Preparing for Graduate School Part 1: Why and Where?

Recently, I have finished auditioning for graduate schools pursuing a degree in music performance. After the exhausting process I reflected on what I did right, what I wish I knew, and how others could be more prepared and know what to expect.

The process of applying and auditioning for a Master’s program can be extensive, but with the right preparation the audition process can be a simplified and encouraging experience. The first of the four posts I will write on graduate auditions will focus on what you want to get out of a graduate degree, whether or not it is right for you, and where you should apply and focus your energy.

Why?

  • Do you hope to land a job with an orchestra, a service band, as an educator, entrepreneur, etc.?
  • If so, which degree will help you achieve these goals?
  • Where should you apply and why?

Generally, a performance degree will prepare you for the world of orchestras, service bands, chamber groups, and equip you to be competitive in professional auditions. For this reason, I chose to apply for a Master’s in Music Performance in order to pursue a career in a service band, and also to continue my education in hopes of becoming a college professor.

When choosing which degree you want to pursue, ask yourself this: “What do I want to get out of these two years, rather than “What can this degree do for me?” You will have a much more proactive experience in your college career if you seek out and make your own opportunities rather than waiting for employment to come your way.

Now, where?

This requires careful consideration but most of all, requires that you learn about the main professor of study and if possible meet/take a lesson with that person. Always ask even if you may not get the answer you want. Things to consider when choosing where to apply:

  • Who is the professor? What is their performance and teaching experience like? Is it similar to what you hope to attain?
  • Do you see your relationship with your professor being professional and encouraging?
  • What are the performance opportunities like in the city/town?
  • How are the ensembles?
  • Is there a Teaching Assistant or Fellowship position? Scholarships?
  • What is the studio like? Size?
  • Does the school specialize in orchestral music, band, performance, education, etc?
  • Who is on faculty? Do they match up with your ideals for a career and music education?
  • How are the facilities? Practice rooms?
  • Finally… is this a place I’m gonna dig? There might be a school with great faculty, professor, facilities, but if you don’t see an enriching environment with students and faculty members sharing positive attitudes, take that into consideration. After all, this is a time of development and refining of skills and attitudes.

All of these questions are meant to aid in successful preparation for your audition and help make the graduate process much smoother. Check out part two which covers questions and considerations on musical, mental, and application preparation in the months prior to your audition!