What Prospective Music Majors Need to Know

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Is music your passion? If so, there are many paths you can take to pursue it in college. Music is not an easy major by any means; it requires rigorous study and a deep commitment to the art. In some ways, it is even more demanding than many other college majors as it requires its students to be both artists and scholars.


Thinking of majoring in music? Here are five things prospective music majors should keep in mind.


1. There are different types of music degrees you can earn.

Examples of music degrees include: Bachelor of Music (BM),  Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Music.


These degrees prepare you to be a musician as opposed to a music educator. The Juilliard School is one example of a conservatory that offers a BM.


Bachelor of Music Education (BME)

A BME prepares you to teach music. In addition to music courses, your curriculum will also include education and liberal arts courses. Baylor University offers a BME.


Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Music

If you choose to study in a BA program, which colleges such as Duke University offer, you’ll take both music and liberal arts courses. It can prepare you for careers in both music and other disciplines.


Bachelor of Science (BS) in Music

A BS in music emphasizes business and technology, meaning you’ll be prepared to work on the business end of music. Temple University offers this type of degree.


Some colleges and universities offer multiple music degree options. For example, Northwestern University has a BAM, BM, BS in Music, and dual degree options. Other colleges, such as Vanderbilt University, give students the option of minoring in music.


2. Dual degrees and double majors can open up possibilities.

If you want to gain skill sets in two distinct areas to open up many different career possibilities, dual degree programs can make you more marketable. These programs are often a partnership between two colleges, such as Columbia and Juilliard, or two schools within one university, such as Johns Hopkins and Peabody Institute.


In a dual-degree music program, you’ll graduate with a BM and either a BA or BS. While in some ways, it offers the best of both worlds, there are some drawbacks. The application process is often grueling, and you’ll be required to perform a substantial amount of work. These programs also tend to have very low acceptance rates.


Some colleges that have both music and other majors, such as Carnegie Mellon, allow you to double major and graduate with one degree.

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3. Get into good habits in high school.

Music programs tend to be very rigorous and competitive, so it’s important to work hard and hone your craft in high school to increase your chances of admission. Some steps you can take now include:


  1. Find a mentor or teacher you trust.
  2. Practice, practice, practice.
  3. Hone your craft by participating in extracurricular activities related to music.


(For ideas, check out A Guide to Leadership Roles in Music Groups and Community Service Project for Music Majors.)


4. Your application matters.

For many programs, your audition will be a crucial component. The audition procedures vary by the school, so check with each admissions office to find out what the requirements are.


This, of course, doesn’t mean the rest of your application doesn’t matter. You’ll need to create an arts supplement that best showcases your talents and abilities, so choose the pieces that really reflect your best work. Keep in mind that for other majors, colleges encourage you to submit a supplement only if it will enhance your application, but for music majors, it’s a must; after all, you should only major in music if your talent is top tier.


Pay attention to other aspects of your application as well. Colleges want to see students who are competent in other areas in addition to music. Make sure to proofread your application, and pay particular attention to your essay. If anything, it should show how passionate you are about your craft.


5. Take the audition seriously.

Your audition is an extremely important part of your application. Here are some tips to keep in mind:


Read all the rules for each audition.

Pick music that showcases your strengths.

Dress professionally.

Thank the committee before and after your audition.

Act like a professional: shake hands, ask questions, and be polite.

Treat it like an interview.


Becoming a Music Major

Becoming a music major can prepare you to be a successful musician no matter which path you choose. Consider your options carefully: Do you want to perform or teach? Do you want to have other career options, or is music your definitive choice?


Remember that these programs are very rigorous, so you’ll need to work hard now and in the future. However, for people who are passionate about their craft, music programs can be very rewarding paths.


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Laura Berlinsky-Schine
Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
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 as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.