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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Applying 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 it is difficult to find 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 at this point. 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 area of 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 teachers, think about how your practice time will be divided, and make a well-considered decision. Also feel free to contact the Office of Admissions  if you would like to discuss your options.

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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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Making the most of a campus visit

Visiting a college campus is a great way to get a more complete picture of what studying there would be like. Websites are a useful starting point, but they can’t replace the first-hand experience of meeting faculty, students and staff members and seeing the campus in person.  Here are some tips to make the most of these visits:

  1. Maximize your travel by combining college visits with other trips.  If you have a family vacation planned near a college you are interested in, try to set aside some time for a campus visit.  Some families plan road trips with stops at several schools, which can work well too. However, visiting more than three or four different colleges in a single trip can become a bit overwhelming.
  2. Contact the Office of Admissions well in advance. Ask about tours and/or information sessions available during your visit. These may be offered only on certain days or times of day, so plan accordingly. Also ask about any other opportunities that might be available, such as sitting in on a rehearsal or attending a concert. When visiting Eastman, you may also want to consider a visit the University of Rochester’s River Campus. Spring and summer are the most popular seasons for college visits, but other times of year can also work very well.
  3. Connect with faculty. If you are hoping to meet with a faculty member during your visit, contact him or her via email as far in advance as possible to introduce yourself and inquire about availability. A lesson or meeting is an excellent way to get a feel for teaching style and “fit.” A lesson can also be particularly useful if you have started preparing your audition repertoire so that they can give you specific tips on how to improve. Most faculty members do charge a fee for sample lessons, so be sure to inquire about this when you arranging the lesson time. Also keep in mind that faculty members have very busy schedules, and may not be available if you haven’t made an appointment in advance.
  4. Talk to current students during your visit and ask about their experiences. Spend some time in the cafeteria, local coffee shop or any common areas where students gather. (A visit to Eastman would not be complete without a stop at Java’s!) Your tour guide may be a student, or you may be able to meet up with some of the students who play your instrument. Don’t be shy – students are usually more than happy to meet fellow musicians and tell you about their school.
  5. Before you go, make a list of specific questions you want to ask. Some topics you might want to learn more about include coursework, ensembles, student life, study abroad, dual degrees, financial aid, and the application & audition process. Your questions will become more focused as you learn more about different schools. There’s a lot to learn, and each school is different, so come prepared and take notes!
  6. After your visit, take some time to review any brochures you collected as well as your notes. Think about what you learned, whether the school feels like a “fit” for you, and any new questions you might want to add to your list for future visits.

We look forward to meeting you on campus!

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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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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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