How much harder is it to get in as a voice major than an instrumentalist?

Is it a lot harder to get in as a voice major than as a major in a less common instrument? My kid wants to go to college for a BM in music education or music theory. Right now, he sings, does some musical theater, and plays both bass and trombone, but it seems like he needs to choose one to study seriously in high school if he’s going to make it through auditions.

How much role should the difficulty of getting in play in his decision about what to focus on?

I have a S23 who is trying to make those hard decisions right now. I am not an expert and this is our first go around with true college admissions and with music. (My other S19 chose a tech school path).

S23 is in 3 choirs. Plays flute and some basic guitar and piano. Hes doing his 8th musical this weekend. Yet he also has emails from colleges coaches in football, rugby, and esports.

Tentative major is something in music. Possibly performance with some business classes or a true double major. Or music education or something music business related.

Experts correct me if I am wrong but it seems that so far the auditions for music ed seem much less competitive and less stressful by looking at the requirements. Also, the fact that my son is in a variety of music based activities has been seen as a positive.

After the musical ends this weekend my son will be working with a voice coach to record auditions for out of state schools. We are still very early in the process.

From what I have read, musical theater majors seem to be the most cut throat followed by female vocal performance.

We’re way earlier than you. Mine is a S26, so just trying to figure out what makes sense in high school.

I have read enough that it looks like if you want a BM the audition process for Music Ed is the same, but I don’t know if the standard is the same. I’m also wondering if the fact that he plays a band and a string instrument will help, even if he auditions in voice. Being able to teach band or strings seems like a plus long term.

It sounds like your kid is like mine, wanting to do everything (sing, play an instrument, play a couple sports, be in the school play). I’m worried that’s not sustainable, but maybe based on your experience it is?

I dont know the exact answer for music ed, but if your child wants to play an instrument in college it would seem they should choose the one they enjoy the most and concentrate on that. If they are a singer and MT person then that is what they should do. Music at a college level is such an intense experience and requires so much work through high school that suffering for the instrument that may give them an edge seems like a poor decision. My S24’s music teachers at school have been percussionists, brass instrumentalists, singers and pianists. lots of variety.


He loves them all. Like a PP’s kid, he also loves several sports. But realistically, he’s not going to be able to do all of them at a high level while going to high school, because of limited time during the day (e.g. only so many electives fit) and outside of school, and because of limited money.

I think we’re getting close to the point where he has to choose what to invest his time and money in most heavily. Then he can do the other things with less intensity.

1 Like

My kid could academically do better with grades but is sitting around a 3.4. He got a 35 ACT first take (perfect 36 in science).
I didnt push AP courses. He isnt aiming for top colleges.

He is in choir class for school plus does an extracurricular mixed choir EC (meets typically 1 day a week after school) and an all male acapella group (3 mornings a week before school). He auditioned into the highest choir the school has as a sophomore. He has taken voice lessons from a local studio on and off.

He plays in band for school which is not a ton of commitment honestly. He should practice more but he leaves his instrument in a locked locker at school during the week. He is in their top band ensemble as well.

For us, football runs from June-November 4-5 days a week. He’s a solid player and starts most games.

Freshman year he did downhill ski racing in the winter but that is the time of musical rehearsals and it got overwhelming. Sophomore year he dropped ski team and just skied for fun. This past year he taught ski lessons for money.

Musical rehearsals are pretty much 5 days a week November/December through February and he’s done them yearly since 5th grade. 6th, 7th, and 10th grades he had character roles. 5th, 9th, and 11th he was mostly choir ensemble with small speaking parts/short solos. In 8th grade he was the lead. He is currently doing 3 character roles in the musical this weekend. If he doesnt get a character role this year, he said he may drop out of the high school production to work on audtions and working to save up money.

This spring he did both track and rugby which was tough. He will likely drop track senior year unless they just let him jump. He found he’s actually quite good at rugby and his team were state champs.

Add that he’s worked at 3 different jobs now and helps take care of a hobby farm and all the animals, he has a quirky admissions resume. :slight_smile:

I’m exhausted just reading about all your son’s activities, and about all the transportation that had to be provided to make them happen! Kudos to you and your family!

1 Like


My younger kid is like that. He wants to do all the things. I don’t think my S26 would have the stamina for all that.

The answer to whether it’s harder to get accepted as a voice major is, it depends. For a guy, it’s less cutthroat for classical voice than it is for girls. Auditioning into musical theatre seems insanely cutthroat for anyone. Other instruments it can really vary by school, and year.
I think acceptances will come where the student is most prepared.

My son sings and plays cello and piano. He quit piano lessons around freshman year of high school to focus on the others. The school selection and audition process is harder if you don’t narrow it down to one. The descriptions you’re posting of your kids sound like my son. Choirs, orchestras, piano, musicals, insanely busy in high school. He ended up auditioning on voice and cello (would not pick just one) to four schools only. He was accepted on both instruments, to all schools, and continued lessons on both for the first two years of college. Not all schools would have allowed this. He could not continue to fully pursue both (ensemble rehearsal times tend to conflict in college) but he gets gigs on cello frequently even though he’s a voice (music Ed) major. He uses his piano skills all the time. Being well-rounded has been great for him, but you have to have the skills on your primary instrument for admission. The other stuff is quite useful once you’re in, particularly in music Ed. In most states you take a concentration (choral, band, or orchestra) in college but come out certified to teach k-12 music. I think a background in more than one discipline will come in handy in many ways but it doesn’t make a massive difference in the list of courses the student actually takes in college.

Music Ed is not necessarily an easier acceptance. Son tells me it’s actually harder at his university. This probably varies by school and is hard to quantify.

As to whether all those things are sustainable in high school? Kind of? My son did all of it (two school choirs and school orchestra every year, youth orchestra, musicals, lessons, all state this and that, etc etc, ) except sports, and it was pretty crazy. Adding sports would have sunk the ship.


It’s always possible for a multi-faceted kid to attend a college or university for a BA rather than a BM. The BA could be in music (1/4-1/3 classes in music) or in something else with continued lessons and extracurricular performance, often for credit and sometimes funded. Double major and major/minor are also possible in this scenario.

A BA program can offer a diverse set of extracurricular activities for a young person with multiple interests, as well as varied courses in music, whether for a major, gen eds or as electives.

I don’t know how a high schooler could do sports AND musical theater let alone music as well. It is true that activities may need to be more focused at some point, but it may be hard to narrow interests to the extent that some-not all- BM programs will want.

1 Like

Yet my S23 is somehow doing it. :slight_smile: The issue is what path he will choose in college because doing it all in college is where it truly gets impossible.

1 Like

It is quite an accomplishment and sounds like he is enjoying his time in HS and getting the most out of it! Many kids will not choose to do that at the expense of lower grades and he should be commended for doing what he wants and not joining the rat race. My S24 basically concentrates on his high level instrumental music program, school and sports for fun because he is not ready for the trade off. The OP’s son may have to make the same decisions as a rising college freshman, excellence at one instrument, voice or MT and getting excellent grades or doing many things.

Yep, no rat race chasing here. He wants to explore and try lots of things.

1 Like

Coincidentally I just was talking to a guy in his 40’s with a couple of degrees in music who has been coaching high school sports for years :slight_smile: And still doing music.

1 Like

I’m not sure how a B.A. would help. None of his interests are academic. He does OK in school because he’s a hard worker, not because he’s passionate about academics.

Musical Theater is definitely more of a hobby. It’s not something he’d want as a major or a career. However, it also seems like it would be helpful for a music teacher or therapist to know about, especially if he ends up in an elementary or middle school position.

I think that if we was thinking of majoring in trombone performance, and hoping for a career as a trombonist, then it would be obvious that he should be sacrificing other things to be the best trombonist. It’s less obvious to me if his goal is something like elementary music education, because having a lot of breadth seems like it would be helpful long term.

I would also add, in case it makes a difference, that I know there are people whose passion is performing and get a music ed degree as a back up. That’s not my kid. Teaching is his first choice.

This may just be my impression, but male vocal performance although very competitive does seem less competitive than female, and would seem less competitive for sure than piano or violin. Each studio only has so much room and there are so many female vocal performance and piano students. The questions should be is his voice at that level and if so does he have exposure to the training he would need for a vocal performance program.

I know it’s less competitive than female vocal or piano or violin, but none of those are options on the table. His instrument would be double bass or trombone, probably bass.

He’s a rising HS freshman, so it’s hard to predict how his voice will develop. He’s gotten good feedback. We’re in an area where we could get him the training for any of the 3, but not for all of the 3 due to constraints on time and money, if that makes sense.

1 Like

Absolutely. My younger S concentrates on one instrument and has since he was 5. My older tried to do instrumental music and acting and it was impossible to be successful at both, he had to drop one (he is at acting conservatory for college). I am sure he can be a successful music teacher with any of those options and get into a good program, sounds like he is incredibly talented and should just pick one!

A few thoughts on this topic with my husband having a music ed degree (albeit many years ago) and 2 of 3 kids with music performance degrees. Hoping that those with more current Music Education knowledge will also chime in.
Music Education requirements by school districts can vary by state, so if your son has an idea of where he would like to teach, he would be best served to look at programs in the same state because the program will tailor the curriculum to meet the state requirements for hiring.
Often there are two specialty areas for music education divided into vocal music and instrumental music. So if your son has an interest in teaching one area more than another, take that into consideration as well. And you are correct that a broad interest is great, as instrumental music Ed majors are required to learn to play every instrument to some proficiency.
It is beneficial to have one instrument be your strongest and the one on which you audition. This also allows the music Ed students to play in various ensembles throughout their college experience.
Not to overload your kid, but if he can pick up some keyboard skills it will be very helpful.
In our experience, the auditions for music education students is not at the same standard as music performance. Schools understand that music Ed majors will (and should) have a broader experience on instruments/voice as compared to a performance major.
Good luck! The world needs passionate and skilled music teachers!


If he is only a freshman in high school, his interests may clarify. My kid was headed for a theater or English major until junior year of hs and just got a doctorate in music. You never know.

I mentioned BA because I personally know many musicians who went that route for undergrad. A BA music major takes similar music history, theory and musicianship, technology, ethnomusicology and composition classes as BM students though of course there is less immersion. And you do have to do gen eds at most schools. The young people I know did a lot of extracurricular music and their activities were probably more varied than someone focusing on one instrument at a BM program. It also left time for sports (to some extent) and other activities.

It’s wonderful that he wants to teach but it may be early to commit to a goal like that. You know your kid. I would just be careful of burnout and guide him in making good choices along the way. Lots of time.

1 Like