How Do You Pick a School?

August 22, 2015

Faculty Author:

Thinking about majoring in music in college?


Studying music is a different animal than most majors. There are far more factors that go into pursuing a music degree than Buzzfeed rankings and biggest programs. Here are some things to think about when figuring out what schools might interest you... 



In my opinion, your primary teacher is the most important piece of the puzzle when determining where you want to attend school. The relationship between you and your teacher is crucial. You'll be spending (at least) the next four years of your life with this person, so you would do well to meet this person and interact them several times before making your choice to commit their university. Scheduling a lesson with the teacher of your instrument, regardless of your curriculum, would also be smart. Even if you're an education major doing most of your studying with the education professor, most schools requires private instruction every semester, so meshing with your instrumental instructor is still essential. Establishing a bond with your professors can pay dividends far beyond your time with them at the university, and if you work hard at your craft with them, they'll turn into life-long mentors and, more importantly, friends. 


Location/Playing Opportunities

As an undergraduate, living close to home can definitely be a priority depending on your personality. Putting aside potential scholarship money, attending school in state is usually the cheapest option. However, money should not be the only factor in thinking about location. As a performance major, the opportunity to play outside of school is something that becomes very important, very quickly. You want to have ample amounts of performance experience, and sometimes going to school in a rural area can hurt your playing opportunities in the community. On the other hand, the savviest of musicians can find opportunities anywhere! In other fields, such as business and technology, it's more likely to find ways to intern and gain experience in urban areas. Cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago have hundreds of recording studios! The area surrounding the campus is just as important what is on the campus itself.


Degrees Offered

What kind of degrees are you interested in? Do you want to play professionally? Do you want to teach? Do you want to work in a studio? Run a contracting company? All of these questions are things you should think about as you begin your search for colleges. Each field has its own challenges, but also its own unique rewards. Look for a school that has the degree program that peaks your interest. As a student who was looking to primarily pursue a performance career, I quickly learned that JUST a performance degree might not set me up well for the future. To be musician in today's world, flexibility is key. Music education, technology, business, and psychology are just some of the numerous other fields in music that you can pursue while becoming a better performer. Obtaining my performance degree at Virginia Tech was my main priority, but I also graduated with an education degree. At first I treated my education degree as a back-up, hoping that I would never have to teach, but after one semester, I learned invaluable lessons studying as an educator. Lectures I attended as an education major still work their way into my practice routine and into my private studio teaching. Taking on the second major was the best decision for my career I have made thus far.


Overall Vibe

Lastly, you want to be sure that you're actually going to an area where you'll enjoying living. I attended George Mason University as a freshman out of college, and as great as the school was for me, I wasn't ready to be in such a busy area. The D.C. scene is great, but I had grown up in more suburban areas and felt clustered in Fairfax. I transferred to Virginia Tech for a variety of reasons, but after visiting the campus several times, I fell in love. It was just so.... open. It was one of the most rural areas I had ever lived, and every time I go back it still feels like home. Wherever you decide to go, it becomes your home for your time there, and you never want to dread going back to school. These are some of the most exciting years of your life, and you should enjoy where you are, so make sure that you take a trip to the campus. Tours are effective for some people, but I actually just enjoyed exploring on my own. Interacting with students and asking the questions I wanted to know, rather than be spoon-fed a massive amount of information, seemed much more appealing to me.


Hopefully this helps with some of the tougher decisions we have to make as musicians deciding on a school. It's one of the biggest decisions of your life, so make sure that you do everything you can to educate yourself on the programs, curriculums, faculty, facilities, and anything else that may apply to you. 


Next, I talk about the audition process, the other half of getting into your dream school.




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