Meri’s Musical Musings

Skills and Attributes Potential Music Majors Need

Posted on: January 24, 2011

A solid understanding of rudiments, preferably at least basic harmony. Some programs will exempt you from the theory test prior to applying if you prove you have completed those exams through a major examining board.

Experience performing in high level ensembles outside of school. Most school music programs do little to develop the skills of potential music majors.

Study for at least two years prior to beginning the application process with a good private teacher, especially on popular instruments, and continuing at least to the end of the school year, but preferably to ensemble placement auditions which they then go to their new teacher where they will be studying.

Mid-intermediate competency on the piano for non piano majors. Many programs have a piano skills class, but depending on how well you play, it is often possible to test out of this class.

Mid intermediate competency on a second instrument for piano majors, so they can participate in a large ensemble. Particularly if the piano major plays a less common instrument.

Playing at or above the required minimum level 1 year before applying (usually Level 8 Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada for most programs except performance which requires Level 10 minimum, though string instruments, especially violin, often Level 9 minimum is desirable.

Strong sight reading skills. Students will be expected to learn new music very quickly.

Strong memorization skills. Especially important for piano majors and violinists.

Experience playing music in small ensembles.

Excellent tone quality. There is a significant focus on blend in the large ensembles, and they will likely not accept someone whose tone sticks out in a negative way.

An extreme passion for music, that they wouldn’t dream of doing anything else for a living, and possibly have tried doing other things to earn their keep not working out

A good quality professional instrument. Many universities and conservatories only want students who use a professional level instrument in their studies, and may not even allow students to audition on lower-grade instruments.

An open mind about the possibility that their music careers are likely to end up being multifaceted.



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  • V V: Wish I had read this before I fell for their scheme ! Oh well - have posted my experience on Yelp and N49 and hoping others can avoid the pain of fal
  • clariniano: Thanks for the additional information. It was actually Yelp that deleted my reviews, because of so-called bias. I too have seen the horrible technique
  • No Thanks: Former Teacher at the Ontario Conservatory of Music I took lessons at the Ontario Conservatory and when I left for private lessons from another tea
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