Class of 2026 Undergrad/Class of 2024 Grad: The Tours, the Auditions, the Journey

OK let’s get this year rolling! Post about the schools under consideration, your thoughts and concerns about auditions, questions about the process, etc… Good luck to all the budding musicians!

My kid is a grad school applicant for vocal performance. He’s a senior at FSU. As parents we are much less involved this time. He’s picking the schools, choosing and practicing his repertoire, watching his deadlines. It’s fun to be a spectator and cheering section this time around. He’s got an opera this month then he’ll be working on his video submissions for prescreens. He’s applying to 11 grad schools, mostly in the northeast. If he gets a bunch of in person auditions, there will be a lot of flying and a decimation of our Southwest Air Rapid Rewards account!


Thanks for starting the thread, @vistajay! Best of luck to your son; watching from the sidelines sounds sort of heavenly to me at the moment, as the parent of a high schooler :slight_smile: How has his FSU experience been?

I have a 12th grade aspiring clarinet performance major. He has an older brother who’s a junior at Macalester and applied to approximately 8000 small LACs…so I thought I had the process down until this kid decided to be a music major. Now I know nothing! Right now he only has 5 schools on his list, which makes me very nervous (Oberlin, Vanderbilt, Lawrence, Baldwin Wallace, and Schwob at Columbus State in GA (his in-state public option)). Bard was on the list until recently, but I think it’s fallen off because he really doesn’t want a dual degree. I wish he had a couple more, but between needing places with good need based aid (which seems to eliminate most stand alone conservatories) and thinking some places that have great aid are likely out of reach (Rice, et. al) that’s where we are right now. My impulse is to stick some reach-ier schools on there and see what happens, but it’s harder to do that with music schools with auditions than it was for my oldest where it just meant one more supplemental essay. His private teacher is either very realistic or very risk averse, or maybe a bit of both when it comes to steering him toward which schools to apply to.

Anyway, he’s finishing up his last application and then that part will be done. He has an audition at Lawrence next month and then a couple of prescreens to get recorded by Dec 1/Jan 1. He did a bunch of sample lessons virtually last year and we’ve managed to make in person visits to everywhere except Vanderbilt and Lawrence.


My son has loved FSU. It really has a great music school, and he’s been in awe of the talent around him. It is large though, with lots of competition.

If your son is applying to Oberlin and Vandy, I don’t know why he wouldn’t give Rice a shot considering its generous aid policy. That’s the nice thing about music, if a professor or two like him and academics are within range, he’s in. Conversely, denials can be just as subjective. My son was admitted to schools like USC-Thornton with talent scholarships, but did not get past the prescreen at Vandy and SMU.


This is why I’m thinking more reaches would be good…we keep considering places we think he has a better shot…but ultimately there aren’t very many of those that he’d prefer to his in state option (where he already knows and really likes the clarinet prof) or that would be as affordable. Although Vandy and Oberlin are both only/primarily undergrads. Which he likes the idea of and which might make a big difference in admission chances for clarinet? All three schools only have one clarinet prof, so it could mean the difference between 4 openings in a year for freshmen and only one or two? He did a sample lesson at BU last year, and that was the only person who wasn’t encouraging about applying. I don’t know how much of that is just personality, but that professor told him “it’s really hard to get in as an undergraduate” whereas the profs at Oberlin and Vandy were much more encouraging. But there’s also not much to lose by at least doing a prescreen or two at some more reach schools. If he doesn’t pass the prescreen, that’s the end of it.

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With one son at Macalester, did you consider St. Olaf? Just a thought…although I understand its late. St. Olaf has the religious side too…but it’s pretty light. Still it scared my D away.


Good luck to your son @vistajay. It will be fun to see where he ends up.


My oldest applied to St. Olaf, too, so my 12th grader has actually visited St. Olaf back in 9th grade and now gets about 6 things in the mail from them every week :slight_smile: But for whatever reason he hasn’t been able to get excited about it. I don’t know why–he liked it well enough when we visited.

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Thanks for getting this started @vistajay. @kokotg - hi! we are also in GA.
Best of luck to both of your sons - and I agree with @kokotg that @vistajay’s current cheerleader/point-giver is an envious position (but it must still be a titsch anxiety provoking)

My D22 is applying for viola performance. She decided that she wanted to do either dual degrees or BM at schools of music where she could take classes at the Uni OR go to schools with great music teachers/departments - but other than cutting out pure conservatories and a few schools for political reasons, here’s her list:

Brown - her ED choice - loves the viola teacher (lesson online & in person) and everything about the school;
(the December 1 gang) Stanford; Vanderbilt/Blair; Northwestern/Bienen; CMU School of Music or BXA;
(the January 1 gang) Tufts; Wesleyan; Vassar; Case Western/CIM; Smith; St. Olaf.
(the unknowns - tbd Dec 18 after ED results & exams) - McGill & UBC

It has been a long road to get to this list with certain school (UMich, UMd, DePauw for example) going on and coming off multiple times for various reasons and I think we are pretty satisfied with this list, but it will be interesting to watch how it all works out with no real safeties and auditions complicating the situation.


Yay! Thank you for getting this going, @vistajay.

CC has been my research library, so thank you to all of those who came before us!

My son, '22, is planning to be a voice major. Prescreens are done and now he’s focusing on the apps. His list is terrifyingly short, but he is looking for something pretty specific- small-ish school, no big grad program so there are opportunities for undergrads, not a stand alone conservatory. CMU, Oberlin, Ithaca, and throwing in an app for Brown for no real reason that I can see, but he isn’t really expecting to get accepted there, LOL.

We visited CMU and Oberlin over the summer, he had lessons at each that he really really enjoyed, and he loved both schools very much. Ithaca he knows less about, but the acceptance rate is a bit higher so I am hoping that it’s more of a “safety”, if there is such a thing.

Looking forward to taking this journey with you all!


@vistajay Thanks for getting this started. This has been a daunting process for us and so I’ve been looking to understand it better.
@howdidwegethere My son is also auditioning as a viola performance major too. We are in Illinois. I think he has too many schools on his list (mostly from the perspective of writing the supplemental essays). He’s already been accepted to DePaul with a 50% scholarship as a junior (they have a special junior year audition program for basses and violas) and can audition again there for more money. He’s also planning to apply to Eastman, BU, Bard, Mannes, Oberlin, Rice, and Penn State for sure. He’s considering NEC/Harvard combined program, although that is super selective so still not 100% sure on it, and Peabody.
He has done trial lessons at Eastman, Oberlin, Bard, and remotely with Penn State and DePaul (last year). We have had difficulty getting any reply from teachers at Mannes. Does anyone have any suggestion in how to elicit a response? I know these teachers are super busy and probably can’t see everyone who contacts them, so he has attached his resume and highlighted his strengths in the emails.
The other thing I am perplexed about is how to record the screening auditions. We were told by a parent who’s gone through it to use a recording studio. To me that sounds like overkill. One of my son’s teachers said a former bass student who ultimately went to Rice recorded prescreens at home-just made sure to borrow a high quality microphone. What is everyone’s plans for this and do you have any advice?


@Baribassmom , I’ve been extremely impressed by the singers I’ve heard and met who are at Ithaca or are recent graduates. They are talented to be sure, but also very well trained. My son sung with about 6 of them at a program last summer.

@grahamcracker6 , I think a studio is overkill as well. We used an Iphone and ordered a special external microphone. I can get you the mic name if you want it.


@howdidwegethere hi neighbor! are you in the Atlanta area? maybe our kids have run into each other somewhere (mine plays in symphony at GYSO and then in Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony…so not there :slight_smile: ) Good luck with Brown! Your daughter has a lot of overlap with my oldest’s (non music major) application list; he applied to Wesleyan, St. Olaf, and Vassar (Vassar’s FA wasn’t nearly as good as a lot of his other schools or he might well have ended up there–he fell in love with the campus when we visited). I’ve tried to talk my current senior into applying to some non music schools with strong music programs, but he’s just not interested.

@grahamcracker6 another vote for a studio being overkill. A friend let us borrow a nice camera/microphone, and he’s going to play around with it this weekend and see how it does. If he’s not happy with that we’ll buy an external microphone and he’ll use that + his iphone.


@grahamcracker6 - my D22 has used a bathroom with high ceiling and a room in the basement with normal ceilings for all but her first recorded audition - the thing that seemed to make the biggest difference was the mic (she has a Blue Yeti), but lighting and the background not being distracting also seem to make a difference


@kokotg - we are in Atlanta - she has done EYSO and ASYO, but I imagine they have crossed paths at some music event (AllState, maybe). Fingers crossed for an easy season for all of the kids (and the parents)


Congrats to the class of 2026 Undergrad and 2024 Grad on making it to this exciting milestone…your very own Journey Thread! :partying_face: I will enjoy following along this year from a relaxed distance. D is a sophomore clarinet performance major at UMich, so the pressure is off this time around.

@kokotg I will echo @vistajay’s sentiments, and encourage you to throw a few reaches on the list. You never know what might happen! D had six schools on her list–which felt terrifyingly small at the time. In the end, as everyone will tell you, it only takes one. Most of her less ‘reachy’ or ‘safe’ schools ultimately didn’t hold much true appeal for her. It was nice to have a few safeties in our back pocket, but as the process wore on, it became pretty clear that she wouldn’t have been happy with them. Don’t be afraid to take a shot!

A thought regarding admission at programs with only undergrads versus undergrad + grad students… I’m not sure how much this actually impacts the number of openings. We always got the impression that openings were based on the needs of the school that year. Did they end up over enrolling last year, and therefore have fewer spaces this year? Are they looking to grow the studio? etc. It seems to me that most schools had a certain number of openings for their incoming freshman class (and a mysterious formula for arriving at this number). If someone left the program as a sophomore for whatever reason, they might have an opening for a sophomore transfer. I don’t believe that grad students were vying for the same spots. There were spots for freshmen, and spots for incoming masters students, etc. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be competing with the grad students for spots in ensembles once you have been admitted, but that’s another story. :wink: I can definitely see pros and cons to both undergrad only and combined programs.

I’m sure you already know this, but it was helpful for me to keep in mind that schools are extending admissions offers to a greater numbers of students than will ultimately attend. (At least this is how it almost always works out). For example, if the school has four openings to fill, they might extend invitations to six or eight (or more) students–hoping to end up with 4 students enrolling. The number 8 is definitely less scary than 4! :rofl: I also comforted myself with the thought that the music world is a very small world. A lot of these kids will be auditioning at the same schools, and they can’t attend them all!

Good luck, everyone! Wishing you the best on your journey!


My son is on a gap but majoring in clarinet with an outside field of study - he will be going to Ithaca College next year. It has a very similar vibe as Oberlin but also has band and the two clarinet teachers are fantastic.


Thank you @mom2clarinetobsessedkid --all good things to know/remember! I also like to think about how most very good high school musicians don’t even major in music. When they announced where all the seniors were going to college at my son’s wind symphony concert last spring, there were a few headed to music school, but Georgia Tech also got an awful lot of good wind players! It feels a little weird to hope that any clarinet player who might be better than my kid decides to be an engineer instead, but that’s where I am :slight_smile:


I keep running the NPC at Ithaca and it just doesn’t work for us–otherwise it looks really appealing! (it doesn’t quite work at Baldwin Wallace, either, honestly, but he really likes the clarinet prof and the school, so I figure he can have one like that and we’ll see. And it’s closer than Ithaca).

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As for contacting teachers, he could check with the head of the dept (for his instrument) and/or music admissions for the “protocol” at Mannes. He doesn’t need to name the teacher…just ask if teachers do lessons and if he approaching them correctly. If a teacher doesn’t respond, that could just be the teacher (my D’s UG teacher did not…she waited until after the audition). My D also got shut out by a few teachers before auditions and still got acceptances. If you do all, politely, and you still can’t get to the teacher, he may just want to send a very short email a few days prior to his audition stating his continued interest, the date/time of his audition and his resume attached if interested. He may say that he is not expecting a response “at this busy time.” My suggestion is always to keep it light with the teachers…never pushing for a response…and then decide if their communication style is worth it or not. But for a high interest school, you may want to wait to later in the process to get “disappointed” by the lack of response…as a lot can change over the next few months.

For pre-screens, you do not need a studio…unless you are simply too busy to spend any time at it. My D is now in the “professional” world. A lot of auditions have moved to virtual submissions over the past year or so. She does them all at home with an iPhone. I don’t know what kind of mic she uses. She has said that the casting people can see and hear what they want from a wide variety in quality…they can adjust by seeing the setting (your living room as opposed to a stage or church setting)…and do adjust now particularly due to equity issues. Not everyone can afford studio time or the best equipment…and there is a lot of discussion in the industry of making adjustments to assure everyone gets a shot.

The MOST important aspect in a pre-screen: just make sure it sounds like your kid….with no weird distractions in the background. That’s good enough…and will get you the best results. Someone will “see” your kid and go “yes” I know that kind of student and want to work with him/her. That’s the best result for your kid.

Good luck.


Logged in for the first time in a while and very happy to see this thread. I always enjoy seeing the next generation of musicians finding their way to the right schools. @vistajay, I remember when your son was applying to colleges. Hard to believe he’s a senior already! Good luck to everyone on the journey this year! And take heart that music survived the pandemic and seems to be back in full swing. My son’s gig schedule is pretty much back to pre-Covid pace.