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Looking for Help Choosing a Music Conservatory for Vocal Performance

lmrpbjlmrpbj Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
Unfortunately we are late getting started with this process. My son, who is a senior, recently changed his mind and wants to go to school out of state after all. He is looking for the best music education possible and the largest scholarship possible.

He is a true basso profundo who has been studying voice for two years and piano for seven. He has been homeschooled and is currently doing dual credit at the community college. Although he is very bright, he did not test well and doesn't have outstanding grades in academic subjects because they bore him. He would probably be happiest at a true conservatory with only music study. He had planned on a career as a music professor for years until his voice professor told him he has a real shot at a performance career.

He is considering Jacobs School of Music, Cincinnati, Peabody, Curtis, Cleveland Institute, and Oberlin as well as some safer schools closer to home: Southern Methodist University, Samford, University of Texas at Austin, University of North Texas and University of Houston.

How do we go about narrowing this down quickly? I know Curtis gives full tuition scholarships but what kind of scholarships could we realistically expect elsewhere? Any advice you can give me would be much appreciated. Thanks!
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Replies to: Looking for Help Choosing a Music Conservatory for Vocal Performance

  • bridgenailbridgenail Registered User Posts: 842 Member
    Just a couple clarification questions:

    Does he want a conservatory or a conservatory in a university? Quite a few of the schools you list will require general education classes. Or are you open to discussing both? I just want to be sure you understand that Jacobs (a conservatory within a university) and oberlin (a LAC) will require general Ed classes. Knowing the differences in how a student will spending their day at a conservatory vs a university vs a LAC may help you narrow your list (if your son has strong feelings about general Ed classes for example).

    Does he want to audition for vp or music Ed? Or maybe both? I assume you are already on the music dept websites for these schools checking requirements and dates. They come up fast. You can also usually find semester schedules for vp or music Ed. That may help too.

    As for scholarships that is always a tough question. I think a few others on this board can give you advice about the net calculators and how to use them. But it is important to have one or two financial safeties in your search since scholarships can vary year to year based on the needs of the school (not solely talent).
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    I am going to talk in generalities here because I am not as familiar with voice as I am with instrumental music. If your son's grades and test scores are not great that won't necessarily rule him out at a music school inside a university, but it can make it harder to get in because he needs to get accepted academically and in the music school. They give leeway to music students with the academic side, but if the grades are bad enough it could keep him out of some of the programs (not sure about Oberlin, I thought you could apply only to the conservatory there).

    As far as scholarships go, it depends on the school. With conservatories, they generally tie both financial and merit scholarships to family need, unless someone is that outstanding and even there there are limits. In the end it is going to depend on how much the school wants the student, if they are really, really good and are trying to attract top notch students (more at the programs trying to build their reputation then the big, established schools who attract a lot of top rate talent). From reputation (and take that FWIW) a school like UNT might be more generous with aid than a school like Indiana or CIM, especially if the kid is good (that doesnt' mean Indiana or CIM would not give your son a great package, I am talking relative tendencies).

    With VP, it also seems to depend on the type of voice (and I home Mezzosmom and some of the other experienced voice parents chime in on this, they know a lot more and will be better with specifics) , sopranos from what I have read over the years are a lot harder to get merit aid then someone with a rarer kind of voice, in a male voice I don't know how rare a basso profundo is but if it is relatively rare it may get him more aid.

    On a more direct note, have you looked at the admissions requirements for the various schools and seen what they will be required to audition with and has your son gotten to that level? I don't know if voice programs require pre screen submissions, but those generally are due by early December, and if he doesn't have the required audition pieces done by now it might be a stretch to make that..and auditions are usually in February and March roughly, so if he has big gaps in his needed audition stuff, it may be a tall order to get to the level needed by audition time . Hopefully your son has been talking to his teacher about it and putting together what he needs, last minute prep usually does not work as well as people might thing.

    One note, if your son wants to teach voice, he only would need to do a music ed degree if he planned to teach voice in the public schools, teaching privately or in a university (you mentioned professor) does not require a music ed degree and quite honestly, If he has any hopes of performing or teaching at a high level I am not sure the music ed degree, which requires a lot of things outside the direct study (in his case voice) would be good prep for that, and unless he wants to teach in the public schools a music ed degree would not be the way to go.
  • SetumommySetumommy Registered User Posts: 26 New Member
    With such a rare instrument your son's, he will likely be courted by many schools and offered significant scholarships. It is such an unusual voice type that I think there should be some academic forgiveness in the admissions process. If he uses this fall to further his development and thoroughly coach his audition pieces, he should be in good shape. As for schools, it looks like you've listed some fine ones. Researching the teachers will help him narrow it down, and taking sample lessons might help give him clearer direction. Best of luck! An exciting time!!!
  • lmrpbjlmrpbj Registered User Posts: 2 New Member
    Thank you for your answers! He doesn't have bad grades. His current GPA is 3.2, I think, and it should come up a little after repeating his math this semester. His ACT was only about 23. He took it twice and got the same score both times. I think part of that is because we homeschool and he didn't take a lot of standardized exams. I expected him to do a lot better. I wish now I had had him take the SAT, too.

    He is open to either kind of school and will pretty much take the best package offered him. But this boy has been a serious musician for about 8 years now and he would be happier concentrating on music only.

    He is not interested in teaching high school at all and definitely settled on the performance degree. We have looked at the audition requirements and he is working on that with his teacher now. I don't think that is going to be an issue.

    The biggest issue for us is narrowing down the choices and deciding how best to spend our resources traveling and applying.
  • bridgenailbridgenail Registered User Posts: 842 Member
    It's very personal drawing up a list for music schools. You have a good list now. You may want to make a list with your son of some key elements and give each score from 1-10 for each school. For example going to a school like Jacobs (a big university) will be different than Oberlin (a smaller LAC). Which would he prefer? Is one type of campus a 5 and another a 8? Then you can decide if he should go heavy on smaller schools with one or two big schools? Or vice versa? A list such as:

    Reputation (name/network/peers)
    Performance opportunities
    Size (size of school and program)
    Environment (urban/rural/next to the ocean or ski hills-what does he like and how do the schools match this)
    Ease of entry (based on scores/GPA)
    Cost (full tuition and housing - do you have a financial safety)
    Financial aid possibilities (including scholarships - of course this is a tough one)
    Class schedule (are gen eds ok)
    Anything else you think is important - close to home/travel expenses and ease
    AND teacher (maybe a times 2 here - this one will change throughout the process)
    And dare I say the time and money to pre-screen and audition at the schools. Honestly time and money will probably dictate some of the final school list and that's ok. But making a thoughtful list should give you the top schools to focus on so you are sure they get done and that you can actually travel to them.

    The teacher is also very important. Has this been discussed with his current teacher? Does the teacher have contacts? Has your son done a sample lesson yet? It's maybe not too late to do a sample lesson at one or two schools close to you this fall so he can get a sense of different teaching styles if he hasn't thought about this. He may want to spend some time checking teachers bios on line. If this seems all too much I will admit we never did this - bc we were ignorant haha and it all worked in the end!! But food for thought.

    The GPA and ACT look fine for entry to many schools. However he may miss some merit dollars ( but he won't be the first!). He will have an advantage based on his voice type for entry most likely. Boys are always more sought after. But I have seen boys do great in programs but still pay more due to academic stats.

    Hopefully other will reply on scholarships. My comments is that while a few lucky may get full or signicant scholarships (and it could be your son) many do pay at least an equivalent to in-state. If you can accept in-state costs plus a tad more you shouldn't get too bad of sticker shock assuming he gets some scholarships. And you could be pleasantly surprised.

    Good luck!
  • novaoperanovaopera Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    My soprano daughter wants to apply to curtis, looks like it will cost 400 dollars for the application/prescreening/audition fees. Just wondering if anyone else has tried it. I know the acceptance rate is very low because it is tuition free, you just pay the cost of board. At least that is my understanding, if anyone has any feedback about this process, please feel free to comment!!;) We live 3 hours from Philly so it might be worth the longshot of just trying. Thanks!
  • bookmama22bookmama22 Registered User Posts: 2,225 Senior Member
    With conservatories you might have to cast a wide net as the the number of admits by voice type is very small. For a freshman class of 20, they will need to have an assortment of sopranos, mezzo-sopranos, altos, tenors and so on. Many vocal performance conservatory programs require pre-screens for an audition slot. You should be looking at all the pre-screen requirements for each program and the very specific deadlines. Remember that you are also competing internationally, some schools will have audition dates in Asia. The year my d a coloratora soprano went through this and applied to Juilliard they admitted 3 sopranos and that was after a complete round of auditions in the U.S and Asia. Her prescreen didn't make the cut there.
    Additionally if a faculty member is interested in taking you on as a student, sometimes their input is enough to get an acceptance. That acceptance however might not take into account any financial aid, scholarship, etc.
  • bridgenailbridgenail Registered User Posts: 842 Member
    Well...word on the street is that Curtis is an expensive audition and a long shot. Of course a few get accepted so you never know...

    You will have to stay a few nights and that adds to the expense. My D auditioned there for grad school. She was able to share a room (and went without me). She had a budget and after pre-screening results decided to give it a shot. She was not accepted.

    If it's on your list and affordable and she passes pre-screening why not? As long as you understand the low acceptance rate and it's part of a larger strategy that includes a variety of schools to hit the primary goal - getting an affordable admittance where your student can grow.
  • POTO MomPOTO Mom Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    Curtis may only take one or two vocalists a year. They only took one the year my D applied - a male. So consider your choice wisely. It is not cheap.
  • ScreenName48105ScreenName48105 Registered User Posts: 517 Member
    Two basic and practical things I recommend that you do.

    First is to go to each school's website and run their NPC tool ("net price calculator"). Even with the unknowns of music merit, if you qualify for financial aid, the tools can be pretty accurate. It will at least give you a good idea of "average" financial scenarios and what each school calculates your "need" and ability to pay to be. The tools generally add in an estimated merit aid for music majors.

    Second. Almost every university has different academic criteria for music school applicants, i.e. GPA and ACT or SAT test scores. Some post this information on their website. If this is a concern, I would just call admissions (for the music school) and ask straight out what they are. We found them to be very forthcoming with the info. In our experience, University of Michigan, Northwestern and Thornton (USC) had lower academic criteria for music school applicants. Oberlin Conservatory and Oberlin University have different criteria; Conservatory applicants do not have to be admitted to the University. In general, our impression was that schools cared more about grades than test scores for music students.

    Some music schools have a "pre-screen" process and you will have to submit recordings (usually video, sometimes audio-only) with your application. The pre-screens are used to determine whether an audition will be granted. Each school has different pre-screen requirements, which may or may not be same as audition requirements (i.e. audio or video, what or what type of songs, what kind of accompaniment, etc.) Most schools will have updated their websites with this year's pre-screen and audition requirements.

    My son applied to six schools, which was a pretty short list among his peers. We still needed a spread sheet!
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    Curtis is definitely a long shot, they admit very few (in anything), that is the kind of thing you do with the expectation that it is a very small chance of getting in. If a basso profundo is rare (I told you I know only a little about voice) it could increase the chances as opposed to something more common, like a tenor or bass.
  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major Posts: 3,536 Forum Champion
    @lmrpbj - Check your PMs!
  • CompdadCompdad Registered User Posts: 470 Member
    Oberlin does offer scholarships based on merit demonstrated at the audition. These are called Conservative Dean Scholarships. Size varies. Grants are also available based on the financial forms filed. SMU scholarships while generous are based almost exclusively on grades. There is little scholarship money at SMU based primarily on music talent.
  • songbirdmamasongbirdmama Registered User Posts: 189 Junior Member
    Have to differ with respect to SMU. Daughter had great grades but did receive merit money based on audition. It's probably different each year and for each student.
  • CompdadCompdad Registered User Posts: 470 Member
    Not saying that merit is not a factor but without her grades she would not have received the merit grant to such a degree. The problem is that Meadows does not have the ability to grant merit awards. The university which issues the awards requires that grades play such a large role. I do think this hurts with Meadows recruiting.
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