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Help with what kinds of conservatories/programs I should be looking at

starkudostarkudo Registered User Posts: 37 New Member
edited October 2009 in Music Major
Hi everyone,

Well, I've been playing cello for about 11 years now, and all of those years have been gratefully been with private teachers. I've only really thought hard about playing cello as a profession for the past one or two years, and I've been looking at different conservatories. I play in a pretty good youth symphony orchestra, but I'm not a principal or not even the second stand, so I can't really fathom me going to a music school. After cello camp the past two years, I've thought about this. I could see myself being either a cello teacher, a chamber group musician, or an orchestra player. My mom doesn't think I'm good enough to be a soloist, haha.

My grades in school are kinda mediocre (Currently a 3.3 UW going to Junior year), but I'm taking pretty hard classes, got a 4 on the AP US History test, and taking AP Prob/stat and AP Physics. I have been on the wrestling team for 2 years, hopefully all 4 years, volunteering at least 2-3 hours a week this past summer, and continuing it again this school year, and I'm hopefully going to be (almost sure) a student rep on the Board of Education. So I do a bit of volunteering along with a sport. I'm hoping I do well on the ACT and SAT (practice scores were DISGUSTINGLY TERRIBLE), but I need to work on that because I'm a terrible test-taker. To sum it up, I've kicked it up a notch from freshman and sophomore years because I slacked off in classes I should have gotten A's, accumulating B's and getting that 3.3 UW that I have.


My repertoire + goals:
-Haydn C Major Concerto
-Bach 3rd suite
-Boccherini B flat Major Concerto
-hoping to be working on either the Shostakovich, Dvorak, or the Schumann concertos
-Duport 7, Popper etudes
-Hoping to work on a Sonata like the Schubert Arpeggione, more etudes, Bach suites, learning more music theory.

So, I've been looking at conservatories like Cleveland Institute, or Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, but quite frankly, I kinda want to go somewhere outside of Ohio (I know Oberlin is also very nice). I just don't know how well prepared I should be for these conservatories, and if I'm good enough for these schools.

Here is my list of conservatories I think I can get in:
-CIM (cleveland)
-CCM (cinci)
-Colburn School
-Jacobs School @ IU
Here is my list that I'm not sure I can get in (In between thinking and sure I won't be accepted):
-Thornton School at USC
-Peabody @ John's Hopkins (Orchestra conductor went there)
-Northwestern's Conservatory (Name is too long)
Here is my list of what I think I have no chance at right now.
-Curtis (hell no, haha)

Please let me know what you think I should do. Until then, I'm gonna practice my butt off and study hard in school too. I really don't know anything about music schools, so please help.

Thank you so much!
Post edited by starkudo on

Replies to: Help with what kinds of conservatories/programs I should be looking at

  • lorelei2702lorelei2702 Registered User Posts: 2,125 Senior Member
    Where is your youth orchestra based, i.e. what part of the country, urban or rural area? What year are you in high school? Who are the cellists sitting in stands ahead of you, i.e. senior headed to conservatories?
  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    lorelei, excellent questions. You might have missed it, but I believe the OP will be starting junior year. At a glance, the list seems a bit "top heavy", there are few most would even consider being a musical "safety". Keep in mind that any audition based process is a crapshoot.

    starkudo, while your mom doesn't think you're good enough to be a soloist, is she qualified in any way to assess your "chops" in being competitive in a conservatory level program? Most parents can't/aren't and need to rely on assessments from private instructors or college faculty familiar with the current levels of ability for admissions. Have you assembled your list and reviewed it with your private instructor?

    The level and experiences of your youth orchestra peers, plus the types of summer programs you've been in are important, as they allow posters to ballpark a current skill level.

    Additionally, at some of the schools, grades won't matter. Others like Northwestern will matter a great deal. Oberlin for example treats the process a bit differently, allowing for different types of admits (conservatory only, college but not conservatory, or a joint admit). You may not currently be academically competitive for some, but can or might be. The devil is in the details, and there are plenty of background threads here describing the individual programs and processes.

    If you haven't already done so, please read this http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/258796-so-you-want-music-major-one-familys-experience.html and do some exploratory reading through this forum. Answering some of the questions posed will help others recommend some courses of action, potential schools and programs.
  • binxbinx Registered User Posts: 4,318 Senior Member
    I don't know cello programs specifically, but in general, I'd like to point out that the chances at these "probably" schools:

    -CIM (cleveland)
    -CCM (cinci)
    -Colburn School
    -Jacobs School @ IU

    can be every bit as difficult - or more so - as the ones he/she listed as "not sure" and "no chance." I don't believe the music schools at CIM or CCM give any sort of edge to in-staters, either.
  • stephminstephmin Registered User Posts: 256 Junior Member
    The entire list (and I do mean every single one of the schools listed) are some of the cream of the crop. Gaining admission to one of them would be a feat worthy of high congrats, not just for you but for anyone of them.

    I reccomend spending some time between now and you senior year investigating some safeties. It is not my concern about your own ability, nor do I doubt that you aren't good enough to get accepted, but I just want to say that all of the schools you listed are top notch conservatories. For example - I don't feel a school such as Colburn, or CIM is as any easier to get accepted to than a school such as Eastman or even Juilliard.
  • fiddlestixfiddlestix Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member

    I'm much more familiar with the violinists being admitted to the conservatories you mention, but do know enough about cellists to second everything the other posters have told you regarding the difficulty of cello admissions to the schools you list. Stephmin's suggestion about the safety is one you should take seriously. I'm also very curious about the prioritizing - the in's, difficult, and no chance - that you've come up with. Are you able to compare your playing with others you know actually accepted and attending these schools?? I'd agree with others that none is necessarily "easier" than others.

    On the up side, seconding Violadad, if you are most interested in a conservatory, admissions won't be terribly concerned about your academics. A "B" average is generally all that's required - except at a handful of schools like Northwestern, USC and Rice. Conservatories will also not be much concerned about your sports or other ECs. Your current academics will be fine for the straight conservatories. You can easily check this on schools admissions websites.

    Good luck - oh, also - the level of players hoping for symphony and chamber jobs isn't necessarily lower than that of aspiring soloists....
  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    And to address the potential for "teaching cello", it's important to draw the distinction between music ed, and pedagogy. Some of the schools listed offer one, or both, or in some case you might be better served elsewhere. Plenty of past threads on the detail and options.

    The Master list threads are an excellent resource in indentidying options, posters, and levels of experience as well.

    Just to throw in some additional schools for consideration, Ithaca, Duquesne, Hartt, UWisconsin Madison, Lawrence, and a host of others are at least worth examination.
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    I agree with the others, none of the schools on your list are 'easy' to get into,they are all roughly at the same level give or take, and that doesn't mean that program A, which is considered slightly less then let's say program B, is easier to get into, usually such assesments are more about the perceived level of the program,the reputations of the teachers, and in things like how any alumni become 'known' musicians and get into top level orchestras, etc.

    I also agree that the idea that somehow chamber or orchestra positions are 'less' able then soloists is a common misnomer. The perception isn't the reality,many top level orchestra and chamber musicians are also accomplished soloists, but for whatever reason 'found' themselves in orchestra work or chamber, that it fit them or whatever. Yeah, the perception is that all orchestra musicians or chamber musicians 'settled' for that work after failing as soloists, but that is crapola for the most part. To be a soloist, especially at the top level, requires a lot more then simply being technically brilliant, it also requires artistry and musicality and charisma/stage presence, and even someone with all of those can find that for some reason it 'doesn't click'...and many potential soloists realize the odds against them and never head that way, or others were great musicians, maybe even could have made it as a soloist, but found they liked chamber or orchesta better (in the chamber world, the Guarneri comes to mind as people who love chamber but could have/have soloed). In other words, don't believe that an orchestra musician or a chamber musician is a 'failed' soloist or is any less a great musician (sadly, many students and even more then a few teachers have that attitude, and are shocked when they hit reality).

    As far as not being the principal or even second chair, I wouldn't put too much emphasis on that as an indication of your potential. I know people who went through top programs, both pre college and conservatory level, who never achieved a high seating,and today who are very well known and respected musicians, including some of the top violin soloists in the world. Seating is like auditions, it can also be a crapshoot....

    I think you should be talking to your private teacher about how they see you, and maybe try to arrange an evaluation or (s) with a high level teacher, to get an idea of where you stand.
  • shennieshennie Registered User Posts: 2,467 Senior Member
    Mom of a cellist here. All of the schools on your list are highly competitive for cello. That doesn't mean you won't get in, but you should know that for many of these schools you will be competing with students from all over the world, not just from the US.

    Violadad has a nice secondary list to look at where competition will be a bit lower. You can add Baldwin-Wallace and DePaul to that list as well. The advice to work with your teacher on a list of schools is excellent. You also might talk to that person to see if they can arrange an advisory consultation with one of the university people in your area. At a meeting such as this, the university teacher could give you a better idea of where you might stand in terms of the competition. You should also consider applying to and attending a competitive summer music program if you can afford it.

    In terms of the discussion regarding being a soloist, in the cello world, there are very few who make a living doing only solo work. Yo Yo Ma is the only one I can think of. Most everyone else also teaches or plays in an orchestra. Orchestra auditions, even at the regional level, are quite competitive.

    Finally, one last thing for you to think about. You sound like you are not sure if you want to pursue music as a career. The age old advice is that if you can think of anything else to do besides music, you should do it. Music is a very hard task master. If you go to conservatory, you will be doing music 24-7 for the most part. If you are not completely committed to it, you will not be happy.
  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    ^ shennie, I could add Steven Isserlis, but one could argue the point. ;)
  • shennieshennie Registered User Posts: 2,467 Senior Member
    I'll give you Isserlis and raise you Rostropovich but he has gone to the great beyond.
  • violadadvioladad Registered User Posts: 6,645 Senior Member
    As has Jackie. :(
  • mypsych97mypsych97 Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    Here's my take given what you wrote about yourself; the school you mentioned may be "reaches" but you should have a couple. There are 4 schools that are small to midsized, that have good music programs; one mentioned already is Ithica college. The others are SMU's music school, Baldwin Wallace in Cleveland and Loyola New Orleans. My daughter chose Loyola New Orleans after visiting there and falling in love with the program and the people. The give excellent music scholarships. Any of the four I listed would be a good choice, but I have most familiarity with Loyola NO and love the place as a parent. Check these out. PM me if you have specific questions.
  • musicprntmusicprnt Registered User Posts: 6,253 Senior Member
    I would agree that Cello soloists are rare,in the younger generation there is Zuill Bailey (sp?). In the past you had powerhouses like Rastropovich, Starker, Cassels and a a few others, but today there are very few,other then Yo Yo Ma and Isserlis, who are routinely making the rounds of the big orchestras as soloists.For whatever reasons, the solo world is dominated by violin and piano these days, maybe it always was, or music directors don't believe cello soloists are as big a draw,I don't know. In any event, if you go into cello it is a lot more likely it would be as an orchestral or chamber musician, not that that is easy.
  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major Posts: 3,556 Forum Champion
    I am really curious as to how the list of schools was compiled? Those 4 "sure I can" schools are among the most competative in the nation and have no business being listed as a slam dunk on anyone's list, IMHO. I know that CIM is very highly selective for cello (and no, there is no avantage for in-state students in admissions!) and turns away many, fine students who must find another place to study.
  • shennieshennie Registered User Posts: 2,467 Senior Member
    I agree with Mezzo. Colburn is almost as hard to get into as Curtis since the offer full tuition, R & B for all admitted students. CIM is highly competitive for cello, as is IU although IU admits more students than CIM so it might be slightly easier. CCM is also a bit easier for cello than the others on the top of the list, but not by much. The others on the list are all top cello schools.
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