Step 1. Determine Your List of Schools.
Once you have determined which schools you are interested in based on the outline in Part I, I’d recommend narrowing your choices to somewhere between 4-6 schools. Everybody wants to travel everywhere and take a million auditions, but the reality sets in eventually that between application fees, travel, and lodging at these campuses, money becomes an issue. Find your top schools and organize them into the three “R” groups:
Reach, Realistic, and Reserve.
The Reach schools are the schools that would have you jumping to the moon if you were to be accepted, but you know that the competition is going to be tough. For most of these schools, relationships are key, so take lessons with the professors of these schools and figure out exactly what they’re looking for. “Everybody has the right to dream and to work hard,” quoted by one of the FredBrass founders, Buddy Deshler, and you especially have that right to aim high and work your tail off to be accepted by your dream school.
You should probably only have one or two schools top in this group.
The Realistic schools are those in which you feel confident that you’d be strongly considered. For me, these schools were usually state schools, not so much conservatories, and the ones that I would recommend looking at the most closely. Those Reach schools are all going to have the teachers and facilities and opportunities that you need as an undergraduate student. The Realistic schools need much more attention. Look at those schools’ job acceptance rates if you’re a music education major, or the type of talent they bring in if you’re a performance major. Take your time meeting the professor and seeing if you work well with them. You should have most of your schools in this block, somewhere around three or four.
The Reserve schools are the ones that you absolutely know you will get into and will still enjoy your time there, or at least long enough to transfer to a more desirable school. There’s nothing like “taking a year off” that turns into “taking the rest of my life off.” Now, I’m not going to call these “backup” schools because you shouldn’t treat it that way. You shouldn’t have to settle for a school you wouldn’t be happy attending. Even if you only stay for a year and transfer out (which happened to me), make sure you’ll enjoy college. You only get four years! Well…. at least of undergrad. Our newest doctor on faculty, Derek Ganong, has done 9 years of post-high school education! Regardless, you want to enjoy every minute of your college education.
You should only have one to two schools in your reserve.
Set yourself realistic goals and go achieve them!
Alright. We’ve got our handful of schools and they’re sorted out. Now what?
Well I’ll tell you, because I’m a nice guy…
Step 2. Schedule Your Auditions
Scheduling your auditions is a necessary and tedious evil. Most auditions are early in the second semester of your senior year. Every once in a while you might get lucky and have an audition in the fall, but bank on winter time. I recommend always auditioning live unless there is no other way around it. It’s always good to at least shake hands with the person you’re playing for if you hadn’t gotten a chance to play for them before the audition. Unless you’re auditioning at two schools in the same general area (i.e. UMD and Peabody, UCLA and USC, etc.), you’re not going to want to schedule two auditions on the same weekend. Most schools have set dates, and only a handful of them at that. Get on top of this from the get-go so there’s no struggle later. Generally, private teachers are pretty good about making things work if there’s no alternative, but unless it is a preplanned event, like a wedding or what-have-you, chances are you’re picking another school’s audition date over theirs and that probably doesn’t sit well.
Do everything you can to avoid an awkward situation like this.
Step 3. Picking Your Repertoire
Alright. Here is where the fun begins.
Picking your repertoire needs to be very calculated. You want to play well and the way to do that is by picking rep that both suits your playing, but also narrows down the amount of work you have to do, thus making more time to spend on each piece. As a senior in high school, I don’t remember much, but what I do remember is that most of the schools I was looking at did not have set pieces of audition material. Generally, I got the very broad scope of two pieces that contrast “technical and expressive techniques,” or something along those lines. At first, broad may seem frustrating, but it can really help, especially when you look at the more defined list of your Reach school(s). They’re generally more specific, so you can take whatever pieces you’re learning for your top schools and apply them to the vague mold that some of your other schools might ask for. I personally used Strauss No. 1 Concerto for all of my auditions, because it fit the categories all of my schools were asking for.
Pick music that you know well and can perform well.
Don’t throw yourself into a ring of fire just to get frustrated and burned out and having to pull out an emergency piece the week before. Be smart, plan ahead.
Step 4. Schedule Lessons With The Professors Of Your Potential Schools
I was dumb as a senior in high school. I thought I could just go in and play my butt off and everything would be fine. I didn’t care that they hadn’t heard me before. I thought
that my playing would speak for itself….
DON’T BE ME!
Take the time to send recordings to the professors of your school. They want to hear you. They’re just excited to hear you as you are excited to play for them. Fifteen minutes is not nearly enough time for them to get a good impression of what you sound like. Take lessons, whether they be in person or via Skype. Send recordings.
Take advantage of this era we live in where everything is instantaneous.
It will work to your advantage, I promise.
Step 5. Wait Patiently
After your audition, all you’ll be thinking about is this audition. There’s nothing wrong with sending an email to a professor after the audition thanking them for taking time out of their day to listen to you. In fact, I’d recommend it. It’s a common courtesy. HOWEVER, do NOT blow up their inboxes seventeen times a day asking if any decision had been made! There’s nothing more annoying than having to send the same email over and over again, regardless of the context. Let them do their jobs. Everything will work itself out.
Alright, everyone. Hopefully I’ve been of some help to the process. I understand it is a lot to take in, but I like to think that some of the stuff I blurt onto a Microsoft Word Document makes a little bit of sense.
Hope to write some more stuff soon!
Do you have some advice to add? Tell us by commenting!