Best Preparation?

My son is a sophomore. He’s been doing some reflection and heavily leaning towards a degree in music education. He would like a college where he can take some music production courses as well.

I’m doing some preliminary research and some colleges require auditions for that major with varying requirements. Of course he is too young to have any colleges narrowed in yet. However, we have only 2 summers to really prep him for auditions if this is his path so I would like input on where to focus for potential music education audition versus performance/MT.

So far he’s done…
6 years of choir and musicals
Weekly voice lessons started this year (year round)
5 years of band (he is one of their top flute players)
He knows a bit of guitar and had about a dozen random lessons through the years and practices at home almost daily.
He only did piano for a year or two when much younger but had some understanding of fundamentals.
He’s taking AP Music Theory next year

He wants to continue voice lessons which is fine. He also wants to take guitar and flute lessons. I thought adding in some piano again would be helpful.

The kid wants to do it all but on top of school, working a job on weekends, plus required weight lifting for track and football, there’s only so much time in a week.

Recommendations on where should he focus for future lessons? Mom isn’t made of money but I want him to be prepared as well to give him the best chances.

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I’m a biased alum, but I always think the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt is such a good bet for music ed. I have several friends that did/are doing the B2P program (Blair to Peabody - 5 years you get a BM & MEd) and love/d it. Vandy has great financial aid; Blair has top-notch teachers in any instrument you like; Vanderbilt is an incredible university replete with resources in any field you can think of; and Nashville is a nice place to be for college.

Undergrad will be the time when he really has to “pick a rabbit”, so to speak, but I managed a major and two minors at Blair, all in music disciplines, so it’s certainly possible to balance it. B2P is pretty intense though so he’d probably have less time for lessons in all the instruments you listed, but lessons on 3 instruments is definitely doable (and doesn’t cost extra for Blair students). I hope this is helpful! DM me if you have more questions.

Other schools to look at:
FSU, Michigan State, UMich, Indiana, Northwestern, SUNY Potsdam, Lawrence, St. Olaf

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Should he look at improving piano or will that really matter for music ed majors? (Meaning there will be time in college to take lessons, etc)

My concern about Vandy is his gpa isn’t there (he will end maybe around a 3.5) and not sure financially we could swing it (he wont get much if any need based and due to grades merit is limited)

Piano skills are always good to have, and if he comes in with advanced knowledge (such as scales, improvising, score reading, sight-reading, et.) he could even place out of lower level courses and potentially save time. So that’s always a good idea - if you can swing it, go for it.

If he’s not academically strong, then I’d consider some of the other places I mentioned - FSU, MSU, SUNY etc. would all be in reach, esp. with a decent test score. Your state school might also be a good option - most have very respectable music ed programs!

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Check out Baldwin Wallace. We visited earlier this year and its a great spot for music kids and his stats would qualify him for merit aid. The are also known for education degrees. And it has Division III Football and Track, so those options would remain.

As for how to prepare, my son has one voice teacher (he has multiple) that actually sort of also teaches guitar at the same time as his voice lesson. And another voice teacher that is now starting to do more piano and music theory as part of the voice lesson (although that could be because they are zoom lessons). You might see if you can find someone who sort of combines lessons. I would think good piano skills would be pretty critical for a music teacher and the flute, not so much. As I have been researching schools I have found a lot of schools that have a non audition theater studies major that might combine nicely with an education degree and hit on many of your son’s interests.

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I will talk to his voice teacher to see if adding in piano is an option.

I think I put Baldwin Wallace on the list from a previous post of yours. It appears they have some music industry courses which often throw in some production which would be good.

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Does your son want to do choral music ed or instrumental music ed? I’m not an ed major, but my understanding is that they are generally separate concentrations that one needs to choose between.

He would choose choral most likely. And yes, he knows he would need to choose his path.

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He’s really doing fine for music Ed. My son started voice lessons at the end of sophomore year. More piano is always better but is not necessary. He will be able to take it in college. The voice audition is the biggest thing to prep for. Look at what schools require and work towards that. It’s usually something like an English art song and another in a foreign language, or something from the 24 Italian songs, along with sight reading and sometimes a music theory test. He should work on building a repertoire of solos and really build sight reading skills. Piano will help once he’s in college, as will all the experience on other instruments, but for admissions and scholarships, it’s the audition on his primary instrument that’s most important to prepare for.

Consider University of North Texas. A $1000 or larger scholarship (music or academic) grants an out of state tuition waiver which really makes the cost reasonable and it’s an excellent school for music Ed.


I have seen the they-can-take-piano-in-college several times in various threads. That is certainly true.

I have another perspective on the piano requirement which is all but universal for Music Ed or Performance majors. As a skill rather than an academic discipline, it is all but impossible to cram for the next day’s playing test or final exam. Most piano class students find they must put in a number of truly dedicated hours over days and weeks and months to learn the skills required. That can be very frustrating if you would rather be practicing your primary instrument or studying for other classes.

Having basic piano proficiency before arriving at conservatory/college may allow you to pass out of the requirements (unlike having passed AP Theory). Some colleges post the piano proficiency tests online, or a student could contact a school and ask what they need to demonstrate. Different instructors want different skills - scales, score sight reading, performing an early work of the piano literature, accompanying a student with a simple accompaniment, chording and developing a simple accompaniment “on the spot”, easier transposition, etc. Knowing what the chosen school will ask for may help focus high school lessons or the student could attempt to pick these skills up on their own.

My own kids played piano well enough to be majors if that had been the chosen focus, but their teacher still spent the senior year of piano lessons including the above skills. As string majors, they all passed piano proficiency and heard lots of complaints from classmates who had little or no background and were frustrated with the piano practice time required. Truth be told, I had the same experience in the dark ages, so I know what it feels like!