Preparing for your audition – part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Dual Degree Experience

Today’s guest post is written by Amy Skjerseth, a recent graduate of Eastman and the Dual Degree program at the University of Rochester.  If you are considering a Dual Degree, you may find it useful to hear about her experiences.  Thanks Amy!

Amy Skjerseth - photo by Michelle Zhao

Photo by Michelle Zhao

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Throughout high school, I always knew that I wanted to study music: when I wasn’t taking academic classes at school, it was all music, all the time. Yet, I felt equally passionate about my English courses, and majoring in English was also on my mind. I thought about my high school years and knew I’d always wanted to soak up as much as possible in school. I couldn’t imagine not doing music or not doing English. So, when I applied to Eastman, I decided to look into the University of Rochester’s Dual-Degree Program.

Fast forward to a snowy evening in February, when I stepped onto the University of Rochester’s campus for a tour. It was the night before my Eastman audition, and I was feeling more than a little anxious. But when I took in all of the beautiful buildings on UR’s campus, as well as the friendly faces of students purposefully striding past the tour group, I knew I had fallen in love with the school.

Right after the tour of U of R, my parents and I decided to visit Eastman. The instant I stepped into Eastman’s Main Hall (now called Lowry Hall), I also fell in love with Eastman. During my audition day, I ran into so many students who described the warmth of the Eastman community. After auditioning for my teacher, Professor Richard Killmer, I knew that I wanted to go to Eastman more than anything—and I wanted to be a Dual-Degree student at the U of R.

What is it like to be a Dual-Degree student?

Being a Dual-Degree student does not come without its challenges. Scheduling classes is one of the toughest components, because Eastman and the University of Rochester are two separate campuses. Fortunately, there are advisers on both campuses who are extremely helpful. My UR advisers helped me figure out a campus that was at first daunting, as UR has about 5,000 undergraduate students compared to Eastman’s 500. Yet, I loved being able to explore two campuses, and it was easy to get back and forth. The bus—which is free—runs quite frequently and only takes ten to fifteen minutes, which is very helpful when scheduling classes. One of my fellow Dual-Degree friends told me that she considered the bus ride her “break.” In between Eastman and U of R classes, she took a breather and collected herself for the day. This was a valuable tactic for me too—as well as going to the U of R Starbucks if I had time before class!

While Eastman is a professional music school, with very demanding performance and academic standards, it is possible to plan your schedule to take River Campus (UR’s main campus) classes. With help from experienced advisers, including my primary instrument teacher and Eastman’s Academic Affairs Office, I felt in control of my schedule. Managing a full course load—which, for me, usually averaged between 20-23 credits—was very stressful at times, but I found that Eastman and U of R’s differing exam schedules made things easier when it came to crunch time. As an English major, I didn’t have to take labs or discussion sections, so my time commitment at River Campus was less than it would have been if I were a natural sciences or pre-med student. I was able to finish both my degrees in four years, but for some students, 4 ½ to 5 years of coursework is required. It’s up to you to decide how you’d like to organize your degree requirements across semesters. I lightened up my schedule second semester sophomore year—arguably the heaviest course load at Eastman, with demanding theory and history courses—as well as the semester that I performed my senior recital. It takes a lot of careful planning, but it is definitely possible!

Taking breaks from practicing is important for your physical—as well as mental and emotional—health, and taking a class you are interested in at the U of R is a great way to both experience a new campus and expand upon the courses offered at Eastman. You can take any course at the U of R as an Eastman student, and you can even earn a minor—all without needing to apply to the U of R. Several of my classmates took River Campus classes, among the most popular of which were “Music and the Mind,” American Sign Language, Philosophy, Linguistics, and foreign language courses to further the language instruction offered by Eastman. Because every Eastman undergraduate student is required to take one humanities course per semester, some of my friends ended up with River Campus minors because their interests led them to keep taking courses in a certain subject area. As am added bonus, you can also use your meal plan at any UR dining center—yes, Starbucks is a big draw—and can check out books from the many U of R libraries, as well as use the U of R gym free of charge.

Students can add a River Campus major even if they are already a student at Eastman. I applied to both Eastman and the U of R and was accepted to study at both campuses my freshman year, but I have friends who added a River Campus major in their second year and still finished on time, with the help of summer courses. Conversely, some of my friends began with a dual degree and decided to drop it during the course of their four years. Advisers at both Eastman and the U of R are with you every step of the way, whether you decide to add or drop—I really cannot say enough to capture the extent of their support.

Overall, I was extremely gratified to graduate both from Eastman and the University of Rochester. Pursuing a degree in English at the University of Rochester alongside my oboe degree has allowed me to combine my expressive pursuits with my long-held interests in intellectual inquiry. Both degrees have given me tools, connections, and skills to propel myself forward into the future. If you are equally passionate about music and another subject, give the Dual-Degree option plenty of thought. While challenging, it is extraordinarily worthwhile, and I feel very fortunate to have had the option of undertaking degrees at two unparalleled institutions.

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Preparing for Your Audition

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

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

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

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

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

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Two Days in the Life of an Eastman Violinist

RussekMary

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.

Wednesday

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.

 

Thursday

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!

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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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A “bucket list” for your time at Eastman

What do students do for fun at Eastmanhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/99255685@N00/2063575447/ 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!  Fastweb.com 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 www.ashleydanyew.com.

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