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Multi-instrumentalist help music ed admission?

missjenmissjen Registered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
My son is a junior in HS and plays both a string instrument and percussion (marching and classical). He wants to apply for music education next year (he really wants to be a high school band director). He is now talking about dropping orchestra next year and starting to learn a wind instrument instead, partly because he is interested and partly to help with college admissions. Is adding another instrument helpful, or should he stay the course with orchestra?

Replies to: Multi-instrumentalist help music ed admission?

  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,849 Senior Member
    I'm sorry no one has answered this. I think it is a busy time for everyone. Your son is a good example of someone who is a great candidate for a music ed program- because he wants to teach. Many seem to think of the music ed route as a backup, so to speak, so it is great to read about a young man who really wants to be a band director. My only suggestion is to make sure he know that sometimes these things change, and he can decide how much flexibility he wants at this stage of the game.

    Is he at all interested in music performance, or a general music major? Meaning BM or BA? Music ed is a great path so just making sure :) Here is a good essay to read about music studies and choices:

    My first reaction is to say, advise him to do what he really wants to do, without gearing his choice to admissions. This is because doing what he really wants to do and loves will lead to the right choices in the hard decisions that lie ahead.

    That said, if he is really interested in music ed, perhaps he could talk with someone in a music ed department or admissions to get an answer he feels really secure about.

    How much would a new instrument take away from his string and percussion work? Is there any chance he will want to focus on one of those in a performance degree rather than music ed? At the undergrad level, some do that and then do music ed in a grad program. In fact, I know someone with a BA in music at a liberal arts school who then went back and got a master's in music ed. He runs the music dept. at our school.

    There are many paths. Just want to say that things are flexible, more than it might seem to a junior in high school. And a lot can change in two years.

    If he wants to explore a wind instrument and would enjoy it, and it doesn't take away from other interests, fine. If he wants to deepen his experience with string and/or percussion (with or without orchestra) that's fine too. If he is interested in performance, one thing a lot of us learn is to go outside of the school environment, get a really good private teacher and also look at summer programs.

    Lots of possibilities. It isn't a simple question unless he is really really sure he wants to do music ed. And is unlikely to change. In that case, staying in band or orchestra continues to give him a role model I suppose, but trying a wind instrument offers diversity in playing. Again, if no one more knowledgeable comes on to answer (I know little about music ed) then I would have him call or email a music ed department to see which choice is more helpful once he is in a program. ( I think that is a better way to put it than which will get him in, and it may not make any difference.)

    Good luck!
  • Marg532Marg532 Registered User Posts: 448 Member
    I have considered music ed many times in the past few years thinking about college, and while I was more focused on vocal ed rather than instrumental ed, it is a good idea to have a few instruments down. My vocal teacher had mentioned to learn either piano or guitar for me in addition to my voice. As for instrumental ed, I would say that strings and percussion is a good mix. Also, if you want more advice, you should have your son contact his orchestra director and ask him about his experience going into college as a music ed/music major.
  • Momof2violinistsMomof2violinists Registered User Posts: 82 Junior Member
    My two daughters are both music ed. majors (strings), as was myself and my husband. If he wants to be a band director, he will most likely be in the "band track" in his degree program. Music ed. majors usually follow one of three tracks (vocal/general music, band, and string) each of which prepares the students a bit differently, getting them ready to teach within their specialty, though of course there are many of the same classes they all take. I don't think taking another wind instrument will necessarily help in admissions - that will mostly be based on his percussion audition, his grades, etc.. It WILL help however, in his band instrument proficiencies that he will have to pass. The students in the band track are expected to have a higher level of proficiency on all the woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments than a vocal or string music ed. major. The students in those tracks do have to pass proficiencies on the band instruments, but at a somewhat lower level than the band track kids. Of course the string kids have to pass higher-level proficiencies on the other string instruments than the band and vocal kids, while the vocal kids usually have higher-level proficiencies to pass on piano, etc.. So your son will have to pass an easier-level proficiency on a string instrument, but as he's been playing one already for all these years, it will be a piece of cake for him. So, investing the time getting familiar with a wind instrument now will definitely help him out later on. I think he should go for it if he's interested. Good luck to him!
  • MomofbassistMomofbassist Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    First for music ed, learning a new instrument will be helpful. However, music ed admissions and scholarships are driven by audition(s) on a primary instrument/voice. I would encourage him to work to refine his repertoire with the help of his private teacher. Check the websites of the target schools and see what they are looking for in terms of audition pieces. For music ed, he will need to take piano for 1-2 years depending on the school but would be able to test out of it if he is proficient. Once he is a music ed major, he will spend years learning secondary instruments. Even though his goal is to be a High School Band director, many times new grads will be working at the elementary or middle school and wearing different hats. Son was fortunate and is a full time elementary orchestra teacher but an instrumentalist friend is a general music, band and chorus teacher for another elementary school. Speak to his current music teachers and see which schools they would recommend for him. Good luck and enjoy the musical journey.
  • MomofbassistMomofbassist Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    Also, is stronger on his percussion or string instrument? Depending on the instrument and the school, admission might be easier and scholarship money better for different instruments. For instance, violin is more competitive than bass in general. Of course, there are exceptions.
  • missjenmissjen Registered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
    Thanks for all of these very thoughtful responses! Momofbassist, his primary string instrument is viola - 8 years. But his primary interest right now is definitely percussion (he marched a world class drum corps this past summer and is going back next summer). It's an interesting mix because he has the theory from viola but the rhythm training from percussion (his orchestra teacher loves him because he can count out the complex time signatures!).
  • MomofbassistMomofbassist Registered User Posts: 698 Member
    He might want to audition for both and see what happens. Friend's son auditioned for piano and percussion. He was accepted for percussion at one school and piano at the other. Son had a friend in the bass studio at his school who also played Sax and another who was a vocal major and another who was a piano major. Being able to be proficient in Orchestra, Band and/or Choral tracks, will make the job search easier. Son added general music/choral and special music education during his undergrad years. Some music ed schools allow you to double major. It is extra work but can be done.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 9,849 Senior Member
    This is a great thread- lots of knowledge here!
  • bigdjpbigdjp Registered User Posts: 177 Junior Member
    If he's going to audition for percussion he will definitely need mallet skills. Marimba is the key to an acceptance into a percussion studio. My son is a senior classical percussion performance/music ed major at Eastman. He is starting his student teaching this morning and looking to attend graduate school as a jazz drumset major. Good luck!!!!
  • missjenmissjen Registered User Posts: 39 Junior Member
    Thanks bigdjp - developing stronger mallet (and timpani) skills is going to be the focus of his next year for sure! Thanks for the info all!
  • raellis123raellis123 Registered User Posts: 361 Member
    I was a music ed major years ago. We only had 2 tracks, vocal and instrumental (which had to learn wind, strings and percussion). Depending upon the school there may be 2 or 3 tracks.

    There is no need to learn a wind instrument at this point. Focus on your primary instrument(s). Viola tends to be a little less common and can have more opportunities for scholarships, depending upon the school. But if his interest is band there is nothing wrong with percussion (although I might lose my brass card saying that ;-) ). The audition is the most important thing, prepare for that.
  • Parentof2014gradParentof2014grad Registered User Posts: 780 Member
    Very helpful thread. My son is a sophomore very interested in music Ed, with more than one instrument as well (cello, piano, voice in his case). It's a little overwhelming to sort out how best to help him pursue this. I'm glad we have a little time. It's easy to see how being proficient in a variety of instruments will be helpful in the profession, but the audition/application process comes first and the dilemma of where to focus is looming for us too.
  • PianoDude12PianoDude12 Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
    To OP: I would say don't quit orchestra. Your son will learn how to play woodwind and brass instruments in methods classes in college, so he's better off expanding his skill set with strings so he can be competent in both types of instrumental settings. There is also currently somewhat of a string teacher shortage, so if I were him I'd consider how that plays into his whole process. String teachers also generally don't have to do as much as band teachers since they don't have marching band, pep band, etc. They might get paid a little less but they can make up for that with private lessons that pay a lot better than the supplemental contracts for taking on extra-curricular music activities that band teachers typically have.
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