What should my high schooler be doing if he's interested in a music ed or therapy major

What kind of experience should a high school student who is interested in a possible music ed and/or music therapy major be seeking out?

Given that many teachers or therapists work with a variety of instruments, does it make more sense to add a second instrument, and get varied experience, or should he be focused on preparing for an audition in just one discipline? Kid plays trombone, but would probably choose to audition in voice if that was an option.


May son is a music Ed major. Most kids applying to college as a music major (performance, music Ed, or music therapy) are going to audition on one instrument and acceptance into the major will be based on that audition, so being strong on that one instrument is pretty important. My son did audition on two instruments (voice and cello) and frankly that complicated the application, audition, acceptance, and scholarship process. He was determined so he did it anyway. He’s a choral music Ed major (he was awarded a choral scholarship) but he takes concentration level lessons on cello as well. It’s difficult to really fully pursue two different instruments at the college level because ensemble rehearsals will conflict, forcing a choice.

That said, it is helpful to have experience on more than one instrument as a music Ed major. Music Ed students have to study all the instruments (son is doing a voice concentration but has taken/will take strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion classes, focused on being able to teach each of these categories of instruments. Every music major at most if not all colleges will have to take piano classes and pass a piano proficiency exam, so a background in piano is really helpful, although not necessary.


My kid has bachelors and masters in music performance. He says the best thing he did was take piano lessons. Lots of good theory goes along with piano….and all music majors have to take theory. This gave him a very good understanding of keys, chords, etc. He can also accompany his students when they play their brass instruments.

So…if anything…I’d suggest piano lessons.


My son is considering music ed and is adding some piano to his voice lessons this summer.


Thank you everyone!

I spoke to a friend of mine who is a music teacher, and she agreed with everyone here that piano would be helpful, so we’re going to think about adding that.

She also had an interesting thought, which is that she thinks he should learn the other low brass instruments (tuba and euphonium, but particularly tuba). She said that it should be relatively easy transition for a trombonist, and that tuba scholarships are going to be easier to get than voice or trombone.

Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

Re: tuba vs other brass…keep in mind that most ensembles have less tuba players than some of the other brass.

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What grade is he? How much time does he have to learn a new instrument between now and when he’s be auditioning? One of my kids switched from violin to cello and was back to her previous level of proficiency in less than a year, but that was in 8th grade (she had started violin in 1st grade), due to an injury, and no auditions were looming on the horizon.

I don’t know that you can assume scholarships will be easier to get on one instrument over another. If the tuba studio at his college of choice is full the year he auditions, it could be harder.


He’s rising 8th. My understanding is that while it would be hard to transition to an instrument that other kids play from the time they’re tiny, like violin, 8th would be too late, but given that most kids aren’t big enough for a tuba until around 6th, and that a lot of what he knows from the trombone would transfer, he could make the switch and be fine.

Plenty of time then. A high schooler I know switches between trombone and another low brass instrument (not tuba, some sort of horn) depending on the season (marching band, jazz band, concert band). I think she was playing bass clarinet in middle school. Even my son didn’t start cello until 6th grade (after a year of bass in 5th and piano since age 5).

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Focus on honing musicianship skills: sight singing, sight reading if they’re an instrumentalist, music theory, ensemble playing, ensemble direction, conducting, keyboard skills. This is because as a music ed major and a music educator, it’s extremely important that they are confident in those skills. Furthermore, many students, depending on the college, can test out of classes, effectively giving them free credits and allowing them to graduate early. I graduated in 3 years instead of 4.5 and saved $20k in tuition, more if you add in cost of living.

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