Choosing a music school – Faculty

Jonathan Keeble, Professor of Flute, University of Illinois

Jonathan Keeble, Professor of Flute, University of Illinois

The Importance of Faculty

Regardless of your major, the single biggest educational influence during your college years will be your faculty.

Think of your favorite teacher. Now think of the most important things you’ve learned from that teacher. I’m guessing you can make a pretty good list. Now do the same for your least favorite teacher. The list is shorter, maybe even completely empty. Personality and teaching style can directly affect what and how we learn.

Often the importance of individual faculty members is clear to students pursuing performance. You will be spending at least one to two hours every week with this teacher on a one-to-one basis. But the same is also true in other areas. In music education, teachers will observe your teaching, offering valuable feedback and ideas. In composition, you will be taking group and private composition lessons. In history, you will be researching alongside others in your field.

Often, students will choose a school based solely on a faculty member they wish to study with. While this may not always be the wisest idea (faculty members leave, etc), I think it is a very good place to start.

Full-time VS. Adjunct

This debate is often a matter of personal preference. The basic idea is this: full-time faculty are available on a regular basis because their primary career is teaching while adjunct faculty are available sporadically as they balance performing and teaching schedules. This is not to say that full-time faculty do not perform, nor that adjunct faculty do not take their teaching seriously.

Often schools will be composed of primarily one type of faculty or the other. Illinois is almost entirely full-time faculty while the Chicago College for the Performing Arts (Roosevelt University) has primarily adjunct faculty in the major performance areas. While I personally prefer the availability and personal attention of full-time faculty members, there are also advantages to studying with the concert master of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Get To Know Your Faculty

This is the most important part of this post. If I was a better writer, I probably wouldn’t have to tell you that, but I’m not!

Because faculty play such a major role in your education, students should take the time to get to know them before they even apply. Begin with a simple email. Let them know who you are and when you plan to apply. Most faculty truly enjoy getting to know prospective students and will happily answer an email.

Step two involves meeting them. If you are a performer, ask for a lesson (many faculty will do this for free). If you are a composer, ask if you can bring your portfolio. If you can’t visit the school, find out if they are planning a visit to your area. Admissions offices will often be able to help you with these options. For example, Illinois keeps a public calendar of upcoming faculty performances and lectures happening off campus.

I think many of you will be surprised by the positive responses you will receive. The faculty are as eager to get to know you as you are to know them.


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