Thinking about graduate school?

March 20, 2013

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!