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

starkudostarkudo 32 replies5 threads 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!
edited October 2009
36 replies
Post edited by starkudo on
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Replies to: Help with what kinds of conservatories/programs I should be looking at

  • lorelei2702lorelei2702 2089 replies36 threads 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?
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  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads 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.
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  • binxbinx 4229 replies89 threads 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.
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  • stephminstephmin 226 replies30 threads 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.
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  • fiddlestixfiddlestix 216 replies2 threads 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....
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  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads 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.
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  • musicprntmusicprnt 6216 replies37 threads 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.
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  • shennieshennie 2437 replies30 threads 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.
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  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads Senior Member
    ^ shennie, I could add Steven Isserlis, but one could argue the point. ;)
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  • shennieshennie 2437 replies30 threads Senior Member
    I'll give you Isserlis and raise you Rostropovich but he has gone to the great beyond.
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  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads Senior Member
    As has Jackie. :(
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  • mypsych97mypsych97 66 replies9 threads 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.
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  • musicprntmusicprnt 6216 replies37 threads 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.
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  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama 3550 replies84 threadsForum Champion Music Major 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.
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  • shennieshennie 2437 replies30 threads 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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  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads Senior Member
    Agreed. If one "thinks" they have a competitive shot at Colburn, then they would most likely be a viable candidate at any one on the list, including Curtis, and barring any deficiencies in academic criteria for those schools that require it (like Northwestern).

    Throw in MSM, NEC, and Mannes, and you've got most of what many would consider the short-list of the most competitive programs in the country.

    I'd definitely recommend expanding the list to include a broader range of potential choices (both musically and financially if that aspect is an issue), unless the plan is to give it a shot, let the chips fall and do a musical gap year at the highest level.

    While it wasn't stated by the OP, a list like that might lead to the assumption of the potential for a gap year if the results didn't pan out.
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  • starkudostarkudo 32 replies5 threads New Member

    I have expressly said I have NO IDEA, repeat, NO IDEA, what schools are the hardest to get into or best except for possibly Curtis, Juilliard, and Peabody.

    I'm sorry I probably ****ed you off that I thought Colburn was an easy school, but I don't know anything about music conservatories. If you read the last line, I said I had no idea about conservatories, so please calm down and don't think I think that auditioning to any of these were a walk in a park. The list was pretty much a guess/thinking one, not a for-sure list.

    I'll talk to my teacher Tuesday about schools. I was third stand in my youth orchestra. There are 7 senior cellists next year, 2 juniors (me and another guy), and 1 sophomore.
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  • CompGradCompGrad 18 replies3 threads New Member
    "I have expressly said I have NO IDEA, repeat, NO IDEA"

    And now you do. Juilliard, Curtis, and likely Colburn have acceptance rates in the single digits. Eastman in the teens, and every other school on that list likely do not go above 25%. Peabody might actually be a little easier (maybe around 30%) than USC or Indiana, but not significant enough to make any difference.

    However - the real acceptance rate depends on the talent pool as well as the number of openings. Conservatories usually don't take in more than 5 or so cellists each year, and potentially dozens or even hundreds might apply. Truth.

    Therefore, you can't objectively say any top-tier school is any easier than any other top-tier school. There are plenty cases of students getting accepted in Juilliard but denied at CIM or Oberlin, and students accepted at Curtis but denied at USC or Indiana. This isn't like plain normal undergrad admissions at regular universities where if you have the stats, you likely will get in. You have to be good, but good is only relative.

    The step now for you is to get an honest objective appraisal of your current ability, and then plan accordingly a list of schools with reach, target, and safety destinations. However - it is well known that in music no safeties truly exist, so you'd be best off applying to a wide number of schools. Sure I know people who only apply to NEC, Juilliard, and Curtis, and get in to one or more of them; but a smarter thing would be to audition at a wide range of programs.
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  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads Senior Member
    ... I thought Colburn was an easy school, but I don't know anything about music conservatories. If you read the last line, I said I had no idea about conservatories, so please calm down and don't think I think that auditioning to any of these were a walk in a park. The list was pretty much a guess/thinking one, not a for-sure list.

    Well, you really did find the right place to aid in you assembling a workable list. FYI, a bit of background on Colburn http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/658955-colburn.html?highlight=colburn

    starkudo, do talk with your director, instructor, your peers, possibly those from the last year or two from your yo that have headed into music as an undergrad. The more detail you can suss out, the easier the process becomes. I highly recommend Strings and Strad magazines in paper or online 'script to developing string students, both excellent sources of school info, informative articles. If you can only get one, right now Strings might be a bit more useful/appropriate.

    Folks here are well informed, and plenty eager and willing to help. The bulk of the posters are parents with kids in or through the process. There's a few past and current students, and a number of both parents and students who like yourself are in the early stages of planning and research. There are also a few posters with university/conservatory professional affiliations as well.
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  • Big AlBig Al 28 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Maybe a little different perspective here. You do not need to go to Julliard to get a good musical education. I am not discouraging you from setting your goals high, but don't be disappointed if you wind up somewhere that is not on everyone's fancy list. My daughter wound up at a school that is probably on noones list. But the advantages she found were that the faculty are musicians first and educators second. Many of them are studio musicians or tour regularly. And her best bonus is that her private instructor is easily one of the top five trumpet players in the world.

    So do a lot of research, but don't get hung up on the "names". Every professional musician I have ever talked to says that noone ever asks them where they went to school, as long as they can play.

    Good luck.
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