Applying to Music School 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 they don’t have 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 yet. 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 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 teacher(s), think about how your practice time will be divided, and make a well-considered decision.  When in doubt, focusing on one instrument is usually a safer route. Also feel free to contact the Office of Admissions  if you would like to discuss your options.