Advice to Jazz Applicants

August 8, 2013

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?”!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!