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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Two Days in the Life of an Eastman Violinist


Photo by Hannah Banks

Hi! My name is Mary and I am a sophomore, double major in Violin Performance and Music Education here at Eastman. When I was in high school looking at colleges, something I always wanted to know was what a typical student schedule looked like. Hopefully this article will give you a peek into my typical day.


8:00am            Wake-Up

9:00am            Practice

10:00am          Report to the Admissions Office for my part-time work/study job.
If you visit Eastman on a Wednesday be sure to take a tour of the campus…I’ll probably be your tour guide!

12:00pm          Quick Lunch
I usually go to ‘The Cave’ to grab something before my class. The Cave is located in the basement of the Main Building. Fun fact: this spot is named after Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave).

12:30pm          Humanities Class – History of American Education
As an Eastman student, most of my classes are music related. However, I take one non-music class every semester. Last semester I took a course about the Ancient Greeks. This semester, we are learning about how the education system in America has changed in the last 200+ years. Interestingly enough, although the topic of the humanities courses is more academic, we always seem to relate the concepts taught in class back to what we know best…music!

1:30pm            Piano Class
All students will take a piano placement test during Orientation Week. Depending on your instrument and major, you will take 4-6 semesters of piano class. It is possible to place out of one or more semesters depending on your skill level.

3:45pm            Eastman Philharmonia rehearsal
There are two orchestras at Eastman: Eastman School Symphony Orchestra (ESSO) and Eastman Philharmonia (Phil). For string players, audition excerpts are announced in the summer and auditions take place at the end of Orientation week. Freshmen are typically placed in ESSO while sophomores, juniors, seniors and 1st year master students are eligible for placement in either ESSO or Phil. Our next Phil concert is December 11th at 8pm in Kodak Hall where we will be playing Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasy, Mozart’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, No. 24, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1. Violinist Itzhak Perlman will join Phil for our February 22 concert!

5:30pm            Dinner/Homework/Practice time.
On a Wednesday night, I usually get in about 3 hours of practice plus listening.



7:30am            Wake-up

8:30am            Theory
This class meets twice a week for 80mins. On Tuesday we have a lecture style class with the professor and Thursdays are sections, where we meet in smaller groups with our TAs (Teaching Assistants). Right now in theory we are working on writing, recognizing and analyzing the sonata form.

10:30am          Strings Methods
This is one of my Music Education Classes. It is a year-long course to learn violin, viola, cello, and double bass. I started learning double bass and am now currently learning viola. This class, as in all methods classes, we also discuss teaching techniques for the specific instruments.

11:30am          Aural Skills
This class focuses on recognizing aurally what we learn in theory class. A typically aural skills class consists of melodic, harmonic, and bass dictation, sight-singing and transposing in multiple clefs, rhythm, and aurally analyzing both forms of pieces and chords. Unlike theory, this class only meets in smaller sections.

12:30pm          Practice and Warm-up for my lesson

1:30pm            Applied Music Lesson with Professor Krysa
During my senior year in high school, I was able to take lessons with several faculty members including Professor Krysa. I highly recommend taking lessons with faculty members if you are able to because my experiences not just in the lessons but also being on campus are the reason I chose to go to Eastman. For me, the friendly and supportive community created by faculty, students and administrators matched with an excellent education is what made Eastman the perfect match for me.  :)

2:30pm            Conducting Class
This is another Music Education Class. Like in theory, we meet twice a week, once with the whole class and a second time in smaller groups with TAs. Right now we are working on fermata cut-offs and cues.

3:30pm            Homework

5:00pm            Dinner

6:00pm            Practice

8:00-11:00pm Studio Class
For string majors, studio class is a weekly class that is a mix between a master class and a recital. After each student performs, our teacher chooses other students to comment before adding his own thoughts. Studio class is a good opportunity to practice performing with an audience just in general or to prepare for a competition. I always leave studio inspired and motivated to practice!


My schedule is definitely packed and my days can be long, however there is nowhere I’d rather be. I feel this after every large ensemble concert when students and faculty gather in Lowry Hall to cheer for the performers as they walk out. Moments like this, remind me how much I love this community. I, like everyone at Eastman, am doing what I love all day every day, even when it’s difficult.

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Applying to Eastman: Quick tips from an admissions counselor

The December 1st Eastman application deadline is coming up soon! Here are some insider tips from an admissions counselor to help you avoid common problems:

  1. Read the instructions first. The importance of this step can’t be overstated.  Every school you are applying to will have its own unique requirements, and you must read the instructions to know what is expected.  You’ll find Eastman’s application instruction for undergraduate applicants here, and for graduate applicants here.
  2. Choose your preferred audition dates carefully, and mark them on your calendar before you submit your application.  If you successfully pass the pre-screening round (or if pre-screening is not required for your program) the we will try to schedule your audition on your first or second choice date option if at all possible. Keep those dates open to prevent date conflicts.
  3. Talk to your recommenders now.  Most recommendation letters, including those for Eastman, can now be submitted online. However, you should still contact each of your recommenders first before adding their names to your application.  It is a professional courtesy to ask first whether they are willing to write on your behalf, and they may need a helpful reminder about the great work you have done.  Don’t wait until the deadline is here to reach out to them.  If you need to send them a reminder, you can do that from your application status page after submitting your application.
  4. Request your transcript.  You can either scan and upload your transcripts within your Eastman application or send them by postal mail to the Office of Admissions. In either case you need to request them well in advance of the December 1st deadline to make sure they arrive on time.  If you are accepted and enroll at Eastman, we will ask for an official copy of your transcript by postal mail in early summer.
  5. If a pre-screen recording is required for you, treat it like an audition.  Pre-screening is a preliminary round of auditions, and should be treated very seriously.  Make sure your recording reflects your best performance ability, and that you are thoroughly prepared to record.  While you do not necessarily need to go to a professional recording studio, you do want to be sure to use quality equipment to make your recording, and do it in a space that is free of background noise or distractions. If you don’t own good recording equipment, consider borrowing some from a teacher or friend.  Also be sure to test your recording files for quality before uploading them.  Each selection should be recorded in a separate file, and each file can be no larger than 1GB in size.
  6. Proofread and spell-check every document you submit. The resume and personal statement that you submit with your application are a reflection of your writing skills.  Take the time to spell-check them and proofread them, or better yet ask someone else to proofread.
  7. Make sure your name appears consistently on every document.  Make sure your name is written the same way on your application and on every document you submit.  Consistency is key: if you put your legal name on your application but submit documents under a nickname, it may be difficult for the Office of Admissions to match your items together.  If your name has changed, please make sure that the Office of Admissions is aware of any former names to be watching for.
  8. Let Admissions know if you have questions. We know that it is stressful trying to get everything completed by the application deadline.  Keep it all in perspective, and remember that the Admissions Office staff is here to help in any way that we can.

Do you have any suggestions or tips to share with your fellow applicants? Please feel free to leave comments below.  For questions, please contact the Admissions Office. Best of luck with the admissions process!

P.S. – Curious about what’s happening this week at Eastman?  Take a peek!

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Five Tips for Attending a College Fair

Each fall across the US there are many college fair events where students and parents can talk to representatives from college and universities to gather information and ask questions.  Some fairs are aimed specifically students who are interested in the performing and visual arts.

If you are within driving distance of Rochester, you should definitely consider attending the Upstate New York Music College Fair. We have put together the following tips to help you get the most out of any college fair:

  1. It is never too early.  You’ll want to be thinking about college options throughout your high school years.  Sophomore and junior years are an excellent time to attend college fair to learn about a wide range of options.  If you are a senior, your “short list” may be close to complete, but you can still get useful information and answer to specific questions you may have about applications and auditions.  Freshmen and younger students are also encouraged to attend, as are parents and siblings.
  2. Make a plan.  Before going to the college fair, spend some time looking at the list of attending schools and making a plan about which ones you definitely want to speak with.  Target five to eight schools that you either want to learn more about, or are definitely thinking of applying to.  You won’t have time to speak with every school, so having a game plan will help you stay focused.  There will also be plenty of brochures and printed materials available.
  3. Do your research.  Visit school websites and develop a list of specific questions that you want to ask the college representatives during the fair.  You will likely have different questions for different schools.  Walking up to a college rep and saying something along the lines of “I don’t know anything about your school.  What can you tell me?”  is not a great way to start.   Think carefully about what matters to you, and what is unclear to you about the process.  Every school is different, so it is important to look beneath the surface to examine those differences.  Also be ready to discuss your specific interests and goals in college so that the college representatives can focus on aspects that will be meaningful for you.
  4. Address labels (or a scan code) are your secret weapon.  Print a sheet of labels that include the following pieces of info (1) your name, (2) email address (3) mailing address (4) high school graduation year (5) desired major (such as music performance, composition, music education), and (6) instrument. When you are invited to provide this information to join college mailing lists, you won’t need to write it again and again.  Instead you will be able to focus a face-to-face discussion.  Also note that some college fairs provide scan codes that schools can use to capture this information from your fair registration.
  5. Speak for yourself.  Families have a very important role in the college search, and parents in particular can offer invaluable advice on your college choice. However, you want to make sure that you are part of the conversation too. Don’t expect your parents to lead the way by asking all of the questions. Your college experience will be your own, so now is the time to get comfortable talking with the people who can help to guide you. The representatives you meet at a college fair may be admissions counselors, alums, and/or faculty members.  They will be eager to learn about your interests and help you find the answers you are looking for.

We hope these tips are helpful, and we look forward to seeing you at an upcoming college fair!

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Eastman application is now open

Old Computers

Unlike this, the Eastman application is neither overwhelming nor old-fashioned

We are pleased to announce that the application for Fall 2014 admission is now open!  We’ve spent the summer making updates and improvements, and we are excited to get the admissions season underway.  One of the biggest changes is that the Eastman application now allows you to upload recordings and videos directly within your application on the “Recordings” page.

Now is a great time to get your application started.  Let us know if you have any questions!

Undergraduate application instructions

Graduate application instructions

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A “bucket list” for your time at Eastman

What do students do for fun at Eastman Empty Bucket at Punta Del Este?  A group of alumni have put together a list of highlights – a “bucket list” of 50 things not to be missed during your time on Gibbs St.  You can check it out here.

The list includes some great suggestions about places to eat and areas to explore, both near to Eastman and the University of Rochester and farther afield.  These are just some of the experiences that make Eastman a great place to spend four years. Want to add your own suggestions?  Feel free to comment below!

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Advice to Jazz Applicants

Thinking of applying to Eastman’s Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz and Contemporary Media (JCM)?  Here is some advice from our faculty to help you do your best:

  1. Study with a jazz teacher during high school.  Once you know that you want to pursue a jazz degree, work closely with your school music director and/or locate a private jazz instructor.  Find a teacher who plays your instrument and who can teach you jazz improvisation, theory, and aural skills.  Clinics, workshops and summer jazz camps are also strongly recommended.
  2. Establish a daily listening regimen.  Expose yourself to the broadest spectrum of live performances and recordings by the masters. Increase your knowledge of jazz language and vocabulary by transcribing, studying and playing important solos.
  3. Don’t neglect your classical study.  A well-balanced high school music background will set the stage for a successful collegiate music school experience.  Look for opportunities to learn as much music history and theory as you can.  If you are not a pianist, get a head start on basic piano skills too.
  4. Grades matter.  Your high school transcripts and academic records will be carefully examined during the admissions process to ensure that you are prepared to succeed in Eastman coursework.  Strong academics can also help with merit scholarships, so it is important to do your best in academic work as well as music.
  5. Get strong recommendations.  The admissions process is designed to help us get to know you both as a musician and as a person.  We want to know what your major teachers think about your artistry, commitment, and character.  Plan ahead to request reference letters from people that know you best and can articulate your strengths to us in writing, and give them plenty of time to submit a letter for you before the application deadline.
  6. Study Eastman’s Jazz Department website carefully. Read up on our teaching philosophy, and learn more about performance opportunities, and see what Eastman alums are doing now.  You can listen to recordings of Eastman ensembles too.
  7. Plan to visit Eastman or attend the Eastman Summer High School Jazz program. Speak with admissions representatives and jazz faculty members to see if Eastman’s JCM program is for you.  Find out what your respective studio professor will want to hear in the audition process.  Check out recordings and/or educational material by faculty members. Get a sense of what Eastman is about before you apply and audition for us in your senior year.
  8. Choose your audition repertoire carefully.  Select tunes that represent a varied mix of styles, display your musicianship, showcase your technical skills, and most importantly, demonstrate your improvisational prowess.  Use care and imagination, and be sure to have clear lead sheets or parts for your accompanying musicians. We enjoy hearing original compositions, non-traditional material, and lesser-known jazz standards, but keep in mind that rehearsing with your accompanying musicians on the day of your audition is not possible. Pick a strong opening piece.  Don’t start your audition by asking, “So, what do you want to hear?”!
  9. Prepare thoroughly for your audition.  Know the material cold; commit melodies and chord changes to memory, and bring clear photocopies of your audition tunes for the accompanying musicians.  Students attempting to “wing it” typically fall short.
  10. Prepare some meaningful questions. Don’t forget that you are essentially auditioning us, too.  Probing questions help you get to know us better.  Don’t waste time with stock questions that are covered in the school’s printed literature and website, and make certain that your major questions are answered before the audition experience is completed.
  11. Be ready to talk about your musical interests and goals.  We want to know what your influences have been, and what paths you are hoping to travel as a jazz musician.

We look forward to hearing you. Best of luck!

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May Checklist for High School Juniors

The New York Times recently published a helpful checklist for high school juniors preparing for the college application process.  This list includes good general advice for all college-bound juniors, regardless of intended major. My favorite tip is “finish the school year in a strong fashion.”  For students applying to music schools, here are a few more points to add to the to-do list:

  • Start thinking about your audition and pre-screening repertoire.   Finalized repertoire requirements for the upcoming audition season will be posted on Eastman’s website by early September, but you can take a look now to get a sense of what is expected.  Just be sure to check back in September for any updates or changes. If there is a major piece of repertoire that you need to learn, it is much better to start now than to wait until fall. To keep your repertoire list manageable, look for pieces that meet repertoire requirements at more than one school where you will audition.
  • Update your resume, or create one if you haven’t yet. Now is a good time to do this, while recent accomplishments are fresh in your mind.  Eastman also provides a resume guide to help you get started.
  • If English is not your native language, take a careful look at the TOEFL exam requirements for each school you are thinking of applying to. It is critical that you work on your English language skills now so that you will be able to achieve qualifying scores by the deadline.
  • Start searching for outside scholarships.  Scholarship deadlines occur throughout the year, so don’t wait until it is too late to begin researching! is an excellent starting point, and many other search tools are linked at the bottom of this page.
  • Look for opportunities to study music theory during the summer and in your senior year. AP music theory courses are a great way to do this if your high school offers them.  Otherwise summer programs and/or study on your own are also time well-spent.  Eastman offers an online four week course called E-Theory that many students have found useful. Having a firm grasp of the fundamentals of music theory will make your freshman year as a music major less stressful, no matter where you attend college.

Keep in mind that your college search is a long-term project that will require you to be very organized, detail-oriented, and aware of deadlines.  Getting a good start now will help to make the process easier and less stressful for you.  Don’t hesitate to contact the Office of Admissions with any questions that come up along the way.

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Thinking about graduate school?

The following post was written by Katie Hagen, a current DMA viola student at Eastman.  Thanks Katie!

So, you’re about ready to finish up your undergraduate degree, and thinking about graduate school.  Here are some thoughts on the difference between undergraduate and graduate degrees, and about graduate study at Eastman.

Assistantships/Fellowships. Grad schools want to know not only how you play and what kind of student and person you are, but also what skills you have —namely, teaching and performing! Start honing your resume/CV to reflect your experiences (see here for great guides on this) and be prepared to demonstrate and/or speak about your skills in interviews. Many schools offer scholarships/tuition remissions/stipends for such work, so put your best foot forward and reap the rewards!

“Graduate Awards” is a general term for assistantships at Eastman. There is a section on the application where students can select grad awards to apply for, indicate their qualifications, etc. Don’t skip this section—it really matters! More details on Graduate Awards can be found here.  Applicants to ESM should read through descriptions of ALL Graduate Awards and find the ones for which they qualify and what the application requirements are. Scholarship amounts are based both on Graduate Award duties and audition results.

More responsibility. Teachers, supervisors, and fellow students all expect graduate students to handle themselves as the adults they are. It is assumed that performers know how to practice effectively and that everyone knows how to manage his or her time. Find a planner system that works for you and USE it! Get the basics in place—being on time, completing things by deadlines, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, etc.—so you can focus on developing the skills you’re in school to master.

Eastman balances freedom with guidance when it comes to graduate-student employment. For instance, teaching assistants assign grades and are responsible for their applied students’ progress—but a faculty advisor oversees fall auditions and spring juries and is available for consultation if needed.

Teacher-as-almost-colleague. Performance majors generally take the lead role in determining professional and performance-related goals in their relationships with teachers. Consider that grad school is most performers’ last period of regular lessons with the same person…what do you need to figure out before they end?

Scholarly work is also part of graduate study at at Eastman. MM performance majors prepare both a final degree recital and an oral presentation for department faculty on the repertoire played. DMA students play three degree recitals, take comprehensive exams, and produce over 100 pages of writing as part of Music History seminars and/or independent research projects. MA/PhD students don’t have degree-mandated performing requirements but do more research.

Real Life.” Often, graduate students find themselves with one foot in school and the other in the “real world”—playing gigs, teaching at the school they attend or at other schools nearby, etc. Credit count may no longer reflect how busy you actually are, and your world is no longer limited to campus alone. Apartments, cars, bills, serious relationships, and children may all be factors in your or your fellow students’ lives.

Independence. Graduate school is much more “do-it-yourself” than college, both academically and socially. This can be very freeing, but it may also mean that you may need to make more of an effort to reach out and be social than you did as an undergraduate.

Eastman has a Graduate Students’ Association, which organizes bar nights, donut days, a Halloween party in the fall, a wine and cheese night in the spring, and various other activities throughout the year. Grad students live anywhere from Gibbs Street to various suburbs of Rochester—generally, housing costs are VERY reasonable here compared to bigger cities…which can significantly impact cost of attendance.

I hope you find this information helpful.  Best of luck!

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Finding the Right Fit – My Graduate School Search

What are you looking for in a graduate school?  Knowing what you want and what you’d like to see, both in a graduate program and in the school at large, is an important part of your audition and interview process.  Perhaps you want a school that will challenge and motivate you to be better at your instrument.  Or, perhaps you want a school with an active performance schedule so that you can be inspired by high caliber performances and musical artistry.  Maybe you want to become a better collaborator and you are looking for a program that includes chamber music experiences.  These were some of the things I was looking for in a graduate school and for me, Eastman had them.  As I think back on the decisions that led me here, I realize how fortunate I was to have Eastman recommended to me by my teachers.

AshleyDanyewWhen I first came to Eastman in 2008, I was a 21-year-old Georgia girl ready to leave my home state and begin my master’s degree. Two years went by far faster than I could have imagined and before I knew it, Eastman was more than just a school to me–it felt like home.  You see, though there is a very high standard of musical excellence at Eastman, there is also a wonderful spirit of camaraderie–between faculty members and between students.  As a graduate student, you will be challenged and you will be expected to work hard but rather than being competitive, the Eastman environment fosters learning, musical development, and growth as an artist and leader in the field.  To me, this is what really sets Eastman apart.

Like other schools, Eastman has many time-honored traditions that invite you to be part of the legacy.  My favorite?  The Holiday Sing.  Each December, the Eastman and Rochester communities gather in the Main Hall to sing and listen to holiday arrangements (spoof to sublime) performed by student ensembles.  Last year, while singing the traditional closing song, “Dona Nobis Pacem,” many people found out there had been a tragic school shooting in Newtown, CT.  The words seemed more relevant than ever.

I moved away for two years after I finished my master’s but I returned last fall to begin my PhD in Music Education.  After two years of teaching, performing, and presenting concerts in a small, New England community, I knew that I had much more to learn.  I also knew that Eastman had much more to offer.  I find that Eastman is big enough to afford great opportunities, yet small enough that you can really get to know people.  As an Eastman graduate student, you will have opportunities to build relationships with faculty members and with colleagues across departments.  Every time I walk through the doors on Gibbs Street into the Main Hall, I realize what a special place this is and what an honor it is to be a part of it.

Ashley Danyew is a PhD student in Music Education at the Eastman School of Music. Read more about her at

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