An Overview of Services

A Q&A with Inside Music School’s Steven Lipman.

Do you screen applicants and choose the ones with whom you will work?

No. When a family contacts me, we have a 20- to 30-minute conversation in which I learn about the student and they learn about me to determine if we are a good match. Then I follow up with ideas about how we could work together.

What is the first step once a student begins working with IMS?

A two-hour intake consultation is the first step for everybody. I learn a lot about the student’s interests, knowledge, and ability and what both the parents and students are envisioning for the college experience. That information indicates what the next steps should be. After that, I start telling them how to prepare for auditions.

Can you describe the four tiers of service IMS offers?

The Fundamental package is the most basic. It includes a two-hour consultation with me in person or via Skype. During that interview we discuss the student’s music training, academic record, and extra-curricular activities. I follow up by creating a personalized admissions report giving broad recommendations for the student.

Our Silver program includes the consultation interview as well as a staged audition with a college faculty member who plays the student’s principal instrument. This person will tell the student their strong points and what they need to work on. I also conduct a simulated admissions interview with the student—the same type they would have at a college or university. I then offer constructive criticism to help improve the student’s interview skills.

The Gold level includes the consultation, simulated admissions interview and staged audition, and perhaps a second audition if the student plays another instrument or has a secondary area of musical interest. For students wanting to major in composition, music production, songwriting, or musical theater, we arrange for an assessment by college faculty members specializing in each of those disciplines.

The Gold level also includes a list of about eight schools that I recommend for the student’s consideration. Some of these schools will be a reach for them to be accepted to, others I feel will be a match, and then I add a few safety schools. A student may want to go to one of the nation’s top schools, but they may not get in, so I recommend various options to them.

In the Platinum program, I provide all the services of the gold level and a few additional items. Most students don’t have a polished résumé, so I send them guidelines for writing a good one. Once I receive their draft, I have professionals look it over and make suggestions and changes until it is right. Most students will also have to write an essay as part of the application process. We review every essay and work with it until it is excellent.

Another feature of the Platinum plan is that families get unlimited access to me via phone, e-mail, or in-person visits. From the day they sign up until May 1 of the student’s senior year, they can reach out to me for advice and guidance.

I prefer families come to Boston if possible, because there are so many music conservatories, college and universities with music departments here. We can visit them together and see how the programs differ from one another. We generally spend two days together and pack a lot into the visit.

When should a student begin working with IMS?

I advise students to begin in their sophomore year, but no later than their junior year. We work with high school seniors too, but by then, there is a much smaller window in which to work with them. The students need to know where they stand with the competition and what they should be working on for auditions and interviews. They will be better prepared if they work with IMS for two years rather than one. If a student comes to me late in his or her junior year, we may only be able to do one staged audition or application interview. If they come earlier, we may get to do two or three. We will be able to see the progress and the student will get opinions from multiple specialists.


The music school admissions process is full of pitfalls. Choosing the wrong school can be a disappointment for the student and an expensive misstep for the family. At Inside Music Schools, we help get college-bound students moving decisively toward their future.