Finding the Right Fit – My Graduate School Search

February 5, 2013

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

One Response to Finding the Right Fit – My Graduate School Search

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. Really helpful.

    Classical Musician