Meri’s Musical Musings

Child planning on auditioning for an arts high school for music, or music study after high school? How far in advance should you start private lessons?

Posted on: September 7, 2013

Several times in the last few years, I have had parents of 8th grade clarinet players, generally those who are relative beginners who only know a few notes on the instrument and maybe one scale, call me in November saying they want to audition for an arts high school on their instrument. Or a high school age student calls me in late August or September in their last year of high school who may be a good player relative to other students in their school, who wants to major in music, but whose playing skills are far behind what they need to know, as well as lacking knowledge on the other sections required in music auditions, such as the theory, sight-singing, and ear training.

Even with the fastest learners, the times they contact me for lessons to prepare for these auditions is WAY TOO LATE, especially when you consider that auditions for specialized arts programs are generally in January, and for programs after high school, auditions happen between late January and early April. In addition, if you want to be considered for music-specific scholarships, you are usually required to take an early audition date, usually prior to early March. Plus, the programs after high school typically ask on their questionnaires if the student takes private lessons, for how long, and from who, and most schools track which teachers are producing generally solid candidates and which ones are not as good.

With a quality teacher, a lot of practice by the student, and a moderate amount of talent, the best that students can get to the required level for arts schools starting as a beginner, is generally 6 months to 1 1/2 years. I had one student who got to such a required level in 4 months, but for most, 9 months to 1 1/2 years is about the average in my studio to get to the required level comfortably to easily handle such auditions.  Generally, however, you want to be playing slightly higher difficulty repertoire really well to pretty much guarantee yourself a place, especially on common instruments. In other words, you should be looking for a quality private teacher at least 6 months to a year in advance before the child auditions for such programs before the auditions.

For music programs after high school, students should be starting lessons at least 2-3 years prior to auditions. Most high school students planning on auditioning for such programs usually play at approximately an early to mid-intermediate level (approximately Level 4 RCM, but many are around a pretty good Level 6 but a few only have Level 2 RCM playing skills), and the required level is usually early advanced level for winds (around Level 8 RCM). However, even if such students try the required level repertoire, they often play it with several if not many faults in the technical aspect of playing, articulations, shaping of phrases, and often have few if any opportunities to perform those pieces before the auditions, which if they have been taking lessons for 3-5 years from a quality teacher, would be extremely comfortable performing in a variety of situations, low, medium, and high pressure situations. Plus some schools require audio, and preferably video to apply for some scholarships, and if you only have a few months to learn the pieces, the student may not be able to record it successfully, and well enough to be a serious candidate.

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  • None
  • 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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