Music groups are great extracurricular activities. They allow you to demonstrate skills in areas outside of academics, engage in one of your passions, and spend time with people who share your interest. But what if you are concerned that you aren’t the best of the best? Are there other ways to demonstrate your commitment to music to colleges and play a pivotal role in a music program?

Sending an Arts Supplement to Colleges

Students who are very serious about music often compete at state and national levels and showcase their talents individually and in groups. These are the students who typically send in arts supplements demonstrating their talents.

While you do want to show a degree of specialization, as we discuss in Well-Rounded or Specialized?, and demonstrate talent in a specific area, the fact is, you can’t always expect to be the very best at everything. That’s okay—colleges don’t expect you to be. The fact is, most students in high school music programs aren’t superstars (though, of course, this varies by the school and the students who are participating).

That said, you need to be realistic about your talent. If you are a good, but not great, musician, you probably shouldn’t send an arts supplement with your college applications. As we explain in this guide to arts supplements, most admissions committees will send arts supplements to the specific arts department, where the department’s faculty will evaluate it on a scale of 1-5. Only truly exceptional portfolios receive 5s, and those are the only ones that have a substantial positive impact on the candidate’s application. Even if you receive a 4, it probably isn’t worth it to send one. In fact, a lower score may even hurt your application. Remember, if you send a supplement, you will be compared against others who also sent one, so you may receive a lower score and appear to be a weaker candidate. If you don’t send a supplement, admissions committees won’t know exactly where you fall in a given pool, and will likely assume you are somewhere in the middle of the pack.

So how do you demonstrate your passion for and involvement in music if you are not a performance star?

Other Roles in Music Activities

Musicians are just one part of music programs. There are many other crucial roles aside from the people who are actually producing the music, and you can help bolster the program by using other skills. In this section, we will look at some other ways you can get involved in a music program aside from being a musician.

Administrative

An administrative role probably involves numerous miscellaneous tasks. For instance, you might help select music, scout out opportunities for the group to perform, arrange logistics for performances and trips, select and order uniforms, or find ways to have programs printed. While this may not sound glamorous, an administrative role is essential to keeping a music program running smoothly, and developing administrative skills can be a great boon when applying to part-time jobs in college or even full-time jobs after you graduate.

Fundraising

Fundraising might fall under the purview of a treasurer or other group leader. In most cases, high schools will not fund all the activities of a specific extracurricular group, so student fundraising is necessary. For instance, you might need money for special trips or performances, new equipment or upgrades, uniforms, or bringing in outside help or instructors. For tips on fundraising for activities, check out How to Plan and Execute an Effective Fundraiser for High School Extracurriculars.

Leadership

Administrative and fundraising efforts might fall under the duties of a leadership position (e.g. club president), or they might be separate. As with administrative roles, leaders might be in charge of a myriad of activities, such as leading sections, heading special projects, improving morale, or increasing cooperation. As we discuss in this guide to leadership roles, these positions can be very valuable to your college applications, since colleges want to see that you have the skills to manage and organize groups.

While the leaders of school bands or orchestras are usually musicians themselves, the position by is by no means always awarded to the most talented musician, but rather the individual who best demonstrates the leadership ability and dedication necessary to lead a large group.

Specific Roles

Specific positions can vary widely from one high school to another. Some schools and programs may already have positions in place, and others may just have a director and other adults at the helm.

Some programs may have a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and so on, giving you the opportunity to run for an election in a traditional way. Your director might also seek out volunteers for specific projects, such as fundraisers. There might also be opportunities to be a section leader of specific sections.

If there are not already leadership roles in place, and you feel that you have a skill that could positively contribute to the group, speak to your director about your idea and how you feel it will benefit to program. Keep in mind that some directors may not be open to student input, and you need to be respectful either way. Additionally, as mentioned previously, you will likely need to participate in the group as a musician in addition to having a leadership or other role, but again, this varies from school to school.

Leadership Roles in Music Groups and Your College Applications 

Leadership roles always make a valuable addition to your resume. They demonstrate motivation, respect from your peers, independence, and an ability to shoulder challenges and responsibilities. If you are an effective leader, you will also be able to showcase your management skills and creative problem-solving abilities.

Being involved in a music group in a leadership position gives you the opportunity to support an organization or program you care about in a practical, important way. You don’t have to be an exceptional musician to demonstrate your appreciation and dedication to music.

Doing so also allows you to play to your strengths. You may even find a special niche that better fits your personal skills and gives you an opportunity to shine—even your musical skills are not stellar.

Looking for more ways to get involved in programs outside of academics and demonstrate your leadership skills? Check out CollegeVine’s blog posts about finding the extracurricular activities that are right for you.

Your Comprehensive Guide to Extracurriculars

Well-Rounded or Specialized?

What Counts as an Extracurricular?

A Guide to Extracurricular Activities for Grade 9

What You Should Be Thinking About as a Junior—Part II: Extracurriculars and Summer Activities

Is It Too Late to Join a Club Junior or Senior Year?

Your Resume, Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine

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