What Should a Music Lover Look for in a College?

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If one’s love of music extends beyond the occasional turn of the radio dial, there are some things that must be considered when investigating opportunities to indulge in good music at college. The college experience encompasses so much more than learning technical knowledge; it is also used as a channel for building relationships as well as appreciating domestic and neighboring cultures. Music has traditionally been a gateway that people use to view various aspects of societies, and music appreciation in some form or another nearly always shows up at well respected university campuses. Here are some examples of music related offerings at universities that college bound music enthusiasts might consider when they compare schools.

What should a music lover look for in a college? The answer depends on the student’s professional goals and musical interests. Most students will want to find a school with a renowned faculty and top-tier music program while some may put more of an emphasis on professional contacts and student organizations. Music schools put one concern above all others, and that is the students’ musical ability. Music is a vocation that requires intense practice and self-discipline. Continue reading to learn more about the features a music lover should look for in a college.

Music Related Student Organizations

Many students who participated in band or chorus during their high school years often look for ways to continue participating in this extracurricular activity when they go off to college. As a result, likeminded students usually form student organizations that allow them to develop and show off their musical talents. Many schools also have university sponsored, student run campus radio stations. While opportunities to work as disc jockeys are primarily available to students who major in communications, students from other academic disciplines like music can volunteer to cover some station hours.

Some of the top national music organizations for students include:

  • American Choral Directors Association
  • Music Therapy Student Association
  • American Guild of Organists
  • Collegiate National Association for Music Educators
  • Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia
  • Sigma Alpha Iota

The last two organizations are student fraternities for music majors. Each music college has its own selection of local student music organizations, including the glee club for choir students and the marching band for instrumentalists.

Joining a music organization is a great way to make professional contacts while enrolled in college. It can also provide opportunities to practice playing music with other students outside of a classroom.

Music Classes Offered

What Should a Music Lover Look for in a College?

Some students decide early that they would like to major or minor in music, and they look for schools with challenging music departments that will allow them to perfect their unique talents. These students often choose liberal arts schools that have solid national or regional reputations. They also consider schools that have music programs that emphasize the aspects of music that meet their particular personal interests and professional career goals. Some course topics within the music discipline are music history, music theory, composition and instrumental performance. These classes are not just for pure enjoyment only; students who major or minor in music can use their skills to enter academia as teachers or private music instructors.

Accredited music schools offer a standard set of courses that are transferable to other accredited schools around the country. They may have slightly different course titles, but the course content will be largely the same.

During their freshman and sophomore years, students will study the basics of music theory and musicology while playing their instruments in a student ensemble led by a music professor. In the junior and senior years, students will study advanced musicology and learn to play in smaller, more focused ensembles. They may also give solo performances in front of an audience. While music students do receive grades for their classroom work on musicology and theory, the main focus of a music education is musicianship.

Performing Arts

What Should a Music Lover Look for in a College?

Students who love music but who may not desire to major or minor in the subject still consider the quality of a school’s music and performing arts programs. They understand that a challenging arts department at their school translates into great, discounted performances for students, staff and often local community members. These students look forward to wholesome entertainment alternatives to movies throughout the school year that include adapted and original musicals as well as amateur chamber orchestra performances.

Performing arts organizations can be somewhat competitive in the more renowned music schools. These organizations can include jazz and classical music ensembles, such as string quartets, jazz trios and big bands. Music students also have the choice of joining a student theater orchestra and playing music for stage plays, ballets and other performances.

These events are often staged in front of public audiences, and they can offer professional exposure for aspiring young musicians. The top music schools often stage performances for paying audience members. Students who are accomplished enough to get into a prestigious music conservatory could be invited to join a traveling ensemble or play their instrument in a studio recording.

College Town Music Culture

Even when their professional aspirations do not accommodate a degree from a liberal arts school, students can still immerse themselves in quality music depending on the college campus chosen. For example, many technology based schools are located within major metropolitan areas that support thriving performance arts and music venues. Some of these include Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and New York Institute of Technology that is located on Broadway in New York City. Students attending schools in these culturally rich cities can often gain access to musical performances at discounted rates just by flashing their student identification cards. Additionally, student music lovers may choose part time employment as ushers for these events where they can see performances for free.

Opportunities to play in front of a live audience are greater in college towns with well-known music cultures. A school’s location is one of the main factors a music lover should look for in a college.

While most students enrolled in music school will study jazz, classical or traditional forms of music, many will also be interested in popular music. Genres such as hip hop, R&B, rock and pop aren’t taught in music schools to any great extent, but they could be covered in elective courses. Music college may not be on the career path for an indie rock band or hip hop producer, but college towns can also offer opportunities for classically trained musicians to perform for the public.

Music Conservatories

What Should a Music Lover Look for in a College?

Some music lovers may choose to apply for enrollment in one of the major conservatories. Conservatories are institutions of higher education devoted solely to the arts, including dance, theater and music. Enrollment in conservatories is often highly competitive, and the final decision usually comes down to the applicant’s performance during an audition.

Musicians applying to conservatories should be highly accomplished at playing their instruments because the level of musicianship on display in these auditions is typically among the highest in the world. Most students enrolled in music conservatories are undergraduates, but some music students are enrolled in graduate programs. The graduate programs offered at music conservatories include the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) and various doctoral programs in the arts.

Graduate Programs

Most major accredited universities offer graduate programs for music students. The MFA is the most common graduate degree for musicians, but some students pursue doctoral degrees in music education, music therapy and similar disciplines.

When applying for graduate programs, the most important factors a music lover should look for in a college are its rankings, awards, professors, endowments, grants and student theater productions. The more prestigious a music program is, the more professional opportunities the student will have after graduation. These opportunities include contacts in professional theater productions, symphonies, jazz ensembles and recording studios. Moreover, because music students will be honing their craft under the guidance of a professor, it’s important to learn as much about the instructors as possible before applying to a program.

Renowned Professors

What Should a Music Lover Look for in a College?

All professors have a passion for the subjects they teach. If not, they wouldn’t be willing to put up with the frustrations of such a challenging job. When you’re applying for music school, you can be sure that the professors in your department will be high-caliber musicians with years of experience to share with you during your studies.

However, not all music programs are equally prestigious, and some professors are hand-selected by the top schools to work with highly talented students. When the administrators in a music department want to attract high-level talent to their program, they seek out renowned professors with experience conducting orchestras or composing famous pieces of music. Music programs with famous professors are appealing to large numbers of students, but there are other reasons to consider enrolling in a music school.

Accolades

Most of the national music awards available to major music schools are also available to the general public. These awards are the well-known honors given to the highest-achieving musicians in the industry, including the Grammy Award, the Tony Award, the Academy Award and the Emmy Award.

Other awards that aren’t as well-known include the Herbie Hancock Institute Honors, the National Medal of Arts, and various other national fellowships, grants and accolades for the arts. The top music schools usually have several faculty members who have won these awards. They’re important distinctions within the world of music education and the broader professional music industry.

Grants and Endowments

While music students are eligible to apply for a wide range of national grants and endowments, many schools offer their own awards and stipends to attract talented musicians. Some of the national awards include:

  • The National Endowment for the Arts
  • The BMI Foundation Grant
  • The Kinder Morgan Grant
  • The Frank Huntington Beebe Fund for Musicians
  • The Alice M. Ditson Fund
  • The Stanford Arts Fellowship with Warner Music Group

Top music schools and conservatories offer special scholarships for students who demonstrate excellence in their musicianship and academic studies. A few exemplary individuals can even get a full-ride scholarship to a major music conservatory, but these opportunities are rare. Full-ride scholarships are usually offered only to students with the most inspiring background stories, excellent grades and, of course, extraordinary musical talent.

Study Abroad

What Should a Music Lover Look for in a College?

Studying abroad is the ideal way for music students to learn their subject from a variety of different perspectives. Top music schools have great study-abroad programs, and students from major conservatories often travel to cities around the world to study music and play their instruments with musicians from other countries.

Music schools usually also offer students opportunities to travel to other cities in the U.S. to join student orchestras or play in jazz ensembles. The best students of a class might be chosen to fly to Boston or New York to play with students in the major art colleges and music schools on the East Coast.

Professional Access

Music schools offer students access to professional contacts and real-world experience that can help them find work after graduation. Schools with well-known composers and orchestra conductors on the faculty can help students gain entry into the music industry. With experience performing in an orchestra or ensemble, music school graduates will have a more impressive resume during their job search.

Professional contacts can come in handy when you least expect to need help. Because most musicians work on a freelance basis, keeping a good record of professional contacts can be a lifesaver when work is slow. By staying in touch with professional and student organizations after leaving college, you can ensure that you always have professional contacts with potential job offers, should the need arise.

Paying Off Student Debt

Depending on a student’s alma mater, the debt he or she is left with after graduation could be significant. Without scholarships, fellowships or grants, the top conservatories could be very expensive, and graduates of these schools will have to pay off their student debt when they begin working.

The best choice for a music student to make is to keep debt to a minimum by applying for as many grants and scholarships as possible. Schools that offer stipends and fellowships for student musicians can help keep student loan repayments low, and they can provide graduates with impressive credentials for their job search.

Conclusion

Good music often adds spice to life, and many colleges and universities recognize its importance to the quality of life of their student body. Subsequently, there are usually many avenues for students to learn about, play or simply enjoy music at college.

When it comes to formal education, there are many decisions a music student must make. From the school’s location to its professional accolades, the features that make it stand out are important. Knowing this information can help anyone who asks, “What should a music lover look for in a college?”

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