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Apply as Music Comp. Major?

joony13joony13 Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
edited August 2012 in Music Major
Hi CC,

I've been composing for about three years now but only got serious (taking lessons) during the past year or so. I'm really passionate about pursuing it in college, but the requirements are quite intimidating. My primary instrument is bassoon, which I have been playing for the past seven years. Even with the fact that I'm not not looking at conservatories due to parents wanting me to go to a place with more opportunities, the requirements still include a primary instrument audition, and in some cases ear and piano skill assessments. I have confidence in my compositions, but not in my piano skills, which are very lacking. Should I still pursue the composition major? I imagine I'd be fine with a recorded audition on bassoon, but live auditions are not my thing.

My other option would be to major in physics, my other interest, and take composition classes outside of the major. Since I'm looking at schools such as Northwestern, USC, and U of Michigan, that should be possible.

For reference, my GPA has been above 4.0 for most of my high school career, mostly A's, have received 5s on all three of my APs, and am planning to take two more next year.
Post edited by joony13 on

Replies to: Apply as Music Comp. Major?

  • SpiritManagerSpiritManager Registered User Posts: 2,819 Senior Member
    USC does not require an audition on an instrument - it doesn't even require an interview in most cases - your portfolio of compositions is everything. There are other composition programs which do not require an instrument - I would not let that stop you. And, even if they do, the standards you're held to for performance on an instrument will not be the same as for a performance major. They just want to know that you're competent and might be able to play in an ensemble.

    You could also study composition as a BA in Music in many academic settings without any audition at all - at schools like Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Tufts, Swarthmore, Williams, MIT, Cornell, Bard, Sarah Lawrence, Columbia, just to name a few!
  • BartokrulesBartokrules Registered User Posts: 219 Junior Member
    As SpiritManager listed, there are many schools where you can study composition within a BA program. The simple reason why is that there are many very talented composers and teachers within these music departments. I would add Brandeis and the University of Chicago to the list. Some of these programs focus more on graduate compostion studies, but that does not stop an undergraduate from reaping the rewards. Had my son not been accepted early review to Oberlin Conservatory, he would have applied to several of these schools. Most of his non-Conservatory classes will be in math since he does not have to meet Oberlin College's distribution requirements. BTW, Oberlin Conservatory does not require an audition on an instrument. They focus on portfolio, essays, interview and theory test.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,855 Senior Member
    Joony, for the several conservatories my daughter applied to a few years back, any theory exam, or assessment of aural or piano skills was strictly for placement purposes.

    She applied to 4 conservatories and 2 colleges and did not have to audition on an instrument at all.( She couldn't audition at some schools because her primary instrument is classical guitar, and some conservatories/music schools/BM programs didn't have classical guitar. That meant that she could not apply to those schools at all!))

    So you are not looking at conservatories but you are running into audition requirements and the testing listed above? Does this mean you are looking primarily at music schools within universities?

    For a BA in music, which would include composition, there is often no audition and not even a requirement to submit a portfolio, though submitting a piece or two w/score and CD, and maybe letters from music teachers, can be really helpful to your application as an "arts supplement." With your academic talents, you could apply almost anywhere, using the common application and submitting that arts supplement.

    For a BM in composition, you would need a portfolio of 3-5 pieces, most of them played by musicians and recorded, and would do an interview, placement tests and, in some places, an instrumental audition. Again, there are many where no audition is needed.


    Piano skills are helpful for theory but not necessary for composing, unless helpful to your process. Everyone is different. In the schools we have had contact with, piano skills are not considered as part of the admissions process and musicianship classes adapt to the skill level you have, or provide remediation, and you are not penalized in any way.

    So, to summarize, you can reconsider conservatory for a BM, and apply to one that does not require an instrumental audition, or one that does, up to you. Or you can apply (for BM) to a music school within a state or other university, where there may or may not be an instrumental audition (state schools seem to want composers to have an instrument, BU does too). Or you can apply to a college or university for a BA in music and avoid any audition or portfolio requirement, but send in a supplement with a sample of your work as an extra.

    If you love physics, then you can major in that if you like, and could even minor in music, or double major, or do a double degree. Sorry to be confusing (the Peabody admissions site has a good essay on all the different options). But there is no reason not to major in composition (BM, a few BP programs) or major in music (BA) with a focus on composition, if that is what you want to do.

    So don't be intimidated! Are you a senior? If you need a portfolio, the main thing is to get a few places played and recorded. If you do not need a portfolio, then get one piece played and recorded, for the supplement. Take things step by step. If you are not sure what you want to do, then it is fine to apply to conservatory/music school and college/university, in any combination you like, so that you have options for choosing in May next year.
  • BartokrulesBartokrules Registered User Posts: 219 Junior Member
    Compmom is correct regarding the theory test not being a part of the admissions process at most conservatories. Oberlin does state that the test is taken into account in the application process.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,855 Senior Member
    Just want to clarify, Joony, that a double major in music and physics would not work if you were doing a BM degree program. And even if doinga BA, doing music and physics might be rough.

    However, a dual degree program with a BA or BS and BM might work, if you could do 5 years.

    I honestly don't know if physics is always a BS and how that would combine with music programs, whether double major or dual degree. But I do know some students who have done it.

    (also, the BP above is a typo! I meant BA)
  • joony13joony13 Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    Thanks for all the input everyone, I think I'm leaning towards a BA in Music with a concentration in Composition. Of course, I have quite a bit of time left to decide and hopefully I'll be accepted to the schools that will allow me to get a better glimpse at my options before settling on a decision.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,855 Senior Member
    Good luck and keep in touch!
  • MomofbassistMomofbassist Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    As a mom of one music ed major and one physics major, a dual major (BA) with physics and music with composition would work especially if you look at an LAC. If you are trying for a BM, then it would definitely take longer. My physics major has so much more free time than my music ed major(BM) son and a much lighter academic schedule, 14-15 credits/semester vs 19+ credits for the music major. This also seems to flow over to the their summer activities, too. Physics son has a paid science internship this summer with great hours. Plus for grad school, he is only looking at grad schools with tuition paid by the schools and plus a stipend for living expenses. If you have a strong math background (physics majors usually do), you can, also, get paid to be a math tutor. By balancing both physics and music, you will certainly have more options in the future.
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