Applications Are Open—Now What?

Tips for applying to music school

Applying to music school can be a challenging process, especially when navigating materials—amidst a global pandemic—and answering that age-old question, “What is this music program looking for in a student?” Below are some application tips to keep in mind when writing essays, making recordings, and prepping for a virtual performance interview (because 2020).

Divide and Conquer

Don’t leave everything to the last minute. Make a schedule, tackle a little bit each day, and give yourself the time for refinement. Creativity takes effort and practice. 

For example, one of SFCM’s short essays asks applicants to discuss their career goals as professional musicians. 

A first draft might be super general, but a fifth or tenth draft—once you’ve had the time to really think about the question—will be much more honest and specific. 

(P.S. If you’re in need of some career inspiration, take a look at what SFCM students and alumni have been up to.)

This is also true when producing a recording, whether it’s a prescreen recording (check this page for info on which instruments require this) or final audition. Spend a few days working on the recording; listen to it, fine-tune, and then send it off for notes. Share it with your teacher, band director, or whoever is your musical mentor. Get their feedback and re-record until it best represents your talent. 

Master the Tech

Speaking of recordings…

Knowing the ins and outs of your equipment and software is super important because video and sound quality can make or break a recording. And recordings are the most crucial part of the application. It’s how the admissions committee will get a sense of your abilities, so you want to avoid last-minute tech issues while refining your performance and/or submitting a file with subpar audio that makes it difficult to assess your playing. 

Here are a couple of recommendations that will help the committee review your playing skills: Instrumentalists, make sure both hands are visible in the recording. Woodwinds and brass applicants, work with your teacher to find the best angle to view embouchure.

Love the Camera 

SFCM will not hold in-person live auditions this year. The final step in the application and audition process (after prescreening for some programs) will be a virtual performance interview with department heads and the admissions team. Bring specific questions for the faculty and be prepared to answer queries about essays as well as perform on camera (if required for your program). 

Taking classes, chatting with high school friends, online performance gigs—yes, you may be used to being in front of the camera in these settings (since video has become the normal mode of communication). But interviewing or playing in a virtual audition might be new and seem different. To combat these feelings, practice with friends, family, or teachers—and get comfortable being on camera.

Be Yourself

The best application essays, recordings, and performances come from an authentic place. Work with your teacher to find repertoire that highlights your strengths, and know that it might not be the flashiest showpiece. 

The admissions committee looks for skill, but they also want to get to know you—as a musician and as a human being. Don’t be afraid to let your artistry shine through during a performance. Show us your truth and be your (best) self. 

Connect with SFCM’s admissions team for application guidance and clarifying audition requirements.