Archive for the ‘admissions’ Category

Application Deadlines are near

Application Deadlines Coming Soon!

The deadline for applications is drawing near. If you are interested in applying to the UI School of Music, please review the steps outlined below.

GRADUATE APPLICANTS: December 1 Deadline to Apply for Fall 2011
To apply, please complete the requirements below:

  1. Complete the Graduate Application to the University of Illinois (; submit this additional information with the Application:
  • Personal Statement
  • Transcripts (electronically submit scanned official copies)
  • 3 Letters of Recommendations
  • Resume or CV
  • Program Specific: Writing Samples (Musicology and Theory applicants only); Repertoire List (Performance applicants only)

2. Complete the School of Music Application (

Should you have specific questions about the application process, please contact the Music Admissions Office (; 217.244.7899).


FRESHMEN APPLICANTS: January 2 Deadline to Apply for Fall 2011

TRANSFER APPLICANTS: March 1 Deadline to Apply for Fall 2011

To apply, please complete the requirements below:

  1. Complete the Undergraduate Application to the University of Illinois (; submit this additional information with the Application:
  • High School Transcripts
  • ACT or SAT score

2.  Complete the School of Music Application (

Should you have specific questions about the application process, please contact the Music Admissions Office (; 217.244.7899).


Meeting of the Minds

Have you ever had the feeling that someone is talking about you? Yeah . . . that would be us.

This weekend, the admissions directors of many of the top schools of music will be meeting in Seattle. It is a time for us to discuss ideas about recruitment and admissions and also get to know each other better.

This year, we will be discussing topics such as minority recruitment, the value of college fairs and online recruitment efforts. So here is a question for all of you reading: if you had the admissions directors from schools such as Illinois, Northwestern, Indiana, Manhattan and USC, what would you ask? Leave your thoughts in the comments. I plan to bring up any issues with my colleagues and will certainly let you know what they think.

The Faculty Are Coming, The Faculty Are Coming!

Michael Cameron, double bass professor

Michael Cameron, double bass professor

I’ve said before that school visits are the best way to get to know a school. If you are unable to make it to campus, however, consider seeing if we are coming to you. The Music Admissions Office at Illinois works hard to provide a comprehensive calendar of what events are faculty are involved in and where the will be performing.

As an example, our double bass instructor, Michael Cameron, recently took his bass quartet to Libertyville High School in the Chicago area. Thanks to Jason Heath for this nice write up.

Over the next few months, you can see the Illinois Brass Quintet in Texas, Professor Louis Bergonzi conducting the Nebraska All-State Orchestra, Oboe professor John Dee performing in Florida and Georgia, and Professor Nathan Gunn in the Los Angeles Opera production of The Magic Flute.

Have you ever had a chance to see a faculty member perform? What was the experience like? Let us know in the comments.

Preparing for Mediocrity: The Myth of the Fallback Major

When I began looking at schools 12 years ago, I wanted to be a songwriter. When filling out info cards, I would mark Composition – Theory as my primary area of interest (Free tip of the day: Composition – Theory is NOT songwriting!) When I finally applied to school, I applied for both Composition and Music Education. Why? Because I was scared that I would not make it as a songwriter and I wanted to be able to pay the bills.

After school, I taught for one year and quickly learned that I was not a teacher.

Music is an uncertain field, I understand that. When the question of what to do with a music degree comes up, the answer is usually pretty vague. This is not because of a lack of jobs in the field, but rather because they are not well-defined.  Look at your typical jazz musician. During the day, they may teach privately, do studio recording or any number of other ventures. At night, they gig. They are doing what they love all day, even if its not your typical 9-5 job.

Double majoring will give you a variety of skills, but it will also limit your time to excel in any one area. Consider the student below:

  • Student majors in performance and education – they want to be a performer but also want to make sure they make a living
  • Student starts the semester strong, practicing regularly and excelling in their classes
  • Semester gets busy and deadlines start to take the place of practicing
  • Next semester, student drops to one ensemble to make more time for class work
  • Lessons continue to go well, but progress is slower as practice time gets more limited
  • After five years, student graduates with both degrees
  • Student auditions but fails to get any paying positions – they are a good musician but not a great one
  • Student finds a teaching job
  • Class is going fine, but student finds they have no passion for teaching
  • Student quits and is forced to either gain more performing experience or move to another field

Obviously, this is a bit of an extreme example, but I have seen this exact sequence of events a number of times. I encourage every student I speak with to decide on the major they have the most love for. You can always change majors if your interests change.

If you have a true passion in two areas and you are willing to work extremely hard, then by all means, do a double major. But don’t do it to put food on the table.

Be encouraged. Most of the music majors that I know have done just fine for themselves, even if  creative. My wife and I were both music majors. She now performs with the Lyric Opera of Chicago chorus and teaches. She loves what she does. I work for the School of Music and interact with music students all day. I also love what I do. Follow your passions and excel at what you do best.

Photo Credit DCE.

Preparing for Mediocrity: The Myth of the Safety School

Is It Really Safe?

When it comes to college, you are not entitled to anything. What makes you think your safety school is safe? Do you study with one of the faculty? Is it close to home? Did your band director go there? While these things may help, none of them is a guarantee. Admissions decisions are based on academic records, auditions and little else. If you decide to apply to a school you consider a safety school, you will be required to work just as hard to prepare the application and audition.

Is It Really Mediocre?

I live in a University town. Very few locals want to attend Illinois. It’s too close to home, their parents are on the faculty or its just too familiar. The truth, however, is that Illinois is a Big 10 University with some of the top programs in the nation. I’m not saying that you need to stay close to home, but you should closely examine your reasons for not considering a school.

Preparing for Excellence

When I was looking for schools, I considered a wide variety of schools. I ended up attending a very small school with a good, but not great, music program (it didn’t even require an audition!) This is not my recommendation to everyone, but if I had written it off early in the process, I never would have had the great experiences I had.

Here is what you should do now:

  • Make a list of schools you are considering
  • Circle the ones that you consider a safety school
  • Make a list of why you think that is the case
  • Do some research
  • If, after honestly examining it, you still think it’s a safety school, cross it off your list
  • Pour yourself into your other applications

I’d be curious to know what the rest of you think. Leave comments below.

Preparing for Mediocrity: The Myth of the Safety School and the Fallback Major

Over the next few days, between traveling, I would like to address two common misconceptions.

Every time I meet a prospective student, I ask what other schools they are interested in. This is not an attempt to scope out the competition, but rather to see if  they are looking at quality programs. Usually, the response will be a short list of schools they like and one safety school. Should they bomb all of their auditions, they assume they be able to attend their safety school as a consolation prize. Typically this will be a school close to home or a lesser known school that they have some connection to.

The second issue is the fallback major. When students start to think about their future, the idea of a music major can be a bit intimidating. This will lead some students to pursue a double major as a fallback to pay the bills. This may be a second music degree, typically in education, or a second major outside of the School of Music.

I believe that both of these ideas are flawed and I plan to discuss my opinions in the next few posts. Until then, I’d like to know your thoughts. Should students apply to a safety school? What makes a good safety school? Is a double major a good idea? Leave your comments below.

Maybe I Don’t Have All The Answers

If you take a tour of the University of Illinois School of Music, you will hear me say the following sentence: “Illinois is a great school, but it’s not the right place for everyone.” When students ask me for advice when choosing a school, I encourage them to look at other schools, examine other options and make the decision that is best for them. If you are looking for other resources to help in your search, I would like to offer some suggestions.

The Juilliard School is one of the most recognizable names in the performing arts world. Their director of admissions, Lee Cioppa, runs an excellent blog and she was kind enough to link to me. I would encourage you to see what they have to say.

The original impetus for creating this site was a blog that I came across by accident. Dean Flagel runs an excellent blog discussing admissions, while occasionally plugging his school, George Mason University. While it’s not specifically about music, there is some very good content here.

Finally, I was reading a post this morning from the “My U Search” blog. In it, Kate Scozzaro offers some great advice on what to ask when you are visiting a school.

On an unrelated topic, my first college fair of the year is in about four hours. I’ll let you know how it goes!

How To Make The Most Of A Performing Arts College Fair

As I said in my last post, college visits are the best way to decide on a school. But what if you can’t visit? Or what if you don’t know which schools you want to see? You need a college fair!

Every fall, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) hosts a number Performing and Visual Arts College Fairs. At these fairs you will find admissions counselors from most of the major schools of music around the US. They will have information about their school and will be available to answer any questions you may have.

Here are a few tips to make the most of a college fair:

Come Prepared

  • Before the fair, make a short list of schools that you are most interested in visiting
  • Make a list of questions that you wish to ask at each school
  • Print a sheet of labels with your information (name, address, phone, email, instrument, year of graduation). These will make filling out cards requesting more information very fast and will also guarantee accuracy.

Come With An Open Mind

After you have stopped at your top choices, it is likely you will have some time left. Look around and see if there are other schools that you had not originally considered. You already have a list of questions to ask; sometimes a school will surprise you.

When I was looking at schools, I used to keep a list of questions by my phone. There was a time when I got a call from a small school and I ran down my list of questions. I was so impressed by their answers that I visited the school. Guess where I decided to attend!

Remember, you are not committing to anything, just getting ready for the choices ahead.

Make An Impression

It’s OK to stand out. You don’t need to be over the top, but if you come prepared and have thoughtful questions, we are more likely to remember you when you apply.

Throughout the next month, both Joyce and I will be traveling around the country. You can see the list of fairs we will be at below (click on the link for times and locations). Please come out and say “Hi”. I will also be posting on this blog about my travel experiences and introducing you to some of the other schools on the road.

3 Steps for the Perfect Music School Visit

Foellinger Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Foellinger Great Hall, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

The single best way to decide if a school is right for you is to visit, but just like everything in life, there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. Showing up on campus without setting up any events or meetings? Wrong way. Visiting campus on a weekend or during holiday breaks? Only attending a general admissions session without visiting the School of Music? Wrong way. Here are the steps to the perfect college visit:

  1. Schedule a lesson with faculty – As you can imagine, faculty have the least flexibility in their schedule. Because of this, scheduling a lesson with faculty is the best place to start planning your visit. School websites will offer complete listings of faculty and their email addresses (Illinois faculty listing). I encourage you to use email and be persistent if you don’t get a response.
  2. Schedule an information session with the music admissions office – If the school you are visiting has a music admissions office (and most major schools do), they offer information sessions. This typically includes a tour of the School of Music as well as information about applying. It will also give you a chance to meet the admissions staff. These people will be your best resource during the application process. Come prepared with questions.
  3. Ask if there are classes you can observe – Most faculty will welcome prospective students to their classrooms. The music admissions office should be able to provide you with a list of available classes. If one of the classes is particularly interesting to you, email the instructor and ask if you can meet for 10 minutes after class.

The most important thing to remember is that we want to get to know you as much as you want to get to know us. Come with a list of questions. Show that you have prepared for your visit and you’ll be surprised how profitable your time will be. This will likely be your first meeting the faculty who will be hearing your audition and the staff who process your application. Don’t be afraid to make an impression.

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.