Music Majors

Choice: Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Music

Kinds of schools for music majors: Did Mozart have to do all this?

  • College or School of Music within a college or university

  • Independent schools of music or conservatories

  • Schools of music within a College of Fine Arts, Fine and Applied Arts, or Arts

  • Schools of music in a College of Arts & Letters, College of Humanities, or College of Liberal Arts

  • Schools of music in a College of Arts & Sciences

    Computer Music Majors

    National Association of Schools of Music

    National Association of Schools of Music

    Bachelor of Arts?

  • BA students may not want to major in music, but rather to take classes in music, and perhaps private lessons.

  • You may need to get a job while pursuing a career in music, a BA helps you do that.

  • Keep in mind that if you plan to apply to grad school for music study, you will need to continue your music studies at the under grad level.

  • Singers are encouraged to pursue liberal studies for the first two years, and then concentrate on more advanced voice study.

  • Pianists, flutists, and violinists, on the other hand, are more affected by age, and may want to forgo the BA for a Bachelor of Music.

  • Cellists, violists, double bass, wind, brass and percussion players are not as affected by age, and can wait to pursue a program that is strictly musical.

  • Jazz, Pop music, and musical theater programs are not so rigid about age or admissions, so you have some flexibility about pursuing music immediately upon entering college, or waiting until after you have received a general education.

  • You also have the option of entering a conservatory instead of a traditional college or university.

    Lists of colleges for Music Majors

    Search of Lists of Top Music Colleges

    List from, Top 20 Music Major Colleges

    Google Search Results, Best Music Colleges, Music Majors, Degrees

    List of all College Majors

    Wikipedia List of Music Schools and Conservatories in the United States and Europe

    College Admissions Process for Music Major Applicants

  • Establish a professional-sounding email address. Hawaii_surfer_dude23@whatever, does not cut it.

  • Do online searches on colleges and schools, request information and sign up on their websites.

  • Design a matrix to help you keep track of requirements, due dates, and application info for each school

  • Make a folder for each school of interest. As you begin to contact school representatives, assign a folder for each each person with whom you speak. On the inside cover put name of individual, date, and comments and commitments. Keep notes about audition requirements, repertoire requirements, notes about training in musical areas of interest.

  • Save all emails in folder.

  • Make hard copies of applications for any schools of interest.

  • Keep up your Brag Book:

    Everything About College Home Page, Brag Book

    • Continue adding extracurricular info and volunteering info to Brag Book.

    • Make notes about awards, honors, achievements, activities that provided growth and maturity.

  • Investigate college testing and SATs or ACTs, and College Entrance Exams

    All about SATs, ACTs, SAT IIs

  • Obtain information about the ARTs scholarship ARTS Scholarships

  • Talk with current music teacher about my future plans?

  • Continue taking private lessons?

  • Continue involvement with music programs and productions in my schools and in my community?

  • Take auditions when necessary?

  • Keep a file of all my performances, copies of news clippings, copies of videotapes or televised performances?

  • Had photographs taken to submit with applications if requested?

  • Arrange for an accompanist for my auditions?

  • Submit videotape, CDs, or DVDs for pre-screening if requested?

  • Read carefully, and save all audition or schedule information sent to me by schools or conservatories?

  • Prepare photocopies of my music for my accompanist?

  • Make copies of my selections available?

  • Looked at Everything-About-College

    THE Important Resource for Music Majors and Performing Arts:

    ***Petersons Online Book of Performing Arts Majors***Also available in hard copy. For Musical Theater, Go Here:

    Information about Admissions

    College Applications

    Teacher Recommendations

    Audition info for ALL music majors

  • Read the information about a school or conservatory online, take note of whether the audition is optional or required. Major conservatories, and most college music departments require auditions.

  • You are usually allowed about 15 - 20 minutes of time in a small, stuffy room to demonstrate your talent and potential.

  • The faculty members giving your audition may be known world-wide, they may whisper among themselves, pass notes, argue, or have conversations unrelated to your effort and preparation.

  • Remember that you have paid for this audition, take control of the situation and make each moment count.

  • People respond to excellence; practice until you are satisfied, and perform music you love.

    When do I audition

  • The main audition period is usually January through March. Schedule yours for as early as you can, planning to do them in reverse order of priority, so you are practicing each time for the one most important to you.

  • On your planner, mark off the entire week your particular school is auditioning, so you are free for any date, since the school choose the specific date.

  • If you have to cancel, call immediately, and follow-up with a letter.

    Audition Day

  • Carefully review any correspondence regarding your interview.

  • If auditioning away from home, try to arrive a day earlier.

  • Show up at least one hour before your scheduled time.

  • If possible, do a warm up before you leave for your audition, in case there is no place to do this at the audition.

  • Dress appropriately: Put together an outfit and wear it each time. Neatness, comfort, and cleanliness are important, as well as presenting a professional look.

    • Women Instrumentalists: Medium length skirt, blouse and blazer, blouse, mediium heels.

    • Women Singers: No brown or beige. Low to medium heels, silky-type fabric, not tight. Allow yourself room to breathe.

    • Male Singers: The ideal is probably grey slacks, navy blue blazer, white shirt and tie. Nice shoes. When men want to make a fashion statement in a situation like this, it should be with the tie. Make sure you can breathe in your clothes without having to losen your tie.
  • Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. You will generally be performing from memory.

  • Depending on the type of music you will be presenting, preparing early allows you to be ready for any changes you might want to make, or for improvising if, for instance, you are playing a jazz composition.

  • In your careful reading of your audition requirements, look for requirements for any further parts to the audition such as examinations using ear-training, sight reading, or music theory.

    Who needs to know what, when?

    Brass and Woodwinds

    If you come from a background that is mostly band, this gives you a tremendous background of experience, if you have had good instruction, learned to follow a conductor, and have acquired an understanding of music.

    However, it is a good idea to add to this knowledge by listening to the recordings and performances of great orchestras in the Western European orchestral tradition.

    Learn some orchestral standards for your auditions. Learn the entire piece in case you are asked to perform sections in addition to the excerpt you choose.

    Attend concerts if you have a symphonic orchestra in your city. Generally they offer cheap tickets to students.

    Some large city orchestras, such as San Francisco, schedule a public practice session one morning before each opening concert, offering tickets at rock bottom prices to those who want to sit in. You see and hear the entire concert, with the occasional interesting interruption while the conductor and the orchestra focus on last minute changes or discuss a certain portion of the piece.

    If the orchestra has a visiting artist as a performer, they will rehearse during this same time.

    English Horn and Oboe

  • Be aware that very few schools will let you major in English Horn. You can major in oboe, and play the English horn as an additional instrument.

  • Learn the differences between the American vs. European discussions about vibrato, and decide which you prefer. Ask at your schools of choice which they support.

  • Practice your basic technique.

  • Work on your etudes.

  • Learn how to start and stop your playing in an ear pleasing way.

  • Understand music preparation including keyboard, listening skills, music theory, and understanding music scores.

    Trombone and Tuba

  • A great resource for all performing arts students is "The Performing Arts Majors College Guide" by Carole Everett, a former director of admissions of Julliard. This book is loaded with advice, copies of audition forms and evaluation sheets, and contains supplemental material for each discipline.

    It also contains a vast amount of information on schools in the U.S. for performing artists, with rankings.

    One such section contains a list of books worth reading if your instruments include the trombone or tuba. (The Performing Arts Major's College Guide, Everett, 1998, Thompson. page 70)


  • If you haven't already, become acquainted with the American Harp Society, and compete at some of their gatherings.

  • Acquire background and skill in the piano.

  • Harps are expensive, rent before you buy to make sure this is what you want to do.

  • If planning for an audition, ask the school if you need to bring your own, or if you may use the schools. The latter is the most usual scenario.

  • Try for as much performing experience as possible, in orchestras, plays, or any other local or community event. Some churches use harpists, as do chamber music groups.


  • Some schools require that you also audition in piano.

  • Be sure to learn the philosophy of your school or teacher concerning today's organ. There are views of it as a rather old fashioned instrument, and as one having a place in modern music.

  • If you purchase an electronic organ, my recommendation would be that you purchase an electric keyboard that can emulate an organ.


  • Practice your audition selections on a variety of pianos so you are ready for any instrument at your audition.

  • For your audition, select something you like to play, and that you play well.

  • Your program should demonstrate a full range of qualities and ability:

    • lyric qualities

    • legato

    • technical ability

    • sensitivity and emotion

    • Speak with your teacher or instructor for ideas about composition choices for your audition.

    • See "the Performing Arts Major's College guide, page 79 for a list of good choices for the audition. (C.J. Everett, Peterson's, 2008)

  • Singers

  • Choose selections within your range and ability

  • Avoid arias that are too advanced and that will increase your likelihood of rejection.

  • Do not think in terms of dazzle, but rather of demonstrating your ability at this stage in your life.

  • Age is not as significant here as in, for example, dance; do not attempt to go beyond your reach.

  • Demonstrate some knowledge of languages, such as for instance light arias in Italian.

  • Have your teacher advise and guide you on every step of this process, from choosing the piece(s) to presentation style.

  • Do not ever tax your voice at any time to the point where you may damage your vocal chords. If you ever have a diagnosis about nodes on your vocal chords or other medical conditions that affect your singing, get other opinions before you even consider surgery.

  • Learn excellent sight reading skills.

  • Many professionals believe that at age 18 you are not ready for a conservatory. For your first two years take a liberal arts selection of classes that include foreign languages, literature, and classes in music history and theory with lessons from a private teacher or college instructor.

  • Explore a variety of musical styles.

    Learn About Musical Theater

    Conductors -Choral, Orchestras

    Choral Conductors:

  • Ability to read musical scores

  • Ability to speak, and understand other languages

  • Background in music education

  • Piano studies

  • Organizational skills and ability to get along with people

  • Looking for schools with a strong choral tradition, good voice department

    Choral Conductors:

  • Requirements for success:

    • Proficiency on an instrument, including piano

    • A background and knowledge base of the studies of humanities, including literature, art history, and music education

    • Study history of composition and analysis, theory

    • Study of foreign languages including Italian, German and French

    • Attend concerts every chance you get, rehearsals, as an undergrad look for opportunities to be a student conductor

    • Become familiar with all kinds of appropriate music: theater, ballet, jazz, opera, modern

    • Plan on doing graduate work
  • Questions to ask myself:

  • Am I well organized?

  • Do I get along well with people and groups of people?

  • Have I taken, or am I planning to take, business management courses?

  • Am I learning to conduct all kinds of concerts for all kinds of audiences?

  • Do I have a thorough knowledge of all facets of music, or am I acquiring such knowledge?

    Jazz Musicians

    Jazz: These days referred to as Classical Jazz, it is considered America's Music.

    For an entertaining in-depth look at jazz

    Visit the PBS Web site on Ken Burns production of JAZZ. The not-to-be-missed-site has information on all aspects of this great music including its history, and biographies of all the greats.

    Below is only a partial list of the amazing jazz artists and if you are unfamiliar with their names, you will need to rectify that immediately, since they are constantly referred to, generally in reverential tones.

  • Louis Armstrong

  • Miles Davis

  • Duke Ellington

  • Besse Smith

  • Glenn Miller

  • John Coltrane

  • Charles Parker

  • Tommy Dorsey

  • Ella Fitzgerald

  • Benny Goodman

  • Count Basie

  • Dizzy Gillespie

  • Billie Holliday

  • Sarah Vaughn

  • Fats Waller

  • Thelonius Monk

    And quite possibly the greatest jazz musician ever, Louis Armstrong.

    The list goes on and on...If I missed a "great," please send me an email on my "contacts" page.

    Do I Want to be a Jazz Musician? Points to Ponder

    • Have I studied privately?

    • Have I learned by playing with bands, and giving performances?

    • Do I have a desire to improvise? Have I worked at perfecting an ability to improvise?

    • Have I worked at producing on my instrument the sounds I hear in my head?

    • Do I have the proper amount of self-esteem, motivation, self-discipline, and determination to succeed in the jazz world?

    • Do I listen to jazz recordings, and live performances?

    • Do I maintain a certain method of practicing, when, where, and how I practice?

    • Can I transcribe solos from recordings or performances to reproduce on my own?

  • NOTEI believe that Jazz musicians should understand the history and evolution of jazz. This includes the history of jazz, and of such music as R&B, the blues, soul, and gospel, perhaps with a little country music thrown in, since jazz was the start of it all, they are in many ways, inter-related.

    Your Audition

  • Generally you will be asked to present three pieces.

  • Pick your audition music from styles you feel comfortable playing.

  • Be prepared for a request to improvise.

  • Choose standards of jazz rather than something you composed.

  • Be sure you are as proficient in your particular instrument as any classical musician.

  • Be sure you are knowledgeable about great jazz musicians, and have listened to their music. (See above for a partial list.)

  • Dress appropriately-this does not mean wearing sloppy clothing, or inappropriate styles such as jeans that fall down around your ankles if you let go.


  • Do careful research into different composition departments at different colleges.

  • Find out about each school's philosophy of music.

  • Be sure you investigate each school's willingness to be on the cutting edge of new technology in music and music techniques.

  • Analyze your own interests. Are you interested in an academic life as a composer, as in teaching, or do you see yourself as a composer of music to be performed?

  • Are you familiar with the role computers play in composing and analysis?

  • Are you technically up-to-date on computer musical applications and software?

  • What kind of music are you interested in composing?

  • Does composing interest you, or are you more interested in a career in music editing, such as for recordings, television or film?

  • Do you listen to music as much as possible?

  • Are you familiar with all kinds of music and the greats of each genre?

  • Are you familiar with the masters of classical music? Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, etc?

  • Do you have a strong background in music theory, and music history?

  • Are you able to analyze musical scores? Orchestration, instrumentation, transpositions, and basic lay-out?

    Search for schools of composition and musical theory

    Paying for College

    Financial Aid, Scholarships

    Financial Aid

    Scholarships (Keep checking back - we add info all the time.)

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    Acting: Drama, Theater

    Musical Theater


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