6 Tips for planning a career in music
The following is a list of recommendations to aid the transition from high school to a college music degree program.
1. Private Lessons
Experience in a band, choir, or orchestra alone will not be sufficient to prepare you for a college entrance audition. If you are planning on a career in music, take private lessons to help perfect your reading, theory, and performance skills.
2. Aural Skills
Some students are blessed with a natural gift, but most students need extra practice to develop aural skills. If you are planning a career in music, you need to learn to recognize the following by ear:
- Triad Quality (major, minor, augmented, diminished)
- Primary Chords (I, IV, and V)
- Simple rhythm and melody notation
Search "ear training" on the Internet to find programs to assist students in developing these skills. At Methacton, enroll in the music theory courses!
3. Music Fundamentals
Learning the fundamentals of music notation in freshman college theory can be a daunting task; either knowledge is assumed or covered very quickly. If you are planning a career in music, be prepared to know
- Meter (compound and simple)
- Rhythmic values of all notes and rests
- Identify written intervals and triads
- Treble and bass clefs
- Major and minor scales
- Key signatures (major and minor)
4. Vocal Ability
All college music majors, no matter what their principal performance medium, must be able to sing. Most entrance auditions will require prospective students to use their voices, and yet many are still surprised and embarrassed when they are asked to do so, since they may have had little preparation for this kind of activity in their high school ensemble. If you are planning a career in music, you need to be able to
- Sing back pitches
- Sing back notes in a major or minor triad
- Sing the major scale with numbers, letters/solfeggio
- Sing the three minor scale forms
- Sing half or whole steps above or below any given pitch
- Sing back tonal melodic fragments of two to seven notes
- Sing simple familiar folk tunes (letters, numbers/solfeggio)
- Sight sing simple folk tunes
5. Keyboard Skills
All college music majors must be able to play and read intermediate keyboard literature. Begin piano lessons now. Even six months of private study during high school can make a difference; a year will be a truly significant advantage. If you are planning a career in music, you should work for
- Ease and fluency with intermediate level keyboard literature
- Sight-read one level of difficulty below performance level
- A beginning knowledge of I, IV, V harmonization of simple songs
6. The Right Attitude
Studying music can be exciting, enriching, rewarding and FUN. But students are rarely done a service when they are advised to become a college music major because they have no other serious interests except they had "fun in band, chorus, orchestra, or musical." Music is not an easy major by any means; as this list begins to suggest, it requires its students to be both artists and scholars. It is vital that you carefully assess not only the background and preparation but also your attitude as prospective music major, to avert what can otherwise be a frustrating and discouraging freshman experience. If you are passionate about and dedicated to music, and aware of its rigors as well, then you belong in a college music program.
This material has been adapted from a PMEA brochure (1997) entitled, "So You Want to Be a Music Major."