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Guiding the Decision

Victoria Jicha | October 2016

Teachers of high school students striving toward a music degree in college have a huge responsibility; the decision has life-long ramifications, and you want them to get it right. There are so many aspects to consider when choosing a college that it seems wise to offer some topics for you to think about. Many parents take their high school juniors on a college trip – visiting several college campuses that interest their kids. This gives them the opportunity to see the dorms, tour the facility, and look at the college in more detail. These visits give parents the chance to audition the school while their high school students are preparing their college auditions and completing the other entrance requirements. They might want to know more about:
• Scholarship opportunities
• Financial aid programs
• Work/study programs
• Whether they school is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music
• What degree programs are offered – bachelor, master, doctoral, performance, music education, music theory, and music history.
• Ensembles – How many students play the same instrument and how many ensembles?

    The single most important influence in choosing a college is who the private teacher is and whether they have a proven success rate out of their studio. Some college studio teachers have developed a reputation over the years for being excellent teachers. This can also be proven by the sheer number of former students who now sit in professional orchestras and lead prospering band and orchestra programs.
    Encourage your students to schedule a lesson with the teacher at their preferred college during their junior year of high school. This is an opportunity for students to audition the teachers and find out if they could work well together. Because that college teacher was probably instrumental in choosing the college audition repertoire, find out what is on the list, and help your students prepare that music for their trial lesson. Students should also provide the prospective teacher with a repertoire list of pieces they have studied (etudes, solos, and concertos). Make sure that their contact material is on the list so it can be easily filed with their audition papers.
    When students visit the campus for the lesson, suggest that they attend some classes and talk with current students who play the same instrument. Find out how many are double majors and what that other major is. They could also attend concerts while on campus and compare the college ensembles with their high school ensembles. If the college ensembles fall short of their high school’s groups, they may be applying to the wrong school.
    When students are preparing to audition at several schools, encourage them to set up a database with the audition requirements for each school. Then choose audition music that will cover the requirements of the most schools. For example, College A may require contrasting pieces from the Classical and Contemporary era, an etude, orchestral excerpt, and scales. College B might be more specific. In such a case, choose music from the list for College B that satisfies requirements for College A.
    Last but not least, encourage students to consider a music major carefully. There are far fewer jobs available each year than there are players to fill them. An incredible amount of work, focus, and dedication is required to succeed in the musical field, and if they have any doubts about their abilities and commitment, perhaps they should combine their love of music with a double major in a related field so they will have a means of support in the future. This is a double-edged sword; the thinking is that you must commit 200% to the music career in order to succeed, but a double major divides the time available, making it impossible to devote all of your time to one field of study. Students should be encouraged to think honestly and realistically about their chosen field and answer the question, “Do I really have the talent to be successful?”