Helping Prospective Music Majors Decide Where to Apply

The recent SNAAP (Strategic National Arts Alumni Project) Annual Report can help prospective music majors decide where to apply. The report highlights the post-graduation experience of arts alumni from a number of U.S. colleges and universities.

What, specifically, does this offer a prospective or current music major? And to parents who may be making huge sacrifices to send their children off to study music in college?

1. More music schools are offering education that teaches critical thinking, creative thinking, experimentation (improvisation) and problem solving. Recent alumni say in the SNAAP Report that their training contributes to their “health and well-being, their relationships with others, their ability to collaborate and provide constructive criticism, and their ability to creatively solve problems.” These are all essential skills for any career (see transferable skills below) as well as for coping effectively as an adult.

2. More arts majors are incorporating at least one internship into their undergraduate education. Internships can provide the kind of real-world training unavailable in the classroom. While often unpaid, good internships can be worth their weight in gold through the experiences they provide (good and bad), the networking opportunities, and potential future employment possibilities. Recent grads also say that so many entry level jobs these days require experience impossible to get without having done internships.

3. A high percentage of arts graduates find a job closely-related to what they studied in school.

4. A high percentage of arts graduates report a high level of satisfaction in their work.

The report suggests schools should:

1. Teach students how to talk about the transferable skills they acquire in music school – these are skills relevant to any career.

2. Build a strong and active alumni network to help students transition after graduation.

3. Provide professional training programs and relevant career counseling.

4. Consider ways in which they could help support alumni in terms of non-arts-related issues such as “affordable rent (for living and for studio space), healthcare and childcare as essentials to their success in artistic careers.”

What can STUDENTS do?

Students entering music school must do so with the understanding that they have to be highly proactive in finding and taking classes and gaining experiences that will provide skills necessary for building a successful career. Such classes and programs are apt to be optional rather than required, since the music school curriculum (especially for BM students) is already jam-packed. Figuring out how to fit them in may be a challenge, but one that will be well worth the effort.

Here are some questions to ask music schools you’re considering applying to, with this in mind:

1. What kinds of entrepreneurship classes are offered? How easy/difficult would it be to fit these into your schedule?

2. What career development opportunities are offered? When are they offered (i.e., throughout your four years or just senior year)?

3. What kinds of internships are made available to music majors?

4. How does the alumni network support recent graduates?

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