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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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.  If a conflict comes up, let Admissions know right away, even if you are still awaiting pre-screening results.
  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 mail in additional 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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Viola Studio: An insider’s view

ViolaThe Eastman viola community will be sharing their thoughts and experiences throughout the 2014-2015 academic year on The American Viola Society Studio Blog.  Professors Carol Rodland, George Taylor and Phillip Ying, along with students and alumni, will give readers an insider’s view of all things viola.

Some of the topics covered so far include:

Stay tuned throughout school year, as there is much more to come!


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Winning a professional orchestra audition: an interview with Zac Hammond

HammondHeadshot3Zac Hammond is an oboist and a recent graduate of Eastman who won the principal oboe position with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. At Eastman, Zac earned the Bachelor of Music degree in Applied Music, and studied with Prof. Richard Killmer. He also earned the Arts Leadership Certificate. We recently interviewed Zac about his orchestral experiences and the audition process.

Q: What led you to Eastman, and why did you choose to attend?

A: As a high school student, I had always been aware of Eastman’s reputation as an outstanding music school. I had a few band directors who would frequently mention how great the Eastman Wind Ensemble is. So, when I was looking at schools, Eastman was definitely on my list. As a senior in high school, I was confident that I wanted to study music but I was pretty conflicted about whether I wanted to be in a conservatory or a university environment, so I decided to apply to a few of both. What sold me on Eastman though was that despite the high level of motivation and dedication amongst the students, there was still an incredibly supportive and encouraging atmosphere that made it feel like a great place to study. Also after learning how dedicated and successful my teacher, Richard Killmer, had been at preparing his oboe students for careers, the decision to attend Eastman was a no-brainer for me.

Q: How would you describe your past four years at Eastman?

A: I would describe my years at Eastman as diverse and intense. One of the best parts about the school is that you really are able to try anything you want. I was able to play chamber music with different groups every year, I took baroque oboe lessons, I was able to perform in jazz recitals and I also was a part of Eastman’s Arts Leadership Program (ALP).  For me, ALP was especially helpful. It allowed me to get out into Rochester’s community by interning with the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and also allowed me to focus on other aspects of music outside of just performing such as, technology and business. I really feel as though Eastman and ALP did a great job of making me as “well-rounded” a musician as I could be.

Q: Tell us about your experiences performing with Symphoria.

A: I am extremely grateful to Symphoria for the experience it gave me and how supportive the organization has been the past couple years. Symphoria is the new professional orchestra in Syracuse, NY. After the Syracuse Symphony folded in 2011, the musicians in Syracuse banded together and created this new orchestra called “Symphoria” to ensure that classical music remained in Syracuse. I began playing with Symphoria at the beginning of their 2013-14 season, which happened to be their first full season. They were in need of a principal oboist for their opening concert and they hired me as a substitute. I was lucky enough to continue playing with them as the season went on and was eventually hired as a regular member. This of course gave me an amazing amount of orchestra experience in addition to my studies at Eastman. What has also been very helpful to me during my time with Symphoria was being able to take part in more of the “behind the scenes” aspects of the orchestra. The orchestra actually functions as a “musician’s collective”, meaning that the majority of the management and administrative responsibilities are carried out by the musicians themselves. As a result, I was able to attend meetings and learn about many of the aspects of orchestra outside of the music like budgeting, ticket-sales, securing venues etc.

Q: What was your audition in Charleston like?

A: I learned about the opening with the Charleston Symphony this past summer and the audition took place at the beginning of September. I had just graduated from Eastman that spring and my plan was to spend another year in Rochester, continuing to play with Symphoria and then apply to graduate programs in the spring. I wanted to begin taking some professional orchestral auditions over the summer because ultimately that’s what I really wanted to be doing and I needed more experience with those types of auditions.

For this particular audition, they did a “resumé round” first in which they said that only about half of the applicants were invited to audition after submitting their resumé (again, this made me thankful for my experience with Symphoria). The audition itself was three rounds that they managed to do all in one day. The first two rounds were “blind” so the audition committee was behind a screen. For the third and final round they removed the screen so I could interact directly with the committee. In that round I played for about half of the time and then the committee held an interview. This is something that more orchestras are implementing at auditions so that they can learn more about candidates as people, not just as musicians. I believe this was especially important for this position because in addition to playing principal oboe in the orchestra, I am also going to be frequently performing with the Charleston Symphony’s woodwind quintet, which does a lot of outreach and interaction with the community. The interview itself was pretty straightforward. They asked me about my background, education and previous orchestra experience. Then they asked if I had any chamber outreach experience and I was lucky enough to have been in a very active outreach quintet during my sophomore and junior years at Eastman. They also asked about what I think should change about the current orchestra culture/model and about any “memorable musical experiences” I have had. My impression was that the interview was used not so much as a way to learn about my qualifications, but more to just see if I would potentially be easy to work and interact with. It all went smoothly and I am happy to say that at the end of the day they offered me the position!

Q: What do you think gave you the edge that helped you win the job?

I think there were a few things that worked in my favor at the audition. Aside from my actual audition going reasonably well (which was of course important), I think my answers during the interview and the experience I had acquired at Eastman made me come across as ideally suited for this particular job. They were especially excited to learn about my experience in the Arts Leadership Program and my internship with the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. That, on top of my administrative experience with Symphoria, probably made them feel confident that I understood the inner-workings of an orchestra and also that I was interested and open to new and innovative ways of presenting classical music, something that the Charleston Symphony has been actively trying to do. Also my previous woodwind quintet outreach experience at Eastman made me a good fit for the frequent outreach that they do.

Q: Do you have any advice for younger students who are preparing for a career in music?

A: My advice to young students looking to pursue music would probably be to explore every opportunity you can and keep an open mind. I think that the music industry, and especially the classical music industry, is changing very rapidly. In order to be successful, a musician is required to do so much more than just log hours in a practice room. You need to figure how to be a businessperson, use new technology, network, build audiences, manage money etc. That kind of experience only comes from putting yourself out there and trying new things. Although as an orchestral musician, I am in what is probably considered a more “traditional” niche of classical music, there are so many different paths in music you can take now and I believe it is important to open yourself up to all of them.

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The Absolute #1 Best Music School for You (and why I can’t tell you what it is)

This is a guest post from Matthew Ardizzone, Eastman’s Associate Dean of Admissions.

Eastman admissions director (not pictured) on why college rankings "get his goat"

Eastman admissions director (not pictured) on why college rankings “get his goat”

US News & World Report recently came out with its highly anticipated annual ranking of colleges and universities. Now that music schools are no longer separately ranked by the Report, I tend to view this list with even greater bemusement than I once did. Sure, I look to see how Eastman’s parent institution, the University of Rochester comes out (tied for #33 this year) and how the Princeton vs Harvard contest for 1st place played out. But then I can’t help but ask myself – so what? What’s in a ranking anyway? And how do they help you, the college-bound student, find the best schools for you?

Music schools might consider themselves lucky to be in a ‘niche market’ in which we don’t breathlessly anticipate a single high profile national ranking. But I am often asked how Eastman ranks among other music schools. I’m also sometimes surprised when I ask applicants why they chose to apply to Eastman and they quickly say “it’s one of the top-ranked music schools!” It’s true – there have been more recent listings in which we’ve done very well. But compared to US News & World Report, many of these other rankings lack any sense of analytical rigor. That might seem a strange thing for me to say as the admissions director of the “#1 ranked music school” according to But I can’t figure out for the life of me who is behind this ranking. Although they list their “methodology” here, it’s not clear how they are measuring things like “teaching quality,” “median salary of graduates,” and “alumni.” Clearly on this list, reputation counts for a lot, but does it go beyond that? The 2011 Fiske Guide to Colleges listed Eastman as one of the top undergraduate music program (that listing is not available online). And we were the “hottest music school” in 2008 according to Kaplan/Newsweek. That was gratifying, and we appreciated the recognition of our arts leadership curriculum. According to the, we’re #11 among the top 20 conservatories this year. This ranking, by a recent University of Michigan graduate, seems sincere in its intentions, but shows no evidence of any quantitative methodology, and reeks of the anecdotal. In his own words, his ranking is “one man’s evaluation” (a quote taken from the comments section, which is as far as he goes in answer to the question, “what exactly are the criteria?”).

Although there is no single high-profile ranking that all music schools aspire to dominate, these other rankings still infect the world of music admissions, and unfortunately cause some confusion. Two recent examples are USA Today’s ranking of ‘music colleges’ (not to be confused with ‘music schools’ or conservatories, apparently) and Musical America’s “Guide to Music Schools,” which I should hasten to clarify is a listing of advertisers and not a ranking.

In the case of the former, the methodology seems clear, and the list confirms this. These are universities that offer music as a subject that can be studied, and it is a formidable list of higher education institutions with strong reputations. But most of the schools on this list don’t offer the professional degree, the bachelor of music. So if that is the degree you are seeking for your undergraduate studies, this list doesn’t help you at all.

In my circles, more buzz was created by Musical America’s “Guide.” I found this to be especially disheartening since there is no guidance provided by any research or expertise in higher education. Musical America functions primarily as an industry directory for performers, artist managers, and presenters of classical music. Many schools are listed as venues and presenters since we have performing arts series. I often read their articles about the classical music industry. But their readership consists mainly of industry insiders more than parents, teachers, and prospective music students. The result of their ‘pay to play’ approach is an alphabetical listing of schools that prioritizes those that chose to purchase ad space and expanded profiles. All of the information provided in the profiles comes directly from the schools. It’s my hope that this listing will be as inconsequential as I believed it would be when I chose not to purchase a listing for Eastman.

So let’s get down to it. If you can’t rely on rankings, how do you know which schools are “the best” for you? And as Eastman’s dean of admissions, don’t I think that Eastman is the best school ever? Well, maybe, but here’s what I can tell you with absolute certainty: Eastman is the best music school for the students who will be successful in our curriculum and thrive in our environment. And this is true of any of the many excellent schools that are out there.

There is no shortage of good music schools with excellent, even “world-class” faculty, impressive facilities and performance halls, and extensive performance opportunities. A number of schools can claim these things to various degrees. But we should also be able to demonstrate what separates us from each other. Unearthing these distinctions will enable you to discover the “best” school for you.

Since no one is going to compile a personalized top-ten list of best schools for you, honing in on your list will require some work on your end. Asking yourself these questions might help get you started:

  • What kind of environment am I most likely to thrive in? Music schools come in many shapes and sizes. There are stand-alone conservatories, conservatories and music schools that are part of a college or university, urban campuses, small town or rural settings, etc.
  • What sort of academic experience do I want to have outside of my lessons, ensembles, and the practice room? How challenged do I want to be in my liberal arts requirement? Am I someone who will take the absolute minimum requirement, preferably in classes populated by other music majors taught by adjunct teachers who realize I’m more focused on something else? Or do I want to take my academic classes in a college or university setting where I’ll be ‘swimming with the other fish’ in a more challenging academic environment? This might help steer you toward a stand-alone conservatory or toward a conservatory or music school that is part of a liberal arts college or university.
  • Who do I know who has attended a music school? Are there music school graduates teaching in my school? Have I talked with them about their experiences, and why they would or would not recommend certain schools for me?
  • Do I have access to music school representatives via college fairs, info sessions, or online forums where I can ask questions about environment, culture, course offerings, etc., and the all-important question: what distinguishes your school from other music schools?
  • Undoubtedly your private teacher, ensemble director, and/or school music teacher should have recommendations based on their experience. Often these recommendations are based on a strong sense of loyalty to a particular teacher and it might be more or less about a school as a whole. So just be sure when you have this conversation you push a little into the question of why your teacher thinks a particular school is a good match for you.
  • Cost is, of course, a source of major concern for most families. But my first piece of advice is to assemble your list of ‘best schools for you’ without including cost as a factor. Then, revisit your list and ask yourself if you have included schools that you know will be financially within your reach. The truth is, you won’t know what each school will actually cost you until you have been admitted and have an offer in front of you. Many schools have merit-based scholarships and each school considers need differently. Some schools will focus on meeting demonstrated need first, and others will be more merit-driven. Many fall somewhere in between, meeting need ‘selectively’ based on the applicant’s merits, but also the enrollment needs of the school. I urge you not to exclude schools based on ‘expected cost’ alone.

Once you’ve honed in on a list of schools of interest, do everything you can to familiarize yourself with the places, the people, and the offerings of those schools. In a perfect world, this would mean visiting each school. Geographic or financial restrictions may limit your ability to do this, of course. So pick and choose your most important visits, and communicate with admissions offices to fill in any gaps. Find out when school representatives might be near you. Can the school recommend an alumnus in your area who might be willing to meet for coffee (your treat!) and share his or her experience? Does the school offer an online forum for talking with admissions people and/or current students or faculty? Is the school and/or its students engaged in social media, and can you connect there and get a sense of the community, student life, etc. through Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, etc.? Is a faculty member from the school visiting your area in the near future?

Also remember that as a music applicant you will ultimately have the opportunity to audition on-campus at many of the schools you apply to. Take advantage of that visit to try and engage with current students, observe a rehearsal, etc. You will be auditioning schools as much as they are auditioning you.

So the next time you see me, please don’t ask me how Eastman ranks among music schools. Instead, ask me what distinguishes us, and then expect a lot of questions about you. That’s a conversation I look forward to having, and it will be the subject of my next post.

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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 printable scan codes to registrants 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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How Many Colleges Should Music Students Apply To?

As high school seniors are getting their applications underway (or at least thinking about getting started!) a question often comes up: how many schools should I apply to? What is the right number for your “short list”? The answer to this question is as individual as each student, but I would like to offer some guidance here that may be useful.


The standard advice that you will hear from many sources (such as here) is that seniors should be applying to between 6 and 8 schools. These applications, seniors are counseled, should fall into three categories:

  • Two or three “reach” schools, which the applicant would like to attend, but where admission is not a sure thing due to higher selectivity
  • Two or three “match” or “probable” schools, which are schools where it seems likely that the student will be admitted
  • Two “safety” schools where the student is nearly certain of being admitted

You’ve probably heard this advice before. However, it can be a bit bewildering for music students who can’t necessarily use a grade point averages and test scores to gauge their chances of admission to any particular school. Grades and tests may be a factor, but the quality of your audition is likely to have a bigger impact on your chances of being admitted.

So, music students are left wondering “what are my chances?” and “what’s a safety, and what’s a reach?” At Eastman we frequently hear questions about how many openings will be available for a particular instrument in a given year. Unfortunately these questions don’t help the student much. Even if you know that your first-choice school is looking to enroll X number of kazoo players (insert your instrument here) this year, that still doesn’t tell you whether that means your chances are good. These numbers could even mislead you about your chances, and discourage you from applying to a school that could be a great fit for you.  Top music schools receive applications from all over the world, and students don’t really have an effective way to judge how they compare on a national or international level – ultimately, that’s what the audition process is for!

Here are a few ideas that can help alleviate this problem:

  1. Visit at least some of the colleges/conservatories that you are thinking of applying to.  If you can take a lesson with a professor during your visit, set that up well in advance. During the lesson, ask if the professor thinks you are on the right track, or if there are specific things you should be working to improve as you prepare to audition. While on campus, try to listen in on a rehearsal or attend a concert so that you can hear the level of music-making going on at the school.  (Keep in mind that you may be hearing upperclassmen or graduate students, so don’t get spooked if that is the case!) Talk to current students during your visit to get a feel for the campus culture. You can also ask about their admission experiences and why they decided to attend. (Also see our advice here on campus visits.)
  2. Be as involved as possible in the top musical groups in your area. For many students this means performing in youth orchestras, All-County, All-State, and the like. These types of activities are common among successful applicants to music schools, but keep in mind that getting into All-State ensembles does not automatically translate to acceptance at your preferred music school. Keep looking for opportunities that will stretch you including competitions, recitals and professional gigs.
  3. Talk to your current music instructor(s) about the schools you are thinking of. They will likely be able to guide you and help to tailor your list.

Don’t be too focused on the question of “where will I get in?” Instead, focus on creating a targeted list of schools which will offer the kinds of experiences that are most important to you – in other words, schools that will be a great “fit” for you. That might mean regular access to full-time resident faculty, small class sizes, lots of ensemble opportunities, a high quality curriculum, a close-knit community of students, or any other number of factors that will shape your next four years.

So, this leads us back to the original question of how many schools to apply to. For many music students, submitting between five and ten applications is a good number, even if the schools on your list can’t be easily categorized as “reaches,” “matches,” or “safeties.” Applying to a much larger number of schools may seem like a tempting strategy to hedge your bets, but it can backfire if it leads you to spread yourself too thinly with applications and auditions. Here are some steps to help you arrive at the right number for you:

  • Develop a list of schools that you like, and would be happy to attend. Think in terms of which schools are a good fit for you. (This means you should not be applying to any school “just to see if I can get in.”)  For each school you are considering, make yourself a list of things you have already learned about the school, and what aspects you want to learn more about.
  • Consider the time and money you will need to invest in applications and pre-screen recordings (if required for your intended major/instrument).  This is a labor-intensive process, and application fees can add up quickly. Each school will also have its own set of unique requirements that you will need to keep track of.
  • Factor in the expense and time it will take to prepare for and perform your auditions, especially if you will be traveling to audition. It is not realistic to think that you could audition at 20 schools during the 2-3 months of audition season. However, an on-campus audition is a good investment of both time and money for a school in which you have a serious interest.
  • If you play an instrument which you know is typically more competitive (such as piano, flute or voice) you may want to have a slightly longer “short list” than if you play a more rare instrument.
  • Brace yourself for some surprises. You may find that you are waitlisted at a school that you thought was a sure thing. Or you might be admitted somewhere you didn’t really expect.  The admissions process is subjective and often a bit unpredictable.

Ultimately the right number for you depends on how well you have done your research on each school, and your unique situation. However, I hope these suggestions provide some helpful guidance as you finalize your list.  Best of luck!

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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 2015 admission is now open!  We’ve spent the summer making updates and improvements, and we are excited to get the admissions season underway.  The Eastman application allows you to upload recordings and videos directly within your application on the “Recordings” page (if recordings are required for your instrument or major).  Be sure to record each selection in a separate file to make the upload process go smoothly.  Recommendations and transcripts can also be submitted electronically.

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

Undergraduate application instructions

Graduate application instructions

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Applying to Music School on More than One Instrument

guitars and drum on park benchThe question of applying on more than one instrument comes up frequently in the music admissions process. There are some cases in which applying on more than one instrument makes sense, and others in which it is not recommended. This post will discuss some factors you should consider in making this decision.

The first question is “can I apply on more than one instrument?” The answer is yes, Eastman allows students to apply and audition on more than one instrument (or an instrument and voice). Applicants who do this should select both instruments within a single application. There is no need to submit two applications.

Sometimes applicants have the misconception that applying on multiple instruments will automatically increase their odds of being offered admission – almost like buying multiple lottery tickets! Some think that playing many different instruments will be more impressive than playing one instrument. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Your qualifications will be considered separately for each instrument, and your ability with one instrument has no effect on your chances of being admitted for another instrument. (The exception is Eastman’s Master of Music Woodwind Specialist degree, a specialized graduate-level program which requires proficiency in multiple woodwind instruments.) It is very important to keep in mind that, if you successfully pass the pre-screening round, you will be simultaneously preparing all of the audition requirements for each instrument. This can be a daunting task, particularly if you are preparing auditions for several schools. Students who audition on more than one instrument may discover that they don’t have enough practice time to prepare all of their audition pieces. In fact, you could actually reduce your chances of admission by diluting your efforts in a highly selective admissions process. The phrase “too many irons in the fire” comes to mind. In most cases it is better to apply only on the instrument with which you have the most expertise, and which you think of as your “primary” instrument.

Applying on more than one instrument does make sense if you are equally skilled on both instruments, and you prefer not to narrow your focus yet. Completing the admissions process (pre-screening and audition) may help you to see where your strengths and preferences lie. Each year at Eastman we typically see only one or two applicants who are qualified for admission on more than one instrument. Before starting their degree, these students are required to choose one instrument as their primary focus. We believe that this helps students to focus the efforts of their studies, and ultimately to succeed in their future careers.

Students have the option to take half-hour weekly “secondary” lessons on another instrument, which is an excellent way to continue progressing on another instrument that you enjoy, but which is not your major focus. Students do not need to apply or perform an admissions audition on the secondary instrument in order to take these lessons, but they need to have at least intermediate skill level on the secondary instrument.

If you are trying to decide whether you should apply on more than one instrument, we recommend that you discuss the issues mentioned above with your current music teacher(s), think about how your practice time will be divided, and make a well-considered decision.  When in doubt, focusing on one instrument is usually a safer route. Also feel free to contact the Office of Admissions  if you would like to discuss your options.

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