Background: My son is a senior so we are in the process of applications. Music has always been his passion - started with rock guitar, played trombone in middle school, then took up bass for the jazz band, and is into recording, composing, taught himself piano. He’s known as the talented music kid. It’s what he does in his free time. He’s a theory nerd and will talk your ear off about it. I’ve never once had to tell him to practice. He’s interested in pursuing composition (not performance), so that’s where we’ve been concentrating. We live in CA.
Vent: All the compositions programs are so tiny and so competitive! Four accepted here, 8 there. And if you don’t get into composition, your app is rejected. He’s good - we’ve asked around, but I don’t think he’s the top of the top. And he’s not sure what he wants to do with it yet. He just wants to be in a high quality music program, surrounded by staff and students who are as passionate as he is. He wants to explore and create, which is what college years are supposed to be. All these programs are so damn competitive that it is turning him off before he even gets there. And they take themselves so seriously! One of the UCLA supplemental questions is seriously “how will you use your music degree to save the world.” I mean give me a break - he’s 17!
Oh, and he has to pass a piano audition. He’s self taught - he’s good, but not great. So now he’s in private lessons (over Zoom which he hates) which are not freaking cheap! It just does not seem right that we have to spend this kind of money just so he can explore composition.
And, as a lucky resident of CA, everything has been shut down or online only since he was 15yo - camps, classes, etc. So he’s not had much of an opportunity to add to his resume.
I guess what I’m asking is - where in CA can a passionate talented kid (with good grades, AP classes, etc.) go to study music and explore composition without necessarily having to be the best of the best? I’m just over this hypercompetitive environment. He’s taken every music class his HS offers, got a 4 on the AP Theory exam, and has been in the jazz band all 4 years, but it’s kind of a crappy department and the band sucks, which frustrates him, so no, he has not won awards or gone to competitions. Is really no place for him?