By Steve Lipman, former Director of Admissions at Berklee College of Music & Founder of Inside Music Schools
This question somewhat depends on whether a student is applying to study Classical music or Jazz/Pop/Contemporary music. Why?
The key to a student’s successful music education in a traditional (classical) conservatory is primarily their private lesson instructor – or referred to as the studio.
A student considering various music schools should first research the faculty teaching on their principal instrument. Do they like the teachers performances, interpretation, etc.? The reason being, is that after four years under the tutelage of said teacher, their own playing will be highly influenced by the teacher’s approach to music.
Also, they should, if possible, request a “trial lesson” with as many teachers as being considered. Just because a specific teacher/performer has a renown reputation, does not necessarily mean you will enjoy their teaching style or will “gel” with them.
Finally, the student needs to know how many and what type of ensembles are offered at each school. Are you interested in Chamber music, Symphony, or a Solo career? If you are a singer, are you interested in traditional opera, more contemporary works/ensembles, or even Chorale or Education.
In the world of Jazz/Contemporary music the principal instrument teacher while important is not the end-all, be-all for selecting a school or music college. Many students are not necessarily intending to be performers. They might be intending to pursue a major in Songwriting, or Music Production & Engineering, or Music Education, or Composition. In this case the faculty teaching those courses become important to the student’s choice of school.
Students are advised to research and read the background and professional experience of faculty. Also, their are internet sites out there where students attending an institution actually comment and rate a professor’s effectiveness. However – buyer beware; some students just have a grudge against a teacher and may rate him/her poorly , even when not deserved. Another strategy is to research the success of students who have attended (not necessarily graduated) from any given institution.
What is the least reliable means for judging whether a school is right or wrong for you? – the college’s own materials and website. They can be helpful to a limited degree. But be aware, they are written and produced by professionals who are expected to present the school in the most favorable – albeit not always accurate – light. Trust me, I was one of those professionals for many years.
The BEST way to assess whether a school might be right for you? Visit; take a lesson, attend a class, and speak with students – in the hallways, in the cafeteria, in the practice rooms. The true authorities at any school, college, or university are an aggregate of the students who attend or have attended. Keep in mind – You are an individual and must in the end judge for yourself according to your goals, your perspective, and maybe best of all – your gut.
This answer is easy – practice, practice, practice. Sound familiar?
However, there are a few strategies that can help.
In the end, you’re either ready for your audition or not. You can’t cram into weeks or even months what is essentially a multi-year preparation. If you’re looking for more help with your auditions or admissions, contact us today to learn more about our music school admissions consulting and audition coaching services.