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A Vocalist and a Percussionist

1musician1musician 1 replies1 threads New Member
edited December 2009 in Music Major
Hello CC world! Having browsed through the seemingly endless amount of wisdom and experience available on this forum, I figured I'd post my situation here, and ask for some input. Perhaps someone can cast this in a light I haven't considered before.

I am a junior in high school right now. Last year I started thinking about college, and life after that. I spent a few months deliberating over whether I should or even could make it as a musician. I decided that I could. However, there's just one problem. I am absolutely torn between percussion and voice.

I believe I can get accepted at some upper-mid-level schools for either discipline, if I start taking private lessons soon. I have had more experience with voice. I love both singing and playing percussion. I am a bass (though there's always times that I wish I was a tenor), and I've heard that there is a demand for male vocalists. I consider my voice to be pretty strong. My percussion forte would have to be in keyboard instruments, more specifically 4-mallet marimba.

I have considered doing a double major in the two instruments, although I'm not sure how difficult that would be. If anyone could provide advice as far as this question goes, that would be great. I'm not sure how many places offer this option, or how one approaches auditions.

What I am really considering is majoring in one discipline and simply taking lessons and participating in an ensemble with that instrument. It seems to be the most viable. The problem is deciding which instrument is going to be my primary focus. So any information you can provide, I'll be very grateful.

Thank you all for reading this post and for your future responses!
edited December 2009
11 replies
Post edited by 1musician on
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Replies to: A Vocalist and a Percussionist

  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads Senior Member
    I won't address the vocal aspects as there are many far more qualified than I here to do so. "Doubling" especially cross discipline can be a stumbling block, and a lot will depend on the specific institution and in some cases a particular applied instructor's philosophy in supporting a dual path. Participatory degree requirements for ensemble and performance participation may present time/scheduling conflicts, and secondary instruction can often be out of pocket if beyond the major discipline.

    I recall -Allmusic- as being a poster looking for mutiple instrument choices, and you may want to search for past posts under that user name.
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  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major 3550 replies84 threads Forum Champion
    Are you considering classical voice or jazz? I can't speak for the latter, but I can contribute to the discussion re. classical voice and double majoring in an instrument. My opinion would be that this would be very hard, if not impossible, especially as you are relatively untrained. VP majors take more courses than instrumental so you would be short on time to begin with and when you factor in lesson and practice time, the net tightens. Depending upon the school, you are also have choral obligations as well as performance (opera scenes and production- even if you're not singing, you're teching). Instrumental majors have additional ensemble requirements and those rehearsals eat hours. There aren't enough hours in the day for both and scheduling will probably present a problem if you even try to major in one and participate in the other, especially if one is voice.
    You are half way through your junior year now, which means that, a year from now, you will meed to be auditioning. Those applications go out in the fall and they must have repertoire lists attached and you must have pieces performance-ready. How are you at languages? VP majors require Italian, French and German. Keyboard, aural skills, theory, music history,etc- it's a full plate. Yes, male voices are always in demand, but you have to be able to get in and keep up.
    What do you consider an "upper-mid level school"? Honestly, I'd have to say that conservatories are out as you don't have the background to go up against kids who have been putting years into this. To begin with, I'd suggest taking a look at Miami of Ohio's music program as they are really clear regarding their audition expectations.
    How much experience do you have on the marimba? A percussion major is much more than just that one instrument-one is expected to audition in at least one other area, such as tympani or batterie(snare, drum set,etc) in addition to your major keyboard instrument.

    If you are really set upon majoring in music, my advice would be to select one of your areas of interest and concentrate upon that.Have your talents and abilities in voice and percussion honestly evaluated to see where you stand in relation to others you will be up against. Then, get a private teacher asap, you have much to do! Do some investigatory work and find a teacher who has a good reputation for preparing students for college auditions. Select schools where you have will have a realistic chance of being accepted and be honest with yourself. You need to visit schools, but this is the worst possible time (now thru April is audition, notification and acceptance time and Admissions Offices are extremely busy)- make use of CC and the members, so if you have schools you're interested in and can match up a person, contact them and ask questions.
    Listen to those who advise you on your chances and evaluate schools accordingly. If you find that this is a true passion and that your aspirations are higher than your current chances, considert taking a Gap Year to put in the additional work required to give yourself the best possible chance at your goals.
    Good luck to you!
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  • -Allmusic--Allmusic- 6246 replies104 threads Senior Member
    Yes, it is possible, but very, very difficult. My son couldn't make up his mind between his two instruments, as he played both at a very high level (conservatory level on both) and enjoyed both equally, albeit for different reasons. He was admitted to a few schools on both (some conservatories made him choose, however), and is currently pursuing a double performance degree, which is highly unusual (it requires hand scheduling and quite a lot of support from both teachers, program heads, etc---as well as an independence on the part of the student).

    Doing a double performance degree has also not been without a lot of consternation, since there are only so many hours in a day, and two instruments requires double the practice time requirements, on top of ensembles, etc. He is quite frankly, often exhausted and frequently discouraged. My S has done a lot of soul searching as to whether to drop one instrument, but still insists it is possible to finish the double degree. This is only due to passing out of numerous entry level classes, coming in with AP credits, and being at the top of his game on audition, on each instrument. I do not think this is even remotely possible to pursue a double performance degree if the student is not one of the very best students on EACH of his instruments----it is simply a very daunting task.

    Yes, it is possible. But also very difficult. I would recommend pursuing one and taking supplemental lessons in the other, which is far more manageable, particularly if you have not had independent and honest appraisal of your talent on both voice and percussion.
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  • 1musician1musician 1 replies1 threads New Member
    Thank you very much for this quick feedback. -Allmusic-, I was only briefly considering double majoring and had discounted it as a viable option, only posting it here for another opinion, which I received. Your advice seems to line up with the previous opinions I have sought.

    In response to Mezzo'sMama:
    My language aptitude is pretty good. I took about a year of private lessons (back when I was a soprano :) ). I had pretty much ruled out the idea of a full-on conservatory, because I don't feel I'm up to that high of a caliber and because I'm not entirely sure that I want that level of immersion in the field. Don't get me wrong, I am very passionate about music, but I don't think that the environment of the more... advanced conservatories would be right for me. The highest level of school I am seriously considering, at least musically, is Oberlin Conservatory.
    I am very much aware of the demands on a percussion major, and although I've only been playing for about 2 1/2 years now, I've got a lot of experience packed into those years. I've gone to the Idyllwild Summer Arts Program for two years, which really kick-started my playing.

    I do believe that, with the most helpful information I have received thus far, I will try and get evaluations of both my percussion and vocal potential. It appears as though my instinct to major in one and dabble in the other is the best choice, and now the main question is deciding which is which.
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  • lorelei2702lorelei2702 2089 replies36 threads Senior Member
    Gaining entry as a percussion major will require you to demonstrate skills across a wide range of percussion instruments.....it may be more broadly challenging than you think. Percussionists are the consummate world musicians and ethnomusicologists. Singers require multiple skills, but the core requirement is voice, voice, voice, and no amount of experience will make up for the lack of voice. Songs, musicianship, stage craft, languages can be taught, but no re-do's for genetic material, i.e. talent. It is an excellent idea for you to get feedback from professional musicians in both fields. Good luck.
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  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major 3550 replies84 threads Forum Champion
    1musician, I'd better say this before someone else does- you really need to do your homework because Oberlin IS considered to be among the top conservatories.Their VP program is intense, requires pre-screening and again, you will be going up against kids who have been at this for years and years. I hate to discourge anyone, but given that you just haven't had the needed prep and you are less than a year away from filing applications and beginning auditions, you should be looking at schools where you have a realistic chance of acceptance in that time period. Again, if you find that you really desire to take a shot at one of the top schools, consider a Gap Year. You would have to account for that year on applications, but saying that you came to the realization that you wanted to devote yourself to the study of music relatively "late" and then did all that you could to make that possible is a reality and should be acceptable to an admissions department.
    Have you thought about what do you hope to do with a degree in music? Do you want a BM or a BA? Use the search feature as there are several really good threads re. those ( hopefully,violadad will pop in and provide some links). Are you considering Music Education? Are you participating in your high school's music program and in what fashion? What do those teachers tell you? Have you had feedback from the summer program? As far as voice is concerned, do you participate in the musicals or in choirs or in theatrical events in your community?
    There are many good schools that could meet your needs, but you have a lot of ground to cover. Try to get to the library or bookstore and get a copy of Peterson's Guide to Performing Arts Schools- it is a big, softbound book which will list schools, the majors they offer, some stats to help you see where you rank in relation to accepted students, ensembles and requirements, etc. It's a place to begin and will give you leads on where to look.
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  • Singersmom07Singersmom07 4320 replies82 threads Senior Member
    Friend of family had the same choice, voice or percussion. He spent the summer between Jr and Sr year at Eastman in the percussion summer program. He took voice lessons at home and at the camp on the side. He found that for voice they are looking more for potential whereas for percussion they are looking for excellent skills and technique. As lorelei indicated you have to audition on several instruments. All must be of equally high caliber. He is now at CIM in VP.

    Although DD had been having voice lessons since freshman/sophomore year, she did not start her serious pursuit of VP until midway through her JR year. She had a fabulous private teacher that got her far enough along to audition and she was accepted into many fine programs with scholarship money. Again, for voice they were looking more at potential and the basics than advanced techniques. I think you have more of a chance in voice than in percussion to catch up in a year to where you would need to be, if you had the right teacher. You must have someone who has sent students into conservatory programs or they will not be able to evaluate you and give you the guidance and instruction necessary to get there.

    Good luck. Find that teacher(s) and get an honest assessment of your potential. None of us on this board can tell that.
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  • violadadvioladad 6351 replies294 threads Senior Member
    In the spirit of MezzoMama's request, I'll add some links the op may or may not have seen

    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/1062837087-post4.html (the last string of links in that post give a good overview of training, experiences, and background of a lot of kids heading to music based careers)






    What I provided is really a mixed bag of nuts, and none really answers the op's questions, nor do they provide specific direction. They will, hopefully, provide a bit of the collective wisdom and experiences from the board.

    lorelei2702 has summed up the basic realities very nicely in her post in a few short sentences, and they've been expanded upon by both Mezzo'sMama and Singersmom07.

    Assessing current skill sets, ability and potential is an impossible task over an internet forum, and the lack of formal training and private instruction sets off some alarm bells.

    Knowing where you stand from a skills perspective in either discipline is the primary starting point.
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  • Mezzo'sMamaMezzo'sMama Forum Champion Music Major 3550 replies84 threads Forum Champion
    Another excellent reason for working with a competant vocal professional is to ensure that you don't do any damage to your voice if you do begin to prepare for vocal auditions. You also want to ensure that you don't pick up an bad habits which can be really hard to break later on.
    Don't be afraid to check out a couple of teachers to find the one with whom you "click".
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  • neumesneumes 1246 replies45 threads Senior Member
    just anecdotal evidence regarding voice and percussion:

    Good friend of my son's decided Junior year--had an epiphany singing a requiem in November!--that he wanted to pursue voice in college. Had never had voice lessons before mid-junior year. Started lessons, auditioned senior year at Oberlin MSM, a few others and got into most and the two with BIG scholarships. Agree with previous posters: voice is based on potential. He is now a complete opera nerd and I would bet on his making it.

    Another acquaintance got into Oberlin 6 or so years ago in percussion and transferred after freshman year into a premed program at another school. He said that the Oberlin Con percussionists had been playing since they were very young and were completely immersed and zealous about their craft, and he realized he couldn't really catch up and didn't have that degree of passion. Just thought these two were interesting in light of your questions.

    Good luck in whatever you pursue.
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  • bookmama22bookmama22 2285 replies0 threads Senior Member
    What you will find is that you will have conflicts between rehersal schedules and performance times. My d found this to be a problem with a double music performance and theater degree. Sooner or later you cannot be in two places at the same times and frequently there is conflict between the two areas.... for example there are only so many choral performances each semester and so many performances by band, orchestra, etc and again, these are both required for your major and are graded. The extent to which you can expect the conductor of either or both to be forgiving of your other commitment will in most cases be very limited.
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