now and am very dedicated. I am constantly torn between whether or not I should try to major in clarinet performance or just music education. I know there are tons of clarinet players and I just feel like I would never be good enough to make it anywhere but at the same time all I have passion for is music. The major doubt I have is that I am not very confident when it comes to my playing even if I am good. Do you know anything that could help a clarinetist stand out or should I just go for music education? And anything that can help me build my confidence up a little bit? Thank you!

    • Consider majoring in music education only if you love teaching others and love the idea of supporting those who know little about music as well as those who are far more advanced. If you’ve never been in a leadership position where you get to experience a bit of what a teacher does, look for volunteer opportunities to get a sense of how comfortable and excited you are about this role for yourself. You may even find that you can support younger students at the middle school level in your own community. If your current school has a Try-M Music Honor Society, join!

      Also, look for a summer music program where you can focus on clarinet and get good mentoring, teaching, performance opportunities – and lots of efficient and effective practicing. Start by visiting the Summer Music Camps & Programs section of Summer music programs are great for helping people with questions like yours get a better sense of what to pursue in college.

  4. Ari

    I am auditioning soon for a college that I personally know the music professors at. However, I still feel a lot of nervousness and jitters. How do I get over some of these nerves and just do it?

  5. Rachel

    I have been a classical pianist for the last 10 years. I have a large repertoire but I don’t feel like any of the songs I play are good enough for an audition piece. My teacher tried to give me some suggestions, but I’m not jiving with any of her recommendations. I want to try to find a piece myself but I don’t even know what the committee is looking for. I want to go into music education, but the colleges I want to attend all require an audition. So I need suggestions on where to go to find some pieces, and can you give me some more information on what a committee might want to hear?

    • This is a great question because many others out there will benefit from it too. Every school has its own audition requirements. Be full of care to pay attention to the very specific details laid out clearly on the audition section of school websites. Schools have no mercy for those who don’t follow their guidelines! Schools will either give you specific pieces or suggestions. Note that they are looking to hear your artistry as you perform music you really enjoy playing and can play well. Don’t try to impress them with the hardest or most complicated piece you could possibly play and perhaps struggle through. Your audition is an opportunity for the audition committee to get a sense of your current level of proficiency. They also want to assess whether you would benefit from their school and what they have to teach you. And they want to gain a better sense of what you can bring to add value to their ensembles, orchestras, and classes. Your audition is ALSO a time for YOU to determine whether you’d feel good about spending four years at their school as well as working and learning with their faculty. Consider it a two-way audition process.

  6. Garrit

    I’m entering my senior year of high school and am looking to go into sound recording and production as a career. I play electric bass and sing lead vocals in a successful rock band in my area. We have a 9 song album out, have won a battle of the bands competition in my area, and have been featured on the news and on the radio multiple times. This is all great, however I don’t have years of professional lessons at either vocals or electric bass at my back and I’m not sure how I am going to be auditioning to get into music programs at the schools I am looking at. My strengths are definitely in song writing and production but I still have to audition to get into a program. Any advice on where I should head? Some schools won’t even allow auditions on electric bass.

    • If you are not looking at a performance track program, which is sounds like you are not, then you may not need to do a music audition but instead provide a portfolio and recordings of your previous work as well as be interviewed. All schools are different as to what they require. So figure out what it is you’re looking for in a school, and then decide which schools meet your criteria. Then see whether you would need to audition. Take a look at the articles on popular music and music industry/music internships on Also see the article on student-run record labels You can learn more about the schools mentioned in these articles right here on

  7. Thomas M

    Hi, being a string bassist in a wind ensemble for the last four years, I’ve never played in orchestra. This fall I’ll be playing as a college freshman in the orchestra and I am not sure what to expect. Do you have any advice you could offer?

    • We reached out to some of the participating schools on and want to share this great input from Annie Sklar, Music Enrollment Manager at University of Northern Colorado (UNC):

      “The answer could vary depending on the specific school. At UNC, our orchestral ensembles are a rigorous musical experience; they play challenging classical and contemporary repertoire, have demanding rehearsal schedules, and put on several high profile performances each year. Our Symphony Orchestra is often called upon to accompany Opera Theatre productions, to perform with notable guest artists, and to perform at special events around the region. The expectation of students in the orchestra is that they be well-prepared and technically proficient, both in general as musicians and for the specific music that they have been tasked to learn. They should also be reliable and willing to put in many hours of rehearsal and practice time. I think those points hold true for most college level orchestras, although UNC’s specifically is known for being one of the best in the country and maintains a particularly high standard of accomplishment.”

    • Skylar

      I am a fellow bassist as well and I have gone through many auditions (even though I am only a freshman in high school, so I don’t exactly know what colleges prepare). But most of the time you are expected to present a scale (I usually get to do of my choice) and you sight read a section of a song they have picked out. Sometimes they expect you to have a piece ready to show them what you have but most of the time you sight read.

  8. Elizabeth

    Hi! I’m a rising senior and I hope to study flute performance in college. I’m working on the Mozart Concerto in D, Bach Sonata in E major, and the third movement of the Burton Sonatina. Most schools ask for only two or three contrasting pieces so what would you suggest I do? I have played Enesco’s Cantabile et Presto, Debussy’s Syrinx and Honegger’s Danse de la Chevre, so would you suggest I polish one of those and go to auditions with three pieces and one movement to offer the judges? Or, I feel stupid asking this, would it be acceptable to go to an audition without a French conservatory piece?

    • Adhere strictly to the guidelines on the websites specified by each school you’re planning to audition at. There’s no wiggle room! If you have any questions at all, contact the admission office at each school. Don’t assume that any two schools are alike in what they require, and plan accordingly. Note that many schools tell us that they want you play what you’re passionate about, have learned really well, and that fits within their audition guidelines – rather than something very complicated that you struggle with in an attempt to show off your skills.

  9. Mikayla

    I’m a junior in high school and I’m considering majoring in piano performance. I have some questions about the sight reading portion of the audition. What is the expected level of ability when it comes to sight reading? Am I expected to sight read a piece up to tempo without many mistakes? How difficult will the music be? Also, how will it factor in to my acceptance? If I perform my prepared pieces really well but sight read badly, will I be denied? I’m okay at sight reading as long as the music is easy, but I’m very nervous about this portion of the audition because I don’t know what the expectations are.

    • Music schools will expect you to demonstrate your sight reading ability during your audition. The more competitive the school, the higher the expectation. Yes, you will receive more training in this in music schools. But yes, you should make it a priority to strengthen your sight reading skills while you still have some time before audition season.

      If you are not already signed up for a summer music program, we highly encourage you to do so. See our Summer Music Camps & Programs page to get started – a number of these programs still have space in them.

      Look at the audition requirements on the websites of schools you want to apply to – and ask any of your questions to the schools that participate on by simply filling out the forms on their pages.

  10. Alexis

    I am a junior in high school and I am wondering what all do you have to go through in college to just be in the band for that school. Does it require you to actually major in it. I wouldn’t mind majoring in music, I have played music since i was in 5th grade, next year marks eight years, but I just don’t know exactly what schools I should be looking at or really who to talk to. Can you please help me out?

    • Depending on the type of band you want to play in, you’ll find many colleges and universities that will allow you to audition without being a music major. Many college-level marching bands include students from many different majors beside music. Some offer scholarships as well for students who want to be in marching band. We suggest you determine what schools would be a good fit for you by first creating a list of criteria for yourself. Then, look at schools you’ve heard and are curious about, and see if they fit your criteria. If you find some that do, you can then check into how they select members for their various bands.

      Note that we do offer fee-based consulting services to support and empower prospective college students as they start thinking about applying to schools, so let us know if that’s something that would be helpful to you.

  11. Matthew

    Hello, I am a highschool Junior. First chair alto saxophone, so I want to become a highschool band director eventually..what courses should I take? And would colleges prefer an alto or a tenor sax player. I’m equally good at both but I want to know which to really fine tune and excell at, are tenor saxophonists in higher demand or alto?…also what instruments in general Are in higher demand (oboe, bassoon, tuba etc..)?? Because I’ve had experience with bass clarinet, violin, tuba, trumpet, and flute, maybe something like a bass clarinet would work out better because I do very good on it, and I’ve worked on getting the higher and altissimo notes out. Thanks for your time 😀

    • We suggest you read our Marching Band article. Note that marching band directors are also likely to direct other school bands including jazz and concert band.

      Your primary instrument for auditions should be the one you are strongest on as a result of lessons, practice, and playing. Obviously, it’s easier to dedicate lots of time to an instrument you also really enjoy playing. Note that in college, sax players typically learn and are expected to play all the saxes plus clarinet and flute.

      We highly recommend that you consider a summer music program to clarify your intentions, get stronger on your primary instrument, learn more about auditions, and even be able to check out a college you’re interested in attending at the same time. See the 2016 Summer Music Camps and Programs page on to get started.

  12. Ajana

    I am a junior in high school. For a while, I have been wanting to major in music, but I have some concerns. First, I am not confident when it comes to knowing a keyboard, music theory, or sight reading. Second, I want to major in professional music but my mother wants me to do music education. What should I do?

    • You have time to choose your college music path, but you may want to look for colleges and programs that give you various options for performance and other musical studies. For now, you still have time to improve your performance skills on the instrument you will audition on. We suggest you work with a private teacher who can also assist you with sight-reading. We also suggest taking a summer music program where you can learn some more theory, get lessons, play in ensembles, and increase your confidence. Check our 2016 Summer Music Camps & Programs to see what some programs offer. Note that scholarships for these programs go quickly – the sooner you apply the better your chances if you need financial assistance. We also encourage you to think about what you’d want to do with a music degree. It doesn’t hurt to stay open to music education at this point. Note that many music educators also maintain a strong performance career. But if you eventually find that you are really not interested in teaching, music education is not the right career path to pursue. It wouldn’t be fair to you or to your students.

  13. Anthony

    I am a sophomore in high school and my band teacher and I have both thought that a career in music performing in college is a good idea. I play the French Horn and so does my band director (I get private lessons at school). I am good and have been playing since I was in 4th grade (Going on 7 years) and I have gotten a long way. I practice about 45 minutes a day, but I am horrible at theory and I mean horrible. Is there anyway you know of to get better at theory. P.S. I am taking theory in school.

    • You are very smart to be tackling basic theory while you’re still in high school, if you want to go on to major in music. Hopefully your current theory class, and maybe some private tutoring, will help. There are also a number of apps (both Apple and Android) available that you could take a look at. As well, do a web search for “music theory lessons” and you’ll find some possible help. You may have a different learning style than the way your teacher is approaching theory, so you may also want to contact the music ed department at a local college or university to see if they have someone you could work with. Be persistent, keep at it, and you will gain a good foundation. When you reach college, you will be so glad you put in the effort now.

  14. Karelle

    My daughter is a senior in high school and she wants to go into music therapy. She’s been playing the alto sax since 5th grade. She’s played in concert bands, wind ensembles, jazz bands and marching band. She has had several solos. She plans on applying to 5 schools and I noticed that most of them ask how long she has studied with a private teacher. She’s only been having private lessons since last year when she decided to be a music major. Is that something that can hurt her chances?

    • Music therapy majors will be required to study enough voice, keyboards, and guitar to pass the proficiency tests in those subjects required of all music therapists. Playing the saxophone is an added bonus, but not a substitute for the aforementioned instruments. She should not find her private lessons background to be an issue. However, she should be well-prepared to talk about why music therapy is the path she wants to take. If she hasn’t yet read our articles on music therapy, we highly recommend she do so.

  15. Karen

    Hi Dr. Stanley. I play the flute, and I’m playing two pieces for a college audition. I have one slow and lyrical piece and one fast and technical one. How do I decide which piece to play first?

    • Since Dr. Stanley is busy preparing for the beginning of the school year, we suggest you: a) Check the audition requirements of each school you are applying to, to make sure what you’re preparing for their audition is what they want. Don’t assume anything! Each school is different! b) Prepare yourself to play EITHER piece first. You can ask at your audition if they have a preference if they don’t state it directly.

  16. Melissa

    Thank you for all the great advice on this page. My question is about my son, who is having a hard time settling on a single instrument but will be applying to colleges in the fall. He is a largely self-taught percussionist who has made it to the All-County level and is the principal percussionist in the concert band at the local liberal arts college. He is active in marching band and loves jazz percussion. He also plays cello but is not as natural at it. Although he plays in the same college’s orchestra and has made All-County orchestra throughout high school, he has been told that he really needs training (he has technique issues from a lack of lessons, which we have not been able to afford on a regular basis). Yet he loves the cello and sees himself primarily as a cellist.

    We are willing to make sacrifices to get him lessons on either instrument this summer and into the fall, but he feels like choosing one instrument is like cutting off one of his hands. Can students change instruments during their course of study as a music major? Would he have to re-audition if he decided to switch? Are cello and percussion equally competitive as far as admissions go? Thanks for your help.

    • It’s important to know that any competitive music program will require your son to audition. Many schools now require a pre-screen before they offer students an audition slot. While your son may love the cello, without lessons and intensive practice, it’s probably not likely that he’ll be able to audition successfully against those who have been studying the cello for several years. Students are best off auditioning on the instrument on which they are strongest, and then taking up a second instrument once they are admitted into a music program. Those students who take lessons and practice and perform on more than one instrument have more opportunities for performance work while in school and after they graduate.

      Bear in mind that there are liberal arts and other schools that are less demanding about the level of proficiency your son enters school with, especially if he has a strong academic background. Also note that your son can take a lesson with a faculty member at schools he’s most interested in attending; this is an excellent way for him to get feedback about his performance and find out what’s realistic regarding his chances of auditioning successfully.

  17. Blake

    I am a freshman in high school and have been playing trumpet for six years now. I already have a 90% set decision of attending UCLA but have no idea how to prepare. It may seem like a long time but I really want to be amazing by the time I get into my upper years in high school. Anyway, I looked through websites and couldn’t find much. I would like to know what I should have in my repertoire by the time I am ready to audition for college. Is there any other advice that is helpful to me in my situation? I would like to stand out at my audition so I can make a good impression for the future.

    • All schools have their audition expectations listed on their websites. If you have questions about what you find, contact the admissions office for clarification – don’t assume anything! Also consider going to summer music programs. Many offer audition support, even mock auditions with faculty from various music schools. See our Summer Music Camps & Programs page for ideas. Also see our article on Preparing to Be a Music Major – you’ll see music theory is important to start learning before you go off to music school.

  18. Abby

    Hi. I’m a freshman in high school and I have been considering having a music major when I am ready for college but feel I may not be qualified enough yet at this time. At my age and family situation, I do not have the money or time and neither does my single father. I don’t have private lessons and I don’t have a high quality flute, but I work hard and teach myself and use what my band director tells my band for my personal playing. I’m in the second highest band at my school (we have five bands) and in junior high, I was always on the top band but I feel this isn’t enough. I’m trying to get onto Wind Ensemble and hope to be a Section Leader junior year but still feel it isn’t enough to stand out. What can I do to make me better prepared for college?

    • No one is ready to major in music when they’ve just started high school, so don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. It sounds like you’ve done well in your school band and yes, now it’s time to up the ante. We highly encourage you to take summer music programs. They will help you take your music to a much higher level than you can do during the school year. Check out the Summer Music Camps & Programs page here on as a place to start – many of these still have room in them. Also, private lessons would be excellent – check out community music schools in your area. If there’s a college in your area with a strong music program, see if there are upper-level undergrads or graduate students who might be willing to work with you. A good private teacher may also help you figure out how to purchase a good used flute at a lower cost than a new one. And get some music theory training over the next couple of years. It will really help prepare you to be a college music major.

    • Jessica

      Hi Abby, I just wanted to let you know that even if you can’t take private lessons as a freshman you can still improve on your own! There are many great resources online that can help you get better on your own. I have videos posted on my youtube account (search: Mississippi State University Department of Music), and there are others like Nina Perlove who regularly post new videos. While it’s not ideal it is better to have some outside opinions! I would recommend saving some money to try to take lessons the summer before your senior year so you can have someone guide you through the audition process. Best of luck on pursing your dreams! Feel free to contact me (through Mississippi State Department of Music website) if you want some help/advice. -Prof. Banks

    • Juanita

      Hi Abby, have you checked with your band director to see if your school has any scholarships for students in band who would like a private tutor?

  19. Alex

    I am a current sophomore in high school looking to major in music in the future. I have 5 years of cello experience and 1 year of piano playing. At the pace I’m going at, my private teacher is planning to have me learn Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No.1 senior year and to finish preparing for college auditions. However, I live in Georgia and want to explore beyond and go to college in the North where there are a lot of cities with music schools like Boston, Chicago, or New York. Will I be ready to audition for universities like Boston University, DePauw University, Boston Conservatory, or other schools with this level of competitiveness? basically, I’m looking for universities/music schools that are not as intense or as competitive as huge and selective schools like New England Conservatory, Julliard, or NYU. I’m VERY interested in study abroad but of course I put more emphasis on whether it is a school for someone at my level. I also want a city in an urban location. Please let me know if I am shooting for the right types of schools, because I truly am beginning to understand just how competitive these schools are and I don’t want to hope for something that I will not be ready to do in the future. Music is my sole passion and drive and I hope to attend a school that will help further develop my skills overall, and give me a great college experience! Thank You again for your help and for having such a great website for music majors everywhere!

    • A great way to assess your own skills against those of students who will be applying for the same spots in some of the same music schools is to take summer music programs. It’s also a great way to take your music to the next level, since you don’t have school to worry about. Plus, a great way to meet other passionate music students. Note that many music schools offer summer music programs – a great way to see what it would be like to spend 4 years at a school you’re interested in. Look at the list of programs on the Summer Music Camps & Programs page to get started.

      We also suggest taking a couple of lessons next year from music faculty at schools you’re interested in, to get more feedback about your performance level. While your audition is key to getting into music schools, if you apply to a university with a music school, you also have to get into the university. So keeping a good GPA going is also important.

      We hope that you’ll be able to maintain a balance between preparing for college and enjoying your high school years. Being a well-rounded person is also very important in the bigger scheme of things, and it informs your music as well.

  20. Donna

    Dr. Stanley,
    My daughter is planning a music audition for next year. The guidelines of her first choice school provide the music selection be “standard solo repertoire listing on the state and national level, grade IV or above”. We’re having some trouble finding a graded list. Can you give us some suggestions, please? Thank you.

    • Hi Donna,

      Most if not all of the schools we work with provide very specific repertoire recommendations to prospective students. The only school we could find that indicates the kind of vague requirement you mention below is James Madison University. Even the national accrediting body, the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) does not provide this as a guideline. We did attempt to contact Dr. Stanley but she was away from the office. We did, however, talk with her school’s recruiter (at Colorado State University) and he could not provide an answer either.

      We suggest your daughter contact the admission office at the music school you refer to, and ask for a very specific explanation of what they are seeking. Erring or assuming could cost her acceptance, so she may as well get the information directly from them.

  21. Sam

    Earlier this year, I applied for and was accepted to a Liberal Arts and Sciences school for Neuroscience and Psychology. However, I had recently had a change of heart and would love to pursue Music Education. I felt as though the Neuroscience major was for my parents and not really what I wanted and was happy to make that change. However, I am now worried because I was accepted to the Liberal Arts and Science portion of the school I am going to, but not the Music portion of my school, and I do not know if it is to late or not. I am also nervous about applying altogether, because, even though I am not a bad musician, I have been playing cello for nearly eight years at this point and I am 2nd chair to a cellist who has been playing for 11 years, I do not know if I am qualified enough to get in. Please someone help me, because right now I am a nervous wreck and I do not know what to do, but I do know that music education is my dream, and I want to follow it so badly, that it hurts. Thanks!

    • Did you accept the school’s offer? If so, you should talk with them about opportunities to double major, and how you would go about doing that. Chances are that it’s too late to audition for Fall but check that out also. Would you be able to audition for Spring or have to wait to audition for Fall of 2016? And are there classes that you could take your freshman year so that you would not be behind if you did get to either double major or switch to Music Education?

      Don’t be afraid to audition. If it would help to get a lesson or two from someone at the school where you want to study Music Education, see if you can set that up in enough time before auditions take place so that you’ll have plenty of time to practice.

  22. Elaina

    I’m a junior in high school and I’m interested in majoring in music when I go to college. I’d like to learn about music in general but I’m specifically a singer. I took private voice lessons last year but because of the time and money it required I couldn’t continue to go. I’m getting really worried because I feel like if I don’t take lessons now that I know I will be studying music, I won’t be prepared for college auditions. Do you think it is necessary for me to start taking lessons again, or is there a less expensive way that I could successfully improve myself enough to be prepared? Thank you so much for the helpful article and feedback 🙂

    • Since Dr. Stanley is busy teaching and auditioning students, we’ll answer this for her. If you are planning to major in vocal music, you will need to audition at most schools. And you’ll be auditioning against students who are taking voice lessons. So we do encourage you to take some lessons through a private teacher, a community music school, or a graduate student in vocal performance or music education with an emphasis in voice at a nearby college. Getting some background in music theory would also be helpful, since music majors take several semesters of it. We also highly suggest you consider going to a summer music program to hone your vocal technique before you start auditioning. Check out the many voice programs on the Summer Music Camps & Programs page. Also read the accompanying text to see why summer music programs are so valuable.

  23. Justin

    I am a senior in high school wanting to major in Music Business at Murray State University. I have been playing saxophone since 6th grade but I have never taken private lessons. Everything I have learned has been in band class at school. I feel like I am not at the level I should be as a sax player having played for 6 years. I am very nervous about having to audition and do not know if I am good enough to get into Murray State’s music program. Should I be worried?

    • We suggest you contact the admissions department at the school to find out the level of proficiency expected to qualify for admission. There may also be a different level expected for those who want to be considered for merit scholarships. Perhaps you can squeeze in a lesson before your audition, and maybe even from a faculty member or student at the school? Note that some schools don’t even require auditions for music business majors.

  24. Karen

    Hi Dr. Stanley,
    My piano audition is in a few days and I was wondering about the average amount of judges that watch and what to do in a sudden memory lapse. Also, will my young age affect my audition negatively due to lack of experience because the average age of people who get into the school is 20 and I’m only 17. Thanks

    • Karen, we’re answering this because Dr. Stanley is very busy and involved in auditions at her school. Every school is different in terms of number of faculty sitting in on auditions. And even at the same school, there may be a different number depending on a variety of circumstances. As for ideas for dealing with audition stress, we suggest you click on this: “Reducing Music Performance Anxiety.” The faculty who will audition you realize that students can be nervous during auditions. They want you to be yourself and do your best. They’re human, too. They are not looking for perfection, but rather for students who are likely to really flourish at their school. Note that most students who audition for undergraduate music schools are the same age (17 – 18) as you are.

      Best wishes to you in your audition. Let us know how it goes!

  25. Mary

    I’m auditioning at the end of this month at my top college- what questions should i expect from the professors? In the past 4 years I’ve been playing professionally- which has been great for getting work experience as an accompanist, but I’m still undecided as to whether or not I’m good enough to major in music, specifically music performance. I don’t want this hesitation to show, as a I’ve been seriously considering this for years. I’m a senior in High School, and the only college audition I’ve had was my local college that has a pretty weak music department, and the professors were late to my audition, much less gave constructive advice/asked relevant questions. They want me in their department anyways because I’ve worked with them before. So what questions do professors ask in an audition?

    • You may be asked why you want to attend this particular school. See if you can come up with something compelling by thoroughly exploring their website. Also be prepared to ask the school a couple of questions that show you are serious about their school and about pursuing music. The school you audition for will decide whether you are “good enough to major in music” at their school, so you don’t need to focus on that. If you’re willing to learn, use feedback constructively, practice more than you ever have, and are so passionate about music that you really can’t imagine doing anything else in college and in your career, you’re certainly on the right track. Note that if you don’t get in to your top choice, perhaps your local college would be a good place to start and then, after taking lessons and music theory, you can consider re-auditoning for your sophomore year.

  26. Cathy in Texas

    My daughter has auditions for the School of Music at Texas State University 3 weeks ago. Last week she received a letter stating that her status was pending due to limits in space for the applied studio and that they would let her know one way or the other once the “placement process was complete”. I called to see what this meant and they said it was “good news, bad news”. Meaning it wasn’t spectacular enough to get accepted right away but she is still in the running depending on how much space they have after listening to all of the applicants.
    My question is this: Is it ok to email the director that sent that email with additonal information about my daughter that was not on her application? Such as being a legacy at the school, having just completed her first musical directorship on their high school musical, and that she has been admitted to the University as a top scholar on an assured scholarship due to her class rank and SAT scores? I want them to know this info but I don’t want to do something that will annoy them.
    Thanks for your advice!!

    • Kudos to your daughter on all of her achievements! We can only assume that she included these in her original application, and if we’re reading your comment correctly, this is what helped get her accepted to the University with a scholarship.

      At this point, we would encourage your daughter to be the one who communicates with the School of Music. It sounds like they have been very clear about her pending status based on her audition. Which means additional information, which they may already know, will not change their opinion.

      Perhaps she wasn’t accepted yet because she’s a violinist (for example) and they only have two spots this year for violins and 100 good applicants with more to audition. Or it may be because they didn’t feel her audition was strong enough.

      Should she not be accepted, she can ask for feedback that would help her prepare to be stronger candidate the next time she can audition. She can also talk with the School of Music about taking classes and lessons during her freshman year that would set her up to not lose much time once she does get accepted as a music major.

      We also encourage your daughter to have other schools in mind in case she doesn’t get into the School of Music right away and doesn’t want to wait to audition again.

  27. Kelly

    My daughter just auditioned this morning and it did not go well. I have doubts about her acceptance into the music program. She really wants to be a music major and a music teacher. She has had amazing high school music teachers and a rigorous IB Music curriculum. She has performed in all the musicals, had private lessons, performed with the children’s choir, and competed in state music competitions. I think she was really nervous and got too rattled. Should she request another audition? She’s a talented and smart girl with great potential, but she felt she just didn’t perform well today. Should she re-audition?

    • We’ve polled some of the schools we work with Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music, Carnegie Mellon University School of Music, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and they all have the same policy: they do not offer a second audition for the same year or application cycle. If you daughter does not get accepted, she can reapply and audition for next year. If she is accepted into the overall school but not into the music department, she should talk with the music department about what classes to take her freshman year in order to lose as little time as possible and also hone her skills so she is ready to audition again for the following year (or following semester, if the school allows).

      The faculty who audition students realize that aspiring music majors can be nervous during their auditions and therefore may not perform as well as they could. The best thing your daughter can do for herself, if she has more auditions ahead of her, is to work with a trusted teacher who can help her figure what went wrong and how she can audition at the level she thinks she’s capable of auditioning at.

  28. Sam

    I found your article very helpful. I’m a sophomore in high school and I have decided that I am going to major in music. I have been playing the euphonium and concert baritone for two years now. I have been working really hard to get noticed in my school and so far its been working out. I am very active in my school’s fine arts. I’ve been a part of the school musical, concert band, symphonic band, and wind ensemble. Just recently I got the chance to be a part of the Triangle Youth Brass Band.
    I want to be able to go to a good school for music, so I’ve been busy looking at college audition pieces as well as potential grants and scholarships. I just want to be a better musician overall. I am unsure of what I want to do but I find conducting, music composition, and music performance very interesting. Can you please help me out?

    • One of the best ways to deepen your knowledge and skills is to attend a summer music program. You’ll be free from academic demands, and you can really focus on music as well as performing with others who are as passionate as you are. We’ll be posting the summer page beginning in December – visit often, as new programs will be added through the spring. And keep practicing, listening to music, attending concerts, and performing whenever you can. If you’re not already taking private lessons, it’s a good idea to begin as soon as possible.

  29. Victor

    Hello Dr. Stanley, I am currently a student at Essex County College, I’ll be done by next semester and then i am planning to transfer to the Manhattan school of music. I was wondering how the auditions in there are like? i am planning to audition there with the electric bass

    • Dr. Stanley teaches at Colorado State University. For information about Manhattan School of Music, we suggest you first study their website including application and audition requirements, and then contact their admission office with your specific questions.

  30. Paul

    I am already enrolled in the college I am auditioning at. I am auditioning to add a music minor to my current bushiness major. I am not fully proficient in piano, but I intend to be by the time of my audition in February. I would like to know if it is acceptable to play my audition pieces at a lower bpm in order to make it easier for me to play.

    • The best people to answer this question are those in the music program at your school. Every school has its own requirements and it’s VERY important to follow them. So good for you for asking!

  31. William

    Hi, I am a vocalist and cellist, and am in my third year of highscool. I am in top ensembles at my school for both voice and cello, and extracurricular groups and have auditioned for IMEA. At the moment I study under a private instructor and I am planning to major in music education, likely with focus in string (possibly voice), and plan to start practicing for my auditions next year now. Despite this, I have many concerns for the difficulty of auditioning for schools, as I hope to go to a semi-prominent one. My major questions are: Are music education auditions more lenient than performance? and Does it seem based off of my musical background that I have a shot at making it? I understand that it may be hard to judge my skills based off of text, but any feedback or help would be very appreciated! Thank you so much for your time.

    • Competitive music schools will require you to do prescreens in the fall of senior year, to determine whether to offer you a live audition. We suggest you work with your private teacher as you approach that time, to get as objective feedback as possible about your proficiency, and to work on any areas that need improvement. They can also help you pull your repertoire together so you can focus on your prescreen before your senior year kicks in. Note that every school is different in terms of audition requirements. Be sure to check each one very carefully. Requirements tend to vary based on instrument; we have not seen a distinction between performance and music education.

  32. Katilina

    I am trying to choose college audition songs and I feel rather unsure of my efforts. I am worried that I do not take private lessons. I used to until 8th grade, and then I had to stop because of money issues. I noticed on some of the music school applications it asks you to list who you study under. So I guess my question is, how much does it matter that I don’t have a private music teacher? Can I list the one I previously studied with? Does everyone have a private instructor?

    • Check the audition requirements of each school you are applying to, before deciding on your audition repertoire. You may have to change it up for different schools.

      The more competitive the school, the more likely it is that students will have had private lessons during the school year and over the summer, before they apply. If you’re concerned about how your voice will stack up in relation to those who have been taking private voice lessons, ask a voice teacher at your school for feedback. If there’s a college with a vocal music department near where you live, see if a voice student there can assist you. Do what you can within your means to prepare for the best audition you can offer.

      If there are participating schools on that you are interested in, go ahead and fill out the forms on their pages to ask them your specific questions.

  33. Sierra

    My question is, I guess, a rather simple question to answer . I’ve applied to some local music accredited schools in my area but I’ve also applied to Ohio State. My question is how does the audition process work with the application to the school? Do you apply to the school first and wait to see if you get in or do you audition first and the school takes into account your audition with the application? Please help!

    • Every school is different, so be sure to read each school’s admission AND audition requirements.

      In general, you must apply and get into the overall school before they’ll consider you for the music program. Colleges and universities with competitive music programs typically require a pre-screen to determine who they’ll audition live. Often liberal arts schools as well as less competitive music programs won’t require auditions except for placement when you arrive as a freshman.

  34. Susan

    My son is planning to major in music education and is just beginning the college application & audition process. He has played trombone for years and owns a couple of his own instruments. Last year he began playing Euphonium also and fell in love with it. He wants that to be his primary instrument now and what he auditions with. He takes private lessons in addition to school band experience so he has gotten quite good. But he uses the school instrument which is of course quite old and is a student level instrument. Clearly after high school we will need to get him his own Euphonium for continuing on with in college and beyond. He’s concerned though about auditioning with the school instrument and would really like me to buy him his own, higher level Euphonium now. While I’d prefer to wait (financially) if I knew it could definitely make a big difference in his audition outcome I’d work it out to pay for it now.
    Do you think the quality of the instrument could make or break his audition? Thanks!

    • Steve Wolfinbarger

      Hello Susan. Although my main area of instruction here at Western Michigan University is trombone, I taught euphonium for six years at another university before coming to Kalamazoo. And like your son, I considered majoring on euphonium in college. But ultimately I chose trombone. As you undoubtedly know, purchasing a euphonium isn’t cheap! I used to own a top-of-the-line Willson euphonium which was quite pricey. Fortunately, if you don’t plan to spend that much there are still some descent less expensive alternatives out there.

      Your question is an excellent one! From what you have mentioned above, my guess is that he is currently playing on an older, three valve model instrument. So how much will it benefit him to purchase a new instrument prior to his audition? It will undoubtedly have better intonation, especially with the addition of a fourth valve and a compensating system (if you go that route). But even without the fourth valve, a better quality horn will generally have a more in-tune overtone series, resulting in better pitch throughout the range of the instrument. It will most likely have a fuller, richer tone than the student model (especially if it’s a larger bore instrument). And it will probably be a bit easier to blow. That said, when I hear an audition, there are several key things I look for: 1) Does the student produce a good basic sound? 2) Does he/she have a solid high and low range? 3) Does he/she have descent technique for a high school senior? 4) Does the student have a good embouchure that will allow for further development? So, in my opinion, while the student would certainly benefit from a new horn prior to the audition, if the funding isn’t available for a new horn prior to college then I think that the above can all be demonstrated on a student instrument. But once he gets to college he will need a new instrument right away if possible. This past year one of my auditioning high school seniors here at WMU played a great audition, but auditioned on a poor quality trombone. I told him that, because the instrument would hold him back in his development that I would accept him with the understanding that he purchase a new instrument by the time he enters his freshman year.

  35. Alyssa

    Hi Dr. Stanley. I’m 17 and a senior in high school this year. I’m going to major in saxophone performance at Indiana University Southeast. I’ve already been accepted to the school. I play alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone. Alto is my least favorite and I love the tenor for its jazzy sound. My passion, though, lies with the bari sax. I love how big it is and its deep bass sound. I could play it all day long. I love the feel of it in my hands. I’m afraid I won’t get to play the bari sax that much though. I’ve looked at multiple colleges and read different things online and it seems like colleges (except for music schools, of course) aren’t fond of the bari sax. I also don’t have enough money to buy my own bari. All I own is an old student alto sax (an AS300 Selmer). I’ve been using my school’s bari, a Cannonball BIg Bell Global Series sax. It’s an awesome saxophone, especially since it isn’t a student model. Will my college instructor(s) get to pick which type of saxophone I play? Also, do you know how much competition there is for the bari sax? Thanks for your time and answer! 🙂

    • Hi Alyssa, we’ll answer this one while we wait to see if Dr. Stanley has time to respond in the midst of this very busy fall recruitment season.

      Not everyone is as enamored of the bari saxophone as you are. In fact, it’s not unusual on the high school level for students who want to get into a jazz band, for instance, to have to work their way up to being one of the alto or tenor players by paying their dues by first playing the bari. So bari players tend to be more in demand. Every big band should have a bari but check with IU Southeast to see how it works there. Most schools also have instruments you can borrow or rent, so ask IU that also. If you’ve been admitted based on the alto or tenor, you’ll probably be asked to audition for placement on it, but find a way to demonstrate your ability on the bari so you can gain opportunities to play it and increase your proficiency on it.

  36. Marlie

    My daughter is a senior and very much interested in taking up Music Therapy. She is planning to apply here in California in CSUN. Is the auditon the same for all new students and undergraduate? If failed in the audition, she is not in the program and has to change to a different major?

    • Hello Marlie,

      Your daughter should first read everything that’s available on the CSUN website about auditions, and then contact the Music Therapy department for answers to any remaining questions. Their website, by the way, seems to indicate that any applicant of any of their music programs must audition.

      Now is a great time for her to hone her auditioning skills. Should she be accepted to CSUN but fail the audition for the Music Therapy program, she should ask for feedback about what it would take for her to be able to pass the audition, whether she can re-audition the following fall, and what classes she can take her freshman year so that she’s on track to start into Music Therapy in her sophomore year without losing credits (and time).

  37. Emily

    Hello Dr. Stanley

    My name is Emily and I’m a junior in high school. I’m not necessarily interested in performing in college, I really want to major in music education, conducting, or composition. I’m currently in 9 different choirs, including 5 for my school and the Indiana All State Honor Choir. I’ve already rearranged several pieces for my show choirs, a cappella choir and church. I have directed small groups for church and a gold-medal ISSMA ensemble. I would either like to be a high school choir director or arranger/composer.

    I’m wondering what kind of audition I would have? I’m not planning on being a performer, so I wonder why they would need to see me perform. Would I need to present a piece of my work to them? What are they expecting from me? I am currently scheduled to take an AP music theory class my senior year, which should count for college credit depending on the school and their curriculum.

    Up until about a month ago, I was planning on going into molecular genetics and cancer research. This sudden switch has definitely left me feeling unprepared! I’m looking for new schools, new credits, and a new lifestyle. What are your recommendations for schools in and around Indiana? I’d definitely prefer a larger university-style college, and I’m not one to blend in with a very “urban” environment.

    Thanks for your help! This switch has thrown me through a loop!

    • Hi Emily,

      We’ll take a crack at responding and see if Dr. Stanley has time to give input as well.

      It sounds like music is already a major part of your life. And that you have solid experience behind you to back up your decision to major in music.

      Great to hear that you’re signed up for music theory for next year – as a music major, it will serve you well to do this while you have the chance in high school even if your college doesn’t give you credit.

      Here are other suggestions:

      1. Find out if your high school school has a Tri-M music honor society chapter. This will put you on touch with other potential music majors.

      2. See if you can take some kind of summer music program or camp. This will put you in touch with others who are considering majoring in music, and help you gain a better sense of the field you are considering entering. Check out Summer Music Camps & Programs for ideas.

      3. Read articles on under Choosing Music Schools about how to find a “good fit” school. Then make a list of your own criteria for choosing a school.

      4. Once you have a list of schools you’re interested in learning more about, go to their audition requirements page. Each school is different, so the requirements will vary.

      Summer is a great time to start preparing your audition, so don’t panic. If you have questions, get in touch with the admission office and/or recruiters. Ask them for email addresses for a few students you can talk with directly.

      Most of all, take a breath and applaud yourself for getting in touch with your passion!

  38. Samantha

    Please Help Me
    I’ve auditioned twice for the same school, and still haven’t gotten in. I’ve been taking lessons from one of the teachers there, but didn’t make the progress it took to get in. The next shot I have at auditioning is next year and by then I’ll already be a sophomore and I might not get in till my junior year, I really want to major in music education but at my school the most common plan for that takes 5 years though its possible to do it in 4, That means it’ll take me at least 6 years to graduate. I don’t know what to do, I really want to major in music, and I worked really, really hard and I’m willing to work more, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. My teacher acknowledges that I’m working really hard, but I’m just not “getting” something and its really frustrating. What do I do now?

    • Has your current teacher identified what it is that you’re not “getting” ? There’s no point in working harder or practicing more, until you know what the issue or issues are. If you still find that you are not getting specific enough feedback about what’s lacking in your performance, along with concrete suggestions as to how to remedy the problems, consider a change of teachers. Sometimes there’s just not the right chemistry between a student and a teacher. It happens, and there’s no blame especially if you’ve both given it your best effort. You may also want to reevaluate your career goals if the frustration continues –– questioning your decision to become a music educator can help strengthen your motivation to do whatever it takes, or help you to refocus. Is there a good advisor at your school with whom you can review these issues with?

  39. Jessica

    I am a currently a junior in High school, and I want to major in music. I play clarinet, bassoon, and mallet instruments (marimba, vibraphone, etc.). I want to audition on the bassoon because there is less competition, but I have only been playing for a year and a half. Will a college still accept me, even if I am a beginner? And should I try to audition on a difficult piece, or one that is more on my level?

    • Dr. Michelle Stanley

      Dear Jessica,

      Congratulations on all your work on these three instruments. It is great that you have found success on each.

      When students who play multiple instruments have to make a decision about what they will major in, a couple of factors should be considered. First, what major will you be doing? (Music Education, Performance, Therapy, etc) Students who major in Music Therapy or Education will certainly need a high degree of skill on their instrument but much of the focus of their studies will lead to a more broad approach in their chosen field. So for instance, if you choose clarinet, you will take lessons, participate in ensembles and gain lots of focus and skill in clarinet during your degree but you may or may not continue to play regularly when you are teaching after college.

      So choosing the instrument to major in is a big decision – it is the instrument (or voice) that you will spend countless hours practicing and perfecting. If you major in Music Performance, that instrument or voice will be your sole focus in your career! You need to love the instrument you play in college!

      I’d suggest choosing the instrument that you feel you would be thrilled to practice and perfect. Don’t chose bassoon just because there will be less competition (which is true by the way) – choose bassoon because you love it.

      That said, there are some music programs that would be happy to have a relative newcomer to a double reed instrument. Bassoon isn’t always taught in high schools and to get a student who has only played for a short time can be fine – especially since you aren’t a newcomer to music – just bassoon. You are already skilled with reading, interpreting and comprehending music so you are already ahead of the beginner status.

      As for audition music: always audition with music that you sound the best on. Playing music above your level does nothing for your chances of admission.

      All the best!

      Dr. Stanley

  40. Maegan

    Hi, my audition is in 2 weeks at UNCG. I’m auditioning on the viola. I started playing a year and a half ago after switching from violin. I absolutely fell in love with the viola and knew that I wanted to go into music when I switched.

    The thing is I haven’t had a private music teacher since 5th grade, which was for violin. I’ve never been to a music camp. All I’ve been able to do is Eastern Regional Orchestra and my school’s orchestra. I also play a school viola and I don’t want to have my parents pay thousands of dollars for me to get my own and then not be accepted into the music department. I’m so nervous that I’m not good enough.

    Two months ago the viola professor from UNCG came to our school and I had a short master class session with him and I told him that I was auditioning and the head of the music education department has directed 2 of my concerts and gave my orchestra a master class before our contest. So she kind of knows me.

    Thank You!

    P.S. I loved your article. It did help even though mine is 2 weeks away.

    • You mention you haven’t had a private teacher…Note that most music schools will tell you to get at least one lesson from any of the music schools you’re serious about attending. That will help you get a better sense of who is teaching at each school and whether you’d want to study with them. It will also provide you with feedback about your playing. In addition, it gives the schools a sense of who you are and whether you would be a good fit for them. Sometimes these lessons are free, sometimes they’re not. Either way, they’re a good investment in your future as a music major.

      At the panel we hosted last week, faculty from various music schools commented that if you plan to major in performance on a particular instrument, you should budget in the cost of your instrument. Owning your own instrument is important for your success. Most schools provide students and faculty with opportunities to buy and sell good used instruments, so look to the schools for cost-effective options. There are also programs that help support music students in paying for instruments

  41. Christine

    My daughter messed up her audition(cello and voice) at her #1 school choice – combination of nerves and not enough practice/ time with her private lesson teacher. She contracted Mono in December, so we had to reschedule her lessons and auditions. She has to audition now because she is out of time as far as getting them all in. Would a Thank you note sent to the professors with an explanation help or hurt her at this point? She could play her audition pieces in her sleep, yet couldn’t get through one song on audition day. She is devastated. Any suggestions?

    • Your daughter is not the first to have had this happen, but we know that doesn’t make it any easier. By all means yes! she should contact the school where she auditioned and felt she messed up. Every communication with a prospective school is noted and kept by them. So what she says is very important. That said, she should focus on what she can do with her remaining auditions, realizing that no one is ever guaranteed a spot at their first choice school, no matter how wonderfully the audition goes.

      We hope your daughter will also read Joanna Cazdan’s excellent “Six Tools for Managing Audition Anxiety” and other articles she can find by putting the words “audition anxiety” into the search bar at the top of the page.

      Best wishes to your daughter and to you!

  42. Dr. Stanley

    Hello Hailey!

    I’m very glad you found my article helpful.

    That you are looking forward to college now and considering what you need to do for auditions is great. It’s also a great sign that you have the drive and level of commitment to music now. We certainly look for that in prospective students.

    One thing to know about the audition process: We look for potential. We don’t look for finished products. After all, you are coming to us to learn! Part of the audition experience for us is knowing your weaknesses and figuring out if we can help you improve those weaknesses. So yes, we are here to help our students with areas that need work. That’s what we are here for.

    Sight-reading is one of those areas that many college freshmen struggle with. I know that many of us work with our students on that regularly. Counting is another area where we work regularly with our new students. We recognize that each High School music program is different and sometimes we need to help improve on areas that your music director didn’t have time to get to.

    Every student is different. What the audition process helps work out is whether that student is a good match for our school and our teaching style and for you as the student to figure out if we are the right fit for you.

    Best of luck in your college search and preparation!

    Dr. Michelle Stanley

  43. Hailey

    Hi Dr.Stanley! I just read your article, and I’m so glad I did. Your explanation and tips for the audition process has calmed me down a little! I’m also a junior in high school and I am already freaking out about college auditions. I want to major in music education, and I’m so afraid I won’t get accepted. I’m the kind of person who can’t sight read, I have to sit down and practice a piece. I know for a fact I want to teach music, there’s nothing else I would rather do! (: But I do have some issues counting here and there. None of my teachers have ever taught me how to count difficult rhythms. Do college professors help you with your weaknesses as a player? Thanks for your time!! (:

  44. Lea

    Hello Dr. Stanely! I read, absorbed, and enjoyed this article very thoroughly ( : However I am a High School Junior interested in Contemporary Music. I play the piano very well and I might major in piano when the time comes, I am also a singer/songwriter! I am expecting to have a successful career doing both ( : if I did choose to major in piano, what should I be doing right now to really hone my skills before college? I will be a graduating senior in spring 2014. Thank You for your help!!!

  45. Bill.....for Jessica(daughter)17

    SHE IS APPLYING TO FIVE SCHOOLS(NJ)….AND NEEDS…Grants……she plays 4….piano..clarinet..
    oboe…and bassoon…1st..12yrs..2nd..9yrs..last 2..2yrs…..but all schools said she could audition in 2
    so……….what do you suggest……….(she is all….but everywhere in clarinet …)very techinical…poor cold read…and zero with improv…..her major will be music ed….memorization is very high…..she plays all in original comp……and has lots of public performance experience……how does she tell them(the schools)…..she is pretty good now….and will be great after her masters…and will ultimately play with a symphony……or after 35(if she does not make the symphony)……..she will teach….probably at the college level)……..
    Thank you for your thoughts on this subject……Kind Regards…..Bill (for Jessica)

    • Hello Bill and Jessica,

      Decisions about what direction to take can be hard but ultimately, it is up to Jessica to pick the area she most wants to pursue and where her passion lies.

      I will say that bassoon and oboe students are rarer in the crop of instrumentalists coming out of high school and are always in high demand. That demand typically translates into scholarships from individual music departments. Piano will always be useful in her degree whether or not she is a piano major. Music education students are all required to pass basic piano skills which she may be able to do right away.

      Though oboe and bassoon may yield great offers for her, she has to follow her passion with the instrument she chooses to major in. She can probably major in 2 instruments though most schools would want her to focus on one. The amount of practicing required for one can be enough for the typical college student. Adding another (which has been done) might be a bit too much for a music education student.

      Good luck to you both!

      Dr. Stanley

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