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Early Advice for Future Music/Theater Major

chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
Hi, I'm just finishing up the college process with my older son, and I'm starting to think about how to handle things differently when my younger son is ready to apply. He's a 7th grader now, so I'm just looking for some advice about how to plan ahead.

My thirteen-year old is very much involved with music and theater (mostly music, but he likes drama too), and will probably want to go to a school with a heavy emphasis on music and the arts, where he can major in music. (Right now he's thinking of music and education so he can be a music teacher, but of course, he is young so that could change!) He struggles somewhat in the more academic subjects, so he probably won't be applying with a 4.0 or stellar SAT/ACT scores, but perhaps we can work on getting them into the high-average range.

Does anyone have suggestions of what we should be doing throughout the high school years to set him up for a good college application/acceptance? Marching band, jazz band, private band? Extracurricular bands or theater productions? What makes a music/theater major stand apart and look great on an app?

Also, any suggestions of middle-of-the-road schools for music? He does not like a high-pressure environment, so it would need to be somewhere that focuses on music without being terribly intense about it. We watched Whiplash the other day (not really appropriate for a 13-year old, but I didn't realize that until it was too late) and he was horrified and said he wanted to quit drumming if it was going to be like that! Additionally, money is always an issue, so we would be looking for a nice school with a great music program that is not highly competitive, hard to get into, or super-expensive. This is a very laid back, fun guy who just loves music. :)

Any thoughts are welcome! :)

Replies to: Early Advice for Future Music/Theater Major

  • mom4bwayboymom4bwayboy Registered User Posts: 1,672 Senior Member
    edited April 2015
    Here is a link to a very similar discussion started just a few days ago for an 8th grade girl. I'm sure others will have things to chime in regarding your S's particular strengths, but many things mentioned here would be the same. Haven't seen Whiplash yet, but your S's experience does not need to resemble that in any way. Most of our kids had fun pursuing this path - even though they work very hard.
  • EmsDadEmsDad Registered User Posts: 1,479 Senior Member
    edited April 2015
    What makes a music/theater major stand apart and look great on an app?

    It is pretty much all about the audition for musical theatre and applied music majors. Of course, you want to have some EC's and a solid performance resume, and you have to meet the school's minimum academic criteria, but the decision will hinge mainly on what the student brings to the audition room. Not saying that having a great application won't help, but it won't get you in, and if you don't meet the required artistic bar, the rest of the application will be largely moot.
    Additionally, money is always an issue, so we would be looking for a nice school with a great music program that is not highly competitive, hard to get into, or super-expensive.

    Meeting these criteria will be an interesting challenge. Depending on how you set your criteria for "nice," "great," and "hard to get into," nice schools with great music programs tend to be very competitive and expensive. They know who they are and they know what they are worth. And lots of people know about them and want the same thing that you do. Sorry to be a nudge, but demand far exceeds supply as you move up the pyramid of colleges, and the laws of the market pretty much dictate what happens when that occurs. There are great choices out there for everyone, but you may have to look far and wide, and think hard about your criteria, to find a school that will meet your objectives.

    The easiest way to lower costs is to have good grades and test scores.
  • chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
    Thanks to you both!
    Depending on how you set your criteria for "nice," "great," and "hard to get into," nice schools with great music programs tend to be very competitive and expensive.
    I think I overstated the need here. What we really will be looking for is more likely to be "good enough" and "affordable." LOL. This is not a kid who wants to be in a top program somewhere. This is a guy who wants to go to college to major in music and education, and have a good time with friends, while doing what he loves (music), but not feeling overwhelmed either academically or artistically, and definitely not pressured. So far he has on his list NAU (Northern Arizona University) because it is a public state school that will likely be affordable (in a lovely location), and the Frost School of Music at the U of Miami, only because he fell in love with Miami when we were there for my older son's Stamps/Singer interview a couple of weeks ago. Oh, and also the University of San Diego because he's been attending a summer camp there every year on the campus. Needless to say I haven't yet done any research into the Frost or USD programs to see how expensive or competitive they are; right now he just likes them based on rather superficial aspects of their campuses and locations.

    As for the audition, he is likely to do well I think. He is definitely a good drummer (and will be better after a few more years of practice), but he is also a very non-competitive type of person. He doesn't like high-pressure or exclusivity. So he will just get up and do his thing, but he's not going to be super intense about it.

    So overall, a more easy-going, affordable school is going to be preferable to a "top" school. :)

  • mom4bwayboymom4bwayboy Registered User Posts: 1,672 Senior Member
    Wright State in Ohio. Even OOS tuition is affordable. MT program is competitive, music school decent, not too selective academically, lots of diversity in student body (for Ohio). Fantastic merit scholarships if you qualify for one of their sliding tiers. Winters don't compare to San Diego, Miami or Arizona, however.
  • chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
    @mom4bwayboy Thanks! That sounds like just the sort of place we are looking for! Actually my younger son enjoys snow and cooler weather, as well as the sunny weather he's used to, so I don't think he would mind Ohio as much as some people. I'll check it out! :)
  • MT4LifeMT4Life Registered User Posts: 88 Junior Member
    If he is interested in music education, one thing I would consider would be going to a school where he would eventually like to live - be that Arizona or elsewhere. Teacher licensing is not necessarily reciprocal between states, and sometimes it can be a fairly extensive process to become certified in another state (sometimes, not so much, but there is almost always some extra class needed.)
  • chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
    @MT4Life‌ Thanks, great point! I have friends who are teachers and this has definitely been an issue.
  • loribelleloribelle Registered User Posts: 255 Junior Member
    If you haven't already, go visit the Music major thread and the Drama/Theater major thread, as those may be more helpful to you for types of schools he may be looking for, based on what you have said here.
  • chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
    edited April 2015
    @loribelle‌ Thanks for the tip, I will check it out! Having just been through this process for the first time with my older son, I'm eager to start early with my younger son...and get it right this time, hopefully. :) (Although things did work out well for older son too, just with a lot of extra stress and wasted time and money, since we didn't really know what we were doing, lol!)
  • Times3Times3 Registered User Posts: 1,373 Senior Member
    If you decide to look in Ohio, you might also consider Otterbein; it is an auditioned program but I don't think it's cutthroat, and they have lots of options within the major (including education). My son's an acting major there, and his freshman roommate was a music/music ed major--really nice kid, very involved in ensembles etc., but very down-to-earth. We had a great time at an opera performance put on by the music dep't there a couple of years ago--again, low-key but skillful and spirited. The MT productions use student musicians in their orchestra, and that's been uniformly impressive. They offer great financial aid, too. Worth a look!
  • chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
    @Times3‌ Wonderful, thanks for the suggestion! Otterbein sounds great, I'll check it out! :)
  • vvnstarvvnstar Registered User Posts: 1,656 Senior Member
    OCU has a great music education program as well as terrific instrumental music training. Like Otterbein, student orchestras routinely provide music for shows. There are opportunities to be in all sorts of ensembles. They also have a strong composition program if he is interested in writing music. OCU also has a Theatre for Youth program he may find of interest. Oklahoma Children's Theatre resides on the OCU campus. I believe you must audition for instrumental music. Not sure the requirements for music education. Might be worth a look!
  • chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
    @vnstar Thanks, I'll check it out! That sounds great about the students providing music for shows! :)
  • raellis123raellis123 Registered User Posts: 361 Member
    I was a music ed major a long, long time ago and will try to add a couple things from that perspective. On your question about what to take in HS, take as much music as he can fit in without making academics suffer. Marching band and symphonic/concert band, jazz band, etc. If offered, consider music theory too.

    Get experience playing but that doesn't have to be all through classes. For example, my HS son now plays in the combo band for the showchoir, so gets some jazz/rock experience that way even though not in jazz band. He also played in the pit orchestra for the spring musical. And get private percussion lessons if you can afford it. Colleges will want percussionists to be pretty versatile on the instruments they play (snare, tympani, marimba, etc.).

    On schools I can tell you NAU is a nice place and does meet the type of atmosphere you mentioned (at least years ago, but from what i've heard it is still similar now). I went to the University of Arizona but interacted a lot with NAU through the band fraternity/sorority system. Very laid back school but lots of opportunity. Of course I think UofA is pretty good too, but definitely more of a big-school atmosphere. We now live near Otterbein and my kids have had student teachers from there, always with positive feedback.

    I think if you are looking for a less high-pressure place, most state schools would fit that bill except for some of the really big names (Michigan, etc.). But you will find competitive people everywhere so experiences may vary. I haven't seen the movie you mentioned so can't speak to that, but I thought Drumline was pretty silly from a college band experience perspective. I enjoyed the band performances, but found the plot to be very unrepresentative of the college experience. Maybe thing are different for the types of colleges represented, but mostly I think it was a movie taking artistic license and wouldn't put much stock in it. I assume the same could be said for the movie you mentioned.
  • chris17momchris17mom Registered User Posts: 531 Member
    @raellis123‌ Awesome thanks! It's great to hear that NAU fits the bill because it's definitely at the top of our short list, and being AZ residents it's likely to be affordable. I'll be checking out Otterbein too. :)

    My son is already very involved in music, rock band, school music, and private lessons, so it sounds like he's on the right track. He loves music and practices every day without any prodding from me (in fact, our house is filled with the sound of his drums for hours each day!) He will be choosing a high school next year, and the music program will be the main criteria I think.

    I haven't seen Drumline, but we will watch it. I noticed it's PG-13, which will be better than Whiplash's R rating! If you haven't seen it, Whiplash is a great movie, but get ready for some serious cursing! LOL.

    Thanks again! :)
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