Getting Involved in Student Life at Eastman

The follow post was written by Eastman undergraduate vocalist Celeste Pellegrino.  Thanks Celeste!


Hi! My name is Celeste and I am a junior, double major in Vocal Performance and Music Education here at Eastman. An average day for me at Eastman is filled with classes, homework, rehearsals, practicing, and working as a student assistant in both the Office of Admissions and the Office of Residential Life. As you can imagine, things can get stressful when you are a double major. Luckily, Eastman has an amazing Students’ Association (SA) that helps us balance our hectic schedules.

I have always loved being involved in extracurricular activities. In high school I was a member of a variety of clubs that were both student and school-run. I thought that I would have to give this up when I decided to apply to music schools. To my surprise, I discovered that Eastman has a very active student life scene.

I am currently involved in class council in the Students’ Association as the vice president of the class of 2016, a position I esm_sa_logo_clr_solidhave held since freshman year. I love being on class council because we get to plan some of Eastman’s most memorable undergraduate events. Last year our class planned Boo Blast, a Halloween dance. This year we planned Winter Ball, which occurred early in the spring semester. Eastman students look forward to these large-scale events where they can be with their classmates in a non-school setting. This year, Winter Ball had a Masquerade theme where student dressed up and created their own masks to wear. In addition to these large events, the class councils schedule smaller on and off campus activities for students throughout the year. Some of the ones I have been a part of include pumpkin carving, midnight premiers of movies, pottery painting, and a Super Bowl party.

Of course class council is not only for planning events, we have Students’ Association meetings every Thursday night at 9:30pm, which are open to the entire student body. All students can attend these meetings, whether or not they are actively involved in a club at Eastman. We discuss everything from future events, to how to improve our facilities, meals in the dining hall we would like to see more often, and many other topics. Students’ Association also just had their first activities expo. All the different clubs and organizations put out booths in Cominsky Promenade (located on the second floor of the school) to encourage new membership and gauge what events students were interested in this semester.

Getting involved with student life at Eastman is very easy. There are lots of clubs that cater to a wide array of interests. If you do not see a club you are interested in, the Office of Student Life can help you start a new one! One of my friends, who is also a vocalist, is president of Eastman’s Soccer Club. They meet every week, either at the University of Rochester or at an indoor league, and play soccer. This club is a great way to stay active and meet new people who enjoy sports. They also just celebrated a win at the University of Rochester’s intermural league championships.

Other clubs at Eastman include Eastman for Earth (an environmental awareness club), Eastmanites Anonymous (weekly movie nights), Mu Phi Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Iota (our Greek life on campus), Chinese Cultural Association, Spectrum (LGBTQ community) and two religious-affiliated clubs.

I have enjoyed being a part of class council and Students’ Association because it has given me a way to maintain my interests and be a leader outside of music. It also creates an even bigger since of community than Eastman already has because it gives the students a voice to make their views heard.

There is no question, life at Eastman can get crazy at times, but there are numerous people that have your back! And, the best part is that Eastman gives you the chance to take charge of your opportunities while allowing you to discover and continue your other interests. I hope you will take advantage of the opportunity to get involved!



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A Day in the Life of a Jazz Major

The following guest post was written by current Eastman jazz major Emiliano Lasansky.  Thanks Emiliano!  For more info on majoring in jazz at Eastman, please also visit the Jazz and Contemporary Media department website.Emiliano-L


A normal day as a Jazz major at Eastman can be exciting, and is often pretty busy. When we’re not in a rehearsal or a class we might be playing on sessions, checking out recordings or practicing. This article will give you a good idea of what a normal day in the life of an Eastman jazz major your junior year is like.

  • 8:30am-10am, Music History: This class makes up part of the core requirements for any undergraduate degree. Music History is a 3 semester long course. I am currently in my 3rd semester where we cover 1900 to present day. Today we studied some of Bela Bartok’s shorter compositions for piano based on folk songs he recorded in Hungary. We learned that this is an early example of musicology!
  • 11:00am-12:30pm, Jazz Theory: I’ve found this to be my favorite class this semester! This is a two semester long course with Prof. Dariusz Terefenko, professor of both Theory and Jazz Piano. This course focuses on learning theory principles used by Bach and 20th century composers like Webern, Messiaen, Debussy and Shostakovich to name a few. Today we analyzed Messiaen’s Prelude #5, and its’ use of the diminished scale, which turns out to have some interesting connections to jazz harmony. For next week our assignment is to write a jazz composition using the harmonic techniques of Messiaen.
  • 12:45am-2:30, Eastman Jazz Ensemble: As jazz majors, we audition at the beginning of the academic year for a large ensemble. This year I am playing bass with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Prof. Bill Dobbins. We just played a concert of Jim McNeely’s music recently. Mr. McNeely visited Eastman and worked with us in preparation for the the performance, and then conducted and played piano with us in the concert.

Today we started learning some of the music of Billy Strayhorn. This year is the centennial of Strayhorn’s birth. As a tribute to the composer Eastman Jazz Ensemble is giving a series of concerts of Mr. Strayhorn’s music. I’m really excited for one performance this March! The band is traveling to New York City to play some of Strayhorn’s music at Dizzy’s Jazz Club in Lincoln Center.

  • 3:30pm-4:30pm, Jazz Composition: In this class we work with Professor Dobbins to analyze compositions by composers like Bill Evans and Joe Henderson. After analyzing a collection of tunes by that composer, we attempt to write our own composition in that style. This is fun and very challenging! As part of the class everyone has one on one meetings with Prof. Dobbins where we fine tune our own compositions for the class.
  • 5:30pm, Dinner: I usually eat dinner with my friends in the Dining Center in the dorms. We usually go over the stuff we did that day, hang out and talk about music or sometime the NBA (one of my friends is a 76er’s fan, and they haven’t been having a good season…)
  • 7:00pm-9:00pm, Homework/Practice
  • 9:00pm-11:00pm, Rehearsal for Friend’s Recital: One of my close friends who is a saxophonist is giving his Senior Recital in a couple weeks so we’ve started rehearsing for it.  Jazz majors get to pick the repertoire we play in our degree recitals. This can make for a fun and challenging concert. For my friends recital we are playing music by Joe Henderson, Thelonious Monk and some of his original compositions.

While the days here sometimes get to be very busy, there is never a shortage of new experiences.

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My Audition Experience

by Nick German – Music Education/Piano. Class of 2015

As I write these words to my eager, excited, and potentially stressed-out prospective fellow students, I am sitting in front of a computer with a smile on my face. This smile is not there because I finally played my Bach to my teachers’ liking, or even because I just listened to an amazing concert. This smile is here because I know that dreams really can become reality. It feels like it was just yesterday when I shared a dream similar to so many of yours: to find myself in a place where I could develop into the best musician and person I could be. During my college search, I had a strong feeling that the Eastman School of Music was the place for me: a place where hard work pays off, where you can walk down the halls singing your favorite Mozart piece without getting funny looks. (I know…sounds nice doesn’t it?) It’s a place I now call home. I would love to take you through the day where it all began.

My name is Nick German and I am a sophomore pianist here at Eastman. As you read this, I can imagine how you might be feeling: anxious, nervous, and stressed. It’s OK! You are no different from me or any of my classmates when we auditioned. Sometimes you may even think “What am I doing!?” or “There is no way I can get into this school!”. I’m going to let you in on a little secret….professors here at Eastman are not looking for perfection. What they look for is a large amount of talent, confidence, and potential.

Here is a little glimpse into what my audition day at Eastman was like…

It all started when I got out of my car and glanced at the words “Eastman School of Music” on the exterior of the building. As my heart raced, I grabbed the door handle and entered. I’m not going to lie…I was a little nervous (to say the least).  Here I was, a senior in high school who came from a tiny school: a big fish in a little pond. I was suddenly thrown into this huge ocean filled with fish from all over the world. I couldn’t get over how many other students were there: musicians from China, Canada, Russia, Germany, South America, France, and of course all over the U.S.

At first, I was expecting to see serious and not-so-friendly faces among students and faculty. To my delight, I found the complete opposite! I saw smiles on the faces of every student and faculty member I encountered at Eastman. It wasn’t until August that I found out why (although that’s a completely different story!). At this point, my fear and anxiety was starting to fade. It was now time to take my theory exam. When I walked in the classroom, I felt a bit intimidated seeing all those other prospective students in the room. Don’t be worried! Just keep in mind that others are feeling the same way. After my test, I realized that I was worried for nothing.

Now, it was almost time for the audition I’d been working toward for so many years. As I pianist, I had the difficult challenge of finding the “piano basement”. Luckily, I was approached by two current students who were part of the Eastman Orientation Committee, also known as the E.O.C. (The students on the Eastman Orientation Committee were there for any questions I had, and they will be for you too!) One of the students kindly led me down to the basement, and my ears were greeted with a cascade of notes coming from the bottom of the stairs. As I reached the door, I opened it and was slapped in the face with the overwhelming sound of pianists playing Chopin, Debussy, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven (among so many others). Once again, my heart raced. I opened the door to an empty room and started to warm up. Some advice for all prospective students: don’t feel like you need to impress the musician next to you by playing your fastest and loudest piece. They are not the ones you need to impress – just focus on you and your music.

I looked at the clock, and saw that it was time to make my way upstairs to my audition. It seemed like the longest walk I have ever taken. In the audition room, I found myself face-to-face with eighty-eight keys and several professors. I took a few deep breaths and began. Our professors have a knack for helping you feel right at home and allowing you to play your best. I finished my last note with a smile of relief and joy. The professors smiled too, and even asked me how I was enjoying my audition (just to be sure I wasn’t overwhelmed.) I walked out with a deep breath and finished up the day by meeting a few other nice prospective students. Eventually I was back in my car and headed home.

I won’t lie to you and say that the whole day was stress-free. It wasn’t. However, I will say that my audition here was made as relaxed as it could be. To those of you who will be coming here to audition, I offer a few last words of advice….

  1. Get some sleep the night before and try to eat a good breakfast.
  2. Relax and breathe! We all know what you are going through and we’re here to help you with anything you need.
  3. Try your best and have no regrets (easier said than done, I know).
  4. Be yourself and play from your heart.
  5. Have fun and enjoy your experience here!

As I close, I want to wish you all the best of luck. Wear a smile and remember why you are here. No matter what the outcome is, remember: dream big and be proud of yourself! In the words of J.S. Bach: “There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.”

I wish you all the best of luck on your auditions, and I’m looking forward to seeing those big smiles!


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What’s special about Eastman’s undergraduate program? – part 2

This is the second post in a two-part series written by Matthew Ardizzone, Eastman’s Associate Dean of Admissions.

In Part One on this topic, I focused on our students and alumni.  As music schools across the country start to grapple with the question of how to best prepare their students for the changing musical landscape of the 21st century, I look at our alumni and observe how we have already been preparing students for the unknown. We have a sense that as a school we need to expand our definition of what a performing artist needs to be able to do. But it’s clear our students are already coming to us with broader visions of how they might engage in a life in music, and they are fulfilling those visions as alumni.

This makes me immensely proud, both as Eastman’s admissions dean and as an alumnus, and leads me to the next thing that makes Eastman special.

Eastman’s tradition of artistic excellence

Artistic excellence remains at the core of everything we do. When I say artistic excellence, that extends beyond the work done on the major instrument. In the words of our Dean, Jamal Rossi:

In order to have something meaningful to say, a musician must lead a rich and interesting life.  Toward that end, we believe in educating the whole student—not just about the techniques of music, but also through the study of humanities, by interdisciplinary pursuits, and by converging music with other arts” (from Dean’s Welcome).

To this end, Eastman boasts its own Humanities department which plays a major role in fostering a vibrant intellectual atmosphere at Eastman, along with top-notch departments of musicology and music theory. Humanities offerings in languages, literature, history, philosophy, film studies, art history, psychology and political science make it possible for Eastman students to complete their minimum humanities requirements (24 credits, or 1 course for each of your 8 semesters) on the Eastman campus. Note that there are no strict distribution, or general education, requirements (those not interested in math read: no math!). And for those whose academic interests expand beyond these offerings, there is the entire course catalog of the College of Arts, Sciences & Engineering to choose from.

Comprehensive curriculum – strong musical core with room to design

Musicianship skills are paramount and are a major focus of our curriculum, with five semesters of aural and written theory that give our students an unmatched grounding in musical fundamentals, an often over-looked area of their previous musical studies. This is supplemented with up to four semesters of keyboard skills (based on each student’s entering proficiency level).

All of our students are experiencing this core education that puts their musicianship and artistry at the center of everything they do. Around that, we provide the opportunity for students to take elective courses in arts entrepreneurship – we’ve been doing that since 1998 and have ‘written the book’ on arts leadership that many other schools are now following. We foster creativity through programs like the Musical Arts major, the Kaufman Entrepreneurial Year program, Take Five, and the many elective opportunities for performing ‘outside the box’ of the minimum degree requirements. This is something that exists both in the curriculum and in the culture of Eastman. It has led to the development of student-run groups like SoundExchange, Ossia, and others. Our undergraduate viewbook profiles ten Eastman students pursuing the bachelor of music degree in ten distinct ways, and I encourage you to check it out.

And that’s all without getting into some of the most basic components of what we have to offer: exceptional faculty, amazing performance facilities, and one of the world’s preeminent music libraries right here on our campus. Many schools can talk about great teachers and facilities. Eastman’s faculty is not only truly at the top of their respective fields, but, almost more importantly, completely dedicated to their teaching at Eastman. All Eastman students take their lessons with Eastman faculty. The fact that we have an outstanding graduate program means that masters and doctoral students are part of the studio, and sometimes even assist with some extra coaching (technique lessons or warm-up sessions), but Eastman faculty are responsible for teaching all fourteen lessons per semester. They do tend to be in demand as performers and teachers, but any lesson missed must be made up.

When it comes to performance spaces, I never tire of hearing about students and their “Kodak moments” (a reference your parents may more readily appreciate). This is the moment when a prospective student visiting Eastman steps into Kodak Hall and experiences an overwhelming sensation that goes something like, “wow…this is where I want to be.” Kodak is a glorious performance space, and it is complemented by the beautiful Kilbourn Hall (ideal for chamber music, solo piano, voice and smaller opera productions) and the more intimate (and newly built) Hatch Recital Hall, a true gem of a space with amazing (and adjustable) acoustics. But facilities do not make a music school so much as the people that inhabit it. At Eastman we are blessed to have both!

But I know I can’t convince you of how special a place Eastman is through a blog post. The ideal way to experience it is to visit, whether during your sophomore or junior year (or earlier!) or as a senior auditioning in February. Sign up here for a visit. If that’s not possible, contact us by phone or email and keep an eye out for one of our online webinars. Also explore our Summer@Eastman offerings, including the core Music Horizons program. There’s much more to say about what distinguishes Eastman, and, more importantly, what we have to offer that is in line with what you are looking for in your undergraduate education. We look forward to hearing from you with your questions.

In the meantime, happy practicing!



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What’s special about Eastman’s undergraduate program? – part 1

This is the first post in a two-part series written by Matthew Ardizzone, Eastman’s Associate Dean of Admissions.

In my last post I wrote about the problems inherent in music school rankings (which are always subjective) and challenged prospective students to seek out distinguish each school, rather than rely on any ranked list. As a follow up, I thought it would make sense to address the question of what distinguishes Eastman among professional schools of music.

Eastman students support each other.

The first thing that always comes to mind when I think about what makes Eastman such a special place is the nature of our students. Eastman students demonstrate a remarkable balance of ambition and caring. They are able to pursue their craft at the highest levels while maintaining a strong sense of community and a generosity of spirit that is made evident in many ways. A favorite and oft-recurring example is what happens after a concert by one of our ensembles, such as the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman Philharmonia, or Musica Nova in Kodak Hall. The audience, made up largely of students, assembles outside the stage doors and cheers loudly as members of the ensemble exit the stage. It speaks volumes when highly ambitious students will forgo a couple of hours of practice time in order to support their peers.

Eastman Philharmonia Concert, Feb 2, 2015.  Photo by Nadine Sherman

Eastman Philharmonia Concert, Feb 2, 2015. Photo by Nadine Sherman

Our students have vision.

Another striking thing about our students is that although they enter Eastman with a high level of accomplishment in their respective areas of study, they come in with a refreshingly broad vision of what it means to be a musician in the 21st century. We see it as our job to ensure they achieve the highest levels of musical preparation while they are here, but we also pride ourselves on our ability to ‘get out of their way’ to a certain degree, allowing and encouraging our students to pursue interests and skill sets outside of their major area of study. We have students pursuing academic minors, coursework in arts leadership, audio music engineering, performers studying conducting, jazz majors studying classical performance and vice versa. In other words, our students enter and emerge from Eastman with a sense of the importance of a strong musical core, but also an understanding that versatility and creativity are qualities that will serve them well professionally.

Eastman alumni are some of the most successful musicians today.

This leads me to another key characteristic, which is the success of our alumni. Our alumni make things happen. This is in part because of the education they received at Eastman, yes. But they are also successful because they learned here, outside of the studio and classroom, to engage with their peers, to collaborate, communicate and share ideas. Many of them perform and teach in what might be described as ‘traditional’ careers, performing with major orchestras and opera companies, or teaching at the secondary and collegiate levels. But many others create their own ensembles (Alarm Will Sound, JACK Quartet, Kneebody, Break of Reality, Breaking Winds, and many more), become administrators of arts organizations, start their own organizations or institutions, and otherwise lead organizations, departments and schools in a rapidly changing musical landscape. In other words, they successfully forge their own paths into an ever-evolving musical landscape.*

There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll stop there for now. In Part Two, I’ll focus on the tradition of artistic excellence, comprehensive curriculum, and renowned facilities that make Eastman unique.


*Examples of Eastman alumni include well-known artists like Renee Fleming, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, Dominick Argento, Jeff Beal, Maria Schneider, Katherine Lewek, Nicole Cabell, Anthony Dean Griffey, Scott Healy, and Kevin Puts. They include members of our own faculty, and the faculty of major schools and universities including Yale University, Indiana University, Northwestern University, the Juilliard School, Rice University, University of Michigan, Oberlin Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Dartmouth College, the Peabody Institute of Music, Vanderbilt University, and many others.

They perform in all of the top 10 American orchestras, in orchestras abroad, in US military bands, in their own ensembles, including Alarm Will Sound, JACK Quartet, Kneebody, Break of Reality, Signal, Respect Sextet and Colossus. They sing at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, LA Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Teatro Communale di Firenze, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Houston Grand Opera, Washington National, San Francisco, Lyric and Cincinnati Operas.

They lead in administrative positions at academic and performing arts organizations including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, New World Symphony, Cleveland Institute of Music, Oberlin Conservatory, NEC’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship program, University of the Arts, Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, Rutgers University, Stetson University, Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Westminster Choir College, and Eastman School of Music.

And they create award-winning music, regularly earning the field’s most coveted prizes, such as the Pulitzer, Rome, and Barlow Prizes; ASCAP and BMI Awards, and Guggenheim, Fulbright, and DAAD Fellowships. Their work is performed by major orchestras, opera companies, soloists, and new music ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and National Symphony Orchestras; the San Francisco, Houston, Washington National and Minnesota Operas, and Ensemble Intercontemporain, eighth blackbird, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, ICE, BroadBand, and Ensemble Signal.

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Preparing for your audition – part 2

We previously posted some ideas on preparing for your auditions.  Here are some more suggestions to help you get ready for a great audition.

Use visualization & mental rehearsal.  Creating positive mental images of an event like an audition can be a powerful preparation technique.  Imagine yourself walking into the audition room, greeting those who will hear your audition, and performing each selection in order with musicality and precision.  The goal here is to imagine the performance exactly as you would like it to go. The more detailed your mental picture is, the more it can help you to perform at your full potential. Doing this well requires discipline just like any form of practice.  You can also use mental practice time away from your instrument to help avoid overuse injuries, and to make the most of spare moments that would otherwise be wasted (waiting in line, etc.)

Practice being nervous.   You can do this by performing your audition in a variety of situations, especially ones put you under a bit of pressure.  Even if you don’t feel quite ready yet, set up a time to perform your pieces for a group of friends.  Schedule another run- though for someone you don’t know as well, but whose playing you admire.  Let your listeners know what kinds of feedback you are looking for (musicality, stage presence, rhythmic accuracy, etc.) At least one of these “mock auditions” should be performed in the same clothes you plan to wear at the audition, so that you can test them for comfort.

Another method to simulate the effects of performing under pressure is to jog up and down a flight of stairs before playing or singing though your audition rep.  This will elevate your heart rate, and make you a little bit short of breath.  Also try playing through your audition rep with minimal warm-up time in a room that is slightly cold. Create a variety of these mildly stressful situations for yourself, and then pay close attention to how you react in the moment. Some nervousness is to be expected at an audition, but you’ll be better prepared for a reaction like dry mouth or sweaty palms if you know to expect it and know how it will affect your playing. Demonstrate to yourself that these physical factors are manageable, and that they won’t throw you off.  Also, the more you practice performing under stressful situations, the less nervous you are likely to feel when your audition day arrives.

Keep in mind: everyone wants you to perform your best.  The faculty members listening to your audition know what it is like to perform under pressure, and nothing would make them happier than to hear you play your best. Don’t be fooled into thinking that an audition is an adversarial situation where you are being harshly judged.  Instead, approach it as an opportunity to challenge yourself and to learn something new that you can use in your next performance. At Eastman, faculty members often mention that they are looking for applicants who are eager to learn, and who have the potential to develop into great musicians.

Remember that schools are also “auditioning” for you.  During your audition day and other college visits, keep in mind that you are looking for the school that feels right to you.  Does the school you are visiting offer the types of opportunities and atmosphere that you are seeking?  Don’t focus so narrowly on the question of “can I get in here?” that you neglect to ask yourself “is this a place where I can develop my talents?”

We hope these suggestions will be helpful as you prepare for your upcoming auditions.  Do you have any tips or resources to share?  If so, please use the comment section below.  We are looking forward to hearing you!


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Preparing for Your Audition

Auditions at Eastman are fast approaching.  You may be waiting to hear whether you will be invited for auditions, or waiting for confirmation of your audition date.  The Eastman Admissions Office will notify applicants of this information by email no less than three weeks before the preferred audition date listed on your application – sooner if possible. In the meantime, what can you do to ensure that you are ready to perform your best?  Here are some suggestions to help you to prepare:

Know your audition repertoire very well.   This is self-evident, but it bears repeating. When you walk into an audition, there is nothing that will give you more confidence than feeling thoroughly prepared.  Take a few minutes now to look back at all of your audition requirements for each upcoming audition to be sure you haven’t overlooked any details such as etudes, scales, memorization or sight-reading.  Avoid the unnecessary stress of being asked to play something you aren’t ready for!

Know what to expect.  Are you likely to perform your audition on a concert hall stage, or in studio or classroom?  Will there be one person listening or several?  Will it be more like a lesson or a mini-concert? Will your evaluators stop you and ask you to try a passage differently? The answers to these questions will vary by instrument and by school, but having some idea of what the audition setting will be can help you to be more prepared.  You will also want to know what else you will be doing on the day of your audition.  At Eastman undergraduate applicants also take a diagnostic theory exam, and most are also scheduled for an interview.

Take good care of yourself.  Get plenty of rest, drink water and avoid caffeine (as much as possible) in the days before your audition.  Wellness is fundamentally important for all musicians, and  is especially critical for vocalists. You can’t perform your best if you aren’t feeling your best, and the stresses of audition travel and keeping up with schoolwork can make this a challenge.  Once your audition date has been confirmed by the Admissions Office, arrange your travel plans carefully to avoid being unnecessarily exhausted or rushed when you arrive at your audition even if it means staying over an extra night.

In an upcoming post we will discuss more ideas to help you have a great audition.  Happy practicing!

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Audition Day Reflections

Senior Andrew Psarris shares memories of auditioning for Eastman four years ago, and what the experience meant to him. Read more here. 

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Musician’s Tips for Traveling with your Instrument

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity here in the Admissions Office as we prepare to host on-campus Audition Days. We look forward to the opportunity to meet all of you promising young musicians and to welcome you to our campus. For applicants, the first step to a great audition is simply getting there. You may have lots of travel coming up, or you may already have a few auditions under your belt, but I wanted to share a few thoughts and suggestions to help your audition travel go more smoothly.

First, you need to plan ahead about transporting your instrument. For some of you (pianists, singers, and small woodwind instrumentalists) this is a non-issue. You really don’t have to give much thought to getting your instrument to the audition. However, it can be a very big issue if you play a larger instrument such as cello or double bass!

You’ll want to educate yourself about the latest rules and restrictions for traveling with musical instruments, and know the specific policies for the airline you book your travel with. Plan to arrive at the airport early to allow extra time for security screening. If you fly with a large instrument, you may need to purchase an extra seat for it. I recently spoke with one double bassist who told me that he not only had to buy a seat for the instrument, but the only way he could fit the bass on board was by stowing in the seat upside down! Shipping your large instrument separately can also be an option as long as you have an extra secure shipping case, but many musicians find this nerve-wracking to do.

If you play double bass, percussion or harp, be sure to check with the various schools where you are auditioning to find out what equipment they provide for you. You might discover that you don’t need to bring your own instrument along to every audition. Although playing on an unfamiliar instrument may be a little bit uncomfortable at first, it can be well worth the adjustment if it allows you to take an audition that you otherwise could not attend.

For musicians who play medium-sized instruments such as guitar, violin and viola, you generally won’t need to purchase a seat for your instrument for air travel. However, you will need to be very careful to make sure you can secure a safe space for your instrument on board. One of the best ways to do this is to be ready in the boarding area early, and position yourself to board at the start of your ‘boarding group’ as soon as it is called. Don’t wait until the end of the boarding process, because you will very likely find that all of the storage space on the plane has been filled. Boarding early can be difficult if you have a tight connection or experience delays, but do the best that you can. If you need help finding space for your instrument, ask a flight attendant.

For instrumentalists traveling internationally, you will want will want to be extra cautious if your instrument contains any rare or endangered materials such as ivory. Recent restrictions have made it risky to travel with these materials, and they could be confiscated.  More details can be found here.  Although we have not yet heard from any applicants who had problems with this, the danger exists.

Reed players will need to take a bit of extra care with their travel as well. Reed knives are not permitted in your carry-on items on U.S. flights, so be sure that they are safely checked to avoid having them confiscated at the security checkpoint.  If you play an instrument that is impacted by climates with a different altitude or humidity level than you are accustomed to, be sure to discuss the necessary precautions with your teacher. (Reed players, bring along a wider-than-usual array of reeds to give yourself some options.)

Regardless of the particular challenges of travel with your instrument, always strive to be patient and courteous to your fellow travelers and airline staff. Keep yourself well-hydrated, and try to eat good healthy meals on the road when possible. When I was auditioning for colleges, I made the unwise decision to sample a bacon cheeseburger in every city where I had an audition. Although it was a fun project and I didn’t suffer any ill-effects at the time, it probably was not a very smart way to fuel myself for good performances! Wash your hands frequently avoid germs, and try to avoid getting overly sleep-deprived or run down. Remember that the audition process is more like a marathon than a sprint, and you need to pace yourself to stay in it for the long haul.

We look forward to meeting you and welcoming you to the Eastman campus. Safe travels!

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Memories of my First Campus Visit: A senior’s thoughts on four years at Eastman

The following post was written by Sam Um, who is a senior percussion performance major at Eastman.  Thanks Sam!Percussionist Sam Um


Heading into the home stretch of my senior year, I think back on my four years at Eastman and the memory of my very first visit. I remember very clearly when I visited the Eastman School of Music in the fall of my senior year of high school. I flew by myself into Rochester from Rockville, Maryland to have a lesson with percussion professor, Michael Burritt. Coming from a suburban area on the outskirts of Washington, DC, I was very excited and a little uneasy about traveling to an unfamiliar city. I remember the moment when I got into the taxi at the Rochester airport all excited and nervous, looking forward to the next two days in Rochester. It was a gorgeous September day – the leaves were starting to turn, and a warm sun shone in the piercing blue sky. My first stop was the University of Rochester’s main campus, also known as the River Campus. There I met up with a high school friend and commented to him “It’s beautiful here, man.” He replied with a knowing smile, “Come back in December and see if you still say that then.”

After visiting with my friend on the River Campus, I hopped on the shuttle bus to Eastman. As the bus arrived downtown, I found myself turning my head from side to side, eager to see the buildings hiding behind the trees. My obvious curiosity probably made me to look like a real tourist among a bus full of students, but I was too absorbed with new sights to care. When we arrived at the student living center, I stepped off the bus and took a big breath as I saw the Eastman campus for the first time.

The main purpose of my visit was to have a lesson with Prof. Michael Burritt, Eastman’s percussion professor, and the lesson was truly inspiring. Getting a whole new, different perspective on things was mind-blowing for me as a high school student. Thinking about musical nuances beyond the notes, emphasizing the importance of the sound – these were aspects that I’d never thought about before. I had been focused mainly on notes and rhythm, but Professor Burritt cared so much about the actual sound I drew out from the instrument. The energy and passion was totally different than what I had experienced back home, and the environment of the school made me feel more excited about music than ever. After my lesson, I found myself in the main hall (Lowry Hall) of Eastman. I was inspired to think of all the great musicians who had walked, and still walk, through this same hallway. Musicians who are out there playing with New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, people who have won Grammy Awards, and who are great teachers at other institutions – now I was preparing to follow in their footsteps!

The next day, when I was waiting for the taxi to take me back to the airport, I stood in front of the school on the Gibbs Street and stared at it for a long time. I remember telling myself “If I could be here next year, I would never wish for anything more.”

There’s a new saying in Korea (where my parents are from), “When you are 18 years old, your life travels at 18 miles per hour. When you are 36 years old, your life will be traveling twice as fast than when you were 18 years old.” Looking back on my experience, I can’t believe that I first moved into the dormitory more than 3 years ago. My time here has passed quickly, almost without me noticing. Perhaps I’ve been so focused on the next project or the next performance that I haven’t been as aware of the months and years flying by. Or perhaps it is simply a case of “time flies when you are having fun.” Whatever the reason, graduation day is coming faster than I had ever imagined.

Now, I’m eager to see what the next phase of my journey will bring, but I’ve also come to feel very at home in Rochester. I’ve adapted to the snowy winters that my friend from high school warned me about, but also the beautiful summers and autumns that made me fall in love with Rochester. It almost feels like I’ll be here forever, and the idea of leaving seems very unrealistic and surreal. I have planted my late teens and early twenties here and it just seems like I belong to this place, permanently. But at the same time, I am looking forward to once again experience the excitement and challenges of a new adventure.

As a student worker for the admissions office, I frequently give tours of the campus for prospective students. On one of my tours, a visitor asked me this simple but interesting question: “If you were to be born again, would you do music again? If you were to do it again, would you come to Eastman again?” I answered without a second thought: “Yes, absolutely.” One of the most important lessons that Eastman has taught me is this: music is hard, just like so many important things in life. However, if you love it, and if you are passionate about what you are doing, it’s no longer a struggle. Instead it becomes fun challenge, like a puzzle. That’s why I’d still play music if I were to start over again. I’m passionate about music. I love music. Eastman has nurtured me to prove that I really do love it. It has been the ideal place for me.

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