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AP music theory

tugogitugogi 20 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
Hello, my child is interested in self-studying and taking the AP music theory exam. Our school neither offers that class nor administers that test. When I contacted other schools within the 25-mile radius that offer that exam, the school district policy is not permitting outside students to take the exam. My child also took a music theory class from the local community college this summer. Now, how important is to take the AP exam also for college admissions and is the community college course seen equivalent to the AP class when applying for colleges. My student would like to consider music as either a minor or a double major.

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Replies to: AP music theory

  • skieuropeskieurope 39277 replies7019 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    If the HS does not offer the AP class, then no college will expect a student to self study the course or take the exam. A HS is not obligated to offer AP exams for courses they do not offer (although many do) and a HS is not obligated to offer AP exams to students not attending the HS (again, but many do).

    Admissions will consider a CC course to be more rigorous than a typical HS class, but content/quality differs, so nobody can answer the question whether a particularly AO will consider this specific course as equivalent to AP Music Theory. I would not get too hung up on it. If the kid wants to take the summer course, and you can afford it, and you both feel that this is the best thing to spend the summer doing, then, the kid should take the course for the knowledge value, not based upon what an AO might think.
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  • thumper1thumper1 74816 replies3279 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 12
    If your child already took a college level music theory course, what else do you hope to gain with the AP exam.

    Both of my kids took AP music theory, and the exam.

    Kid 1 was a music major so his AP music theory exam grade netted him nothing at his college. He was required to take the course.
    My student would like to consider music as either a minor or a double major.

    If it’s a major, your kid will be taking that music theory course again. Even as a minor, this might be required. You need to check that.

    Kid 2...that school “accepted” her AP score (a 5) for credit, but there really was not anything it applied to. The school had core course requirements, but AP courses didn’t place you out if those. Plus the kid played in the college orchestra for 4 years...thus fulfilling any requirements. She just had an extra course the school accepted...nothing that worked toward her degree at all.
    edited September 12
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 2252 replies40 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The AP Music Theory exam is a difficult one to administer, so I am not surprised others schools won't let her take it at their locations. If it was a 100% multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble test, she might have had a different result, but that unfortunately isn't the case.
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  • bgbg4usbgbg4us 1308 replies42 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    a lot of times schools don't count AP credit that is similar to the major. Sounds sort of counter-intuitive, but it makes sense. The schools want to teach that major their particular way.

    eg: my D took AP Art History. she's studying architecture and her college would not take that AP credit. She did take AP music theory, got credit for it, but it's just a generic credit.

    I don't know about it all from an admissions point of view though - if that class helps with admissions. If she likes music, is she involved with lots of music activities?
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  • thumper1thumper1 74816 replies3279 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    This kid already has a college music theory course taken at the community college this summer.

    I just can’t imagine that an AP test grade matters...at all.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39277 replies7019 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    I don't know about it all from an admissions point of view though - if that class helps with admissions.
    In the OP's case, it's moot. The course is not offered at the HS. I have yet to come across any college that has an expectation of a student taking a specific class if the HS does not offer.

    Regardless, the AO will see the CC class. How the AO views the CC class needs to be filed under "it is what it is.."
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  • MWDadOf3MWDadOf3 116 replies9 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited September 12
    skieurope wrote: »
    I don't know about it all from an admissions point of view though - if that class helps with admissions.
    I have yet to come across any college that has an expectation of a student taking a specific class if the HS does not offer.

    Counterexample.

    My son was quite math accelerated, finishing AP Calc BC in 9th and AP Stats in 10th grade. Our HS did not offer math above that, so he stopped math - he took plenty of science, engineering, and comp sci. He even cadet-taught Calc as a senior. But he was rejected by Michigan and Ga. Tech (engineering, OOS. he had very good GPA and ACT), and per feedback that our HS's college counselor received, from both schools, the lack of math beyond 10th grade was a factor. It's possible that the information was garbled as it passed from college->counselor->my wife->me, or that my general recollection is wrong. I'm at least a little skeptical of the claim, but nonetheless, that's what was passed through the grapevine. Not directly comparable to this Music issue, but still...

    * He was rejected by a 3rd school, too, but I don't think we sought feedback there.

    edited September 12
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  • wis75wis75 14074 replies62 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 12
    Already have the music theory CC credit so I would not bother attempting another exam, especially with the difficulty in attempting it. Self studying the subject is fine. However, it should not be at the expense of doing well in other classes. Regardless of the school and major chosen a student needs to be accepted. This means the best gpa a student can achieve, not just high ability in one area.

    Aside- my son, a STEM major in college, took one semester of AP Music Theory that fit his HS schedule. His cousin, a music performance major in college with scholarship money, needed to self study it because her HS did not offer it.
    edited September 12
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39277 replies7019 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    Not directly comparable to this Music issue
    I did qualify by saying a "specific class." But yes, although not analogous, there may be cases (and here again will not always be the case) where a student will need to look for options if they have exhausted the HS curriculum.

    Another example would be UCs, which require a year of arts. If the HS has no arts, the expectation is that the student will find an alternative, but the UC does not say that it has to be this one specific course.
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  • tugogitugogi 20 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thank you All! Your input is really helpful. The HS has arts. Taking Orchestra in Freshman, now a sophomore. My question is college applications point of view. May be my student will take another Music theory class at CC next summer along with an introductory computer science class. Student hopes to choose a major that combines music/applied math/computer science. I think it all boils down to how strong the application is. The student does not have many AP classes as a sophomore. Now his inclination is with music, who knows when S is ready, next year planning to wet his feet with a science AP class. S accelerated one level math in middle school, last summer did not have a chance to accelerate as the schedule did not work. Student's orchestra went on a Europe tour for ~20 days with 6 sold-out concerts. And finished the 3rd year of foreign language requirement online to continue with Orchestra at school. Also part of it is that I believe in letting the student accelerate when he/she is ready. The student is part of an elite youth orchestra.

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  • thumper1thumper1 74816 replies3279 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @tugogi

    My kids played in a Precollege conservatory orchestra and wind ensemble too.

    The AP music theory course did nothing at all for either of them except perhaps prepare my son better for his college required music theory courses as a music major.

    In your son’s case, I don’t see the benefit of taking the music theory AP exam...at all. He has college credit for this course already. That will be sent with his college applications in a few years. If the only reason for self studying this AP music theory course and taking the exam is to rack up AP courses...I’d say, that’s not a good reason...at all.
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  • compmomcompmom 10763 replies76 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    You can post this on the music major forum here on CC, if you like. That forum may be helpful over the next few years.

    There are online music theory classes. The best theory classes generally speaking, are offered at conservatory prep programs. But look up The Virtual High School vhslearning.org. Also check out college and university offerings. Finally, I know that Berklee has online classes. NEC has continuing education. Maybe you can find online theory at a conservatory prep (though often solfege and dictation are important).

    For admission to a BM program, and at the start of most BA in music programs, there are placement tests for theory. These are for placement, and results are not a factor in admission. As others have said, most students take the intro theory at a particular school anyway, because each school teaches it a little differently.

    Musicians and composers benefit from knowing theory, obviously, and that is the only good reason to study it in high school. There are many ways to study theory, as I mentioned before.

    I wonder whether your son will be applying for a BM, BA, double major, or double degree, once a senior. I suggest he read the Double Degree Dilemma essay posted near the top of the music major forum, about different ways to study music.

    "Student hopes to choose a major that combines music/applied math/computer science." These are intensive majors with sequential courses, meaning certain courses are taken as foundational and then followed by a relatively set list of courses to follow. These can be tough to combine but some do it. A double degree in 5 years can make it go more smoothly.

    Consider also the technology strand in the music major at Brown, a program like TIMARA at Oberlin, ICAM at UCSD, HYDRA at Harvard, MIchigan PAT and so on. Depending on whether his interests are technical or artistic.

    At the grad level, computer music can be a focus.

    Hope to see you on the music major forum!
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  • thumper1thumper1 74816 replies3279 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 14
    @compmom

    This student already took a community college music theory course.

    Your post is great, but it doesn’t address whether the AP Music Theory self study and exam is something he should do.

    My opinion (having two kids who took the course and exam and got 5 scores on the test) is that this kid should do something different with his time. He has already demonstrated he understands music theory via the college course. He isn’t going to get double credit by taking the AP course. In addition, if he does major in music, he will be taking this course again anyway as an undergrad.

    But I totally agree...the music major area is terrific! This poster can get other info about music major and minor there.
    Here is the link!

    https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/
    edited September 14
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39277 replies7019 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    edited September 14
    You can post this on the music major forum here on CC, if you like. That forum may be helpful over the next few years.
    To clarify, you can (and should) check out the music major forum, and ask questions about music programs there. But don't repost this question there as repetitive posting is not allowed.

    Anyway to reiterate, and hopefully finalize, the AP question. While public colleges will give AP credit out like candy, and the in-state public will likely give credit (although perhaps not for majors) for the CC course, privates are more stingy, and the AP arts exams, rightly or wrongly, often will not get credit compared to more "rigorous" courses like chem or calc.

    Additionally, as the OP has already discovered, whether as a result of AP Classroom or the CB's new early registration policies, it is very very hard to find a school to administer an AP exam without a course from the same school. Even when it was easier to do so, many schools would not administer Music Theory (or foreign language) because there are technology requirements to the exam. It's not as simple as getting a proctor to monitor a 3 hour exam.

    Bottom line, time to move on from preparing for the AP Music Theory exam and devote time elsewhere.
    edited September 14
    Post edited by skieurope on
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  • tugogitugogi 20 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Awesome everyone, thank you! all of you have answered the question. You are all saying the bottom line is that the student has demonstrated the ability to understand the music theory and instead of wasting time in self-studying for the AP exam, spend it somewhere else. Got it. I will check the music forums as the field is new for us. My older one went to school on athletic recruitment, played D3 baseball.
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  • eh1234eh1234 1107 replies4 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My son is a freshman in a BM program. He didn't take the AP music theory exam because he knew he would be repeating the class in college. Even if he had taken it and gotten a 5, he would not have gotten credit towards his music degree.

    His teacher also emphasized that he was teaching what he thought was most important for them to know, which was not necessarily going to be everything that was covered on the test (and it included some material that was not in the AP curriculum). He reports that he is well prepared for the first semester of music theory.

    The community college class has a better chance of earning your child credit than an AP Music Theory score and there is likely no need to jump through the extra hoops to try to take the exam.

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  • wis75wis75 14074 replies62 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 14
    Good to know the plans for the math/CS as well as music major. Doing well in both is not surprising. My son did well in a good HS orchestra, but did not have the drive in it to push himself once he made state for his solo as a sophomore. Did not pursue nonmajors available opportunities in college. Chose math over physics in college and added CS.

    Doing well in something does not mean choosing it for a profession. Having interest does not mean choosing it over other interests as well. Instead of spending time studying for an exam that won't matter your son should engage himself in her other subjects. Music may become an important avocation for him.

    Do not look at this as something good for the college application. Never consider that when making learning choices. Instead, look at preparing for college work with a strong knowledge and skills base. This includes many of the rigorous offered by the HS. Please do not push your son in things to "look good" on an application. Let him enjoy his childhood while discovering who he is and the path he wants. And- be prepared for that path to change as the years go by. My emphatic declaration that I was only taking the required two years of HS science became a college chemistry major...

    Bottom line. Skip that AP Music Theory exam. Spend the time on current classes.

    edited September 14
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  • jadedhavenjadedhaven 51 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My son is a college freshman music performance major, he took AP Music Theory in HS and received a 5. His school of music still requires four semesters of music theory for performance majors. More for composition majors.

    I wouldn't put too much emphasis on this specific aspect for college apps.
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  • jadedhavenjadedhaven 51 replies2 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    One more thought... all music schools will require either an online or in person (computer) music theory test during the admission process. I think most tests are scaled to ensure basic competency. My son took his one and only AP MT class in ninth grade and passed every college test with flying colors.

    These colleges are looking for talented musicians, music theory competency isn't high on the list in the scope of music school admissions decisions.

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  • tugogitugogi 20 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @wis75, thank you for the feedback. I totally agree with you. This is my second child, I learned the lessons of not pushing when they do want to be pushed a long while ago. So as parents, we go by what the S wants. Maintaining the balance in pushing to the point of not making it a punishment is a tricky one. But I would say we are doing a fine job with the younger one.
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