So You Want to Be a Music Major

This is always a very big choice to make. The life of a musician is a beautiful and rewarding one, but can also be full of challenges. Each person who embarks on this journey should do so with as much information as they can get their hands on. When I was younger and told people I wanted to be a musician, I didn’t really know what that meant, especially coming from a rural area. Some people were extremely encouraging, and some people all but laughed in my face. This will always be true, and you should come to your own conclusions about what you want and how to get there.

My role is to help you navigate the options out there and provide resources to help you achieve your goals. Some general thoughts on how to get there.

  • I’ve learned to say, give yourself the option to say no, meaning apply even if you don’t feel prepared. You don’t know who else will apply/audition/interview, and you might be the person they’re looking for. You don’t know if you don’t try.
  • Don’t give up. This seems simplistic, but in my own life, I’ve been through many disappointments. You’ll hear similar stories from everyone, even the highest level players in the most prestigious symphonies/bands, etc. Failure is the norm, not the exception. Learning to be resilient will be extremely important in music and in life.
  • Be open. You never know what opportunity might be around the corner from something you’ve not considered before. Your Plan B school/job/gig might turn out to be the best thing ever, or lead you to the next step toward what you really want.
  • Be strategic. So you want to go to Julliard. Me too. Their acceptance rate is 6.4%.  You need options. Creating an audition strategy and budget is key. Also, if you don’t get in to Julliard, does that mean you shouldn’t be a musician? No. I know so many people who went to xyz state university who have extremely fulfilling careers in music, and Julliard graduates who no longer play.

So, on to more specific details. Start by thinking about what kind of career you’d like to have. Do you want to teach, perform, be a stage manager, arts administrator, conductor, audio engineer, producer, composer? There are so many options. This comes back to being open. Most people do a combination of things that come together to make a career and a fulfilling life. Then start looking for programs that will help you achieve the specific goals you want.

Here are the audition lists for several programs. It’s good to understand what is required, and together make a plan to get there. And, look for other options! There are so many different schools that provide different experiences. Chances are you’ll be able to find one that sounds like a perfect fit!

Manhattan School of Music
San Francisco Conservatory of Music