College Prep Milestones?

<p>My piano son is a sophomore and it's suprising how time is flying by. Can anyone summarize key milestones for applying to music schools? Is it different for conservatories versus regular colleges and universities? When do auditions usually happen and when do people start to think about what to play for the audition? How can you find out what sort (level) of pieces people play for different schools? I don't even know how long auditions last. How much do students try to get to know specific teachers/studios at colleges beforehand? What about early decision? Is that an advantage for music degree programs?</p>

<p>My son went to Interlochen the last two summers and this year he has been accepted back at Interlochen, but he applied to BUTI. I've read that summer camps are good places to make college conections, but I don't know how common that is. Is that a good reason to go to other music camps/festivals? Do you look at where the summer camp teachers teach in the winter? We had a little say in selecting his camp teacher, but there are no guarantees.</p>

<p>My son's chamber music partner and his sister (violin) go to Meadowmount, and they have a piano program, but it's not clear that different would necessarily be better. I find it hard to dig up the details of exactly what goes on at summer music camps, but that's a separate issue.</p>

<p>How much does repertoire matter in college acceptance? The philosophy of my son's piano teacher is to spend more time covering more repertoire and less time perfecting each piece. When it comes to competitions, my son almost always plays new pieces. The same is true for his chamber music coach. They covered the entire Beethoven "spring" violin sonata last fall, but only performed the 3rd and 4th movements in recital. I generally like this approach, but it's not necessarily the best approach for perfecting pieces. I don't recall a single instance where any piece was revived and perfected for a competition. He barely even reuses pieces in consecutive performances. </p>

<p>We've done a good job ignoring college for a long time. In fact, it's not clear whether music will be a primary goal or a secondary goal. He loves math and physics. I know about dual degree programs, but that still requires an audition. Thanks for any help you can give us.</p>

<p>Hoo boy, you have asked a lot. One place to start is to search some of the threads on here, the "So you want to be a music major" thread is one of the good ones.I am going to try and summarize answers to some of your questions, make a quick FAQ on these things so to speak. </p>

<p>-Summer music festivals vary on how good there are, some of them IMO are places for musicians to make money without offering much, others are pretty intensive. They also vary in their goals, some, like Interlochen, combine music with the 'summer camp' experience (doesn't mean it isn't a great program if it does both, depends on the student and what they want), others focus on chamber music, others on a combination of ensemble and individual lessons. Meadowmount has a strong reputation and is known for being intense (how intense is subject to debate), Ivan Galamian who founded it, in not so politically correct words, called it "a concentration camp, a place to come and concentrate" and that is its rep, and it tends to draw high level students from what I know of it.</p>

<p>Music festivals are often hotly debated on here, about how much value they have. My take is that if the program has high level students and teachers, it can give a prospective music student a taste of the level of competition out there at the highest levels, to see where they stand. Plus it does give exposure to people who teach at various music programs (depending on the program, some programs have teachers from top level schools, others have people teaching who are not affiliated with a music program) and could be an opportunity to get an evaluation. </p>

<p>Do you absolutely have to go to summer music festivals to get into a good music school? No, it is just another possible step. I think you can gain a lot from summer festivals, depends both on the student and which festival to say how much. </p>

<p>-Repertoire on Auditions. The best starting point is to look at music school websites, they list their requirements. I don't know Piano all that well in terms of specifics, but music schools generally have a lot of requirements that match. There are differences, on the violin, for example, Curtis wants a whole concerto prepared, while other schools may only want a movement or contrasting movements, and so forth. </p>

<p>In terms of what to play that is up to the student and their teacher, hopefully the teacher knows the level of pieces required, there is standard repertoire for all instruments and with top level programs usually there are minimum levels. The standard line about what to play is play the most difficult pieces you can that meets the requirements that the student plays at a very high level. Schools might accept different levels, but chances are what you prepare for Juilliard as a hypothetical example might be more demanding then what another school requires, but you won't be penalized if you play the tougher piece de facto required at Juilliard at a less competitive place:).</p>

<p>-As far as what level the pieces should be at, if you are planning to go to a competitive or ultra competitive music program, then your Piano teacher's approach is not going to work IMO. Students in the earlier parts of the learning process tend to progress through repertoire and to what level they are prepared is up to the teacher. The problem with your teacher's approach IMO, of playing as much repertoire as possible, is that learning rep is not just about learning pieces, the reason students progress is that they are learning key techniques, and polishing those pieces off gives them building blocks they will use later.
The problem with taking the 'its good enough' and move on is it can leave major flaws in place that can be hard to fix later. We saw that with my S when he moved from his last teacher to this one, it was shocking how much bad technique they let slip through, my S felt like he was being totally redone with his current teacher......</p>

<p>That approach also is problematic because for music schools the audition is it, grades, SAT's and so forth in the music school don't matter, the EC's, AP's, etc don't get you in (the music school; more on that). A music school audition can last varying lengths, but usually it doesn't last more then 10 minutes or so from what I can tell, and the length doesn't mean anything in terms of getting in or not. So basically a student has 10 minutes or less to demonstrate they are good enough, the panel will ask them to play excerpts from the prepared reportoire, it is rare to nonexistent to play a whole piece (not surprising, given the 10 minutes or so). Basically, when a student goes in an auditions their technical ability on the piece weights heavily and given the competition and the level out there, especially on piano, those pieces better be polished, a student with flaws left unchecked in the rush to get more rep in, is not going to get through. That isn't saying that auditions are perfect, audition panelists know kids have memory slips and other errors, they are nervous, but they also know the difference between an auditioner that has slips and one that isn't prepared. </p>

<p>Best advice I got on audition rep was the repertoire should be set and in almost finished form by the spring of their junior year, so they can spend the time between then and audition season polishing the pieces and getting them to a very high level. The other thing that seems wise to me is to shoot for as high a level as possible, because when you audition it is likely you will not play at your very best level, due to nerves, etc, so if you are shooting for the moon you still can reach orbit;). </p>

<p>-In terms of auditioning, on Piano it is likely you will have to submit a prescreen recording, that determines whether you will get a live audition, and that usually happens fall of junior year (another reason to get your rep polished early). Not all schools do this, but many schools do, primarily because a lot of people apply to audition on piano. This is usually a CD or a DVD.</p>

<p>-There is a difference between applying to a stand alone conservatory and a music school within a university. Generally, when you apply to a music program within a university, you need to get accepted to both the music school and the university; what this means is that things like grades and SAT scores will matter at a music school within a university, whereas it will mean little to nothing to stand alone conservatories (they do check grades and sometimes SAT's at conservatories, but usually it doesn't weight heavily unless the kid is an academic mess from what I hear). So if applying to such programs in universities, it is important to have grades and SATs to meet the school's requirements (they may not hold music students to as high a standard as academic only admits, but you never know that).
At a standalone conservatory, it is the audition that determines what you do; in a music school at a university, you have both the audition and the academic admit to get through. </p>

<p>-In terms of the audition process, for most schools when you audition you also indicate which teachers you might want to study with. When you audition, the panelists give you a score and also check off a form on whether or not they want to teach the auditionee. To get admitted, you need both to have a score high enough to meet the cutoff for admission and have a teacher willing to teach you. They do try to match what you wrote with teachers willing to teach you, but it is possible to end up with someone you didn't indicate....</p>

<p>How to choose a teacher? Some students visit schools they are interested in and have sample lessons before the audition and choose teachers based on that, others get recommendations from their teacher, look at what others have written about the teacher, etc to see what their reputation is. Some people look for the name performer teaching at the program, though that may not be the best course of action, since a)the performer may not be that great a teacher and b) prob has very few students. </p>

<p>Other students go through the audition, and if accepted, do sample lessons with the teachers that wanted to teach them, to see if there was a fit. </p>

<p>Some schools, like Indiana, admit you then you find a teacher. </p>

<p>-Music schools generally don't have early decision (some schools, like Indiana, offer rolling admissions), you generally apply in the fall, submit a pre screen (if required), and you audition in the winter/spring and find out by April if you got in or not. The academic side might have early decision in a school in a university, but the music program probably doesn't. </p>

<p>Basically, to get into a music school you need to pass a 10 minute audition and have a teacher want to teach you, and that these days at any decent level of music school requires playing as high a level piece as you can as well as you can, the second being the key, that the level of technical playing is going to weigh very, very heavily, it is what as far as I can tell makes or breaks the student. Yes, potential and musicality and such will weigh in, but with the technical ability that is the key element, so whether you know 20 concertos or 5, if you don't play the pieces well on the audition, you generally won't get in.</p>

<p>MUSICPRNT - Thank you for your extended response!</p>

<p>I was afraid of the 10 minute audition limit. I saw that BUTI and BU audition time slots were just 10 minutes.</p>

<p>"...technical ability on the piece weights heavily and given the competition and the level out there, especially on piano, those pieces better be polished..."</p>

<p>I can see now that technical ability trumps any sort of lyric impression you can provide in 10 minutes. I assume that this means practicing a lot of starts and stops in the middle of the music. </p>

<p>"The problem with your teacher's approach IMO, of playing as much repertoire as possible, is that learning rep is not just about learning pieces, the reason students progress is that they are learning key techniques,..."</p>

<p>The wide repertoire is being used to practice key styles and techniques. The downside is that one of the techniques you tend to miss is getting a piece just right. All performances end up being what I call "just in time". I wish less new pieces would be introduced, but my son just wants to move on to the next great new piece. That's more exciting. However, I think it's time for him to start thinking about selecting and perfecting a repertoire. He is currently playing pieces that qualify at any level of school, and he has performed them in competitions, but they all would benefit from a nuanced and polished review.</p>

<p>I just checked NEC and found this interesting statement:</p>

<p>"... the music a pianist chooses to perform is a statement of artistic identity"</p>

<p>As least we are focusing on this while selecting competiton pieces. I see that some avoid Bach because there will always be someone who doesn't like what you do.</p>

<p>"How to choose a teacher? Some students visit schools they are interested in and have sample lessons before the audition and choose teachers based on that, ..."</p>

<p>How many people do that? Is there a standard procedure for this, or does it require a personal reference?</p>

<p>Audition lengths can vary quite a bit over different schools, instruments and teachers. My daughter had one or two that were only ten minutes, but she also had one that lasted half an hour.</p>

<p>A lot of prospective music majors (by no means all) will have a lesson with at least some of the teachers for whom they will audition. Sometimes this happens at a summer program, sometimes when a student visits a school, sometimes in a totally different location when the teacher and student can fit it in. This usually does not require a personal reference, just a phone call or email asking to arrange a sample lesson.</p>

<p>The first dozen or so posts in the thread <a href="http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/258796-so-you-want-music-major-one-familys-experience.html?highlight=so+you+want+to+be+music+major%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/music-major/258796-so-you-want-music-major-one-familys-experience.html?highlight=so+you+want+to+be+music+major&lt;/a> may be of interest if you have not already seen them.</p>

<p>BassDad is correct, audition length can vary, as anything I post it is based on what I have seen and experienced,mostly in the strings world, though I hear from the grapevine Piano auditions are generally pretty short (again, that is the sample of what I have heard). Given the number of people they tend to audition for violin and piano, it is probably more likely then not that the audition will be short, and the one thing that music teachers stress to students auditioning (from talking to other music parents and some teachers) is that technical playing is going to be the main focus (obviously what constitutes that depends on the instrument; on violin intonation is critical, you don't have that with a piano). The 10 minutes isn't a rule, just what I have heard in strings and piano, but every panel is different, etc. Could be your S at some school could face 1/2 hour, you never know, but the shorter times seem more common IME. </p>

<p>There are threads on here about sample lessons, how to go about it, etc. Generally the easiest way seems to be to contact the music department at the school and ask them how to go about it, or send an e-mail request. Most schools don't have formal policies on sample lessons, it generally seems to be based on one on one interaction with a teacher the student is curious about and arranged that way. </p>

<p>Before someone else reads my original post and roasts me, musical elements, artistry and so forth do come into the picture, but a lot of what they are looking for is technical. And yes, the pieces you select in an audition can say a lot about you from what I can tell, for example on violin pieces like the Tchaikovsky violin concerto or the Sibelius are pretty common, and someone coming in and playing something different, a less played concerto, might be showing something of themselves.</p>

<p>Thanks for the feedback. I read the "So you want to be..." post a long time ago, but I forgot how good it was. Audition practice is a good thing and my son has been through a few. However, he needs more practice in the 10 minute audition. However, one note I can offer is that by the time we got around to signing up for the live BUTI audition at BU, all the slots were filled for the only weekend we could make it up there, and that includes SuperBowl Sunday! We ended up sending in a CD.</p>